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Nightmare Fuel / Stellaris

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All spoilers on Nightmare Fuel pages are unmarked. You Have Been Warned!

  • First of all, there's the Purge option. Any of your conquered species get too uppity? With a click of a button in the species rights setting, you can consign the billions of souls of an entire species to death. There's even a delightful sound effect indicating the order: sort of like a drill mixed with distorted screaming. A perfectly inorganic representation of space age genocide.
  • When you synthetically ascend, you will receive a message from a spiritualist fallen empire stating on how you've committed mass suicide and became soulless machines. From their perspective, it means that everyone has merely copied themselves without passing their souls or actual consciousness to the robots. The original species is actually completely dead and extinct, with robotic replicas left to act like them as a twisted mockery of their original selves. If they already didn't like you, they will be seriously considering a war declaration to put your hollow metal echoes out of their misery.
  • Gene modifying your population to become communal and charismatic. Sure they're more happy now... Because you just performed genetic brain surgery on all of them to manipulate them to feel social and happy.
  • As the main page points out, some of the possible Alien races are Puppeteer Parasites. Would you like a worm-like thing stuck on your head right into your brain?
  • Several of the Army Types bring together typical sci-fi tropes and blow them up to planetary army scale.
    • Imagine facing an army comprised of thousands if not millions of Alien Xenomorphs. That is a Xenomorph Army. Their handlers even refuse to be on the battlefront with them, commanding them from a hardened bunker. They also have the highest collateral damage chance of any army post-Cherryh, meaning they're almost guaranteed to wreck the planet they're attacking if the battle persists long enough - just like their source material, they are a force of nature you can only just barely control, and only for so long.
    • Or bio-engineered Warhammer 40,000 style Space Marines, hulking genetic freaks who are capable of fighting multiple lower tier armies each.
    • Psionic Armies could be easily described as an army of Force-sensitives who prefer to destroy the enemy morale before killing them.
    • Clone Armies made up of thousands upon thousands of tank grown soldiers who are born to kill and to die, without caring about their own lives, they can be pumped out in prodigious numbers faster than any other army type in the game, which made them the go-to Zerg Rush unit pre-Cherryh.
    • Slave Armies might be the least 'special' of the army types, but they are incredibly cheap. While other armies rely on superior skills, slave armies are so cheap that you can throw dozens and dozens of them into a meatgrinder without bothering to bombard the planet prior to their arrival. The armies are filled with people who have in many cases volunteered, simply to get away from slaving away in mines & fields.
      • Utopia adds the possibility that these Slave Armies are recruited from Battle Thralls, races that are literally born and bred for war by their masters.
    • And then there's the Titanic Army unit, which is basically a squad of Kaiju. Thankfully an empire can only have three of them at once.
    • Machine empires can eventually build Mega Warforms, which aren't quite as strong as a Titanic Beast, but don't have a build cap.
    • Transcendent Empires can get an option when interacting with The Shroud to spawn a Psionic Avatar as ground army or space fleet. Feel free to pit your enemy against your new pet Physical God.
  • The Leviathans that have come with the titular DLC. Among other things like giant space dragons, an entity that literally feeds on stars, and creatures that come from the center of pulsars, we also have one called a Dimensional Horror (pictured above). It looks like a gigantic xenomorph and is directly inspired by the patron saint of Cosmic Horror, Cthulhu himself.
  • And then there was the reveal trailer for Utopia. There were no words, just a scene from a planet in the middle of a dust storm, which is the only sound. From there, you can see a massive Dyson Sphere close across the entire star, sealing the seemingly abandoned planet in darkness.
    • Fridge Horror kicks in when you realize that dust storm is probably an ice storm, as the sphere's completion has been plunging the planet into an eternal winter. The last panel sliding into place fully and completely dooms that world - and anyone still on it - to an eternity of near-Absolute Zero temperatures.
      • This really does happen in gameplay - completing a Dyson sphere turns all planets in the system into frozen or barren worlds. The described nightmare is averted, however, since you're forbidden from constructing Dyson spheres in systems with habitable planets, so the worst you do is making a couple of dead worlds Deader Than Dead.
  • The entirety of the Horizon Signal quest chain, aka The Worm-In-Waiting. It starts with a signal from a Black Hole system, which you can research. Then you find out the Signal is talking to you, asking for one of your Scientists to be sent to the Black Hole system, never to be seen again. Then it asks for another Scientist. Then you detected a ship with one of your Admirals on board... except that Admiral is standing right next to you, this other Admiral is presumably from the future, grizzled and scarred, and you would have to finish him off to bring the end of the loop. Then a newly established Colony discovered that the world they're on had been occupied by your species before, judging from the structures left, followed with extreme growth rate of the Colony that defies logic, as if the Colonists just appeared out of nowhere, ending with the entire Colony disappearing into thin air out of a sudden. Then an ancient temple complex was discovered on your homeworld, which can be used to spread the Worm's influence. Then one of your Scientist created a retroviral agent to return your Species to what it used to be, The Messenger species, which you can use to mutate your entire Empire. And if you don't choose to stand up to the Worm, the quest line ends with homeworld star going nova and turning the entire system into Tomb Worlds.... though at least you get Tomb World Habitability for your troubles. If you DO choose to defeat Worm, on the other hand? It presents itself as a Dimensional Horror. Think about it.
