We’ve come a long way since the release of Stellaris in 2016. We’ve seen a dozen or so DLCs and expansions, including additional species and whatnot. Fast forward to the present, and we’ve got Stellaris: Nemesis, an expansion that focuses primarily on the endgame. Stellaris: Nemesis presents various options such as becoming the Galactic Custodian, proclaiming the Galactic Imperium, turning into the actual Endgame Crisis, and a bit of espionage on the side.
To be clear, this preview is based on my experiences with several save files that were provided to us by Paradox Interactive. Since most features in Stellaris: Nemesis are relegated to decisions and events that occur late in the campaign, these saves definitely sped up the process. Rather than starting from scratch, I was able to jump straight into the action to check out the new features.
Espionage: I spy with my space eye
Before we get to the endgame stuff, let’s talk about espionage, which is something that you can try out early on in your Stellaris: Nemesis run. For starters, a big change here is how you’ll handle your First Contact Protocol with another alien species. You can either “greet the Xeno with open arms,” “be cautious,” or “ward off those who would threaten us.” Your choice here will determine how friendly or hostile your empire is to other factions you meet.
Upon completing the First Contact objectives, though, most of the information about another faction would remain hidden. This is where espionage comes in. You can enact diplomatic agreements, establish an embassy, and assign an envoy to build a spy network to increase your level of intel. Later, you can run spy operations on a target empire. These work the same way as though you’re uncovering an Archaeology Site — it just takes some time to elapse, followed by an event or dilemma.
Examples of operations include preparing sleeper cells, stealing technologies, sabotaging bases, sparking diplomatic incidents, and more. Of course, you should also be wary of the AI using its spies against you. The espionage mechanics in Stellaris: Nemesis are worthy additions that add more ways to go about your playthrough. Even better, espionage and spy operations can play a role in how you’ll handle the Crisis at the latter stages of the game.
The Galactic Custodian
Previously in Stellaris, the arrival of an Endgame Crisis was usually met passively by the Galactic Community. Everyone tries to combat the threat on their own before attempting to band together; normally, the player is the one who ends up having to stave off the galaxy’s doom. In Stellaris: Nemesis, however, players will have more control over how to handle these undertakings.
First, when an Endgame Crisis is triggered (i.e., Prethoryn Scourge, Extradimensional Invaders/Unbidden, Gray Tempest, and others), you’ll have the opportunity to elect a Galactic Custodian as a Galactic Reform. You’ll need to make sure that you’ve got the envoys and favors to help pass the vote, too.
As the Galactic Custodian, you’re given more control over the resolutions being passed by the Galactic Community. You may even choose to give up your powers, stay the course for the next 30 years until reelection, or form the Galactic Imperium. Your main goal, though, is to combat the Endgame Crisis. As such, you can make that Endgame Crisis the “Galactic Focus.” Likewise, you can kickstart your armada with the Galactic Defense Force. It’s similar to building a fleet with your federation, but the Galactic Custodian is the only one who gets to play with these toys.
Proclaiming the Galactic Imperium
If you want to roleplay as a “good guy,” then the above methods of letting the galaxy unite against a threat are more suitable for you. However, you can also choose more draconian measures, such as the ability to “Proclaim the Galactic Imperium” after defeating the Crisis. Once you do this, all members of the Galactic Community will be bonded under the Galactic Imperium. No one can leave unless the Imperial Authority gets too low. (That’s a nice nod to Europa Universalis and the Holy Roman Empire, I guess.)
Espionage can also come into play here. For instance, members of the Galactic Imperium that are disgruntled with your rule can undermine Imperial Authority and spark a rebellion. Meanwhile, the Galactic Emperor can conduct an operation that targets seditionists. I’m definitely feeling some Star Wars vibes here.
To be fair, this entire process still takes too long. Assuming you started from the very beginning, then you’re looking at attempts to meet other aliens, building the Galactic Community, forming the Galactic Senate, followed by actually becoming the Galactic Custodian. From there, you’ll have to eliminate the Crisis. Then, you’ll decide on whether to remove your term limit as the Galactic Custodian to subvert everyone under an imperial rule or to keep the status quo. Considering how each session takes place followed by the length of the voting process and multiple proposals, including those with unanimous consent, then you’re looking at the usual waiting game. Thankfully, there are a few shortcuts that can help you such as using veto powers or ending a session to automatically pass a resolution.
Becoming the Endgame Crisis
Before, you used to watch as a Stellaris campaign rolls along, waiting for the mean-time-to-happen (MTTH) when an Endgame Crisis event is triggered. In Stellaris: Nemesis, you get the opportunity to become the Endgame Crisis yourself. This can be selected as your Ascension Perk (available after you’ve picked your second one). From this point onwards, you’re presented with objectives. Completing these tasks (i.e., destroying empires, destroying enemy ships, conquering/destroying worlds, vassalization, purging/assimilating populations, and the like) will award you with points called Menace.
As you earn Menace, your empire not only grows more powerful, but you also gain an increase to your Crisis Level. Higher Crisis Levels provide additional boons and construction options, such as Menacing Corvettes that use metals instead of alloys and the Star-Eater ships. You can even stay as a member of the Galactic Community while conducting hostile actions against targets. Of course, the peace-loving peeps might not like it.
Anyway, once you reach Crisis Level 5, the entire Galactic Community will declare war on you since you’re now seen as the Endgame Crisis. Still, you do have a few tricks up your sleeve such as the Aetherophasic Engine megastructure. The goal is to use your Star-Eaters to devour the suns in various systems, obtaining lots of dark matter to help complete the megastructure. Once you’ve fully constructed this, all life in the galaxy will be instantly annihilated. This process also takes a while and, in some cases, it might be faster to outright conquer foes than spend time farming dark matter.
Stellaris: Nemesis makes you the galaxy’s the final boss
Overall, Stellaris: Nemesis provided some of the niftiest ways to flesh out the endgame. At a stage when you’re just waiting for the inevitable and when the AI’s been worn out, players take a more active role. You can either defend the galaxy as a benevolent ruler or as an iron-fisted demagogue. It also adds more flavor to existing DLCs/expansions. For instance, Stellaris: Federations gave you the tools to bind the galaxy under the senate. But, Stellaris: Nemesis goes beyond that since you can form the Galactic Empire or become the Galactic Custodian. The major downside is the lengthy diplomatic and voting process to even reach this point.
Conversely, you can become the Endgame Crisis yourself. You are evil incarnate, wreaking havoc and destruction wherever you go. By devouring the stars, you’ll empower the Aetherophasic Engine to open up the Warp (er, the Shroud). It did surprise me that another Endgame Crisis can happen as you’re attempting this, like in my campaign where the Unbidden popped up. As such, it became a race to see which all-consuming entity can bring ruin to the galaxy first.
As mentioned earlier, my experiences are from save files that were provided to us, so I’m still keen on seeing how a full playthrough would go. If you’re interested in trying the features in Stellaris: Nemesis, you can check out its store page.