One of the most ubiquitous themes in sci-fi media is the existence of ancient and incomprehensibly powerful, but extinct alien civilizations. The names may change, but the story is almost always the same, regardless of whether it's Halo or The Expanse. This theme holds true in Stellaris' latest DLC, Ancient Relics. In fact, this is what the entire DLC centers around. Of course, being a "grand strategy" space RTS, there is a lot more room for exploration and creative writing than in most other forms of media.
As the name suggests, the Ancient Relics DLC adds a bunch of ancient artifacts into Stellaris. They can trigger all kinds of events, ranging from the mundane to the extraordinary. Some offer little more than a slight temporary boost to your empire's economy, research, or general wellbeing. These minor artifacts are classified as resources and are quite expendable. Other artifacts come in as endgame tier Relics.
These Relics have both a passive and active ability. The passive abilities tend to be strong, but nothing to scramble over per se. The active abilities, on the other hand, can help you end civilizations. These active abilities let you spawn entire fleets, boost all weapon damage by at least 20% for years, or get resources from out of nowhere, and these are merely the more straightforward effects.
You can discover such artifacts in various ways. For example, science ships you stumble across during routine exploration will have them. It is almost a guarantee that a Relic has spawned on the new, appropriately named Relic Worlds. A select few are obtainable by following a quest chain of sorts. You obtain the most powerful Relics by beating various endgame tier events. It would've been easy for Paradox to simply throw in a bunch of artifacts and call it a day, but that's not the case. Each artifact, big or small, comes with a bit of story to them. As your scientists unearth the artifacts via the new archaeology mechanic, they'll unlock more and more story content. Needless to say, the extra effort shows, giving a bit of excitement to each discovery. The well-written stories are occasionally amusing and rather thought-provoking if you really want to delve into them.
In typical Stellaris fashion, the Ancient Relics DLC will release alongside a free update. The update itself is relatively minor this time around, mostly consisting of balancing and performance tweaks. It does give you the chance to sample the Relic system though, as the base Crisis events have Relics attached to them. There are some changes to the Megastructure mechanic, mainly tied to how you unlock specific Megastructures.
In spite of its mundane name, the Ancient Relics DLC is quite impactful. The amount of archaeological dig sites in the average galaxy is seemingly far from sparse. The fact that there are just enough Relics to create a bit of an arms race of sorts to obtain them is clever. It also gives depth to a previously mundane feature, planetary exploration. After all, it means little to have hundreds of planets in your galaxy and only a handful of them can be interacted with. With the DLC, each planet can hold the key to a previous civilization's rise and fall, a far cry from merely housing some weird animals that you can't really do anything with.
In some ways, Ancient Relics is the closest that one can get to mandatory DLC. Well, for an RTS anyway. Naturally, it's not 100% necessary to have Ancient Relics to enjoy Stellaris. On the other hand, the effect that Ancient Relics has is so thorough that it's hard to go back to the base game without it. The galaxy simply feels empty without the chance of running into random dig sites. And who knows what modders can do with the new features once they get their hands on it. You really can't go wrong with the DLC since it provides something for every stage of the game. From early to late game, the DLC has an impact on how you explore, where you expand, and what threats you should face. The fact that you know exactly what you're getting based on the name alone is commendable.
TechRaptor reviewed Stellaris: Ancient Relics on PC via Steam with a code provided by the publisher.
Stellaris' latest DLC, Ancient Relics, explores a familiar sci-fi trope in a unique way. It's an excellent addition to the game that features great writing and a ton of depth
- Makes Planetary Exploration Interesting
- Relics That Are Worth Fighting Over
- Archaeology Leads to Story Content
- Archaeology is Relatively Risk-Free
- Almost Too Straightforward; No Surprises