Sid Meier could be considered the king of strategy games. In particular, 4X strategy (explore, expand, exploit and exterminate) with his flagship Civilization games. And I have to say, I am a fan. I have around 440 hours logged in Steam for Civilization V (which isn’t really that much if you know the game well).
So when Endless Space, a science-fiction 4X game from Amplitude Studios, came out, I couldn’t help but have a bit of dabble. It wasn’t a bad game at all, with some unique features that set it apart from other 4X games. For example, unlocking units in the tech tree grants the unit model which can be modified with other technologies to make the ships more powerful. Diplomacy with AI is a lot more fleshed out than most 4X games. Heroes can be bought who can then be appointed to the head of an army or the leader of a solar system. There were strategic resources, luxury resources, anomalies and points of exploration. The lore of the universe and for the races was extensive, original, detailed and well-written. Overall, a very complex game which attempted to involve you in as much as the empire’s ruling as possible.
Unfortunately, it was a little boring. Space battles were more or less automated and were dependent on the weapon or shield technologies you had attached. There was no real thrill is taking planets or exploring and it was a long drawn-out game where nothing much really happened. Basically, one of the main issues was that it was set in space.
So why I have spent all this time talking about Endless Space? Well Endless Legend has taken all the things that made Endless Space unique and worth playing, put it into a fantasy world and improved on all the things that made Endless Space dull. It’s set on one of the many planets once occupied by an ancient race called the Endless (set in the same universe as Endless Space).
You still have your standard resources of food, tech, production, dust (a form of magical currency). But you also have power/influence which is used to give your empire boons or assimilate minor races into yours (a feature which allows you to further customise your empire as you go, granting bonuses and unique units). This addition to the standard 4X formula, along with the others listed above, gives Endless Legend a superb amount of depth and uniqueness.
What else makes this game great? The tech tree is one of the most intuitive and streamlined I’ve encountered in a while. Multiplayer was a relatively seamles process, not to mention the main mode of game I played (not much different from single player except for human players). There wasn’t a single crash or reloading problem. I even had a massive error pop up in a red box. I chose to continue and that was the last I heard of it. And because the game is so complex, you have plenty to do while you’re waiting for an opponent’s turn to finish, such as creating new units, looking into technologies, re-arranging citizens, conducting diplomacy or sussing out the heroes list or markets.
And speaking of waiting for turns to end, wars are generally the thing that prolong turns in 4X games. But Endless Legend has implemented an interesting system where battles can only last for a max of four turns. When two armies meet, all the units separate and you start the battle. If you have other armies in the region or the battle is taking place close to a city, that army or the city militia come a turn or two in as reinforcements. If all of one side is eliminated, than a winner of the battle is declared… how chivalrous.
Endless Legend also brings a seasonal factor in by having winter occur periodically. And winter truly fucking sucks. Units lose movement, cities lose production of all resources and you only have a rough estimation of when it’s over. Upon my second winter, my empire went into bankruptcy and my cities started to actually lose population. Awful, but an amazing element of the game.
I have nothing but praise for Endless Legend. The game has complexity not only in its mechanics but in it’s lore, look, content and design. Of course, complexity and depth can also give birth to confusion. Descriptions for abilities or traits aren’t always available and there are sometimes dozens of factors affecting various aspects of your empire. But given enough time, it wouldn’t be hard to figure out what these traits are. I personally can’t wait until I reach that point and I feel that’s when the game will really take off.
The next review in 3 weeks will be on Apotheon