Fallen Empires are my favorite part about the Stellaris setting. The idea of a precursor empire, milennia old, whose borders once stretched across the galaxy, their glory now faded, their great advancements forgotten, but the power of their ancient fleets and technology still far above that of any fledgling empire. Enigmatic actors on the galactic scene, whose morals and ambitions have been warped by ages of self-imposed isolation. For me, it invokes images of the Galactic Empire from the Foundation and the Vorlons and Shadows from Babylon 5. However, the implementation of Fallen Empires never quite matched my visions - originally meant to be completely passive, they were retooled fairly late in the development to give them some basic personality and goals as enforcers of particular taboos. While these goals make for some memorable experiences for new players (I've seen more than a few stories of careless colonization of Holy Worlds) they by necessity require Fallen Empires to behave in a highly predictable manner that, once understood, turns them back into actors of little consequence to the player. For this reason, fleshing out Fallen Empires and adding an element of unpredictability to them has been high on my priority list ever since I became Game Director, and this is what we're aiming to do in the Heinlein patch and accompanying DLC.
Sleepers Awake (Free Feature)
The idea of Fallen Empire 'awakening' was mentioned by Henrik Fåhreaus/doomdark a number of times during development as something we were interested in doing, but ultimately is something that ended up being cut for time. In Heinlein, all Fallen Empires will have a chance to awaken as a result of certain external factors. The exact conditions and chance under which each Fallen Empire will awaken depends on their ethos, but some examples include:
- Endgame Crises threatening them or the galaxy
- Regular empires growing too strong/technologically advanced
- Other Fallen Empires being defeated by regular empires
- Other Fallen Empires awakening first
When a Fallen Empire awakens, their personality, government and country type change. Their previous restriction on building ships, colonizing and conquering is lifted and they become what we call an Awakened Empire. Awakened Empires have one of the following four personalities:
- Militant Isolationists become Jingoistic Reclaimers, and will try to conquer the galaxy
- Holy Guardians become Doctrinal Enforcers, and will try to convert the galaxy to their faith.
- Enigmatic Observers become Benevolent Interventionists, and will try to force all other empires into becoming a signatory to a galactic peace treaty.
- Keepers of Knowledge become Watchful Regulators, and will try to force all other empires to accept their technological primacy.
Awakened Empires will start to rapidly expand, colonizing surrounding systems and conquering those races who will not submit to their demands. In each case, you will be able to avoid their wrath by submitting to them as a subject, with a special subject type for each of the four:
- Jingoistic Reclaimers have Thralls, tributaries who may not colonize but can fight among each other.
- Doctrinal Enforcers have Dominions, tributaries with enforced spiritualist ethics and government.
- Benevolent Interventionists have Signatories, subjects who may not wage war, enslave or purge, but are otherwise independent.
- Watchful Regulators have Satellites, who must pay a share of their research to their overlord and are required to ban all AI.
Once a Fallen Empire awakens, they will not stop until their galactic ambition is achieved or they are defeated by a coalition of lesser races. Only a few events will cause them to change their plans, such as the presence of an endgame crisis or the start of the War in Heaven (more on that below).
Personality Changes (Free Feature)
Among the four Fallen Empire personalities we created for release, two of them didn't really work out: The Keepers of Knowledge and Enigmatic Observers. The Holy Guardians and Militant Isolationists restrict you from a certain part of space - sure, that part may be a deliciously tempting size 20 Gaia World, but ultimately you can always find another place to expand. The Keepers of Knowledge and Enigmatic Observers, however, restrict playstyles - if you get one of the former in your galaxy, you can forget about having sentient robots until you're strong enough to take them on. As there's little you can do about this other than hope for the right type of Fallen Empires to spawn, it's not very fun and ultimately just limits player strategies in a rather arbitrary way. For this reason, we've decided to revamp the Keepers of Knowledge and Enigmatic Observers.
While not awakened, they will not concern themselves with restricting the overall actions of the 'lesser' empires: Instead, they will pursue specific goals and ambitions that sometimes require them to interact with these very empires. These goals and actions take the form of Requests and Demands: If you have established communications with Keepers of Knowledge or Enigmatic Observers, they will sometimes contact you and either give you a task (for example, to hunt down a splinter faction of their species or recover a cache of technology from one of their old worlds) or make a demand (for example, one of your pops for their 'galactic preserve'). Completing their tasks will result in an opinion boost and a reward (such as technology or perhaps even a Fallen Empire ship), while repeatedly rebuffing their demands may result in a declaration of war to put you in your place.
The awakened versions of these two will take on some of the characteristics of the old, non-awakened versions, with Benevolent Interventionists seeking to enforce galactic peace and Watchful Regulators trying to regulate the level of technological advancement in the galaxy. They will also act as the first line of defense against galactical crises, taking it on themselves to unite the lesser races against such existential threats.
New Designs (Free Feature)
A small detail that I felt was lacking in Fallen Empires was the absence of any unique designs. All the Fallen Empires used the same (fairly lacking) Avatars and Eclipses, and ultimately their ships were inferior to what a regular empire that had been around for a century or two could produce. Both of these issues will be addressed in Heinlein, with each Fallen Empire ethos now having their own unique designs to use (and build, if they are awakened). For example, Keepers of Knowledge exclusively utilize energy weapons to strike their enemies at a distance, while Militant Isolationists combine afterburners and projectile weapons to get up close to their foes and tear their ships up at point-blank range. Additionally, a whole new ship class called Titans has been introduced as a (for now) exclusive new weapon in the Fallen Empire arsenal. Titans are enormous ship, the equivalent of several battleships, extremely durable and armed with a vast array of lethal weapons. They will sometimes be found in the starting fleets of Fallen Empires, and Awakened Fallen Empires will be able to build a limited number of them.
The War in Heaven (Paid Feature)
We've talked about what happens when one Fallen Empire awakens, but what happens if there's two of them? For those with the DLC, two empires of opposing ethos (for example, Xenophobe and Xenophile) awakening can result in the War in Heaven event triggering. This event will cause the two Awakened Empires to go to war over the fate of the galaxy, dragging in the lesser species to fight on their side. All empires will be presented with a choice - join one of the two Awakened Empires and bet on their victory, join a league of non-aligned empires and hope you can stand against them both, or stand alone and risk being trampled underfoot when the war comes your way. Unlike a normal war, the War in Heaven is a cataclysmic event that will not end once a few worlds have been captured or a few battles won - it will be a fight to the death that ends only when one Awakened Empire stands victorious or both have been subjugated. If one of the Awakened Empires wins, they will show favor to those who supported them and be merciless to those who opposed them.
That's all for today! Next week we'll be talking about some changes coming to space creatures, how they spawn and how they scale, coming in Heinlein.