Top Critic Average
Paradox’s biggest expansion yet brings Stellaris closer to its original promise with a stellar rework of internal politics and new endgame goals.
Utopia has given me plenty of reason to go back out into the far reaches of space, so much so that I now fear for the prosperity of my social life. With so many enticing updates rolled into Utopia and the Banks update, there’s even more to make me say “let me just do one more thing,” until it’s 4 a.m. and I’m out of luck. Thanks Paradox.
Stellaris: Utopia fills out a game that was already bursting. In the time I've had with it, I've played planet-devouring swarms, robotic foxes, militant birdmen, and slaving psionic jellyfish… things. While combat remains a sticking point, and hive minds feel like they have a ways to go before the idea is fully-formed, there is more potential than ever to do what the title does best – tell a story.
Utopia and Banks amount to a significant improvement to Stellaris that rewrites and overhauls a lot of the game for the better, adding yet more ways to try and build your empire. However, it also feels like Paradox are still just getting started with exploring everything that the game can be. It might take time for them to get there, but it's a journey I'm looking forward to taking with them.
These enhancements are great, sometimes even game-changing, but Paradox are offering so much for free that it makes the actual premium DLC less vital.
Don't like grey areas? Just become the Borg via the hive mind belief system
In tandem, the (free) Banks 1.5 update and Utopia contribute a splendid set of features and mechanical changes to Stellaris. Taken alone, Utopia is more the luxury trimmings to Banks’ essentials, but it’s a fine package of unique species specialisation and mega-engineering all the same.
A much-needed expansion that sures up the shallowness of the empire building and management. Utopia adds great depth and new layers of progression that make building your interstellar empire a much more unique and enjoyable experience.
The Utopia DLC, tied in with its major update, goes a long way to breathing life into a game that had grown stale on many fronts. The race actually feels a lot more alive, and the Unity/Ascension system gives something to work towards during the game. For more casual fans, the free update is likely enough, as it offers a surprising amount of content, whereas more hardcore fans will want to spring for additional features that especially change late game. The combat system that has been an issue in many people's eyes unfortunately sees no changes, but the rest of the game has been overhauled to a much better state. The singular problem is arguably the update gives more than the DLC, which has a steep cost.
I'm of two minds about Utopia. On one hand I really like that the game has become more complex, more fleshed out as it were, but on the other I think that there isn't actually much new content added in the expansion itself. It has just been shuffled around and gated, extending the game. If you take a look at what Utopia and the Banks patch bring together—the Ascension Perks, Unity, Traditions, reworked government system, Civics, megastructures, species rights, new technologies, balancing, and hundreds of other tweaks—you can definitely see that they were developed as parts of a whole. Paradox just decided not to charge for part of the expansion.