REVIEW: Stellaris: Federations

REVIEW: Stellaris: Federations

A significant expansion to diplomacy further improves an already stellar 4X title.

Released: Steam
Type: Single-player, Multi-player
Genre: Strategy
Developer: Paradox Development Studio
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Release date: 17 March, 2020


Stellaris, like most Paradox strategy games, has pulled me in for plenty of hours on multiple occasions since its release. Its empire customization options are incredible, and the amount of variation from one empire to the next is so much that the title’s fans can have long conversations speaking only on the list of empires that they’ve created. The choices made during the process have a huge impact on the rest of your campaign going forward, both with the species that you design and the politics and history of your faction itself.

Federations enhances the Stellaris experience by improving on the roleplaying element that is so integral to it. Federations have grown exponentially with their features, a galactic community can be formed where empires throw around their influence to pass universal laws, and a sizable selection of origins helps to further tailor your list of created empires to your vision.

Unifying the Galaxy

The galactic community can vote on a wide variety of resolutions that change up how empires function, both internally and externally. Resolutions often offer bonuses, varying from boosted production to increased population growth to restriction on slavery, as well as the associated influence when such factors are calculated; for example, a resolution that focuses on protecting the environment will reduce the diplomatic weight generated by the empire’s economy.

Sanctions can be placed that restrict galactic community members from adopting frowned upon policies or applying penalties to those who the community has found troublesome. Fortunately, you have the option of whether you want to join the senate and work with it or not, which is a choice that shouldn’t be made lightly.

I joined the community and enjoyed it, for the most part. It adds more to the diplomatic side of the game even if you’re not planning on signing on with a federation. There are many resolutions to keep you occupied and a talented leader can manipulate them in their favor. The only issue that I had with this new feature is that the vast majority of empires vote to pass every resolution that’s brought forward. Granted, they often bring nice perks with them, but the enhanced diplomatic weight quickly pushes a few empires into positions of power over the others, and it seems the AI is unable to process this currently. I’d like to see the voting process be a bit tenser on that end, with members weighing the overall consequences of their situation in relation to others in the galaxy.

The galactic community has the potential to have a radical effect on the political sphere of the galaxy, though its members tend to vote to pass almost everything.

Cliques & Clubs

Federations themselves have been vastly improved in nearly every way. There are now five types of federations that can be formed and each comes with its perks and flaws. Galactic Unions are the closest to what we’ve become used to in the past as they’re based on multiple empires banding together with a focus on diplomatic unity regardless of personal identities. Trade Leagues enhance economic opportunities and boost the trade value of their members while increasing innate trade route protection from pirates. Martial alliances forego diplomatic or trade bonuses in favor of increasing starting benefits for new armies and ships, as well as the admirals that command them. Research cooperatives care about one thing and one thing only, science! Their bonuses revolve entirely around improving research among their members and are particularly powerful in that regard even if few other bonuses are present. Hegemonies are the outlier here as they’re one-sided. Whereas every type of federation has a president at all times, members of hegemonies are nearly subjects of the president, and can only leave through a war of independence. They do bring a nice bonus to resource production though!

Federations gain experience based on their cohesion, a measure of diplomatic unity within. Each new level offers benefits to all members as well as a couple of extras to the president. Federation laws are too numerous to list here, but they serve to make each federation nearly as unique as the empires themselves. Laws for succession, length of a president’s term, whether or not votes must be unanimous to pass, and how much fleet capacity is transferred to from member empires to the federations are a few of the many choices to be made. Federations are far more in-depth than they were before and it brings a healthy amount of innovation that makes Stellaris as we’ve seen it even better.

The Bakturian Conglomerate. An authoritarian empire that believes that science is the highest form of morality and that slaves are simply a means to an end. Research cooperatives love them, most others find their policies distasteful.

New Beginnings

Equally as exciting for those of us who are obsessed with the creation of new empires, an origin feature has been added that lets each empire have a more unique start than ones that were simply applied based on your traits. Ranging from the familiar prosperous unification (a backstory that states that the population of your starting world ended up finding peace and becoming a singular faction) to a post-apocalyptic society with a knack for living on desolate tomb worlds to banding together of three planets that have formed a federation after finding common ground, there’s plenty to make each playthrough even more unique than they used to be. Each of these offers a noticeable change, particularly in the early game, and is yet another great expansion to the already versatile and entertaining empire creation. If you’re like me, you’ll be excited to create a new batch of empires and redo the ones that you already have on your roster.

Origins offer new and exciting choices to customize your empire and make it even more unique.


Federations is an expansion that any fan of Stellaris is going to want to get their hands on. The new origin options offer an entirely new facet to the development of your empires, and the new diplomacy features surrounding the federations and the galactic community breathe life into a segment of the game that many players felt needed more depth. All in all, an excellent addition that continues the trend of excellent DLC for Stellaris and one that has me excited to see what features are coming along next.

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