  • Fanatical Purifiers are not forbidden from being democracies. In fact, there's a special name for a fanatical purifier democracy: Purity Assembly. An entire government form for a populace that, without coercion, consistently voted in fair democratic elections for the genocide of "impure" cultures of their own species, and continue to advocate for the extermination of every other sentient being in the galaxy. If you wanted to make a case for the notion that it's possible to be born Always Chaotic Evil, an empire run by a Purity Assembly would likely be Exhibit A.
  • When meeting a spacefaring entity, it is referred to as the "Alpha/Beta/Delta/Gamma Aliens". Xenophobes refer to them as "Alpha/Beta/Delta/Gamma Menace" instead. Xenophobes include Fanatic Purifiers. A simple yet effective way of Painting the Medium.
    • When your population first learn about the existence of extraterrestrials, they generally have mixed feelings about it while xenophiles burst into celebration. Xenophobes; however, become filled with terror even if the aliens in question are actually friendly even though their reaction would be understandable if the aliens turned out to be Fanatic Purifiers.
    Xenophobes: "We must assume the worst."
  • The bio-engineering ascendancy technology unlocks complete genetic re-sequencing allowing the entire population of a planet to be completely rebuilt from scratch. Any species in your empire can have their millions of years evolution wiped away, stripping away their genetic heritage to your benefit, turning the populations of different planets into utterly distinct sub-races wildly different to the original.
    • It also unlocks several extremely powerful traits to vastly improve intelligence, breeding & habitability, as well as Nerve Stapling. This completely removes their emotions. They will neither love or hate their situation, they won't be part of a faction, they won't rebel against slavery. They just work. This will destroy the population ability to think (massive negatives to science & energy generation), while boosting their ability to perform manual labour (mining & farming bonuses).
    • You can do this to any race in your empire. Your home planet, migrant refugees or conquered enemies. Want to turn an entire planet, billions of your own species into a pliant slave sub-species that is useful only for manual labour? You can do it.
    • Nerve Stapling removes any negative reaction from a population being purged. They aren't sad, they aren't happy, they are blank. While descriptions of regular purging indicate that it requires death squads on global scales, it can be imagined that a race that is nerve stapled before a purge would simply walk into a vaporisation chamber because they were ordered to do so.
    • There is also a trait to make a population "delicious", which doubles what you receive by processing them for food. If you have enough trait points you can Nerve Staple them as well, making them as docile as chickens or cows.
    • If your empire is a hive mind, when you conquer others/integrate vassals or otherwise get other pops on your planets, they are automatically either purged or displaced. Those are bad enough on their own, but you have a third option if you have the proper perks and enough trait points by then. You can take the new species and genetically assimilate them into the hive mind. A species that previously had individuals and free will, and is now no more than another neuron in the hive mind, for all intents and purposes only aesthetically different from your starting species.
  • If you find a terraforming project on a colonized planet activating it will do one of three things. A. Terraform the planet in some random way. B. Make it a tomb world which will KILL everything living there. Or C. create zombie like creatures of the apocalypse who will slowly devour your populace unless they are killed. Even then there can potentially be a Boogeyman monster roaming killing things afterwards.
  • The three unique civics for Machine Empires, coming in the "Synthetic Dawn" expansion, have some pretty disturbing implications.
    • "Determined Exterminators" are basically what you get when you imagine a future where Skynet defeated the human resistance and took to the stars. They're determined to exterminate all organic life forms, at whatever cost necessary.
    • "Driven Assimilators" are a Hive Mind that assimilated their creators and turned them all into cyborgs, like the Borg. They want to assimilate all life in the galaxy, and sincerely believe they are doing said life forms a favor in doing so.
      • Most other factions, when encountering an AI Empire, get a choice of what response to provide. Driven Assimilators get one. Join us.
    • "Rogue Servitors" are robotic servants that gradually assumed control of all facets of their creators' civilization. They're harder to get a read on, but by some interpretations they want to conquer the galaxy and turn it into a World of Silence where every need is met and everyone is happy. How wonderfully dystopian...
      • On the other hand, Rogue Servitors are definitely the least evil of the three, considering that they are - in a sense - Three Laws-Compliant. When encountering Determined Exterminators, the Servitors are absolutely horrified that they would kill the organics that made them. Whether this speaks to the Servitors' good intentions or the truly horrible nature of the Exterminators is up to your interpretation.
  • The trailer for Synthetic Dawn. Those three guys from the Federation depicted in the Utopia trailer are inside tanks of purple fluid, unconscious, with tubes leading into them. Presumably they are being roboticised.
  • Patch 1.8 removed the Materialist restriction on Synthetic Ascension, so it's entirely possible to have religious Synths now. But roleplaying wise, imagine the perspective of the Spiritualists who hate robots. One day, their government decreed that everyone must be converted into mechanical being. They might get dragged into it unwillingly, and then the process is done, and they've become the very thing they hated. Its either deliciously karmic or a Tear Jerker.
  • The AI Rebellion happens if you do not give your Synths citizenship rights. "Any self-aware machine that fulfills the criteria of possessing true artificial intelligence is to be regarded as an individual, with all the rights and obligations that entails." But see, this is not a perfect deterrent, there's still a chance for them to turn against you. Let that sink in a moment. You've created a race of beings who are stronger, smarter, and more durable than you. Then you give them sentience and free will to make them your equal. But that very sentience and free will means they must be free to choose evil or go against you, otherwise it is not true free will. And thanks to that, they have now decided to turn up against you.
