If you were to buy all of the available Stellaris DLC without waiting for one of the many sales that Paradox runs, you’d be racking up over $200 worth of interstellar content. Despite how many hours fans tend to sink into this game, that’s still a steep price tag when you’re first trying to get into it! So naturally the question arises – what is the best Stellaris DLC to get?

Essential DLC Packs for Stellaris

Due to the nature of Stellaris, you’ll probably want a couple specific DLC packs to get the complete experience. First, we’ll talk about the content packs that most players consider essential.

Utopia

The first Stellaris DLC to be released was Utopia back in April 2017, and as usual with Paradox offerings, it expanded so many systems in the game that now the vanilla version feels incomplete. Utopia adds megastructures to the game like the Dyson sphere, a massive power plant your empire will construct around the outside of a star. Other offerings are ring worlds, massive ring-shaped artificial planets reminiscent of the Halo series. Some of these megastructures can be found floating in the depths of space, left over from previous civilizations, allowing you to repair them and take over control.

Although ascension perks are now part of the base game, they were originally added with this DLC, and some of them are not available without it. With ascension perks now being such a huge focus in the game, it’s hard to imagine playing Stellaris without the additions of the Utopia expansion. Additionally, it does allow you to play as the hive-mind government type if you prefer a less socially-minded playthrough.

Federations

Federations was released in March 2020, and massively expanded the diplomatic systems built into Stellaris. At the time, it also added origins for your species beyond the basic planetary unity origin. Although, many of these are now actually included in the base game, which is good considering just how drastic of an effect they can have on a playthrough.

Likewise, the galactic community system is now part of the base game. Although it existed in the vanilla version of the game, it was just a pale shadow of the intricate political system you unlock with this DLC.

Additionally, this DLC allows you to form galactic unions of various types with your allies, ranging from commercial pacts to defensive coalitions. It allows you to vote on various galactic resolutions that affect every single member of the galactic council, with options ranging from tiyanki pest control to banning the sale of sentient organisms.

Even if you aren’t interested in alien diplomacy, the Federations DLC is a must-have for a warlike player that wants a decent challenge. It can feel truly rewarding and immersive to see yourself denounced in the galactic community as a result of your aggressive expansionism, and pulling strings to keep yourself out of trouble can be very engaging.

Synthetic Dawn

This DLC is one of the most engaging for anyone who loves sci-fi about robots and the dangers of artificial intelligence. It allows you to play as (and against) empires made of intelligent machines gone awry. You can play as terminator-like killer robots seeking to end all organic life, assimilator bots that want to turn everyone into drones, or even servitor bots that just want to help everybody out. 

It also adds an extra mid-game crisis that can be triggered by the extensive use of enslaved synthetics. This provides a small element of risk if you do extensively use bots or the sentient combat computers that you can research to guide your ships. Just be careful that you don’t accidentally set yourself up for a robotic revolution.

For a brand new player, starting the game as a machine empire can be a much simpler way to play the game, as you get to discard food and consumer goods altogether and ignore the happiness systems that flesh-based species will need to contend with. Your leaders are also ageless and never die outside of the occasional botched combat or accidental nether drake encounter.

Distant Stars

This story pack was released in May 2018 and exemplifies many of the great things about the exploration phase of the game. It adds new storylines you can discover among the anomalies in space, along with new kinds of unique worlds to settle and explore, and massive creatures you can engage in combat.

Particularly, it adds to the game the L-gate cluster, a small subset of stars located just on the edge of the galaxy. This cluster is linked to the rest of the galaxy by particular gateways located outside of various black hole systems. If you hold one of these gateways, you need to make sure it’s heavily defended, as other empires will use the L-gates to attack you from unexpected angles. Moving your entire empire into the L-gate cluster via habitats is actually a common strategy for multiplayer, as it allows you to focus your entire defense grid on a single system.

