Stellaris: Ancient Relics DLC – Shovels and Starships

Tales to Astound

The accounts of the Uoami and future space adventures can be found on the Twitch page of Old Man Mordaith.

Putting down his copy of the Daily Discovery, Sir Maxwell Thistlebrush – hero, adventurer, philanthropist, and leader of the Uoami Research Society – glanced at his faithful companion, Percival Reginald, Esq, who was sitting in his clay pot contentedly as they traversed hyperspace on their way to their next dig site. It felt like it was just yesterday that the Uoami had discovered the first real relic of another species. His people, tall with graceful branches cresting their brows, would travel in small communal bands, rooting in various places to help the soil and to enjoy the landscape. They were always looking down. The ground was everything – mother, food, life, home. But one day, one of Sir Thistlebrush’s roots touched something that was not of their world… And its possibilities changed him forever.

The Uoami would later learn that the object was a mere bauble. Something an explorer from another world left accidentally when inspecting their species in their infancy, akin to a show monocle or steaming pipe. A curio at best. But this curio caused Sir Thistlebrush and all other Uoami to cease their earthen gaze and finally look up. The calculatron of possibilities whirled wickedly, and like a speeding velocipede, there was no stopping their newfound thirst for learning about the galaxy, and its future, by examining the past.

The Research Society was formed, and Sir Maxwell Thistlebrush and his family were named the leaders. Every wooden face and timbered frame lumbered forward into the galaxy to learn what they could.

Shard – just one of the many friendly new faces you will meet in this DLC.

Secrets of the Past

Howdy, everyone, it’s Old Man Mordaith again! I saw the words monocle, velocipede, and Stellaris, and gosh darn it, I just had to step out of my chrono-ship to add my six energy credits to the discussion.

Ancient Relics is the latest Story Pack for the space strategy game, Stellaris. Now, a lot of folks hear story pack and think something that is mighty high in fluff but low in crunch. Many times they’d be correct, and honestly, there isn’t a blessed thing wrong with high fluff content. But in this particular case, they would be very wrong. Like, “finding a sample of the Javorian Pox” wrong.

I’ll cover the new mechanics, what they add to the gameplay, who is going to be most interested in them, and of course, a few glimpses of what awaits you when you dig up some dead alien’s backyard. For now, however, let us return to the Maxwell and friends.

It didn’t take long for the exceptional and reasonable folks of the Uoami Research Society to find their first significant dig site in the galaxy. More finds followed the first, and after decades of research, they traced the ancient clues of this mysterious civilization back to the Irrassian homeworld. They explored, studied, and finally discovered a horrifying relic: A sample of the dreaded Javorian Pox. Two things became very clear from this discovery, and Sir Thistlebrush was interested only in one of them.

The uninteresting military uses of this device were obvious. If one were to expend enough influence, they could encourage their society to accept the nightmares of germ warfare. Several scientists and members of the inner council urged Thistlebrush to at least experiment on some of the primitive species they encountered in their travels. He rebuked their heinous request, of course.

Time, however, was the thing on Sir Thistlebrush’s mind. He wanted to see everything! View every discovery, comb over every relic, read every excavation report in triplicate. But time is cruel and would end even the boldest adventurer sooner or later. This Javorian pox sample, though, held incredible biological secrets. The Research Society was able to use it to extend the lives of the nobility and great leaders of Uoami society. It would add a few decades, possibly enough to not only see wonders untold but to find a way to deny death an early prize.

The Javorian Pox is a fine addition to the curio cabinet of the discerning tree person. Minor Relics are also shown here on the right.

Ok, I’m back already. This here is the title feature: The big, ol’ badass relics. Empires have a spot for six major relics, and each has a passive ability and an activated ability. The active abilities are not only powerful but highly entertaining. The active ability cost, as mentioned above, is the influence resource. Once activated, you will not be able to use another relic’s active ability until the cooldown is finished.

These relics are really like introducing a basket of wildcards to the game. Some of them may be of little use to your current empire. Some of them are going to be perfect or even very powerful in the hands of your people. You may ignore them, or you may choose to rebuild your entire strategy around one or two. They are fun, flavorful, and they look damn good. Honestly, I was a bit skeptical about the claims of the Stellaris dev team that they wanted people to just like looking at them. And yet, while I was streaming Ancient Relics, it wasn’t enough to just tell people what the abilities were, I needed to show people the darned things. They look great, and I look at them as very brag-worthy badges of accomplishment.

Adventures of Yesterday

Invigorated by recent developments in genetic manipulation, where only a few of the initial test groups suffered any ill effects, Sir Maxwell Thistlebrush was enjoying his new lease on life. To an Uoami, there was no greater thrill than following the clues of the dead, see a relic unearthed, and have it all make sense somehow. Yes, the scientists learning new genetic sequencing techniques were lauded for their work, but it was all to give a body a few more years. The greatest fear of the Uoami was missing out.