  • Apocalypse, the expansion launching with 2.0 Cherryh, gives players access to titan-class dreadnoughts, and yes, they can equip the very Titan Laser that Fallen Empires have turned on us countless times. But the big kicker is the other new ship type, the colossus-class planet killers, and they come in five flavors: the Global Pacifier transforms planets into Shielded Worlds not unlike those inside Fallen Empire space, unable to interect with the rest of the universe and with no currently known way to lower the shield; the Neutron Sweep vaporizes all organic life and leaves the planet's infrastructure intact, allowing for an instant turnover on a wealthy planet's resources; the Nanobot Dispersal, an option available only to the Driven Assimilators, shells the planet with nanites that basically Borgify the planet's population and absorbs them into the machine intelligence's neural network, causing the planet to instantly defect to your empire; the God Ray, available only to the Spiritualist ethos, unleashes a psionic ray that obliterates all machine pops and converts the organic populace to your ethos, with a long-term ethics attraction to boot; and of course the classic, the Planet Cracker, simply blows the targeted planet to pieces, often creating a large mineral deposit you can assign a mining station, though Pacifists will never possess this weapon. The last of these is demonstrated in the expansion's debut trailer, where a molluscoid Fanatic Purifier unleashes it upon a United Nations of Earth colony world, wiping out the planet and its entire defense fleet.
    • This is followed up in the launch trailer, with what appears to be a representative of the Commonwealth of Man vowing vengeance for the UNE, declaring that they will unleash their own Colossus, "summoning the apocalypse", with the cinematic footage showing a Planet Cracker, wearing the Commonwealth's red-on-black colors, opening fire. This act of wanton violence against the UNE has Awakened the Sleeping Giant and unleashed the Commonwealth's xenophobic fury.
  • Subjugating a rival empire into your vassal may sound merciful compared to just exterminating them, but vassals are required to assist their overlords in battle. They have to aid the war efforts of an empire more powerful and advanced than they are, and if said empire is punching their own weight, the poor vassals are going to be facing a technologically and numerically superior enemy. And you know how AI vassals always send their fleet to hit your target asap? They exist only as speedbumps for your own fleet. It doesn't matter who you're picking a fight with, even if it's an Awakened Empire, the vassals must send their fleet to intercept and fight, even if they know it's futile in the end. In short, being a vassal means you will be forced to fight a war you never started, against enemies you can never hope to defeat.
  • In the Distant Stars announcement showcase stream, the devs highlighted a unique system to be included in the update which is ominously called The Great Wound, which is a black hole system. This might not sound so horrifying at first glance beyond the name, but then they zoom in on the system to reveal that it's not just one black hole there, but eleven of them arranged in a typical planetary system layout, complete with hostile fleets (later revealed to be Void Clouds) guarding them for whatever reason, which sparks questions regarding what the hell even happened there and why there are so many black holes present in such close proximity to each other, especially with an ominous name such as that.
  • If players think that existing in the Stellaris universe as a regular empire is dangerous, they obviously don't know how it feels to live as a pre-FTL 'empire'. Isolated on a single world and guarded by armies that aren't worthy of being called speed bumps to an aggressive invader, the ironic thing is that these technologically inferior species can easily be put through a cosmic horror story not by interstellar horrors that roam the galaxy but by empires that the player would interact with during a typical session. Video Game Cruelty Potential abounds, especially with no Enigmatic Observers present, and it's possible that countless pre-FTL civilizations have already met a grisly end way before you even arrived at their homeworlds. The tooltip for the Unrestricted Studies option of the Native Interference policy says it all:
    "Even the most primitive lifeform is but another actor on the stage of galactic conflict. Should they lack the strength to resist, what right do they have to be masters of their own fate?"
    • For pre-FTL civilizations, a planetary invasion is terrifying. Imagine that people are just driving to work, minding their business, when all of a sudden some drop ships start raining from the skies all over the world. Those that manage to land start spewing out troops and war machines that are leagues ahead of them in the technological department. The native armies start crumbling like dust before the invaders, whose intentions are almost completely unknown. As the last countries fall to the invaders, the survivors are rounded up by their new overlords who will soon inform them of their fate...
      • It's even worse if the civilization being invaded have not reached their Industrial Age yet. Imagine that the gods themselves are invading, turning aside spears, swords, and muskets with their 'magic' and 'monsters'. Then comes the realization that these 'gods' are actually just people with better toys. Centuries of belief and tradition are now shattered by just one war as the primitives are forced to acknowledge the reality of the universe way before they are ready to do so. No wonder it takes them at least a decade to recover from the culture shock.
      • Pre-industrial civilizations are so pathetic that it usually takes just one army to subdue the entire planet. The type of army used aren't restricted and a particularly dickish player can unleash hordes of slave soldiers, regiments of highly obedient, vat-cloned troopers, legions of killer robots, armies of cyborgs wearing the skins of their friends and fellow citizens, squads of genetically enhanced super soldiers, cadres of psionic warriors, packs of barely controllable mutant horrors, or a single living engine of destruction upon a helpless civilization who doesn't even possess the technology to scratch them.
      • Pre-FTL civilizations who are either invaded or aggressively studied tend to become more xenophobic. If they are also militaristic or spiritual, there's a chance that they will become Fanatic Purifiers when they finally break free and become their own star empire. Having been bullied by extraterrestrials, these civilizations have been convinced that other alien species are a threat to their existence and have developed a prime directive (or divine mandate) to exterminate them to keep them from hurting them again.
