When I finally decided to jump into the Stellaris adventure, I did so without adding any additional content. I even had no idea what all these bundles and DLCs (DownLoadable Content – or add-on) and options meant and do, so I decided to just go for the vanilla game – out of pure information overload and also for budget reasons.
Since I had no idea what I wanted, I decided against all the DLCs and at the moment just love the game the way it is.
Out-of-the-box, Stellaris comes as a complete, stand-alone, full-featured 4X, grand-strategy game. It misses nothing in its plain vanilla status and gives any player interested in this genre hours upon hours of immersive gameplay. The DLCs are a great addition to the game, but neither necessary to enjoy the game nor recommended for the beginner.
Stellaris without any additional content
From my personal experience, I can say that the game feels complete without any DLC, and I see no need for any additional content for a beginner like me. To the contrary, while I absolutely suggest you enhance the game later with mods, packs and DLCs once you can really value the improvement in the game from knowing where it is coming from, I suggest you first get to know and play the game in its vanilla status.
At the moment, I still have my hands full understanding all the different aspects and dependencies within the game in its pure form. And I wouldn’t even recognize the improved gameplay, I wouldn’t see what this or that DLC did to the game.
And I haven’t looked back: Stellaris in its vanilla version delivers hours upon hours of intriguing gameplay while the game like a good game of chess only gets more and more interesting over time, when the fog of war begins to clear, and you start to rub elbows with your rivals for galaxy domination.
Should you play Stellaris without a DLC first?
So I would say, absolutely yes, start Stellaris without bothering about the DLCs etc. Save the fun of new options and graphics for a later moment. I believe this approach will also make Stellaris a better invest if you ramp up the content whenever you feel that you have seen enough of the game. Buying the packs and DLCs one by one ensures more time you enjoy Stellaris.
Note that I am not saying that buying the DLCs is not worth it, to the contrary. But the vanilla game comes with everything you – especially as a beginner -could wish for, and you will need at least 70+ hours to be even able to learn how to get around and build your empire.
I do say that only after these 70+ hours, you will begin to even understand what these DLCs could do for you. And only if you have played Stellaris without any DLCs, especially the late Endgame scenarios, will you be able to then appreciate how much the DLCs improve Stellaris even further.
Is vanilla Stellaris worth playing?
So I believe that you absolutely should start without any add-ons and DLCs in the beginning and learn Stellaris in its vanilla version, because this way you can really focus on the game. And while many of the Stellaris DLCs are great game enhancements, they are not mandatory for experiencing great gameplay.
Do Stellaris DLCs go on sale?
Now, there is one caveat to my argumentation above: Stellaris and its DLCs often go on sale on Steam and elsewhere.
If you already feel or know that you will enjoy Stellaris, buying a bundle on a super deal would absolutely make sense. I myself refrained from buying a bundle because I was not sure if I wanted to invest much more into the game before having tested it.
But in the future, this approach will make buying a bundle uninteresting for me, since I already own Stellaris. So would then wait until the DLC I want goes on sale.
Now that I have – partly – learned Stellaris and enjoy it a lot, I know I want to dig deeper later and invest into some DLCs. But for now vanilla Stellaris does absolutely satisfy me and I will stick to the plain game and keep experimenting until I feel the need for adding something new to Stellaris.
Can you play Stellaris Multiplayer without DLC?
If you are into multiplayer, you will like this: Playing Stellaris on multiplayer and with one or more DLCs requires only one of your friends to own the DLCs. This friend would then open the server, and you could enjoy the DLCs in the multiplayer game without owning them.
This is also a good way to test if you would spend money on these particular DLCs.
The same goes for open multiplayer games on the Paradox servers hosted by someone on the planet: Whoever hosts the game adds his or her DLCs to the whole multiplayer-galaxy, so you can test playing different DLCs by joining the servers offering these DLCs.
So my suggestion is not to abstain from the DLCs at all. My suggestion is to start with the vanilla game, learn and enjoy it for many hundreds of hours until you feel that it is time for something new. Then adding one or more DLCs (I still would argue for adding them one by one, so each time you have a new experience with Stellaris)
But if you know you will enjoy the game and get a great deal… well, by any means, grab it. Still, I would start with the plain game, though.
How many Stellaris DLC are there?
At the time of this writing, you can choose from six existing DLCs, with the newest addition being Nemesis.
But some are more worth than others, so you should make up your mind what DLCs you really need and want and which you skip or only buy on absolute garage-sale pricing.
Also there is no order to them, you can mix them anyway you want.
We will evaluate each Stellaris DLC in another post.
- Stellaris Good without DLC?: Stellaris Presskit