One of the most valuable tools at your disposal in Stellaris is the ability to terraform planets. At a basic level, terraforming involves taking a habitable planet and converting its natural state into one that is more aligned with the needs of the species you’re playing as.
In Stellaris, this mid-game feature can be a turning point for expanding the influence of your control over the galaxy. That’s why we created this useful guide to walk you through the basic steps on how to terraform in Stellaris.
How to Terraform in Stellaris
There are a number of hoops to jump through if you want to be able to terraform in Stellaris.
Space Exploration Research
You’re not going to get far at all in Stellaris without the ability to explore space! That’s why as soon as you can, assign a scientist to the task of Space Exploration Research. This particular technology doesn’t have an initial cost, so make sure to start researching it immediately.
Space Exploration is one of the earliest technologies you gain access to. By completing it, you unlock the ability to construct Science Ships. You’ll use these vessels a lot in every aspect of Stellaris, especially once you start your efforts to change the environment of new worlds.
New Worlds Protocol
Speaking of new worlds, the New Worlds Protocol is the next step to unlock the ability to terraform. The New Worlds Protocol is a technology found in the Society research tree.
This crucial step in the long process of terraforming grants access to the construction of Colony Ships. These are the vessels that carry explorers to their new destination and home. It’s a good thing that, like Space Exploration, it doesn’t have a cost to research.
Terrestrial Sculpting Technology
You’ve developed the technology to chart the stars. You’ve mastered the ability to colonize distant planets. Now you need the knowhow to actually terraform. That’s where the Terrestrial Sculpting Technology comes into play.
It has a resource cost of 6000, which isn’t prohibitively expensive, but it does require a significant commitment of funds. It’s worth it though, as once you’ve unlocked Terrestrial Sculpting, you’ve taken a major step toward actually being able to terraform.
Terrestrial Sculpting allows you to change uninhabited, habitable planets and will be the main technology you use for all of your world-shaping endeavors. There are additional technologies you can research that allow you to terraform inhabited and some special uninhabitable planets, but that is a topic for another article!
Researching the technology to actually terraform a particular kind of planet may take the longest of all of the steps in this guide, depending on what kind of planet you want to change. There are multiple variables that go into which technology you’ll need, and not everything will be available immediately. Sometimes, not at all.
You can’t simply transform any type of planet into another. For instance, to terraform an arid planet into a continental type planet, you must first terraform it into an ocean planet. From there, it will take one more round of terraforming to generate your ultimate results.
Additionally, you will need to research both the arid colonization technology and the ocean colonization technology to make both leaps. Because the tech tree in Stellaris is somewhat randomized—almost like a deck of cards—you might not have access to either technology for several cycles.
The final variable in this step is whether or not the species you start the game with can even live on a particular type of planet. If your species thrives in inhospitable deserts, it will be far less likely, and maybe even impossible for native scientists to develop the technology to thrive on an ocean world. If another species joins your domain, it is possible to unlock additional terraforming options, but keep the limits of your own species in mind as you start venturing out into the galaxy.
Survey the Planet
Your scientists have researched all the necessary technology, you know your species can live on the planet, and now its time to actually find a candidate. That’s where the Science Ships previously mentioned come into play.
Send these deep space vessels out to explore uncharted quadrants of the galaxy and learn what they can about a potential candidate. Not all planets will be habitable, so you might find yourself having to warp to several destinations before you find a suitable world to change.
One final point about a planet survey, you will only be able to terraform your chosen planet if it lies within the borders of your domain. Make sure to claim the surrounding space as your own before you attempt to Terraform.
Realistically, you’ll always gather resources in Stellaris. Nothing will get done without plenty of materials to build your empire. However, specific terraforming liquids and gases are needed to make the change from one type of planet to another.
It’s why surveying a particular planet is so important. Once the survey is complete, you’ll have the knowledge you need to know what resources to focus on collecting. Once you have the needed materials, its finally time to start the process of terraforming.
If you followed the steps above, you’re now ready to terraform a planet. Fortunately, this is also the easiest step in the process. Once you select the planet, open its information window, and click on the Terraform button. And that’s it!
You’re on your way to terraforming a planet. The transition from one type of habitable planet to another takes thousands of days. While you wait, continue to explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate (your foes) throughout the galaxy!
Terraform the Galaxy
With the above steps, you are well on your way to changing the very fabric of the worlds in your galaxy. Terraforming isn’t a simple process, but one well worth the effort as the potential to grow the scope of your domain is extremely high.
Once you’ve finished building exactly the worlds you want, make sure to head over to our other Stellaris guides to help get the most out of this complex but rewarding game. Our articles go over topics like How to Merge Fleets in Stellaris, and detail 201 Stellaris Console Commands that help make the game a little easier for newer players.
Mark Twain famously said, “Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.” Someone should have shown him Stellaris!