Developer – Amplitude Studios
Publisher – AMPLITUDE
Platform – PC
Endless Space immediately caught me with its presentation. Honestly, I thought that this game would be another 4X strategy game that bypassed the glitz and glamour of high-fidelity graphics and presentation in favor of mind-numbing micromanagement on a universal scale.
Upfront, I’ll say that this game is gorgeous looking and it sounds great too. For those of us who want something modern, it’s simply a pleasure to play.
Reading chatter online, Endless Space does indeed meet the standards of a 4X strategy title (explore, expand, exploit, exterminate). The game takes place in space, something I’ve always found a bit challenging for strategy games. That’s because it’s hard to communicate the scale of space while also populating the nothingness with enough meaningful objects to make a fun game.
Endless Space’s approach is to use a single galaxy as your map. This galaxy can be predetermined (spiral with four arms, large twin elliptical, etc.) or random. You begin with a home solar system, which will contain your home world. From there, you are tasked with exploring the galaxy along set paths (sometimes requiring special technology), settling and conquering as you compete for resources.
The game begins with you choosing an empire. The default ones are well-crafted but if you want to create your own empire from almost scratch, you can. I personally am loving my ‘Industrius’ empire with extra bonuses in industry. There are some pretty cool combinations that you can come up with, especially since you choose beneficial traits as well as harmful ones. There’s a point system that increases or decreases depending on what kind of traits you choose so you can’t just pick all good traits.
If you chose a default empire, you’ll be privy to a small introductory cutscene that outlines the basic motivations for those people. Check out Horatio if you get a chance. There’s something unsettling about a race of clones following a great leader who wants to beautify the galaxy.. by populating it with his clones.
Systems are linked together, with each system also containing a great diversity of planets. These can range from lush jungles to icy tundras and gas giants, which are difficult to settle. Endless Space had the good mind to let you preview from a distance what kind of sun a system has. This tells you the probability for different planet types. If you see a yellow sun, it’s probably easier to settle than a red giant.
The planet view is absolutely gorgeous. I was floored when I first saw the quality of the interface here. Managing your empire’s production is a pleasant experience with these kind of graphics.
The game lets you micromanage each planet on each system. You can also delegate the task to the AI if you wish. Endless Space also lets you choose what the AI should focus on, whether it’s food, industry, science or Dust (the game’s chosen currency). The game’s lore says that Dust is a rare resource from the days of the Endless, an earlier advanced race.
Typical of turn-based strategy games, combat can either be done automatically by the AI or done manually. While the auto-resolve is straightforward, the manual mode lends itself to a lot of randomness. It’s a scaled up version of rock, paper, scissors where you have to guess what Battle Action the opponent will cast. Then you choose your own to counter it. Battle Actions are unlocked within the tech trees and when your heroes level up.
The whole thing happens in three phases; long range, medium range and melee. Your pilots don’t jetpack around at melee range with stun batons, though I was looking forward to it when I first read the combat phases. Battles don’t just take fleet size, health and Battle Actions into account when resolving combat. You also have to plan ahead by teching creatively and creating different ships for different enemies.
Say an enemy empire really favors Beam weapons. You should then invest in Shields to diminish their combat strength while also choosing the right artillery for the job. Not only that, different weapons are effective at different ranges during combat:
- Long – Missiles are most effective
- Medium – Beam weapons are most effective
- Melee – Kinetic weapons are most effective
Before a battle begins, you have a moment to size up the enemy fleet and check out what Battle Actions you want to play and whether you’re comfortable with your ship designs. If not, it’s probably a good idea to play the Retreat card.
Coming from someone who’s played a lot of Civilization V and IV, I really like the tech tree in this game. It’s overwhelming at first, because everything is displayed at once but once you find out the paths you like or the technologies you want to focus on, it’s a cinch.
It’s also fun how the game doesn’t really let you focus solely on one or two paths. Sure you can have favorites but research is a balancing act in this game. Eventually you’re going to want to research that Flak Armor if you want to hold onto Ceres. Those Cravers are bloodthirsty!
Speaking of Flak Armor, the shipbuilding in this game is modular. That means that you can pick a hull with varying attributes and add pieces as you see fit. If your designs change over time, you can park your fleet at one of your systems and retrofit it with the latest modules. There’s even an auto-upgrade feature in the ship design view if you want to keep the same type of modules but want the latest technology.
If the game sounds daunting at all, it’s not as bad as you may think. When you start up the game, it will introduce you to the different views and windows as you click them open. The tutorial was very helpful in importing what I’ve learned from other strategy games.
Endless Space is a great game. It’s both easy to recommend and hard to put down. If you’ve got a love for strategy games, both real-time and turn-based, then I implore you to give Endless Space a look.
It’s really hard to find anything bad to say about that game. Try it for yourself and see.