Along the way, you’ll find all manner of long-lost technology, pre-industrial civilizations and other space-faring races. Each often comes with a “quest” line of sorts that develops into its own narrative thread. On one of my first planets, I discovered an advanced subterranean people. I had to decide upon a diplomatic strategy for them, whether I wanted to give them access to technology, and if I’d be willing to bail them out if they ran into trouble.
It was a small piece of Stellaris, but my relationship with these people became one of my most valued. In time, they paid me back for all the favors I’d done, and supported the empire at large. But even if they hadn’t, I felt connected to them. I caught myself roleplaying my interactions with them, trying to live up to my empire’s own benevolent spiritual collectivist beliefs. It’s this kind of ongoing, deterministic narrative scaffolding that forms Stellaris’ backbone. Where most other strategy titles are content to focus on conquest and victory, Stellaris wants its relationships and the story you weave as your people grow to be the focus.
That runs straight to the core of Stellaris, too. As you encounter new species, you’ll be able to integrate them as citizens in your civilization. And you’ll have to balance their prejudices and ideologies against those of your own citizens, decide whether they can vote, and even help them settle new planets that might be tough or inhospitable for your own race. These dynamics can have massive effects on intergalactic politics as well. If you enslave or purge (read: genocide) another race, other civilizations will remember your sins and hold centuries-long grudges.