The celebrities of the Research Society were indeed the archaeologists and explorers. Few other species could understand the thrill they experienced when the sensors picked up a large scale excavation project. Sir Thistlebrush was excited beyond words when a call came out from the Jih system, a few hyper-lanes away from the capital. A colony had been on Jih Prime for almost a hundred years now, but a discovery had just been made: A strange alien complex had been discovered, long buried after a crash. Sir Thistlebrush was invited to lead the sacred process of excavation.

After much exploration, rooting around, tinkering with old consoles, some good old fashion digging, and of course much deduction and debate over tea, they unlocked the mysterious AI control unit known as the Oracle. It wanted to speak about many things, mostly involving nerve gas and population control.

The Oracle did a quick analysis of the route the Uoami people were taking. The AI unit then made it clear that there was an eighty-nine percent chance that they would be in desperate need of her service in the centuries to come. The nerve gas could come in handy if there was another riot among the common folk (they didn’t much appreciate billions of citizens being sent off to live in some preserve run by an elder race.) Maybe this Oracle could act as a deterrent? So, after a few ground rules were established, the Oracle became the overseer for the largest, most powerful sector of Uoami space, keeping an eye on over a dozen worlds. Maintaining law and order through superior calculations and only the slightest threat of gassing.

Sure Relics are fun. But I think excavations steal the show.

I think we can pause the story here with only a slight chance of the Oracle deciding to get a bit homicidal on me. The poor Uoami were full of good intentions, but they have been blinded by their own obsessions. But, I’m not looking to chat about that, I want to talk about excavation sites.

While the relics are the prominent headline feature, chances are you will be interacting with excavation sites frequently. While I am unsure about the rules for spawning them, as well as whether or not they’re tied to anomaly discovery chance, I do know that when they pop up it’s a reason to get excited. Each site is a multi-chapter story event. You claim the system it is in, send a scientist to lead the expedition, and watch the fun unfold. As your excavation progresses, you will get more clues, which in turn lead to finishing chapters of the excavation.

When you finish a chapter, you are given a reward, generally in the form of minor relics (which we will talk about more below), then you move on to the next chapter and repeat until you close off the site. When you end an excavation, you will get a higher reward. I have seen minor relics, other resources, major relics, and yes – one immortal, nerve gas loving, powerful AI, which the Uoami have since employed. I am sure it will be okay.

As someone who loves when a strategy game adds more story and role-play elements, I think this is fantastic. Before I even got hands-on with Ancient Relics, the ol’ brain box was rattling ideas on how the chapter based system could be used to tell other stories. Honestly, I would not be shocked if we saw something similar to it with diplomatic or espionage missions. (Some folks that were in my twitch channel even mused that it could be interesting to see ground invasions done with this system, but I am unsure of how viable that one would be.) The point I’m driving at here is I feel the excavation system could open up entire new stories in the vast void of space during any period of the game.

Legacy Unravelled

The Uoami made some strange friends in the centuries that Maxwell had seen pass by. The Oracle gave reports with the accuracy of that unusual atomic clock they found. Their federation members waged war on the Robot Menace from Beyond the Traxsis Badlands (also a popular holo-drama). But one of the simplest pleasures Sir Thisthlebrush enjoyed was afternoon tea with himself. Well, not exactly alone, but with his mirror universe duplicate. The portal to the mirror universe had been found decades prior, and when their mirror friends were not busy fighting off the Dreaded Warp Beast from Beyond the Void (also a popular holo-drama), they would make time for tea.

After telling his mirror-self about the discovery of the Javorian pox and the fate of the Ancient Ones whose civilization it claimed, our Maxwell was told a most exciting tale about the Baol, a species that could have been our cousins but who had been destroyed. Maxwell’s mirror-self recounted many adventures that led to the ultimate prize, the Secrets of the Baol. And of course, the emergence of some new friends. In this particular case of inter-dimensional one-upsmanship, mirror-Max was winning.

That was until our Maxwell told the slack-trunk doppelganger about the Relic world and the battle with Shard. The dragon was long dead and but a distant spectre. The Uoami had bested some of the most dangerous things in the galaxy, with only a little help from the Javorian pox. But the Relic world that Shard had guarded and the magnificent treasure she hoarded, oh those remained vivid in the minds of all.

The Relic world was amazing. It housed the long-dead secrets of an ancient race. The Uoami who lived there could spend lifetimes wandering the vast expanses and take in new marvels every nourishment cycle. Having a Relic world as one of their research hubs essentially cancelled out the cessation of new ideas that the Oracle had been enforcing. She was getting a bit off in her many years of service. (How does an Immortal AI become addicted to its own Nerve Gas anyway? We may never know.)

Relic Worlds are wonderful things. And they sound really very dramatic when you zoom in.

So this little bit of the story talks about two new features: Relic worlds and two additional precursor species. I won’t go into much detail, but I can confirm that the Baol makes excellent use of the new excavation system, and I can only assume that the Zroni do as well. Also, ending the Baol chain grants you a remarkable relic that can be a massive game changer. I mean, most these relics are enormous game changers, but this one especially.