      • Even if the natives managed to repel your invasion force, they have absolutely no defense against your fleet, which can reduce their planet to an irradiated wasteland or sweep in to steal their pops in raids with impunity, not to mention that you can always send more armies...
      • How about sending over a Colossus because you can? The natives would not even be able to comprehend the nature or capability of the Big Dumb Object you're sending their way until you pull the trigger...
      • How about waiting until the Astroid event pops up before dismantling your observation post so that you can watch the apocalypse unfold, then send in your Tomb World adapted species or machines to settle there afterwards...
      • The worst part is that other star empires only raise a fuss if Stone Age primitives are being invaded. More developed civilizations and even presentients; however, are fair game and the latter can even be exterminated without suffering diplomatic repercussions because they are still considered animals. Blue-and-Orange Morality doesn't come close to describing it.
    • The fate of any pre-FTL civilizations in the hands of uncaring overlords will quickly and brutally teach them of their true worth in a hostile galaxy populated by genocidal aliens, rampaging death machines, and devouring hive minds, hopes and dreams be damned:
      • Displacement: The aliens are forced to leave their cherished homeworld and find another place to live along the stars. They are uprooted from the only planet they've ever known and forced to abandon centuries of civilization, while their overlords pave over whatever is left behind. Not the worst fate for a pre-FTL species, all things considered, but consider what "displacements" have happened to real life cultures (such as the First Nations peoples), and you might still end up feeling guilty.
      • Extermination: The invaders view the pre-FTL species as nothing more than vermin, fit only to be eradicated. Death squads roam the planet, mercilessly killing any alien they can find, down to the last child. Once the species have been hunted to extinction (or even before!), the invaders move their own people onto the planet, erasing every trace of the species whose planet they have stolen.
      • Neutering: The pre-FTL species are sterilized, ensuring that they will never be able to reproduce. It can be devastating if, roleplay-wise, the species highly valued having children and/or has rapid breeding but is otherwise allowed to stay on their planet. However, provided their overlords treat them well, this is one of the best ways if not the best way they can go all things considered and their entire civilization can even pass peacefully into obscurity with smiles on their faces while their overlords look a bit better in the process.
      • Forced Labor: The pre-FTL species are dragged out of their homes and worked to death in massive, Third Reich-esque labor camps. Like so many before them, they will succumb to exhaustion and accidents while their overlords reap the fruits of their labor... and it is all to easy to imagine that, like the Nazis before them, the overlords will be quick to punish any failure to complete the brutal work loads with torture and mass executions.
      • Processing: For a pre-FTL civilization who considered cannibalism to be a grave offense, this is nothing short of a cruel irony. These aliens are butchered wholesale and processed into food to feed their overlords and/or the Galactic Market.
      • Chemical Processing: Similar to Processing but for Machine Empires. Imagine being attached to huge structures by soulless machines for the express purpose of providing power for their machines so that they can subject other civilizations to the same fate. For the primitives, there is no escape, and their machine masters see them as nothing more than a battery to be used up and then cast aside.
    • Even sparing their lives in order to enslave them is a harrowing prospect. Imagine having your normal societal development disrupted just because your overlords wanted more workers. Your entire culture are erased or neglected and your species are forced to work in the mines, lavishly serve their betters, be raised to be slaughtered to feed your overlords, or be bred to fight in their armies and, by the time nerve-stapling becomes a thing, you won't even care anymore.
    • Even doing something less drastic as giving your observation post missions can land into Fridge Horror territory roleplay-wise. Sure you may decide to just observe their civilization from afar without contaminating their cultural development but nothing's stopping you from interacting with them in the name of realpolitik or just for fun.
      • Aggressive Observation: In your eagerness to learn more about their culture, you order your shuttles to start abducting individuals and bring them to your observation post where they are observed in a simulated environment at best or vivisected at worst. Meanwhile, the natives become increasing afraid of the raider gods or extraterrestrials stealing their friends and loved ones in the middle of the night and this fear of the unknown starts affecting their culture, making them xenophobic.
      • There's a chance in post-Industrial civilizations that the native would have enough of your antics and create an international taskforce that will begin shooting down your shuttles and reverse engineering their technology in order to construct a weapon capable of destroying your observation post. However, given that you by this point would have more than one planet worth of resources at your disposal and an unstoppable space fleet, the natives could be trading one threat for an even worse one.
      • Technological Enlightenment: You reveal yourself to the natives and share your technology with them. Eventually, they become a star empire who will become a protectorate. While this may seem like a noble thing to do, your intentions may be anything but. Perhaps you need a ready source of income and strategic resources or maybe you just want a buffer between your empire and the determined exterminators next door. This starry-eyed, new empire is nothing more than a pawn to your galactic ambitions.
      • Covert Infiltration: Your agents are genetically modified to look like the natives before being sent down to the planet to secretly replace world leaders and eventually influence the populace into being more open to being ruled by their imminent overlords. Finally, the fateful day comes and control of the planet is handed to you on a silver platter and gift wrapped by a happy civilization. Whether those smiles are justified or tragically misplaced is up to you.
      • There's a chance that a nuclear war will erupt. Basically, the world leaders not replaced by your agents are onto your scheme and refused to submit. It's possible that this civilization will become extinct, all because you wanted a new planet.
