This is the second in a series of reviews looking at the evolution of Stellaris. See the previous review here:
Stellaris: Paradox Among the Stars

The first expansion for Stellaris was announced on September 15, 2016, after two major patches had been released. Development was centered around reworking some of the space creatures already in the game, and adding massively powerful new encounters.

At this point, Paradox had reworked how they were doing expansions. Each game from Stellaris on has defined ‘small’ and ‘large’ expansions, with the expansion cycle typically leading with a small one. The small ones are more flavor focused, while the larger ones are where you see the new mechanics and larger changes.

The small Stellaris expansions are called “story packs”, and the first one, Leviathans, came out on October 20th, alongside patch 1.3. My initial Stellaris review was about a patch after this one, so I’m mostly talking about the expansion features here.

Creatures Upon the Deep

The main patch change for monsters was making them regional. That is, each kind that appears is given an area they generally appear in, and possibly a ‘home system’ they are spread around. This helps make them feel a bit more logical, and that home system will generally have a tougher version of the monster to encounter, so that once you’ve done the basic research on what they are, there’s still that extra bit to deal with.

The expansion also added several extremely tough monsters to the mix. These are all easy to spot as the military rating on them just shows a skull symbol instead of a number. Leviathans has nine of these creatures, and a few more have shown up in other expansions.

I don’t want to give any specifics, as they can add to the sense of wonder in the game, so anyone interested should wait to see them in-game. They are, however, quite varied. Not all of them are actually something to fight (though most are).


The other major addition of the expansion are enclaves. These are space stations scattered about the galaxy who will generally stay neutral and be inoffensive. They don’t actually claim the systems they’re in but do show up as extra entities in the contacts list, and can be conversed with diplomatically.

The there’s three types of these stations, a research-oriented one, a unity/influence-oriented one, and then a set around each strategic resource. These are an interesting idea, not necessarily worth buying an expansion over, but it is nice a bit of extra flavor, and an extra place to spend energy, if you have a healthy economy. As a way of tying the features together, the Curators (research station) can also give some details on the monster encounters, including where to go looking for them.


A third, smaller, type of expansion for Stellaris is the “species pack”. At first, this was purely extra art assets, akin to the unit sprites for EU IV or the portrait expansions for CK II. More recently, Paradox has attached a few mechanics to these expansions.

The first species pack, Plantoids, came out ahead of Leviathans, on August 8, alongside patch 1.2.3. The general idea of the art included should be obvious from the name. In patch 3.1, three new species traits were added to the pack, and two new government civics. This transformed it into a nicely thematic set, with the ability to create species that act more like plants, such as needing energy instead of food, and moved it from a skip to a worthwhile purchase for me.


Another major concern of the patch was reworking ship combat and the types of design slots. Paradox would come back to this subject with another major round of reworks much later. Both have helped, but the ‘strong ship roles’ desired by them still don’t do what they’re supposed to.

The enclaves are an interesting idea, and help with making the galaxy feel “lived in”. However, the monsters are the star of the show, and the real reason to get the expansion. If those don’t seem like a good idea to you, skip it. That said, I think they do a lot to add a bit of mystery and spice to the game (as well as causing the occasional choke point), and think this is a very good first expansion to get.