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Stellaris: Excruciatingly Slow for no Good Reason

This review focuses on Stellaris, a grand-strategy game in space.


By. Jacob

Edited: 2022-02-12 02:59

Forming a federation in Stellaris.

I spent the entire night playing Stellaris again, and again without much progress. This game is addictive, but it is also excruciating to play.

I feel like I am playing a game that is not properly finished; most things about the game is annoying me. The idea is good, but the implementation is a complete failure.

This article will focus on my most recent game, but also some weird and annoying things I experienced in previous games.

In my current game I am doing fairly well. I am stronger than many other empires, established a federation, and won over some territory through a war.

Now, I seem to somehow have gotten stuck in a war started by another Federation member, and unfortunately, only the member that started the war can end it. We already took over the entire territory of the enemy, so there is clearly some kind of bug in the game that prevents the war from ending. This is not the first "bug" or "flaw" I have found, but it is the first to prevent progress and block diplomacy with other empires.

I am not sure if there is a planet somewhere we have not yet occupied, but surely there should be some sort of indication of that? I mean, the game is bad, but surely it can not be completely broken? Oh.. Yep. It is broken. In so many ways. And before you ask: Yes I did check all the planets, and everything is occupied as far as I can tell.

It also took me a long time to find the war screen; it turned out it was hiding at the bottom right corner of the screen:

The location of the war exhaustion screen in Stellaris.

Oh, please no, it's whack-a-mole again

If you think a game of Master of Orion II took too long, then you can multiply that many times over. Typically I could finish a game of MOO2 in half a day to a day, but with Stellaris, a game can take several days. It is takes a brutal amount of focus!

Much of that is down to slow fleet movement, a stupid influence system, and the whack-a-mole like gameplay.

Fleet take an eternity to move around in Stellaris.

The whack-a-mole (in ultra slow motion) aspect of the game is really something I hate with a passion, because, as we know, moving fleets around is excruciatingly slow. It is literally so annoying and frustrating that I am probably going to ditch the game entirely very soon. I already ended one game because of it, and I was actually not in a bad position — I basically just got tired of chasing enemy fleets around without much progress.

I have probably spent hours chasing after enemy fleets and randomly occurring pirates, and once you realize that, you really start to wonder why you subject yourself to such torture.

Defense platforms and starbases are useless and massively overpriced. The fact that the platforms are destroyed every time an enemy takes a system, and upgraded starbases not, is making defense platforms even more worthless when compared to upgrading your star bases. Even relatively weak enemies will cut through them like paper.

The Diplomacy system is messed up insane

When you are stuck in a war started by another Federation member, senselessly, you will not be able to easily end the war through diplomacy, or use certain other diplomacy options. Logically the federation could have a vote on it — evidently that is not the case.

This is a screenshot of my war screen and current level of war exhaustion:

Stuck in a federation war in Stellaris, with no progress in war exhaustion

There has been no change at all in war exhaustion for years of in-game time, and that is despite having occupied all enemy systems and planets.

Now, what if you are stuck in this state of war? Bad luck I guess. Should I just start over? I do not know. But, there is no indication inside the game as of what to do; for now I will just continue playing and hope that war exhaustion maxes out at some point.

When at war, no diplomacy for you

Text in in-game tooltip: Only the main attacker or defender can send offers.

It makes no sense that we can not end a war started by other federation members. But, While at war, other options for diplomacy will also be limited.

For example, both your own empire and the empire you want to invite to your federation has to be at peace; and that is just one of those little things that contributes to ruining the fun of the game.

Does it make sense? Of course it makes no logical sense, but it is what it is.

How influence restricts your options

Influence is something you gain, extremely slowly, there are not enough ways to speed it up, and in fact more ways to slow it down. Without enough influence, you will not be able to expand by building outposts or take over enemy systems through war.

The whole influence system should probably also be removed from the game, because I find it is too restrictive and slowing down progress, which is already excoriatingly hampered by insanely slow fleet movement. Your fleets do not even move faster inside your own territory.

Influence is illogical, and not adding anything of substantial value. In fact, I find it rather illogical that star bases are not destroyed, but rather work like a game-in-the-game type of thing. In this case it feels like I am playing King of the Hill rather than being at war with another empire. Tag! — I took your star system!

Empire Sprawl is sort of cool

I think the game would work much better if Empire Sprawl affected empire expansion instead of influence. It also makes sense, if your sprawl gets too high, that it would be costly to expand your territory.

Early in the game it does not really seem to matter much that you got high sprawl, but later you need to pay more attention to it, because it does affect your Technology. I really wish sprawl was the only thing we had to think about, and influence was removed from the game.

The trade dialog is broken

The trade dialog is really frustrating to use; you can not even type a number, so instead you have to click the tiny arrows to increment or decrement the amount of resources you want to trade.

The only interesting thing about trade is that you can trade "favors" for monthly resources, which seems a bit weird to me.

Sometimes the AI asks if you want to go to war

In my last game I was asked by another empire if I wanted to join them in a war on someone, and I was not even in federation with this empire — yet the popup dialog looked exactly the same as that thrown when in an federation!

I had to Google to find out what it was about. Strangely, there was no explanation in the popup text itself; it just said something like X empire wants to go to war with Y, and nothing about me joining them. Of course I rejected.

The feature is interesting, but if you do not bother writing a decent description in the popup, then perhaps you should not implement it? It also contributes to the popup/notification spam that players are getting bombarded with in the game. I find that extremely distracting.

Some events feel flawed

I have encountered several in-game events that I was unable to complete because my fleets could not move fast enough. In one case I even had a fleet about 3 hops away from the event, and I was still not able to make it in time to save one of my colonies from "mutated creatures".

The event system is really lame. It is basically bombarding the player with more popups and notifications, with very little reward to compensate for the distraction, and that is exactly the problem; if something feels like an annoying distraction, then it probably should not be in the game.

It seems most events (perhaps all of them?) can go in different directions, either good or bad, and while that does add some dynamic to the game, unfortunately, some outcomes are too devastating.

Usually I find the events distracting and annoying. Events seem to come out of nowhere, randomly, with little reward.

I have had too many instances of entire colonies being destroyed for senseless and stupid reasons, and this has both happened with the Underground Vault and Abandoned Terraforming Project events.


I am not sure why all the space games I have played has suffered from excessive notifications and popups. All the way from Reunion and Master of Orion 2 to Stellaris, every single one has had annoying notifications.

Notifications in Stellaris.

In Spore, it was especially the constant pirate raids, and in an older game like Reunion it was living space and hospitals mostly — even MOO2 had its share of annoying popup notifications.

Please, whoever is making these games, can we just stop with the notification games? If I want notifications, I go to Facebook.

Tell us what you think:

  1. Bugged event disrupts the gameplay and destroys a colony for insane reason.
  2. Another game of Stellaris wasted, this time thanks to an Amoeba Swarm encountered too early in the game.
  3. Apparently Fallen Empires can magically assassinate your leader with non-existent technology, leaving you with that profound feeling of frustration. Was this really necessary? Of course not.
  4. I just hate the Abandoned Terraforming Project event, it has caused the unfortunate loss of two colonies and a great amount of frustration.

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