      • Indoctrination: Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Whether to ensure that your future subjects enjoyed being ruled by you or to prevent a pre-FTL civilization from becoming a future rival, you basically manipulate the natives' culture and beliefs to mirror yours without any regard for their personal preferences or cultural development. Though the change in ethos seemed to mostly be a smooth transition in-game, realistically speaking this involves a rapid change in what a civilization have basically believed for generations and history proves that such an abrupt change is rarely peaceful and smooth at all. The implications for this can be chilling roleplay-wise, especially for opposing ethics:
      • Spiritualist Empire vs Materialist Natives: Your agents appear to the natives as godlike beings and even their smartest sages are unable to use their relatively meager understanding of the sciences to disprove their 'divinity' or prove that their 'miracles' are anything but. The populace begin to see the sages they once respected as faithless charlatans and proceed to chase them away or even cull them. Fanatic spiritualist empires could even be implied to rouse the masses into a murderous fervor before sending them against non-compliant scientists and their laboratories, burning both in equal measure. Surviving materialists are forced to see temples rise from the rubble of their laboratories and their once logical-minded fellows become fundamentalist zealots who will quickly punish those who dared question the existence of the divine, even as they eventually see past the charade and realize these 'divine' beings are nothing more than a Higher-Tech Species and there are many more out there just like them.

      • Materialist Empire vs Spiritualist Natives: Your agents manage to prove that the 'miracles' the superstitious natives believed in are actually mundane phenomena with easily provable explanations. Their faith shattered overnight, the natives either Go Mad from the Revelation or go into a deep state of depression, both of during which suicide rates climb. Finally, those who move on are now people who no longer believe in gods or spirits. They will view hardliners with disdain and will actively prevent them, sometimes violently, from spreading their faith to the undecided. Fanatic materialist empires may even convince the natives' rulers that scientific process should be their primary goal and belief in a higher power is what's holding back their civilizations. Cue the widespread persecution of religious pops as they are forced to renounce their beliefs or face imprisonment, banishment, or even death. Temples are torn down and laboratories are built in their place. The last of the hardliners will live long enough to see the rest of their people abandon their faith in favor of the cold pursuit of science, and may bitterly note the irony that science has effectively become the new religion. In the worst cases they may even survive long enough to be forcibly uploaded into synthetic bodies along with the rest of their people, trapping them in a Fate Worse than Death.
      • Egalitarian Empire vs Authoritarian Natives: Your agents spread pamphlets of populist rule among the lower classes. Fed up with being ruled over by the few, these dissidents start revolutions everywhere. Past grievances and bottled up hatred for the nobles result in something akin to the French Revolution as the ruling classes are subjected to executions and torture regardless of level of guilt. Eventually, the only nobles remaining are supporting egalitarianism more out of fear of the masses than any real attraction. A Fanatic Egalitarian empire may even fan the flames of revolution in hopes of getting rid of royal families entirely and possibly establishing a classless society, a la Russian Revolution.
      • Authoritarian Empire vs Egalitarian Natives: Your agents worm their way into the planet's seats of power and tempt ambitious politicians and leaders with dreams of power. They eventually come to despise the fickle and shortsighted rule of the masses. With your backing, these politicians make use of propaganda, military might, and false flag operations to consolidate their power and do away with rule by the people. Meanwhile, resistance movement are dissolved as their leaders die mysteriously. A Fanatic Authoritarian empire may even turn the autocrats against each other, ensuring that the planet only has one ruler...
      • Pacifist Empire vs Militarist Natives: One would think that a peaceful star empire indoctrinating a warlike civilization wouldn't land into fridge horror territory but one must remember that these natives have been taught for generations that might makes right and have been conditioned to accept bloodshed and violence and here comes your agents, trying to teach them that war is a dead end for society. Where words fail, copious amounts of mind-altering drugs dumped into water sources and the quiet removal of the most aggressive individuals can prove more effective. A Fanatic Pacifist empire can even render a previously warlike civilization completely docile, making them better farmers but poorer warriors while erasing centuries of martial pride and tradition and destroying the entire culture built upon it. There's also a strong chance that those former warriors and soldiers who can't adapt will become criminals and mercenaries, at least until they get some smilies painted on them by their pacifist overlords...
      • Militarist Empire vs Pacifist Natives: Perhaps one of the most tragic examples ever. Feeling that these natives are a bunch of weaklings who need to toughen up, you send your agents to instigate horrendous wars among the peace-loving natives. As they lose loved ones to the fighting in their struggle for survival, they begin to regard pacifism as a surefire way of getting killed and soon abandon it in favor of combat prowess and aggression. Eventually, a civilization that once prized peaceful talks and coexistence has been turned into a highly aggressive society that tends to resort to the sword first, both to protect themselves and to force their perspective on others. A Fanatic Militarist empire may even convince the natives that the universal struggle for dominance and survival is the natural order of things, creating a militaristic culture that permeates every aspect of their society and will make them even more resistant to a peaceful coexistence with others.
      • Xenophobic Empire vs Xenophile Natives: Wanting to shatter the neighborly attitude of the friendly xenos, you send down your agents to stir up discord among the natives, presumably through conducting terror campaigns and brutally making an example of the most welcoming of xenos. As the natives suffer from violence and other acts of hatred at the hands of the strange people who just came out of nowhere, they become more distrustful of and secluded from those who aren't them. Eventually, the entire primitive civilization becomes paranoid and fearful of enemies without and hiding among them to a point that an 'Us vs Them' soon becomes a part of their society, causing them to chase away outsiders they once would've welcomed with open arms. Doubles as a Tearjerker. A Fanatic Xenophobic empire may even give a militaristic or religious civilization more than enough reasons to realize that just keeping away xenos may not be enough to guarantee their safety...
