Knowing that most of the game is played in the space stage, it is critical that you choose the right abilities during your finite playthrough of the Cell, Creature, Tribal and Civilization stages so that you do not gimp your creatures unnecessarily.
Note that you can go without most abilities, so if you wish to skip early stages you are free to.
Space Stage Abilities
- 5: consistently game-changing.
- 4: consistently helpful or situationally game-changing.
- 3: consistently convenient or situationally helpful.
- 2: situationally convenient.
- 1: negligible impact.
- R: Power Monger: 4/5. Grants 1.5x ship power for everything, not just weapons. Highly recommended on most guides.
- B: Gentle Generalist: 2/5. 20% off ship passive upgrades (like health and cargo size) from your empire. Best to buy equipment from other empires; however, if you are trying to be independent, you could do worse.
- G: Social Suave: 1/5. 20% off social items from your empire. Best to buy equipment from other empires; even if you wanted to be independent, social items should be the last on your list.
- R: Prime Specimen: 4/5. Grants 1.5x ship health. Highly recommended on most guides.
- B: Speed Demon: 3/5. Incredibly convenient. This cannot easily be felt but does speed things up considerably when running a large empire.
- G: Pleasing Performance: 1/5. Rebellion doesn't happen on well-built colonies, so this ability is totally irrelevant.
- G: Gracious Greeter: 5/5. This will allow you to be on much better terms with any empire than you normally could get away with. Highly recommended on most guides.
- R: Arms Dealer: 2/5. 20% off weapons. Best to buy equipment from other empires; however, if you are trying to be independent, these are both very expensive and very helpful to that style of gameplay.
- B: Colony Craze: 1/5. 20% off colony items. Best to buy equipment from other empires. This only includes the Incredi-Pack and colony upgrades, like the spice storage and bio protector. Terraforming abilities are not covered.
- B: Spice Savant: 5/5. 20% spice production. Highly recommended on most guides.
- G: Green Keeper: 3/5. Failing these missions can be pretty catastrophic, but they are also rare to begin with.
- R: Pirate B Gone: 2/5. Though it can be convenient, pirate raids aren't that bad if left unchecked.
Other Permanent Effects
The cell type you get will affect what mouths you can get in the creature stage. If you start with an herbivore, you can never unlock an omnivore or carnivore mouth, for example.
You can sneak a probiscis on your creature, enabling it to eat both meat and fruit. This advantage does carry over into the creature and tribal stage, making food significantly less of an issue. However, this doesn't affect what mouths you unlock throughout the creature stage. If you have decided on a type of mouth you want your creature to have, you must choose the appropriate cell type for it.
If you do a full game run, the following combinations are not possible:
- Diplomat with carnivore mouth
- Zealot with omnivore mouth
- Scientist with herbivore mouth
All of these archetypes can be achieved with any mouth type if you start in the Creature or Tribal stage; if your first ability isn't Power Monger, you should seriously consider skipping the Cell stage to get the mouth you want.
At the end of the creature stage, you are given your last chance to edit your creature's appearance, so the DNA and parts you unlock there have a permanent impact on your creature.
The tribal ability you choose will affect your first city in the civilization stage.You can always take over the correct city type and make it your own, but you should be careful if you want to win economically and did not start with an economic city. Save scumming is recommended.
Do not worry about the outfit, buildings or anthem you use; these can all be changed at any time in the Space Stage.
Full Game Run
When playing start to finish, you get the most abilities. There is only one build that is even arguably better by skipping the Cell stage, and that is the RGB Trader. See Straight to Creature.
The score listed by the archetype configuration is the sum of all its abilities. For example, the RRGB Knight has R1 (tier 4), R2 (tier 4), G3 (tier 5) and B4 (tier 5), which is 4 + 4 + 5 + 5 = 18. So, the build is listed as RRGB/18. I've attempted to list every build with a score of 12 or higher. If I've missed one, feel free to contact me.
- RRGB/18. Generally cited as the best build.
- RBGR/14. If you really want speed, you can have it. But it will cost you.
- RBRG/12. An unorthodox build, to be sure, and a waste of a knight -- but nothing here is totally useless.
- BRGR/13. Other than as an omnivore build, this is pretty bad.
- GRRB/12. Other than as an herbivore build, this is pretty bad.
- BRRG/11. It's less than 12, but this lets you have an omnivore mouth with a slower paced game.
- RBGB/17. Serious contender for best build, but not usually ranked as such.
- BRGB/16. This effectively trades Speed Demon for Gentle Generalist, as the other two red options are equally good. That is a bad trade.
- GBRB/11. Herbivore build. You go fast and can fund your own wars.
- GRBB/11. Herbivore build. Slightly better armor but you give up speed and the only decent self-buy. This is the only recommended build with two level 1 abilities.
- RRGG/16. Very good runner-up for best build; also has an incredible active ability.
- GRRG/10. It's less than 12, but allows a zealot to fund its own wars, which it will have to do anyways if it breaks galactic code regularly.
- RGRG/10. Similar, but a carnivore build, and gets you health rather than energy.
- GRGR/12. It's an herbivore, but otherwise pretty terrible and not special.
- RBGG/15. Some guides also recommend this as the best build in the long run.
- RGGB/15. Even though the numbers are equal, you will not find anyone recommending this build because G2 is the worst pick; you can go RRGB or RBGB and convert to Ecologist later.
