Recently I had gotten back into playing 4X Space Strategy games and picked up Stellaris and Endless Space 2 a few weeks apart from each other after scouring reddit and other forums looking for the best 4x strategy game that reminded me of the days when I played Masters of Orion. So I put in over 100 hours into each game beating multiple campaigns with each game to give a thorough review and share my own thoughts on which of the 2 games may be better for what you are looking for. First I should point out that both games are enhanced greatly by some of the DLC available which can add new races, additional side quests, story arcs and content to the game. The DLC for both games was amazing and enhanced the experience over the base game, but I would say Stellaris had more DLC that dramatically improved the game, especially around random encounters, anomalies and other side events. I will go over each game and then provide a final summary so you can make your decision, note that with the DLC content both games can be a significant investment so I honestly can tell you I spent nearly $100 on each game with all DLC, but if you count the fact that I have over 100 hours of play time with each game this means my ROI or my entertainment hours per dollar is about .75 cents per hour of entertainment, you won’t find that kind of entertainment value per dollar anywhere else but the gaming industry. I have blown as much as these games seeing a 1.5 hour movie with my family and the games you can play until you get tired of them. In fact I am into anything that is space related whether it be movies (Star Wars, Star Trek), TV Shows (The Expanse), and even using a rick and morty ringtone on my phone on occasion when I feel like it.
Stellaris vs Endless Space 2 – Which is Better?
I installed Stellaris first and played this game before Endless Space 2, I also installed it with a lot of DLC content after reading about the variety of extra’s you get and have to say that the Leviathans Story Pack, Utopia and Synthetic Dawn are pretty great.
So the first thing to know about Stellaris is it is not a true 4x Turn Based Strategy game even though it plays like one, the game has a constant flow of time and there are no turns, you have a default speed where days advance and you can accelerate to Fast or Very Fast to accelerate time so days fly by and months pass quickly. You can also hit spacebar to pause the game so you can address all needed actions without losing time, this is important as when you complete a scientific research item you don’t want to lose wasted days picking and choosing the next tech tree item so you pause so days aren’t lost while you are trying to decide. Stellaris has faster and more intense style of play than Endless Space 2 which is truly turn based and you do everything at your own pace and click end turn letting it cycle through other players and AI turns. In Stellaris if you are invaded by pirates you have to respond in real time, or pause and respond, in some cases unless you expanded your starports to see several stars distant the enemies can get the drop on you leaving you in a reactive state always playing defensive.
I like how edicts and politics work in both games, Stellaris using “Unity” as the currency to represent influence to declare edicts, make political changes. Unity accumulates much more slowly in Stellaris than Influence does in Endless Space 2 and even though there are structures to increase Unity rate, it is slow accumulating. Managing starports and starbases is more entertaining in Stellaris since you can deploy defensive platforms and upgrade them with fighter hangars, gun ports, missile bays as well as enhance the space station itself to provide resources, storage and other benefits. Unlike Endless Space 2, you build space ships at the space station shipyard which can have increased bays in Stellaris. In Endless Space 2 you just queue space ships in the same planetary building screen and they show up in the space hangar which is really just a place holder.
When it comes to planet bases, Stellaris has better management of “tiles” which are surface points where you can install facilities and grow population into. Some planets have more habitable tiles than others and some have terrain which needs to be cleared so you can build on them. The management of buildings on those tiles makes it more fine tuned and strategic, where in Endless Space 2 there really isn’t a limit to how many structures you can install/build on a planet you can just load and queue them all up if you have the Dust and resources to build them. In Stellaris you only have a certain amount of tiles and you can get building upgrades which increase output, but you certainly have to plan your buildings and purpose better.
Stellaris has far fewer planets to colonize than Endless Space 2 overall, but has more outposts, space stations which don’t need habitable planets and can be built around black holes, and other space points of interest. The fact you can build a station in any star system and have it produce ships make expansion easier in Stellaris at the expense of it becoming costly as everything you buy and build has an upkeep of energy and you have to micromanage your input and output accordingly.
Stellaris has less story than Endless Space 2, even the campaigns are more limited with the AI feeling less like they are another faction who you can form an alliance with. Sure there is alliances, wars, enslaving races, demanding tribute and all that encompasses that, but with more voice acting, interactive conversations Endless Space 2 has more of a story to the race you choose with an actual end game result and more flexible endgame options of winning than Stellaris.
Having everything easy to access on the right from planets to bases to your variety of ships is much easier to micromanage in Stellaris in my opinion. As it clearly has separation of science ships, construction ships, colony ships and your military ships. You can also assign leaders to fleets, generals to ground based armies or scientists and gain bonuses an benefits. In Stellars the leaders are just a cosmetic enhancement, in Endless Space 2 the leaders have more impact, and have a custom choice skill tree as well as custom hero ships that you can upgrade each module. Leaders are much more passive and automated in Stellaris than they are in Endless Space 2 and you just don’t care about or vest in them like Endless Space 2. Also life spans run out fast unless you have traits to greatly increase life span or you are running an AI race that has no life span (but they can have malfunctions which take them out of play). So leaders often get a lot of benefit only to randomly die of old age on you leaving a void of that skill set.