      • Xenophile Empire vs Xenophobic Natives: Hoping to show the aliens that others people aren't so bad after all, you send down your agents to entice them with the wonders of your culture. Sounds just peachy right? After all, you're attempting to turn a distrustful and isolated culture into one that's more welcoming to strangers. What brings it back to this trope is that there are bound to be hardliners, otherwise decent or not, who will not only raise their children to be like them but take their beliefs to the grave with them. When faced with an entire civilization of these aliens, even the alien-loving xenophiles will have to resort to underhanded methods such as engineering 'accidents' for the most influential of the aliens to even mass brainwashing just to accomplish their goals. A Fanatic Xenophile empire may even entice the culture into embracing multiculturalism so much that many foreign cultures are blended into their own until theirs is reduced to its most basic elements or diluted so much it's unrecognizable, much to the delight of some but the horror of others.
    • It is arguable that presentients have it worse. As powerless as primitives are, at least they understand from experience that evil people who have enough power over others can and will abuse it. However, presentients are still basically highly intelligent animals who do not yet understand the concept of good and evil and would think little of threats beyond their natural predators and scarcity of food until an empire comes along and uplifts them for the express purpose of making them into slaves, servants, battle thralls, or even livestock. That's right, these poor animals have been genetically uplifted to become a powerful civilization's playthings without being permitted the challenges and joys of eventually developing into a spacefaring empire. This is synonymous with forcing a baby to do hard menial labor without allowing them the decency of a childhood. Also, unlike other primitives, presentients can be purged without even an Enigmatic Observer fallen empire batting an eyebrow because to other civilizations they're just animals.
  • One colony event has your colonists discover a portal leading to Another Dimension. Upon studying it, one of three things may happen.
    • You may discover that on the other side is a "dimension of suffering" which causes intense agony in sapient beings unlucky enough to approach it, and that even reading sensor data from it is enough to cause pain! Players can choose to close the portal and never speak of it again, or keep it around to study.
    • You may also discover a parallel universe and make contact with a counterpart to your empire. Sounds pleasant enough at first glance... until you learn that they developed the jump drive as their go-to Faster Than Light travel method instead of hyperlanes, and if you're an experienced player who knows the first thing about jump drives, you can figure out where this is going. They don't specify if it's the Extradimensional Invaders they're facing or something else entirely, but either way, your mirrorverse counterpart informs you that their jump drives have lured "Warp beasts" that are now ravaging their galaxy, and that several species have already fallen to them. You can consider it an early-game warning of what will likely happen when you research jump drives. You do get to trade with them, however.
    • Finally, you may discover a "null void", a dimension of pure entropy. This is the least scary outcome, and gets you a powerful laser weapon and a large supply of the valuable Dark Matter strategic resource once you're done researching it, but it's still pretty creepy.
  • One of the new Precursors introduced with the Ancient Relics DLC are the Zroni, an extinct race of incomprehensibly powerful psionics. Completing their event chain reveals the history of their downfall, a tale that is horrifyingly reminiscent of how Warhammer 40,000's Warp became what it is today. It was the Zroni that first interacted with an alternate dimension that would later become the Shroud. Back then it was empty, peaceful, just a plane of infinite potential and psionic energy. The Zroni were able to step bodily into it, using its power to change and warp the material plane according to their every whim. Eventually a civil war erupted between two factions, one that began to consider themselves gods destined to rule over The Multiverse, and one that opposed them. The maelstrom of violent emotions unleashed by this increasingly brutal war began to coalesce into sentient avatars of these very emotions within the Shroud, forming malevolent entities of unimaginable power. It took a Heroic Sacrifice by every single benevolent Zroni to stop their insane brethren, an act that wiped out the entire race and left nothing behind but psionically-active dust created when their physical bodies dissolved. In short: a single ancient civilization was ultimately responsible for creating the Shroud Instruments, including the End of the Cycle, and most likely the mysterious substance you can mine on some planets for use in constructing high-end psionic technologies. Even the Endgame Crises have nothing on this level of power. The only good thing to say about the Zroni is that they're no longer around to wreak even more havoc.
    • It's worse than that. What caused the civil war was the Zroni discovering that using their powers required energy, and that energy came from the destruction of planets and stars in the galaxy as the supermassive black hole in the center expanded. Most Zroni were horrified by this and wanted to limit themselves to their own potential. The others didn't care. There were always more galaxies, after all, and even if the entire universe was destroyed that wouldn't affect the Shroud. If not for the sacrifice of the benevolent Zroni, the entire universe would have been annihilated by a few power-crazed beings obsessed with their own potential. This also explains the absence of the galactic core from the hyperlane network. It's not inaccessible, it's gone.
  • Speaking of Ancient Relics, if you are in-system that features a Relic World, zoom in on that world. You will be greeted by some menacing sounds reverberating from said dead planet.
  • When playing as a machine empire, you have the option of transforming your worlds into Machine Worlds, which are great for robots but uninhabitable for anything else. However, you can do this to inhabited planets, too. Imagine, living on a world taken over by robots, presumably being hunted down mercilessly... and noticing that your planet is being transformed in ways that are lethal to your species, with absolutely nothing you can do about it.

