Stellaris – What Are the Best Ascension Perks?

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Ascension perks can be the greatest upgrades your empire will receive. Whether you want to buff your empire’s resource production or start interspecies breeding; ascension perks can do it.

Some of these perks can elevate your empire to power levels beyond reckoning. Others can flat-out suck. Selecting the best ascension perks isn’t an easy choice and will vary for different empires.

Recommended Read: How to Get Mega-Engineering in Stellaris

This guide will explain; what ascension perks are, how to get them, which ones are the best, and some ascension perks you should avoid altogether. All the ascension perks provide some sort of benefit. So, even taking some of the “weaker” choices is beneficial.

The best ascension perks in Stellaris are technological ascendency, galactic wonders, arcology project, defender of the galaxy, become the crisis, and colossus project. All the ascension path perks are top-tier as well.

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What are Ascension Perks

Traditions and ascension perks go hand in hand with each other. If traditions represent the evolving culture of your empire, as it cements its place within the galaxy; ascension perks represent the outcomes of that advancing culture.

Perhaps due to your culture embracing a war-like doctrine, they may adopt ascension perks that complement this shift. Or, if your empire seeks economic advancement, there are ascension perks that can synergize well with that decision as well.

Throughout a game of Stellaris, you can get eight ascension perks, each one providing a unique bonus to your empire.

The perks also come in tiers, ranked from zero to three. Traits at tier zero are available straight away. Tier one traits require one perk unlocked before they are available.

Tier two requires two previous perks, and I’m sure you can guess how many you need for tier three.

Some of the most interesting and fun game mechanics need you to unlock specific perks first.

You may select a perk for its power level, or you may decide to take perks based on role-play elements.

The final thing you should know about ascension perks is the ascension paths.

When your empire becomes advanced enough in a particular category, you have the opportunity to take one of the four ascension path perks.

These perks allow your empire to take its future into its own hands and will result in them reaching the next stage of existence.

How to Unlock Ascension Perks

While playing Stellaris, your empire will be producing a non-material resource called Unity.

Unity is a currency for a wide array of things, but its primary function is for adopting traditions. When you have enough unity, the game will let you know you can afford the next tradition point.

Traditions provide unique and powerful buffs to your empire and come in a variety of themes.

Warfare, mining, exploration, and others; are all represented in the tradition system. During a full game, you can adopt up to seven traditions for your empire.

Once you have unlocked every bonus in a particular tradition tree, the game awards you with an ascension perk unlock. Ascension perk choices are permanent, and there is no way to change them without mods.

The astute amongst you may have noticed something. Earlier in the guide, I said that you can unlock eight ascension perks. However, you can only complete seven tradition trees. So how do you get the eighth point?

Research is the answer to that question. Specifically the ascension theory technology, a rare technology in the society tree. Completing this research project will allow you to unlock an ascension perk right away.

Now that you know what ascension perks are and how to get them. It is time to learn the best ascension perks in Stellaris.

What are the Best Ascension Perks in Stellaris

If we consider ascension perks from a pure power level, the best ones are pretty clear. Some of these perks can make the late game a cakewalk.

I’m not saying they will allow you to auto win the game. You will still need some good gameplay and a sound tactical strategy. Good perks are an extra tool in your arsenal for securing victory.

What makes a good perk is; one that is helpful to all playstyles, remains useful throughout a full game, provides a positive impact on your empire, synergizes with traditions, and enables you to enjoy the game more.

The next six traditions I will discuss have provided me with the best return on investment while playing Stellaris. While they are all great, I would only consider two of them a must-take.

The six below are in no particular order and are the best ascension perks in Stellaris.

Technological Ascendency

If you have read many of my guides on Gamer Empire, it is no surprise that it is on my list. This should be the first ascension perk you take in any game of Stellaris you play.

This perk never stops being good and synergizes with so many things.

Technological ascendency comes with two benefits. The first is a flat ten percent increase to research speed.

Research is the most important resource in Stellaris, and anything you can do to improve it is a welcome addition. The second benefit increases the odds of unlocking rare technologies by 50 percent.

There is no situation in Stellaris where this ascension perk is not one of the best.

Do yourself a favor in your next game. Take it as your first ascension perk, and race past your alien neighbors. Then steal all their stuff.

Galactic Wonders

In the interest of clarity, I should be honest about this perk.

Earlier, I said one of the tenets of the best perks is that they never stop being useful, and this perk is a little guilty of breaching that guideline. In spite of that, it still remains a great choice and is the other must-include in any empire perk.

Galactic Wonders allows for the construction of the “super” megastructures. The Dyson Sphere, Matter Decompressor, and the Ring World.

Once built, these structures trivialize the end-game economy. Micromanaging your mining worlds will become a problem of the past.

Once construction is complete, this perk does lose some of its power. The benefits make the investment more than worth it.

Arcology Project

Ever wanted to create your own Coruscant in Stellaris? Well, that is what the arcology project will allow you to do.

After unlocking this project, you will be able to turn your planets into a special class of planets called Ecumenopolis.

An Ecumenopolis is the science fiction term for a city that covers an entire planet. After turning a planet into one of these, you will gain access to some unique and powerful districts.

These new districts can produce vast amounts of unity, alloys, consumer goods, and amenities. In lieu of creating minerals, energy, and food.

While it wouldn’t serve you well to turn every planet into an Ecumenopolis, any late-game economy will see tremendous boons from creating a few of these planets.

Defender of the Galaxy

One of the hardest parts about Stellaris is the end-game crisis. It is the ultimate test of your empire’s war machine, economy, and tactical prowess. Anything that can make this final test easier is a fantastic weapon to have in your arsenal.

