Stars in Shadow: Species Tier List 2021

The faction species and neutral species of Stars in Shadow are not created equal. This guide will show which ones are the most and least desirable for your stellar empire and why.

 

Introduction

After a great many hours playing Stars in Shadow, I began writing faction primers to introduce players to the core elements of playing that faction. I’ve now decided to try my hand at a more controversial topic – ranking the species of Stars in Shadow by desirability. This is certainly a topic that is debatable depending on play style and player preferences, but the content provided below will provide a solid starting point for evaluating the species in your own gameplay.

Note that within each tier, species are presented in alphabetical order, not in a ranked order based on desirability. Refer to the descriptions rather than the order within a category to decide which species will best serve your needs.

Also note that this is NOT a ranking of the game’s factions. The Ashdar Huidar are a mid-tier species, but the Ashdar Imperial faction is excellent. The population units themselves are unremarkable, but they’re just one part of what makes up the faction. Their Ancient Stargate, early access to Stargate tech, superior home system, and immediate access to another species are just as important. Note that this analysis also focuses on species’ strengths as part of an empire, largely ignoring weaknesses you’ll face if that’s the only species you’ve got.

Stat Specialization

The two biggest factors in what makes a species more desirable is the ability to do something better than other species and the ability to fit more of them on a planet.

A species that produces more labor, trade, or science is better for a planet you’ve focused on labor, trade, or science. Clearly. There are also species that excel at growing food (or who don’t require food), which is also quite beneficial even though it isn’t a planetary specialization. It’s also worth noting that it’s not overly important which species you place on a mining-focused planet, but some extra food, trade, or research sure can’t hurt since it’s added to your empire’s total.

From the values on various planetary improvements, technologies, and abilities, it’s easy to place a roughly equal value on trade, science, and food and about half that on labor. Sure, that varies a little depending on your tech and whatnot, but it’s a decent estimation. Turning that into raw numbers (positive for production and negative for consuming food) and assuming a “high” fertility planet, that gives us the following.

  • Highest: Phidi, Spice Mongers, Tinkers (harmonized)
  • High: Haduir, Orthin, Tarib, Teros, Threshers, Yoral
  • Average: Androids, Gremak, Humans, Pell, Tinkers (disconnected)
  • Low: Algorians, Enfi, Lummox, Scavengers, Wrem
  • Lowest: Gaiads, Slaves, Viscids, discontent population units

On planets without high fertility, some of our species take a bump down in the ratings while a few stay the same. (Some also get a little lower within their own ratings band without changing their grade.)

  • Highest: Spice Mongers, Tinkers (harmonized)
  • High: Phidi, Tarib
  • Average: Androids, Haduir, Orthin, Pell, Teros, Tinkers (disconnected), Yoral
  • Low: Gremak, Humans, Scavengers, Wrem
  • Lowest: Algorians, Enfi, Gaiads, Lummox, Slaves, Threshers, Viscids, and discontent population units

This gives us a decent staring point when looking at the species of Stars in Shadow, but it is not the full picture. The biggest thing it shows in a vacuum is most neutral species really want to be on planets with high fertility.

Population Caps

Population caps are less obvious than a blatant 2 versus a 3 in two species’ labor stats, but they’re just as important. They’re based not simply on the type of planet but on that planet’s “climate zones.” Each species has a cap based on the planet’s size and on its climate zones. This is the reason having different species share a planet is so useful. Take Ocean planets for example. They have Ocean and Vent climate zones. Phidi (or Threshers) make the best use of the actual Ocean climate zone while Orthin make the best use of the Vents climate zone. That’s why combining Phidi and Orthin gives an Ocean planet its true maximum population cap. Other species, like Humans, aren’t the best anywhere, which makes them less desirable as a species.

In a planet’s information screen, you can click on any of its listed climate zones to see which species prefer that climate zone. Planets can have as few as just one climate zone and can have as many as four. If it’s not immediately apparent, more population on a planet is a good thing for many reasons: more improvement slots, more production, more income, more research… pretty much everything.

Traits

Species do also have traits that affect their value, and I would be remiss if I did not at least acknowledge the trait system. Traits that directly affect production (and consumption) have already been included above, and most other traits aren’t as critical as the species’ productivity scores and population caps. The “Infertile” trait may be the most important non-productivity trait, but even that downside becomes a non-issue once you’ve researched Cloning (or, even better, Longevity).

S-Tier

There are three faction species that are head and shoulders above the rest. They are the PhidiOrthin, and Yoral. All three have excellent productivity scores, excelling in trade, science, and labor, respectively. Their population caps are also exceptional and varied. Phidi are the best species in the Ocean and Reef climate zones, Orthin are the best species in Vent climate zones, and Yoral are the best species in Ice climate zones. (Yoral are also just shy of the best in Airless and Inferno climate zones). Add in the fact that Orthin eliminate the “hostile environment” penalty of Iceball planets (-10 gold per turn), and it’s easy to see that gaining access to any one of these three species will greatly assist you in maximizing your galactic empire.

