There is a word that the good folks at Amplitude studios seem to like, and that word is “Endless”.
From the creators of Endless Space, Dungeon of the Endless and most likely hardcore fans of Pink Floyd’s Endless River, comes the new frontier in 4x Strategy titles – Endless Legend. The latest installment of the endless 4x series takes us from exploring the vast areas of space in its predecessor and ventures into the world of Auriga. You will no longer travel at the speed of light, nor will you fire photon lasers while hiding inside your massive ships. No, Endless Legend quickly introduces players to the fantasy setting of this game and gives your hero a sword, shield, crossbow or whatever you feel will be a better tool against the natives of Auriga.
Even though the game is moving from the orbital to a planetary environment, Endless Legend doesn’t shy away from giving the player a variety of resources to work with. In fact each resource is valuable in differing aspects of the game.
On one side, strategic resources – like Glassteel or Titanium – will help improve your troops, while harvesting luxury items – such as Wine, Spices or Silk – will provide bonuses for your Empire. Unlike the Civilization series, here your strategic resources will be gained and consumed with each upgrade you make, leaving them to stack up if not used, and thus able to be traded away to other players.
Luxury resources, however, operate differently: they’re an on/off binary where you either have said luxury resource, or you don’t. Owning more yields of the same luxury resource can give you the “monopoly” factor over it, where additional bonuses, based on what the actual resource is, will apply to your Empire.
Through research, you can unlock progress in each of the Military, Scientific, Economic or Empire tech trees, which in turn improves and advances your civilization. Each new level of Tech is unlocked after a certain amount of technologies are researched, meaning you can spread and advance through all the branches at Level 1, and then for example rush the military tree in the next one.
The FIDS system represents the first layer of resources you are to work with – Food(growth), Industry(production), Dust(gold) and Science(research) are being produced by each of your cities, a setup most 4x players will be intimately familiar with in some shape or form due to the concept existing in almost every game of the genre somehow, from Civilization to StarDrive to Galactic Civilizations. What will also seem rather familiar to 4x players are citizens: with each level of your city, a new citizen is born, which you are able to place upon these yields and increase one of the above mentioned assets. In this author`s opinion, holding onto the same basic system from the previous game, while adding new secondary resources was a smart move, as players can really feel the connection to Endless Space, while still gaining a completely new world to research and play with.
Now let’s assume you’ve gotten a foothold; you have your FIDS in order, made a few cities, expanded your Empire, when suddenly within your borders appear… the -Space Goats- !
Space goats you say? Yeah, sure, why not? As Endless Legend offers you the rare option to design your own faction, limited only by using one of the existing models and templates other factions have, it’s fully within reason to have an encounter with space goats. The faction design system leaves it up to you to name, describe and set up the whole trait list for the Space Goa-… fine, you can probably come up with a better name. Even if Blizzard couldn’t. *Coughinterdimentionalmagicalundeadholyspacegoatscough*
Now that we’ve covered the foundation of the game, for any of you who missed out on trying Endless Space, I must say that one of the most impressive things about the sequel is the way the game looks. As the graphical aspect of the game is very important to me, Endless Legend did not fall short of being impressive. Even small details, such as getting a unique intro in multi player depending on which faction you pick , to the smooth flowing UI – which is light, easy to use, but still gives you a wide variety of options to fiddle with. This game just looks amazing. Case in point: when upgrading units, you are now able to see a 3D model, which reacts to what ever weapon or piece of armor you chose to place upon your units. If encountering different factions, you will get quite a Civ-like diplomacy screen (which is a compliment), with AI personalities acting either friendly and sneaky, or openly hostile towards your initially-puny Empire.
Ah, yes, the AI… this is where I have found the largest issue with Endless Legend. With the way the production system and upkeep of armies are made, you cannot really sustain more then one mighty, or perhaps two smaller armies within your Empire. And when in a war with the AI, depending on the first two battles, where one of the armies gets destroyed, the future of the two civilizations tends to be pretty much decided then and there.
Once your army is toast, you cannot possibly produce a new army of the same size in less then 15 – 20 turns, which is enough time for the enemy to mow down a good half, if not all, of your cities. Unlike games like Total War, and Civilization, in Endless Legend wars are often decided in a singular battle, where the losing side can either offer everything they have and hope for peace, or simply get vanquished.
Since there are growth and science based factions, who wont really invest much into their military tech and army size, all you have to do is basically get your research and upgrades up, and walk over them, at which point you are too big and getting way too many resources to be stopped by anybody else on the map.
Though the AI has some crippling limitations due to the gameplay mechanics, this is largely not a reason to give up on the game entirely. Multi-player with some of your friends is sure to be quite interesting, and a few minor patches in AI behavior and combat mechanics will surely fix the difficulty issues.
Endless Legend exited a fairly lengthy early access period with the benefit of being rather stable and very playable. Bumps and bruises will be softened out within a few months time, and if even a small amount of additional content is released in future patches or DLC, this game is sure to have a good replay value.
While the latest installment of the Endless series gives you something familiar when it comes to 4x games, it also comes at it with a completely new way to play it. You could sit down somebody who loves 4x games, but has for some reason hated Endless space, and they would probably find the sequel to be nothing like its predecessor, yet still be similar enough for fans of said predecessor to get their nostalgia hit off of Endless Legend.
When it comes down to it, part of the value of a game is how valuable you find it compared to the cost asked for it. If you are to judge Endless Legend by the money Amplitude’s asking for, you’re probably not going to feel disappointed. Hell, I know I wasn’t.
You can find Endless legend on Steam for $34.99