Stellaris, since its inception, has been updated quite often, and significant changes in game dynamics with update 2.0 leave many players long for older versions’ features.
Some claim Stellaris 1.9.1 Boulle was the peak version because its unrestricted FTL travel offered better opportunities for warfare with enemy empires than the newer versions. But 3.4 Cepheus is much more stable and introduces a novel, better way of FTL travel via Hyper Relays.
I got hooked by the game when the “Dick” update reigned, named after the influential Sci-Fi writer Philip K. Dick (i.e., Blade Runner). So to test and see which Stellaris version offers the best game experience, I dug out the famous Stellaris 1.9 and just tried it.
Was version 1.9 Stellaris’ peak?
A watershed moment for Stellaris was the update from 1.9.1 Boulle to 2.0.5 Cherryh when Stellaris space travel received a substantial overhaul. Unfortunately, many say this was a significant step in the wrong direction, claiming that with version 1.9, Stellaris has reached its prime and that the new game dynamics made the game drastically less enjoyable.
Until 1.9, FTL travel was unrestrained. The player could send his ships anywhere without restrictions – over the complete galaxy if necessary (but still jumping from system to system, as is the case in the modern game).
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The game already had hyperlanes as an option in settings, but these weren’t mandatory.
Also, there were two other options for interstellar travel: Wormholes and Warp-Drives.
Stellaris 1.9 vs. 2.0
Stellaris 2.0.5 made hyperlanes the only FTL option. Hyperlanes define the connection between two systems, like a road determines the way between two houses. And you, the player, can only see these hyperlanes and hyperlane-crossings three systems ahead, as long as you have not traveled them.
Stellaris 1.9 generates Star Trek feeling
Many early players of Stellaris longingly look back to the days when space travel was unrestricted. Today you can not just send your science ship into deep space and see what they find:
And I must say, even though I joined to play the game much later than 1.9, I get the idea. So I partly understand those stuck on 1.9.
Frankly, playing the game in the 1.9.1 version feels different from the modern versions. I felt like a character in Star Trek “going boldly where no one has gone before.”
I freely ordered my science ships to cross the galaxy and explore deep space. It felt strangely exciting, different from the modern game’s more regulated approach.
On their voyage from system to system, I held my breath about what they might encounter so far away from home.
Honestly, to “boldly go where no one has gone before” was more exciting than the modern system of hyperlanes. At least in the beginning. It also has downsides. We will come to that later.
There are also other differences in gameplay between 1.9 and 2.0+. Much in 1.9 looked less evolved and less complicated. It honestly felt like visiting one of the game’s early ancestors.
The game had much fewer options and was missing any fleet management capabilities. Alloys weren’t invented yet, so I had difficulty finding the spaceports and shipyards. They were not listed in the Outlier. 1.9 also allowed for the modification of civilian ships in the Ship Designer.
Construction ships could build Outposts in any surveyed system, and the graphics of star systems seemed much nicer done, though I might be wrong here.
How warfare changed from Stellaris 1.9 to 2.0
The introduction of hyperlane-only FTL travel resulted in much higher predictability. It focuses military strategies on chokepoints: An attack on an enemy can only be performed via very few hyperlanes into his system. If the opponent defends these few central chokepoints skillfully, any invasion might be doomed before you can claim any planets.
In contrast, before Stellaris 2.0, space travel had no limitations, you could attack any empire from everywhere, and it was impossible to build strategic defenses.
So, with the introduction of hyperlanes FTL, it became highly predictable how the enemy must attack. Unfortunately, it seems this decision by Paradox created unhappiness among the players, changed warfare, and demands for implementation of the old FTL and Warp systems.
Why Paradox changed Stellaris’ FTL travel
The question remains, why Paradox Interactive chose to change the game so drastically. The developers of Stellaris answer this in their Dev Diary blog, Ep. #92:
- Better performance through caching and unified code (Wormhole FTL in particular is a massive resource hog in the late game)
- Warfare with a distinct sense of ‘theatres,’ advancing/retreating fronts and border skirmishes
So the multitude of FTL travel options (FTL, Warp, and Wormholes) created so many possibilities of attack and countermeasures that, on the one hand, for the average player, it becomes impossible to handle. On the other hand, all these options over time overburdened the gaming hardware, slowing down the game.
Paradox decided to simplify the game and give players the option to fortify their empires, having the opportunity to amass huge fleets at these choke points to either defend them or conquer them.
The alternative: Disperse your fleet over your whole empire – the enemy could appear out of nowhere anytime and conquer your Starbases and planets.
So I agree that the decision by Paradox to channel FTL travel by fixed hyperlanes creates a more balanced game with the option to experience massive fleet battles … just my thing!
Stellaris 3.4 Cepheus: Hyper Rays Technology
With the 3.4 Cepheus update, the dispute is settled once and for all. Introducing a new Hyper Relays technology that your construction ships can use to build “highways” to the stars.
This technology speeds up travel massively, and you will not want to go back.
Stellaris 1.9 Download
But in case you want to test for yourself if you like 1.9 better than the actual versions, here is how to do it:
- in your Steam library, right-click on Stellaris
- choose “Properties”
- choose “Betas”
- enter “oldstellaris” (without the “”) into the field under “Enter beta access code” and click on “Check Code”
- now you will be able to choose versions pre-2.0 in the drop-down menu above
- Steam will load that version, and you will see in your libraries list “Stellaris [1.9.1]
- Click on PLAY
I am looking forward to your verdict … is 1.9 really better? Does 3.4 Cepheus blow older versions out of the water… share below in the comments or on our Facebook page.