This is where the defender of the galaxy ascension perk comes in. Its benefits are twofold; first is that you get an extra 200 opinion with every empire in the game.

This can go a long way when it comes to diplomatic relations with other factions. With this opinion, most non-xenophobe empires will like you. Thus, making it much easier to influence empires into agreeing with you.

Next is the 50 percent increase in damage you do to the end-game crisis faction.

The end-game crisis is tough. This bonus can be the difference between the crisis running your empire through and a valiant victorious defense. Don’t sleep on this perk. A great addition to any empire.

Become the Crisis

While not for everyone, becoming the crisis can be a lot of fun. Not only that, there is a wide range of benefits to becoming the crisis, and a lot of them involve making your military a lot stronger.

Sure, the galaxy will grow to hate you, but they will be dead soon, so who cares?

After adopting this ascension perk, your empire will begin producing menace whenever it is at war with other empires.

As your menace increases, your crisis level increases. Once you hit level five, there is no returning, and your empire will set off on a path to destroy the galaxy.

The whole process is a long and difficult quest line that can make a nice change if you play a peaceful empire all the time.

The rewards your empire gets for leveling menace is where this trait shines; damage buffs, faster ship-building, specialist menacing ships, destroying stars, and improved orbital bombardment are a few of the bonuses your empire will get.

Colossus Project

Having a planet-killing weapon in your back pocket is a great way to discourage other empires from messing with you.

That is what the colossus project ascension perk will get you. It allows you to produce a colossus, a unique ship that can feature a wide range of planet-killer weaponry.

Back in the old days, when Stellaris was not as well optimized as it was now, a colossus was a great way of destroying planets to help the late-game lag.

These days it is used for its true purpose, teaching fallen empires who the new sheriff in the galaxy is.

Having a colossus allows you to declare total war on any empire in the game, meaning you no longer need to have a Casus Belli.

Plus, it is really cool. Give the colossus a try if you haven’t already. Satisfaction guaranteed.

Honourable Mentions

While I consider those six ascension perks the best in Stellaris, it doesn’t mean they are the only good ones out there.

I decided to compile a list of other ascension perks that you should also have on your radar when playing the game.

The list is as follows:

  • Executive Vigor. An extra 100 edict fund is a healthy bonus. Edicts are a great way to shore up your empire’s deficiencies, and this perk can help there.
  • Hive Worlds and Machine Worlds. These come as a package because they do the same thing. Perfect for gestalt consciousness empires, as it allows you to create the perfect planets for your pops. A must-take if you are running a gestalt consciousness empire.
  • Galactic Contender. Similar to defender of the galaxy, except without the opinion modifier. And the damage bonuses are against fallen empires instead of the crisis. If you are on the losing side of the war in heaven, this perk can be a lifesaver.
  • Master Builders. Increases megastructure build time by 50 percent and increases megastructure build capacity by one. This trait falls down because, once you have built all your structures, this trait is now useless.

The Ascension Path Perks

There are four ascension paths in Stellaris at the time of writing this guide, and they are all top-tier.

Whichever you choose will determine the next stage of evolution your empire takes. I would always recommend that new players take an ascension path perk.

The four ascension paths are:

  • Engineered Evolution. This is your empire deciding they will tailor-make their own genes to make themselves the perfect biological species. You will get extra options and traits for your pops, making them much stronger than your average pop.
  • The Flesh is Weak/Organo-Machine Interfacing. These are the same path. The flesh is weak is for standard empires, and machine interfacing is for hive minds. These perks are all about using cybernetics to improve your species. Cybernetic implants make your pops stronger, faster, more productive, and all-around better.
  • Mind Over Matter. If your population has discovered they have latent psionic powers, this is the ascension path for you. Spiritualist empires tend to favor this path, and it leads to an interesting quest line involving the mysterious Shroud.
  • Synthetic Evolution/Synthetic Age. Like cybernetics, this ascension path is split into two. Evolution is for standard empires, and age is for machine empires. Biological pops install their consciousness into robot vessels, leaving their bodies behind. Machine empires use this trait to improve their traits to insane levels.

Ascension paths change your empire in a very drastic way. If this is not something you want to do, you do not have to.

Some of the coolest gameplay elements are locked behind these paths, especially in mind over matter.

Ascension Perks to Avoid

If there are strong ascension perks, it stands to reason that there are weak perks too.

The following is a short list of traits I would recommend you think twice before taking. While none of them would handicap your empire, there are better choices you could make.

The list is as follows:

  • Interstellar Dominion. A minor saving in influence for an ascension perk slot is not worth it. You can get a lot of influence with clever gameplay, so this saving will never yield a discernable benefit.
  • Eternal Vigilance. While a case could be made for this being good in the early game. The problem with that argument is that this perk needs star fortress (a late-game tech) before it is available. By this point, starbases are no match for fleets, rendering this perk useless. Your bases will still fall prey to attacking fleets, only a little slower.
  • Transcendent Learning. How this perk is still in the game is a mystery to me. The chance to recruit different leaders, and they level up a tiny bit faster. There is no build that wouldn’t benefit from taking any other ascension perk than this one. Do yourself a favor and pretend it doesn’t exist.

That is all you need to know about the best ascension perks in Stellaris.

If you have any questions or suggestions for this guide, please let us know in the comments section below. As always, have fun picking ascension perks in Stellaris.

Simon Neve

Simon lives in Northern Ireland with his wife and two children. When not caring for his family, Simon enjoys video games, board games, and tabletop roleplaying games. When playing isn't an option he writes about them instead.

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