Relic worlds have many exciting new features that boost science and are not just a poor man’s city planets. The look great, and this is an odd thing to say about a planet, but they sound fantastic as well. Zooming in to get the loud droning noise that is attached to the Relic worlds was a favourite thing for me to do while streaming and showing off this particular feature.

Those who want more interesting planets to build on are going to want to see what they can do with Relic worlds. Story lovers are going to adore the new precursor chains. I’m hoping we’ll see the older precursor chains get an overhaul with the new excavation mechanic.

Bits and Baubles

Sir Maxwell Thistlebrush was now almost two and a half centuries old. DNA projections put his life span ending in the realm of the late third century of his life. He gave Percival a reassuring and careful pat of his spiny noggin, and Percival rewarded him with a pleasured shaking of his luxurious handlebar moustache. Something lurked beyond the corners of their galaxy, and they were making ready for it. They had overthrown the Elder Races, they had put down the insane machines, they had cracked open the L-gate and let loose the L-drakes. But there were more wonders to discover… And most of them were piled in the processing section of their homeworld’s data vaults.

While most of the youth today were busy enjoying the holo-dramas, there was something soothing about turning on the old aerial harmonic dispersal drone. The device followed Maxwell around and played some delightful music from ages long past. Once each midweek he would turn the volume up as loud as it could go. Thankfully, it would almost drown out the billions of screaming citizens The Oracle had rounded up for mandatory genetic re-sequencing.

(The Oracle assured him that rebellious attitudes were a genetic anomaly. The Oracle was right 75 percent of the time. With a margin of error that smelled of nerve gas.)

Decades had been spent reverse engineering the various minor relics. Mostly for peaceful purposes such as scientific advancement, or to distract the people from the not so subtle horrors committed in the name of polite society. A notable exception was using ancient battle drugs to give the Uoami gene warriors an advantage when they followed General Xorn Against Xenobeast of the Elder Race (also a popular holo-drama).

Now all there was to do was wait… Wait and see if the Oracle’s prediction of a massive inter-dimensional conflict would come true. In many ways, Maxwell hoped it would. Not because he relished battle, but because it would make everything he did justifiable. The things he had done to ensure the safety of the galaxy could be considered horrible, perhaps even insane. But part of him did long to see what strange relics these other-dimensional beings might have with them. Maybe he could find a way to extend his life by a few more rings, just to be sure he got to see them first…

Minor relics were covered shown in an earlier picture, so the Oracle demanded some love. Who are we to argue with several thousand canisters of nerve gas.

Here we’ll leave behind the thrilling tales of the Uoami and their leader, Maxwell Thistlebrush. But this section touched on two last things there, and while there isn’t much to say on them, they are still significant. In this story pack, you have a new resource called minor relics, and you have four more wonderful music tracks.

I already praised some of the audio cues of this DLC. No doubt return readers will have heard me rant before about the importance of audio in video games. It’s vital to make a game pleasing to all the senses that it interacts with, and a visual focus is essential. For many, the audio can draw you into the game in inspiring ways. The four new tracks are Among the Ruins, Finding Sanctuary, Abyss, and Our Heritage. It amounts to a little over seventeen minutes of new music to an already robust OST.

Minor relics offer new options for empires, which manifest in various ways for different ethics. While the Uoami Research Society was able to use their minor relics to celebrate diversity, my rogue servitors, The Catalogue, could incorporate minor relics into their programming for a temporary boost in efficiency. Fun new options, all very thematic and reasonably well-balanced. Some may get upset at another consumable resource, but this old man is not on that list.

In closing and at risk of repeating myself a bit, I feel it necessary to stress that this isn’t just a great DLC, it’s a very important one. I may be entirely off the mark here, but I feel we are seeing mechanics, specifically the excavation sites, that are going to be important for the future of the game. I wouldn’t be shocked if in upcoming DLC we were to see a similar chapter-based storytelling mechanic laid out for accomplishing other goals. So, like my poor misguided Uoami, I can’t help but feel that I’ve dug up something extraordinary in Ancient Relics that offers hints of things to come.

This is a DLC for those who love expanded systems of investigation and storytelling to mesh seamlessly in with their strategy games. This is a DLC for those who want new toys to play with that can completely throw off the meta the early game. If you ever found yourself screaming the phrase, “It belongs in a museum!” buckle up kiddo. You’re going to love it.

Also a bonus and thank you to Witch_Streamer who provided me with some fantastic works that help inspire and inform the playthrough of the Uoami Research Society. I will include those below.

Final Score: I really dug it! (Pun intended.) 10/10. It added things to the game that I didn’t even know I wanted, and the excavation system is way meatier than expected.

Reviewed by: Joshua Smith (Old Man Mordaith)

Edited by: Jesse Roberts

This game was provided for free, by the company, for content creation purposes.

3 thoughts on “Stellaris: Ancient Relics DLC – Shovels and Starships

  1. Great review! I especially appreciated the lore and story you added, as that is, for me, the reason Stellaris is as good as it is. If you couldn’t make those stories about your campaigns, they would become very dull very quickly. It’s one of the great strengths of Stellaris that it makes these stories come so freely.

    10/10 review, would dig again.

    Liked by 1 person

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