How long does it take to play Stellaris?

Stellaris is a beautiful but pretty complex 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) game and a mixture of real-time and turn based strategy game. And its studio Paradox Interactive is known for its complex products. Playing Stellaris takes time.

One of the questions I had before buying the game was how long a typical game in Stellaris lasts. I mean, who has time to play for 3 days on end. We all have a life and a family.

With a game as complex as Stellaris this naturally depends on your settings and play style, but :

A Stellaris game on default settings lasts 300 in-game years (about 30 hours real-time on normal speed). It ends faster if one player exterminates all rivals or controls 40+ % of the galaxy before that. Especially in the beginning, it makes sense to speed up the game time 3x (1 real second = 3 Stellaris days). So games on default settings last about 15 hrs, if you do not pause the game a lot, i.e. to micro-manage the economies.

Since you can save the game anytime and continue from where you left later, many games last real-world days or even a week, like a good game of chess.

But also: If you dominate the galaxy and eliminate all competition quickly, a Stellaris game can end long before the game reaches its Victory year. And so be over much quicker.

How long does a Stellaris Multiplayer game last?

Multiplayer games will take significantly longer than single-player games. Some take over 120+ hours. This is the case because now there is not only one human player who pauses the game to micro-manage his/her empire, but two or more. Also, if only one of the Multiplayer has issues with 3xing the time, all players are forced to stay on 1x speed, by that making the game take much longer.

What are Stellaris’ victory conditions?

The game finds its winner once a (AI-)player owns over 40% of the galaxy or exterminates all rivals, then the game declares the winner. Or if none of these conditions are met on “Victory year, the player with the highest score wins and Stellaris shows a matter-of-fact alert.

Stellaris victory conditions
Stellaris victory by points

Pretty unceremoniously if you ask me.

In this case the Victory year was reached, no one had eliminated the other players nor conquered more than 40% of the galaxy. So the winner was the player with the then highest score – which wasn’t me :(.

Stellaris Quick Game Settings

But I do not always have a few days for a game. Between writing for this website and living my life, I want to have some fun in the few hours I have right now. So is it possible to have some quick fun with Stellaris?

Today I tried to play a much quicker game to find out.

Since Stellaris comes with many setting options for you to choose from, you actually do have some influence on the game and its duration.

Stellaris default game settings

If you are instead looking for an answer to “How long does it take to learn Stellaris?“, go here.


On the screenshot above, you can see the Stellaris 3.0 vanilla game settings. We find:

  • “Galaxy Size” is set to “Medium (600 Stars)”
  • Mid-Game Start Year is set to 2300
  • End-Game Start Year is 2400
  • Victory Year is set to 2500.

How do you play Stellaris fast?

In order to speed up the game, I played with the settings and reduced the game duration years to the absolute minimum:

Stellaris fast game settings
Stellaris fast game settings

I changed the default settings to:

  • “Galaxy Size” set to “Small (400 Stars)”
  • Mid-Game Start Year is set to 2225
  • End-Game Start Year is 2250
  • Victory Year is set to 2300.

So from the onset the game would last max. 100 in-game years or 10 hours on 1x speed. If I played on 3x the whole time and deactivate auto-pause, the game would be finished in 3.3 hrs.

The game would end after 100 years or if one player conquered 40% of the galaxy or extinguished all opponents. Not very likely though with only 100 years to go.

100 game-years is not much time to build my empire and battle my rivals. To have a chance to rub elbows with other empires at all, I reduced the galaxy size to its bare minimum of 400 stars. Possibilities here range from a minimum of 400 stars with a maximum of 12 AI opponents up to playing in a huge galaxy with 1000 stars and 30 opposing AI empires. It goes without saying that a 1000-star galaxy will take much longer to explore than a 400-star galaxy.

My experiences with Stellaris on fast settings

With some family breaks, the game took me about 6, 7 hours still. And when I finally reached the “Victory year” 2300, all I saw was the alert above (screenshot)… some other empire had won solely by score.

I had saved some hours, yes, but yikes, playing Stellaris this way was absolutely no fun. I did not experience any End-game fun, the endgame just did not show up.

I let you in on a secret: To be able to build my Navy quickly enough to have some war-fun in the short time, I even cheated, big time. I had a huge Navy. And still I lost the decisive battles and finished last. No idea how that can be even possible (with me cheating that much).

So the game for me stopped just when my Empire started to take some form and I was in the middle of my first campaign.

And I do not know why the “classic” Endgame – some species appearing from nowhere to eliminate everything and everyone in our galaxy – did not appear. So I mostly played the sometimes dull early game phase with all the Empire building tasks … and missed the fun part when you can become the Guardian of the Galaxy.

I feel a bit robbed of that experience. So … I do not think that I will again play with these settings.

Now, sure, I could have played on, after the winner was announced, because technically Stellaris does not end with the Victory year. There is no in-game year when the game comes to a stop.

But without a decent Endgame, I was not interested.

[When] Does Stellaris end?

Stellaris has no end date based on time. The game ends when the winning conditions are met:

  • Someone eliminates you
  • someone conquers 40% of all habitable planets
  • you eliminate all adversaries

By default, a victory year is set. When you reach that year, Stellaris will proclaim a winner by points on that certain date.

Stellaris 3 No Victory Year
Stellaris 3 No Victory Year

But in game settings, you can as well switch off the Victory year completely, so that the game runs without proclaiming a winner.

With or without a victor proclaimed, you can play on until you quit or one of the above winning conditions are met.

Theoretically, Stellaris can be played indefinitely.

FAQ

How long is a day in Stellaris?

On normal speed, one Stellaris day lasts one real-world second, On 3x speed one real-world second is 3 Stellaris days.

image sources

  • Steallris prolaims winner: In game Screenshot
  • stellaris-fast-game-settings: own Screenshot

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