The next expansion for Stellaris, Overlord, is going to give players the chance to outdo Emperor Palpatine and assume total control of the galaxy. Developer Paradox Interactive has announced that the release date for Overlord has been set for May 12, and we had a chance to talk with Stellaris’ new game director about what the expansion is adding to the 4X game’s impressive suite of interstellar empire management tools.
“With Overlord, we started it with wanting to revamp subject-overlord interactions,” explains game director Stephen Muray, who assumed the role in March from departing director Daniel Moregård. “Becoming a subject was kind of like a delayed game over, and I hated that. It came as a surprise to new players. And it just kind of grew as we explored some of the fantasies we could see, like, if you were an intergalactic overlord, what are some of the things that you could do? How can we make this interesting, how could we make this fun, both as the overlord and as the subject?”
Overlord adds new vassalisation mechanics to Stellaris, allowing rulers to shape their subject states into specialist empires that can be industrial super-producers or military powerhouses. As the overlord, you’ll be able to broker contracts between your subjects, shaping their growth, development, and relationships with each other.
“I play a lot of Crusader Kings,” Muray tells us, explaining that both Crusader Kings III and Hearts of Iron IV have systems that have been instructive in creating Overlord. “Basically, we started by taking a look at what Crusader Kings III did, what people enjoyed there, and we looked at the puppetry system [in Hearts of Iron IV].”
Obviously, not everything about a medieval contract negotiation system or World War II foreign policy translates well to a science fiction setting that spans thousands of worlds, but Muray says there’s a decent amount of overlap. “We just have more knobs and whistles,” he says.
Overlord adds five new starts: you can begin the game as an imperial fiefdom and work your way into a position to take over galactic rulership, or there’s Slingshot to the Stars, in which your people discover a ruined quantum catapult near your homeworld that allows you to quickly spread out across the unexplored galaxy.
Overlord also adds new technological feats to discover, such as the one-way quantum catapults mentioned above, orbital rings that turn your planets into bristling defensive platforms, and hyper relays that provide your fleets with quick travel around your growing empire.
“When we first announced Overlord, there were a lot of questions [from players] about why are you doing this, and not doing internal politics or some sort of story pack,” Muray says. However, fans have warmed up quickly as the dev team has shared more details about Overlord.
“We want to explore a bunch of the different player fantasies that we don’t have right now, or that just don’t work well right now,” he says. “We figured that would be a good way to continue giving people new ways to play, new experiences.”
Fortunately, Muray says the community is in a great place right now, with player sentiment at an all-time high. He’s confident that Stellaris is set to keep that momentum going.
“I have a huge advantage here compared to past game directors in that we have the custodian team fully staffed and functioning,” he says. “We have them always spending at least a third of their time looking at what the players are asking for and trying to address that. I think that is really the key to why we’re doing so well. There’s never been a better time to play the game, really, because they’re constantly fixing things. They’re constantly making things better. So with the expansion team, we can just continue adding new things to explore.”