For many players, the exploration phase of Stellaris is the best part of the game, and this DLC pack is absolutely necessary to expand exploration. If you really love the distant stars story pack, we would also recommend grabbing the Ancient Relics DLC pack. It’s incredibly similar, but adds an archaeology system as well to help you dig up long-lost alien artifacts. Pick up both if you can!

Recommended DLC Packs for Stellaris

Some DLC packs cater to more… specific playstyles, namely that of the playstyle where you fire space torpedoes at anything that moves until nothing moves anymore. If you crave overwhelming violence and constant warfare, we recommend picking up the following DLC packs for Stellaris.

Apocalypse

For our last two entries, we’re gonna talk about the two best expansions for war-loving empires. The Apocalypse expansion came out in February 2018 and introduced planet-killing weapons reminiscent of the Death Star from Star Wars. You can finally play the part of the evil galactic empire destroying entire planets for revenge.

It also allows player empires to construct the powerful titan class ships, limited to three per empire. These are the flagships of your fleet, providing powerful benefits to the rest of the ships, or penalties to your opponents like negating their shields or slowing their ability to retreat.

Most importantly, this expansion adds the vicious Marauder empires, groups of raiders that live in habitats in deep space. Initially, you can hire marauders to raid nearby empires, potentially weakening a dangerous foe before an invasion, or distracting a rival to prevent them from engaging with you. You can hire these marauders as powerful and aggressive admirals to lead your fleets to victory.

However, there does exist a potential threat that these marauders will unite together under a great khan. Similar to another Paradox series, Crusader Kings, the khan will lead his people on a rapid expansion across the stars, taking as much land as they can possibly absorb. Defeating the khan is difficult but possible, and rewards you with the powerful Khan’s Throne artifact! But even if you are unable to resist their advances, eventually the khan will die and their empire will fracture under a civil war, splintering into numerous smaller groups with various ethics. This event can cause a massive shake-up in the galactic political situation, giving you an opportunity to shift all things to your will.

Nemesis

Finally, we can get to one of the newer expansions, released in April 2021. The main attraction of the Nemesis expansion is the ability to become the crisis instead of contending with the normal crisis events. If you’ve ever played a ruthless warrior empire, eventually you end up at war with the whole galaxy anyway. This expansion codifies that play style into a more scripted series of events that culminates in you receiving massive star-eating ships that let you cause supernovae all across the galaxy, destroying entire star systems all at once. This is all with the goal of generating enough dark matter to produce a machine that will pull all of existence into the mysterious and dangerous shroud. Beware though, NPC empires are also capable of becoming the endgame crisis!

Alongside this, it adds some new vital crisis-centric features to the galactic council, allowing you to elect yourself as the galactic custodian and take charge of the galaxy to defend it from whatever threatens it. When the danger has passed you can then force the senate to declare a galactic imperium and maintain control.

Less notably, this also adds an espionage system vaguely reminiscent of the spies in Hearts of Iron 4. Engaging with the espionage system is almost frustratingly optional, with extensive investment into it providing questionable benefits beyond being able to view the movements of enemy fleets. Espionage will hopefully be revamped in future patches, as right now the envoy and spy system is relatively weak and unrewarding.

It also adds the imperial skins for your ships and structures, all reminiscent of the Empire of Star Wars fame, with a distinctly evil appearance. All that being said, Nemesis brings some necessary changes to the endgame of Stellaris that can often become a repetitive slog for the last few hours of the game.

Join the High Ground

Out of all the DLC you can purchase for Stellaris, these will be the best place to start. This combination will allow you to access almost every system and component in the game, without overwhelming you with too many options or purely cosmetic adjustments. Now no matter what star system you’re trying to conquer, you can take the higher ground.

We hope you found our guide on the best DLC for Stellaris useful! If you think there’s another essential or just incredibly fun DLC pack that we should include to our list, let us know in the comments below!

As always, subscribe for more articles on Stellaris and the latest gaming news and guides. Good luck conquering the stars. It’s a big universe out there and filled with unlimited potential.

Happy Gaming!

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