In Dungeon of the Endless your prison ship crashes and a few characters are introduced, in Endless Legend your descendants make it to the surface to find the Auriga the planet their ancestors crashed on falling to pieces due to environmental disaster, and now with Disharmony and the fancier version of Dungeon of the Endless you can play the descendants who once again took to the stars and can even find the planet Auriga and recolonize it bringing it full circle. Unfortunately that was the most fun part of the game.
At the start of the game you are randomly assigned a starting world, you are given one scout and one colony ship and starting FIDS (food, industry, dust and Science). FIDS are the recurring theme through all the Endless games making up the in game currency which you use to spend on different advancements. From here you set your people’s path deciding which technology tree you want to explore, the first in the series the technology tree was very traditional and unlike the flexible and generalized tree of Endless Legend this is a web of options that are very specific developments leading to unlocking weapons, options for industrialization or terra forming as well as diplomatic options. Unfortunately regardless of what race you select they are all the same. This is a very old school element but aside from the design of the ships and in the case of the Harmony some gameplay mechanics the races are almost identical in how they play. Each one favours different victory conditions but aside from that and mild perks it’s all in the skin of the ships.
As you explore you are able to build new ships researching technology (divided in to four specialties Galactic Warfare, Applied Science and Technology, Exploration and Expansion, and Diplomacy and Trading) to move between planets more easily, arm your ships better and make your worlds a better place to live. You can do this in a few ways, one is by hiring heroes. This was an interesting quirk that they carried over to Endless Legend. Your heroes have a variety of skills that level up as they achieve goals. As a Governor of a colony they allow for better management of resources, better food production, higher contentment, etc. As commanders of fleets they have combat traits in space and on the ground that allow for better completion of missions. While your fleets explore they will happen across random events and unique artifacts that will give technology or resource boosts. Also, as your technology tree advances you will unlock new materials that allow for more powerful technologies.
The strategic depth of this game is impressive, you have to balance your technological resources and how you focus the efforts of your colony. As they expand your “sphere of influence” will expand which can impact your neighbours. If your territories are encroaching on a neighbours colonies this could impact their productivity and via a diplomacy window you can set up treaties and agreements for co-operation or declare war or trade embargoes trying to convince your other neighbours to lend a hand. While very pretty I found this lacked personality, MOO3 felt like you were interacting on a real level with your diplomatic envoys, Endless Space feels like choosing options from a series of drop downs. There is very little personality.
Now, on the subject of your fleet it’s composed of several ships. Like in Endless Legend there is a cost for each ship which is pretty standard for most 4X games. As you build ships and fleets of increasing size they have “upkeep” which takes up Industry. The bigger the fleet, the bigger the ships, the higher the cost but unfortunately once you unlock a hull there’s really little to no difference. Yes as you add technology to the ship using a pretty intuitive drop down system it adds abilities but the hull design and combat animations are fairly unchanged. In short, it feels like you’ve been cheated. In Sins of a Solar Empire or Sword of the Stars (two fairly contemporary games to Endless Space) you have the ability to control and design ships on the most granular level. This creates an attachment, many old school 4X gamers will talk about the “perfect build” and half of that was the look and feel of your ship. You can get that perfect build now but it’s hard to tell if it’s any different from the stock options. One handy option about upgrading your ships is you can at least easily retro fit them whilst in any controlled star system with an outlay of industrial FIDS. This saves having to rebuild your fleet over and over again.
Victory is divided in to several options, as mentioned different empires have different conditions for Pilgrims they favour Military and Diplomatic victories while Sowers favour Wonder and Military. Victory conditions include Economic, Diplomatic, Expansion, Supremacy, Wonder and so on. In the course of several plays I would often favour a quick expansion and a focus on science which would lead me to coming close but if my colony was overwhelmed by ships then I would lose at a military level.
I guess this is one of those cases where I’ve had fillet mignon with the classic MOO3 and when treated to a perfectly serviceable steak it’s delicious but missing that little something. Endless Space is a good game and fun for 4X fans. If you enjoy strategy and don’t mind a light (near non-existent) story that is only loosely attached to the fiction for the universe they created then this may be the game for you. But if you like micro-management, customization, and a really detailed universe this may not be what you are looking for.
- Interesting game universe
- Gorgeous visual and audio design
- Good variety in gameplay factions
- Slow almost iceberg like pacing
- Lack of micromanagement and customization
- Despite having a great universe barely touch on the in game fiction and only mentioned in passing text blocks.