- GRGB/15. Very similar to the above, but uses a herbivore mouth.
- BRGG/14. B1 is a bad pick; the same logic applies where you would be better off with RRGG and converting to Ecologist later.
- RRRB/15. You should be able to fund your own wars with this setup.
- RRRG/13. Makes for a quieter game.
- RRGR/15. You lose the ability to purchase your own weapons -- or much of anything at all -- and gain the ability to make friends. Not terribly helpful, even if highly ranked.
- RRRR/12. Straight up warrior is generally not such a great plan because Pirate B Gone being directly surpassed by Green Keeper.
- BBGB/15. Gracious Greeter is good enough to remove any hope of alternatives. Not all that bad a build, all things considering.
- RBBB/13. Alright, technically this one is good too, but who would honestly give up gracious greeter as a trader? For power generation, no less.
- BRBB/12. Now this is just ridiculous.
- BBGG/13. Loses Spice Savant to Green Keeper; makes for a quieter game.
- BGGB/13. Please don't be fooled by the high rank, this build is garbage.
- RBRB/14. You're giving up the 2R start for a speed bonus and the ability to purchase your own weapons. Given that you can never make friends easily, this isn't that bad a setup.
- BRRB/13. It's not at all ideal to give up the 2R start for better a better self-buy.
- RGGG/13. The power upgrade works well with the Return Ticket.
- GRGG/13. Health is only useful if you engage in combat.
- GBGG/12. Speed also works well with the Return Ticket.
- GGGB/12. Spice Savant is still good, even if Green Keeper is an acceptable alternative.
Straight to Creature
Straight to creature has a number of notable quirks that allow these builds to fare better than you might expect. Bard, Ecologist and Knight are impossible to obtain without a full game run. Diplomat and Trader are comparable to creatures built from the cell stage, and the trader build is totally unique among its archetype!
- RRB/11. Funding your own wars is helpful in the absence of Gracious Greeter.
- BRB/10. Trades health for speed.
- RBB/10. A direct downgrade to the first option, but it does make the Civilization stage easier.
- BGR/10. Gracious Greeter is amazing, to be sure, but ultimately R2 and R3 are both helpful for warmongering. Your call.
Trader: RGB/14. You can give up Speed Demon for Gracious Greeter and the comparable Prime Specimen.
- GGG/9. Still the best build around, giving a good ability and a good substitute.
- BRG/8. This gets you speed and the ability to fund your wars but loses gracious greeter.
- RBG/8. This gets you health but loses gracious greeter.
Straight to Tribal
We will only list classes with leeway here; Traders, Shamans and Warriors have no choice and thus to list them would be to state the obvious. Diplomat is comparable to creatures built from the cell stage.
Diplomat: GB/10. Best abilities in the game, hands down.
- GR/7. Pirates B Gone isn't great, but you really don't want to give up Gracious Greeter.
- RG/5. If you want to spam conversions anyway, Gracious Greeter won't do you much good. The other two abilities are okay for an independent run.
Scientist: RB/7. Arms Dealer isn't great, but you really don't want to give up Spice Savant.
Going straight to the Tribal stage gives you the advantage of having all 2000 DNA and creature parts to work with. If you want to mix mouth types, you can do so by using the creature editor in the "create" menu, and then choosing that creature when starting the game. This is the earliest stage you can start at to control a race with mixed mouths. It is possible to include creature parts from the cell stage using a similar method; create an early cell in the "create" menu, and then edit that in the normal creature editor.
Straight to Civilization
As none of your options give you any leeway, this will simply rank your options.
Trader grants you Spice Savant, arguably the most important passive in the game. Shaman gives you Green Keeper, which is recommended in some builds for its sheer convenience. Warrior gives you Pirate B Gone, which is less convenient, and a worse ability. It is however the only one that might remotely help a warrior nation.
Even traders are very poorly off, as Gracious Greeter is one of the game-changing abilities worth considering. The other two options are straight downgrades.
If you are going to go through the effort of the Civilization stage, you might as well also do the Tribal. The only conceivable circumstance where this would be ideal is if you wanted to farm achievements, since very few (if any) full game runs have you go red in the civilization stage.
Straight to Space
You can only be a Wanderer. Unfortunately, this class doesn't even have an ability. However, again, the abilities and such are only a small part of the game, and you can do just fine as a Wanderer.
You are also free to change your archetype to any class you want. This will not get you passives, but it will get you a better ability than none.
The most important ability is the active ability granted by your archetype, or philosophy. When ranked, these are:
- Zealot: 5/5. Instantly gaining an entire solar system is worth it to break the galactic code.
- Scientist: 4/5. This is incredibly powerful, but you do have to break the galactic code to use it.
- Trader: 4/5. Very helpful for trading missions, especially if you're already swimming in spice.
- Shaman: 4/5. Allows you to explore far more of the galaxy without worrying about how to return home.
- Ecologist: 4/5. Terraforming is now a concern of the past!
- Bard: 4/5. Temporarily being more friendly with someone is nice and can usually stop wars.
- Knight: 3/5. This is incredibly helpful at the beginning when you have no allies, but quickly loses its advantage when your ship becomes so beefy anyways.
- Diplomat: 3/5. This is good in combat situations, but the high cooldown makes it really prohibitive.
- Warrior: 2/5. More ships on your side is nice, but hardly a game changer.
- Wanderer: 1/5. Does nothing, literal garbage.