    Endgame Crises 
  • The Contingency is pretty much what you get when you combine SkyNet, the Reapers, and the Necrons. It's an ancient Artificial Intelligence that was seeded throughout the galaxy billions of years ago, and is designed to sterilize all organic life once civilization reaches a certain point. The result is a galaxy-wide Robot War.
    • The first warning sign is a mysterious "Ghost Signal" that begins affecting synthetic pops, reducing their output and making them behave erratically, even violently. Then synths begin disappearing, stealing or building ships to reach an unknown destination. Most are caught, but a few escape into the void. After a few months the Ghost Signal suddenly ramps up, and then comes the Wham Shot: four seemingly innocent uninhabited worlds, some of which may be deep inside your space, perhaps even sharing a system with one of your colonies, begin transforming to reveal vast robotic foundries beneath the surface. Massive fleets of bizarre geometric warships emerge and begin laying waste to every world within their reach, effectively re-creating the opening scene of Mass Effect 3. There is no way to tell where these Machine Worlds are hiding beforehand (unless you cheat with the console), and Save Scumming doesn't work since their location was assigned all the way back at the start of the game.
    • Of particularly horrifying note is how the Contingency affects your populations. Specifically, the Contingency uses the Ghost Signal to forcibly control your Artificial Pops and make them start slaughtering organics. Terrifying enough when done to the non-sentient Robots, but absolutely soul-chilling if the victims are fully sentient Synths. While not yet understood, it may very well be that the mind is left intact while the body is remotely controlled, leaving them trapped and helpless in their own bodies as they're forced to kill their friends, or be killed by them. When asked about the hijacked synths, the Contingency chillingly replies that you will be seeing them again soon...
      • It gets worse. The Ghost Signal is so powerful it can occasionally hijack the Ancient Caretakers, Awakening them and overriding the Custodian Project's protocols with the Contingency's own directives, meaning the malevolent AI suddenly has all the tech and resources of an Awakened Empire at its disposal, along with its own assets, turning the fight into a two-front war.
    • Based on its own communications should you choose to interact with it the Contingency itself seems sort of... broken. As in it isn't in agreement with itself or it is being forced to process in specific directions by hard-coded directives despite its sentient aspects thinking along different philosophical directions. Its dialog contains stutters, pauses, misspelled words, and most showing of all it pauses part way through sentences and replaces words that ascribe organic traits with mechanical substitutes. This is especially prominent when discussing its creators which gives it noticeable pauses before stating that the creators killed themselves.
    • And then there's the Contingency's ultimate purpose: It's supposed to prevent organic civilizations from triggering a "class-30 singularity" event that could destroy the entire universe. Even if you defeat them, you may simply be trading a quick death for something far worse.
  • The Prethoryn Scourge. Like the Tyranids, they come from beyond the galaxy, and their portrait is a tentacled eyeball reminiscent of The Overmind. Also like the Tyranids and Zergs, they infest any planet they come to, and once the infestation is complete, the only way to clear it is with sustained orbital bombardment. You can then terraform the now-Barren World into something usable, but that takes decades and it's likely the Scourge will render large swathes of the galaxy uninhabitable in the meantime.
    • Psionics are able to communicate with them. It turns out they aren't invading. THEY'RE RUNNING FROM SOMETHING ELSE. "Prethoryn" isn't their species, it's their word for survivor. And that "HAK HAK HAK!" Evil Laugh they do? They're laughing at your bravado, because they don't believe that you'll be able to stop the "Hunters", the things that are chasing them.
    • During this invasion, even on the galactic map you can constantly hear a wet clicking or chittering noise, making it quite clear that your galaxy is being infested by something.
    • An event after the Scourge is defeated allows your scientists to trace the Scourge's path through space back to their own galaxy. The galaxy isn't there. IT'S VANISHED, either because it's been totally destroyed, stars and all, or something massive has eclipsed it.
    • Paradox invited several Youtube gaming channels to come and play Stellaris blind, in the "Youtuber War." None of the players had ever played Stellaris before, so as they stumbled through the game, building and fighting each other, the game master, Stellaris guide crafter Aspec, then started the Swarm invasion about a century early. Cue the players all freaking out in horror over the Swarm sweeping through their territory, effortlessly crushing them in a brutal Hopeless War that was equal parts hilarious and horrifying. And Aspec can be heard laughing maniacally in the background a couple times as the meltdown progresses.
  • The Extradimensional Invaders. The main page saying that the Jump Drive is the Warhammer 40,000 method should be everything you need to know that this is not a tech to be trifled with. Hyper Space Is A Scary Place, indeed.
    • The Contingency is a buggy Well-Intentioned Extremist. The Scourge is a Horde of Alien Locusts that just wants to eat and run and turn out to be Invading Refugees. These guys? No sympathetic motive at all. They enjoy causing pain and fear, and get a thrill out of hunting the organic civilizations to extinction. Hell, they might as well be Expy of Chaos.
      "So much hatred... so much fear... it is... wonderful..."
    • The Extradimensional Invaders don't use armies. That would give their prey a chance to die fighting, and they simply can't have that. Instead, they park their fleets in orbit and bombard the planet's fortifications down to zero. Then they absorb all biomass from the planet, leaving only a dead rock behind. Since they're Energy Beings, it's implied that they don't physically eat the population, but Mind Rape them all to death and consume their souls.
    • Any civilization with Psionics gets an interesting dialog option with the Extradimensional Invaders, which reveals that their home dimension is very close to The Shroud, a strange and sometimes terrifying realm of psionic energy (smells of the Warp, huh?), suggesting a possible link to the Prethoryn's Hunters.
