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The space game 'Stellaris' is free to play on Steam this week for its 4th anniversary

The space sandbox game "Stellaris" is marking its fourth anniversary this week and to celebrate, the game's creators at Paradox Interactive have made it free on Steam through May 17.

"Stellaris" is an expansive space exploration game that launches players into a universe full of strange new worlds to explore, resources to exploit and, yes, enemies who are out for your empire. Billed as a "sci-fi grand strategy game" by Paradox, the base version of "Stellaris" typically costs $39.99, but you can try it for free on Steam here during its fourth-anniversary celebration.

"With constant updates since its launch in 2016, today's 'Stellaris' is bigger, deeper, and more fun than ever with more players, more stories, and more adventures," Paradox said in an announcement. 

Review: 'Stellaris: Federations' let me rule the galaxy by mass-producing hot pockets

Many of those adventures are tucked away in expansion packs that are not available in the free trial, but are on sale on Steam. Paradox has also released a new update to the base game for its fourth anniversary, which is free for all players. 

"This free anniversary patch is available today and adds strong new visual elements and VFX such as Nebulas, Storms and more," Paradox wrote. "Players can look forward to an updated look to the 'Stellaris' base game to add a little more awe to any shock and awe campaigns."

The most recent expansion pack for "Stellaris" is "Federations," released earlier this year in March, which upgraded the game's diplomacy features and galactic community. You can see a review of "Stellaris: Federations" here by our friends at PC Gamer.

In addition to the free PC version trial, Paradox has also released a mobile version ("Stellaris: Galaxy Command") in global open beta, as well as an update for console users and the Expansion Pass Two, a console-based expansion pack for $24.99, which grants access to three DLCs: "Synthetic Dawn" (available now), "Apocalypse" and "Humanoids," with the latter two coming later in 2020.

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Tariq Malik

SPACE.COM EDITOR IN CHIEF — Tariq joined the team in 2001 as a staff writer, and later editor, covering human spaceflight, exploration and space science. He became's Managing Editor in 2009. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Google+, Twitter and on Facebook.