In the first of the three new Empire Origins available in First Contact, Stellaris' newest DLC, our nation begins its in-game journey as a group of various species who have recently gained their freedom from a slaver state. The ship carrying this motley group makes a forced landing on a planet, which becomes the new stellar home of the freed survivors. After exploring the derelict ship that brought them there, the survivors turn to the stars - both to locate the home planets of the most prominent species, and to locate the slavers themselves and, standing up to them as equals now, to expose them to the galactic community.
In the second Origin, we begin as an empire that has just thrown off the yoke of slavery on their home planet, waging and winning a war of liberation against their former overlords. The newfound freedom comes with some initial technological "penalties" which are negated through the study of the technologically advanced Warship left behind by the defeated invaders. Through this exploration, our liberated empire is asked to make an important decision: will it seek peace and reconciliation, or revenge against its former oppressors? And, just as importantly, how will it respond when the oppressors have the audacity to request the payment of reparations for the Warship that was shot down?
In the third Origin, we control a nation in the home system of which a planet was blown to smithereens by a stray meteorite. The population is divided into two groups: those who recognize the event for what it really is, a horrible accident due to the chaotic randomness of the universe, and those who believe that the planet's destruction was caused by an alien race that carried out an attack with "planet-killer" weapons, and which will surely return to finish the job on the other planets in the system. Amidst tension and political protests, the members of the second group decide to collectively colonize another planet and carry on in their own independent way. Against this backdrop, we are called upon to explore the galaxy and place our nation within the galactic community. But our fanatical, isolationist and xenophobic neighbors will surely raise obstacles to this pursuit.
These three different new conditions for starting a game of Stellaris are probably the essence of the new content introduced by the First Contact Story Pack. In addition to the various initial bonuses and/or penalties (the first two Origins are even explicitly labeled "very challenging" when selecting them in the empire creation menu), each Origin also introduces several unique events that have a decisive impact on the progression of our stellar RP. As someone who has spent quite a few hours on Stellaris and all of its DLC (1,074.4 hours as of this moment according to Steam), I found the challenge offered by the new Origins to be quite fun compared to a more "generic" start, without of course bringing about any world-changing conditions that dramatically alter the game's overall philosophy.
Apart from these new origins, First Contact also introduces some other noteworthy additions. The first of these is the radically upgraded environment for contact and other interaction with the pre-FTL civilizations we find scattered across the galaxy. Now, in addition to the construction of a simple Observation Post over the planets of the "primitive" civilizations, there is a completely new gameplay environment that provides the possibility to carry out actions of Infiltration, Espionage or Diplomacy towards the pre-FTL civilizations, with the accompanying special event chains and the various consequences, positive or negative. Still absent from the game is the ability to start out as a pre-FTL civilization ourselves, which would admittedly be a fun prospect, but you never know what we'll see in the future.
Another addition is Cloaking technology for our ships. As one can imagine, once this feature is unlocked through research of the corresponding tech, our war fleets and our Science Ships can implement increasingly powerful cloaking devices, which make our ships invisible. Invisible warships can move within enemy territory but can also breach Closed Borders without being detected, and decloak to surprise attack an adversary's fleet or space stations. Similarly, cloaked Science Ships can avoid various stellar hazards (how many times have we interrupted exploration in some direction because the only hyperspace lane towards that part of the galaxy was guarded by an abyssal horde of 30k-strong Crystalline Entities?), but also navigate behind Closed Borders to gather Intel towards some empire. There is also, of course, a new Cloaking Detection capability to deal with invisible threats. It becomes clear that this technology, in the hands of an experienced player, can provide a decisive advantage.
Special mention should be made of the addition of some new Civics that, among other things, offer the possibility to have Jump Drives from the start of the game! Obviously this comes with some penalties attached, such as the need to research hyperlane travel as a separate technology before we can also travel the "old fashioned" way, but if anything these civics offer yet another way to shuffle the deck in the early stages of a Stellaris game and offer new challenges.
As usual, along with the paid content there is an accompanying free patch which introduces several features and modifications to the base game. Perhaps the most important free addition is the introduction of Archaeotechnologies: through researching the respective tech, constructing specialized buildings, unlocking the respective Ascension Perks, completing excavations, and researching Precursor items, there is the possibility of unlocking rare technology that allows for the construction of "special" space stations, buildings, or weapons/components for our ships. Of course, it's worth noting that this "free" addition requires the possession of the Ancient Relics Story Pack, which introduced archaeological excavations to Stellaris in the first place.
So, is the First Contact Story Pack worth the money? The answer WILL SHOCK YOU (or not): it depends. The truth is that the vast majority of the paid content, as interesting as it may be, is aimed more towards those who have already played through everything Stellaris has to offer and are thus looking for new challenges like different starting conditions of a game, rather than being a 100% necessary and game-changing addition to the base game. With that in mind, the 15 euros that the Story Pack costs might seem like a pretty high price to pay compared to what it offers, especially for a more casually minded gamer who would rather buy select DLC/Story Packs than fanatically acquire every new piece of content Paradox releases for Stellaris.
In conclusion, First Contact introduces interesting content, but I don't think I would place it among the absolutely "crucial" DLC that a player should own. In addition to what was already stated above, the gameplay mechanics it introduces require an existing background of game knowledge in order to shine in the hands of players, so a relative noob would more likely be confused than impressed with the new features. Therefore, hardcore Steller players like myself could check it out if they can spare the money, but if you're a noob, I suggest investing in other, more "important" DLC like Utopia, Distant Stars and Leviathans first before tackling First Contact.