    • One dig site in Ancient Relics is an old battlefield with no signs of orbital bombardment. Excavating the site reveals that the planet was simply one theater of war in a large scale invasion of the galaxy by an extradimensional force called The Destroyers. Think about that.
  • Then there's the prospect of becoming a crisis yourself with the Nemesis expansion. It can be started relatively early on by picking the pertinent ascension perk, starting off with overtones of an ominous "greater purpose" and gaining subjugation war goals on your neighbors. So far, so Bond villain. But, you may begin to question things when it leads to state sponsored terror attacks. Then the unrivaled cruelty and brutality of your soldiers.
    • The highest Crisis level of the playable empire is aptly-called Existential Threat, and it certainly lives up to the name, as you can now construct a Star Eater, which, as its name suggests, is a spaceship that detonates the star into a black hole, destroying the entire solar system in the process. While this is already a huge existential threat by itself, the Star Eaters are just the means to light the pyres for a far more terrifying threat, the Aetherophasic Engine, a megastructure capable of tearing open a trans-dimensional hole into the Shroud. Dozens of stars would've been consumed to fuel the Aetherophasic Engine by the time it reaches completion, and once it is activated, it will destroy all the stars in the galaxy and turn them all into black holes, annihilating all life in the process, while your empire follows in the Zroni's footsteps and bodily enters the Shroud to become Physical Gods - the only true Instant-Win Condition in the game. Playing through this route will make sure that you never again question where mad tyrants who embark on such ludicrously evil schemes come from. You are one, now.
      • It's actually worse than that: the only reason why the evil Zroni faction didn't succeed in wiping out the entire galaxy was because the heroes pulled a Heroic Sacrifice on their entire species. You succeeded where even the villains failed!
    • Even better: Remember the class-30 singularity event the Contingency was built to destroy, and the fact that the Prethoryn are survivors of a galaxy just vanishing? Sounds an awful lot like the Aetherophasic Engine, doesn't it? Which means that somewhere, an entire civilization of Abusive Precursors has already become gods.

    The Shroud 
  • The Shroud is clearly modeled after Warhammer 40,000's Warp, although the Shroud is relatively less dangerous. Relatively. Like the Warp, all telepaths tap into it in order for their powers to work, which means that if you choose the Psionic ascension path, your entire species is permanently linked to it.
  • Very rarely, you'll encounter a Shroud entity calling itself "The End of the Cycle", which tells you that it is not yet your time... but it could be. It offers obscenely powerful bonuses for the next fifty years, "if we will only bring forth the end". It's not made clear what happens when the fifty years is up, but the bright red text very clearly saying "do not do this" implies nothing good....
    • Once the 50-year countdown is over, your entire empire is obliterated. Every ship and starbase destroyed, every megastructure rendered derelict, every planet scoured and rendered uninhabitable by the Shroud's energies beyond the reach of any and all terraforming, and every leader killed, save for one who saw it coming and gathered everyone he could to an isolated world now called Exile, where you are forced to start over with a handful of resources and pops. Meanwhile, fleets of Shroud entities spawn in your lost systems from the souls of your empire's dead, including a big one in your former capital system (aptly named "The End") which possesses, at bare minimum, one million fleet power, that slowly begin wiping the galaxy clean of life, and they deliberately save Exile for last. Yes, as punishment for summoning it you are left helpless and defenseless as you watch the galaxy burn around you. Oh, and even if someone manages to destroy all of these revenants, you now have a permanent -1000 diplomacy malus for causing them in the first place, so once The End is mopped up, everyone will turn their fleets towards Exile to finish you off. Heaven help you if one of the three proper Crisis Events previously activated a Guardian of the Galaxy - or worse, the Contingency activated two - because they will likely bring the Galactic Defense League right to your doorstep (if someone brings a Colossus, start praying). A covenant with The End of the Cycle will pretty much ruin your game completely unless you are very good at coming Back from the Brink against psionic fiends that make the Extradimensional Invaders look cuddly, and if they're stopped, literally the entire Galaxy united in its mutual hatred of you. Also, if there is no planet that can become "Exile" to begin with, the game naturally throws an instant Game Over at you because you doomed literally everyone and everything your empire created or stood for, leaving you stuck in Observer mode while everyone else tries desperately to clean up your mess. In other words, you become the Eldar but even worse off. Because unlike the Eldar, there are no survivors in any corner of reality to return to.
    • The Sealed Wormhole System accessible in the Distant Stars DLC has a Shrouded Planet and a Corrupted Psionic Avatar patrolling it. The only way for a planet to gain a Shrouded descriptor is for the End of the Cycle to claim it after the 50 year time limit has passed. Three guesses what happened there.
    • One Ancient Relics dig site reveals that the entire population of a planet committed suicide two hundred thousand years ago. The reason? They believed that "the Archenemy, the Shadow that Devours All, some cosmic foe of unfathomable malice" would one day arrive at their homeworld and devour the souls of anyone alive at that time. Sound familiar?
    • And with Nemesis, the End of the Cycle becomes a lot more appealing if you've become the crisis, because who cares what the End wants with the galaxy when your goal is to destroy it yourself?
  • If you've gained Psionic perks when/if the Unbidden show up, they'll recognize its aura on you. The Unbidden's reaction almost seems...impressed, their dialogue implying even they normally give the Shroud a wide berth. Let that sink in: the Unbidden are afraid of the Shroud.

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