In Stellaris all ships except science ships must travel the star lanes, Science ships you can get a technology which allows them to warp and show up without star lanes. Endless Space 2 you can get tech that allows any ship to travel without using star lanes but they do so much slower. Both games have you claim influence over stars even if you don’t colonize them. Stellaris features a variety of anomolies, less advanced primitive races, space Amoeba’s and other cool stuff, but they don’t have the variety of resources and luxuries that Endless Space 2 has. In Stellaris there are a few exotic materials but nothing like the amount in Endless Space 2 and you don’t get the upgrades and customization tree of upgrading planetary bases based on variety of tech. In Stellaris, all you will care about really is Energy, Minerals, Food, Influence and Unity. In Endless Space 2 you harvest luxuries on planets and setup trade routes/barter for luxuries, can sell them on the galactic market and more. This means you deal with a lot more money in Endless Space 2 than in Stellaris, where Dust is currency in Endless Space 2 compare to Energy in Stellaris.
Overall Stellaris has faster expansion, far larger ship and fleet battles, more simultaneous fleets and the army invasion aspect is cooler than Endless Space 2 where you actually have to form armies and generals which travel separately as transport ships to invade planets. You can still bombard planets from orbit with space ships, but a ground invasion is require to take over an enemy planet and enslave or capture it for your own. In Endless Space 2 you put transport modules into your ships which carry ground troops as soldiers, tanks or air support and you can upgrade each tree. In Endless Space 2 there are separate types of army units and you can stack more of them. The real time combat watching the armies and ships go at it is more fun than the turn based results and watching a cinematic that gets old fast in Endless Space 2, so based on a credible source, I would say that Stellaris is more exciting but Endless Space 2 is more take your time tactical. Endless Space 2 has more of a variety with anomalies better implementation of primitive civilizations that you can cultivate to join you, more hand on researchable anomalies where you actually have to stock probe modules and shoot them out at anomolies or research the anomolies in the system itself.
In Endless Space 2 you manage an entire system and all it’s planets from one build screen, whereas in Stellaris you manage each planet as a separate entity even if multiple colonizable planets exist in the same system. There is overall more variety of base structures in Endless Space 2 and more flexibility in ship combat. For example you can get drop pods for fighter ships which can have you capture and take over enemy fleet vessels which you own after a combat. Both have varieties of ships with varying power, but in Endless Space 2 you can customize the role of ships better having explorers, transports, combat ships. I love the module customization and hero module functions but love watching the combat real time in Stellaris compared to the cinematic in Endless Space 2 which is pretty but not really representative showing waves of ships fly around each other shooting each other, and even missiles coming from the defensive platforms at ships.
Population and species management with happiness management I think is more detailed out in Endless Space 2, though I think the trait system is excellent in Stellaris, because there are more materials and goods and far more planet type varieties in Endless Space 2 I think Endless Space 2 has more to it here, though it is hard managing happiness for your population when you expand too much and it will take leveling up leaders who can influence happiness as well as building structures to manage and control happiness if you want an expansion heavy system.
In Stellaris when you expand beyond your core planet limit, you suffer from penalties, but you can get around this by creating automated sectors where the AI runs your sectors managing the buildling, resource allocation and your sectors are independent but siphon a percentage of the resources to your master pool. You have to make sure your sectors have a surplus, or you end up having them be a drain on your core system sector.
You can assign governors to sectors in Stellaris, but in Endless Space 2 you only assign leaders to planets or fleets. The tech tree itself in Endless Space 2 is customizable, flexible and you see the entire tree at ones queuing as much as you want to build, but in Stellaris your scientists directly contribute to your research and you research 3 branches of tech at the same time instead of just one tech research item at a time in Endless Space 2. You also get a tree of choices after you research an item and can only choose from that option list which you can get expanded with other research choices, but it isn’t an open list of seeing all options and choosing a long term technology research path ahead of time in Stellaris like Endless Space 2.
Both are absolutely fantastic games and I enjoyed putting hundreds of hours into both games, if you want more of a campaign story with voice over interactions with other races as well as having more of a “living universe” feel to sequences, is truly turn based and has more luxury trading/collection then Endless Space 2 would probably be something you prefer. If you want something real time, faster paced that you can slow down or pause but is not turn based and enjoy watching space battles, plus manage larger fleets and enjoy managing layout of structures on individual planets then Stellaris would likely be something you prefer. Also with Stellaris and the Utopia DLC which allows you to build mega-structures like Dyson Spheres and your own constructed habitats means you never have to worry about not finding enough planets.
- Stellaris is 60% off on Fanatical at the time of this writing and most of the DLC is also 50% off as well which can save you a LOT of money if you end up getting Stellaris with some DLC.
- Endless Space 2 is 66% off on Steam and the Vaulters DLC is 50% off right now on Fanatical if not on Steam.
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