The Tarib are the lone neutral species in the S-Tier. They’ve got excellent productivity, even on planets without “high fertility,” and they eliminate the “hostile environment” penalty of Inferno planets, the planet type with the biggest hostile environment penalty in the game (-15 gold per turn). Of all the neutral species in the game, they’re the one I would happily play as a full-fledged faction even with a mediocre home system, ship roster, and secondary faction ability.

A-Tier

Ashdar Teros and harmonized Tinkers are also both exceptional faction species. Unfortunately, only one of the two is actually available to you unless you’re playing the Tinkers as your faction. Their productivity ratings are high, and Tinkers are the top-notch species in Arid climate zones. Additionally, Tinkers eliminate the “hostile environment” penalty of Arid and Desert planets that have the “Thin” atmosphere designator. Note that planets with “Normal” atmospheres never incur a hostile environment penalty even though other planets of the same type (with “Thin” atmospheres) do. On top of that, Tinkers are the top species for population cap in Arid climate zones.

The Spice Mongers and Wrem are neutral species in the A-Tier. Spice Mongers are a little like Tinkers in that they negate the same “hostile environment” penalties and have the same strengths in terms of population caps. In contrast to Tinkers, though, Spice Mongers require food (making them more suited to “high fertility” planets), and they excel at trade rather than labor. Wrem have fairly low productivity scores, but they negate the -10 “hostile environment” penalty of Barren planets and have the highest population cap for the Airless climate zone. This makes them excellent settlers for Cold Barren planets (because cold planets cannot be terraformed) and cohabitation partners for Orthin on Iceball planets, which also have Airless climate zones.

B-Tier

The Ashdar Haduir are the lone faction species I would place in the B-Tier. They have all the same strengths and weaknesses of Ashdar Teros except that they have +0.5 trade in exchange for -1.0 labor. That’s a relatively even tradeoff, but Huidar feel a lot like the “poor man’s Spice Mongers” while their Teros brethren have more distinct pros and cons compared to the desert dwelling traders.

AndroidsPell, and Threshers all occupy this tier for the neutral species. All three of these species are extreme specialists rather than good backbone species for your empire. Androids build things. Their labor rating (4.0) is unsurpassed, and they don’t need food, but they’re not much use for anything else. Pell are scientists. They’re the only species other than the Orthin with 200% of the standard science production. They also don’t need food, but like Androids, they’re only good at one thing. Threshers are good at producing food and increasing population caps on water worlds. In some ways, they’re the “poor man’s Phidi,” but they excel at easing your empire’s food burden rather than helping its economy directly.

C-Tier

Gremak and disconnected Tinkers are the two faction species in the C-Tier. Gremak are “good” in swamp climate zones, but “good” is a strong word for a climate zone that literally only exists on their home planet. They’re also passable in the oceanic climate zones if you can’t find Phidi or Threshers. Disconnected Tinkers have most of the same strengths of harmonized Tinkers as outlined above, but they have substantially lower productivity, making them substantially less desirable.

Algorians are the lone C-Tier neutral species. You’ll want to restrict them to “high fertility” planets, but they’re decent under those conditions. Their “friendly” trait makes them easier to manage in the early game, and they’re a decent substitute for Yoral from a population cap standpoint. They’re decent in a variety of climate zones and are tied with Yoral for best species on the Ice.

D-Tier

Enfi and Humans are the two worst faction species and even calling Enfi a “faction species” is a stretch. (They’re the slave species of the Gremak faction.) Neither has great productivity scores even on “high fertility” planets, and neither is the best in any given climate zone. It’s hard to even narrow down who’s worse. Enfi are more specialized (with a 3.0 in labor) while Humans are better generalists, but I wouldn’t fault anyone for eliminating these species from their empire midway through their conquest of the galaxy.

Lummox are the lone D-Tier neutral species. They’ve got the productivity stats of Algorians, but they don’t have the friendly trait, and they’re not above average in Ice, Ocean, or Arid climate zones like Algorians are.

F-Tier

No faction species are quite F-Tier, but the GaiadScavenger, and Viscid neutral species all definitely belong in this category. Fittingly, these are the three “nuisance species” that cannot be moved off of their planet via transports, and the only easy way to eliminate them is letting someone else have their planet and then bombing them into oblivion. Gaiads are acceptable scientists and aren’t terrible if you specialize their planet for science. Scavengers are basically just Humans that never leave their home planet. The Viscids are truly the worst of the worst with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. They do literally nothing but consume units of food and prevent other colonists from using part of their planet.

They’re not discrete species, but enslaved population units of any species fall below the Scavengers, and discontent population units of any species are nearly indistinguishable from Viscids.

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Post Author: Robins Chew

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