Scifi grand strategy Stellaris‘s free 3.1 update, titled “Lem”, is out now. This is the first update created by “The Custodians”, a new team formed within developers PDS Green focused on free, quarterly updates which tweak game balance, add new content to old DLC and fix bugs.
The “Lem” update does all three, changing how tradition trees work, adding new features to old species packs such as 2016’s Planetoids, and rebalancing some Civics and Origins.
3.1’s complete list of changes is expandable over in this forum thread. It’s absolutely vast, though a few highlights are pulled out at the top. They included traditions no longer being hardlocked, so you can choose which tradition trees you want to pursue during a playthrough, and new tradition trees being added to previous Nemesis and Apocalypse DLCs.
The changes to the species packs meanwhile include a new Clone Army Origin for the Humanoids Species Pack, which lets you play “the remains of an ancient Clone Army” who reproduce solely via ancient vats.
As an update, Lem is much larger than future work by The Custodians team is expected to be, but the nature of it is the same. The initiative was announced by Paradox back in June. Effectively, Stellaris has grown so large (and some would say, unbalanced) that it’s no longer practical to maintain it solely via the same team that’s also working on new DLCs.
Paradox stress that the game will not suddenly “be fixed” as a result of this team’s work, but still, it’s nice to see DLCs released years ago suddenly have new stuff in them. If you’ve never got into Stellaris before and want to try it with its new balance changes, it’s free to play for the next five days via Steam and 75% off.
Stellaris isn’t the only game to refresh an old DLC recently. Earlier this month, EA Maxis refreshed the 2015 Spa Day pack for The Sims 4, adding new wellness-focused aspirations for your Sims, facial masks, and nail polish.
Paradox have received a lot of criticism for their strategy of endlessly juicing games with paid DLC, and never more so than in the past year. In April, Europa Universalis IV’s Leviathan expansion became the worst rated release on all of Steam with 90% negative reviews.
More seriously, we spoke to several Paradox QA staff last year who alleged poor treatment, and earlier this month a union survey of Paradox employees alleged a culture of mistreatment within Paradox Interactive. The company’s CEO departed over “differing views on the company’s strategy” just a few days before, and their replacement, Fredrik Wester, admitted “inappropriate behaviour” towards an employee at a company event in 2018 when he was previously CEO.