I have to say when I saw the world building going on around the Endless titles I was skeptical but having played two of the three titles for some time now I am impressed. As mentioned last week the series started with Endless Space which had none of the backstory that has since been built up. Rolling back in time Amplitude created the game Dungeon of the Endless set in the “Endless Space Universe” which then also grew to encompass the Endless Legend game as well. You are one of the descendants of the survivors of the crash or one of the monsters that hunted them, depending on which faction you select you could be one of many but there’s a distinct visual and cultural cue taken from all of the monsters and crash survivors from Dungeon of the Endless which is a nice touch.
Divided in to different ages each playable faction has their own little fiction, the Vaulters for instance are clear in their lineage and while reading the fiction you will get to hear the story of an actual survivor from the crash. We continue with the same resources of Food, Industry, Dust and Science that we saw in Dungeon of the Endless but now we are able to collect it. Building a city starts collecting resources in adjacent areas and as you expand your city so does your area of exploitation and once you have researched the appropriate technology you are able to build extractors pulling out titanium, spices, and more from the ground. Auriga is made up of distinct zones, each zone has a native group who you are able to either negotiate with or put to the sword in order to subjugate them. Once brought in line with your will you can leave them be or assimilate them incorporating aspects of their culture and allowing you to build aspects of it in your city and your military units.
Combat is a tight affair, restricted to six rounds it is done at a tactical layer using hexagon spaces for movement. During the pre-combat round you set the location of your units on the appropriately coloured squares, once set you then decide a stance one of aggressive, defensive, or balanced. Aggressive will close with the enemy and attack, defensive will hunker down and resist attacks and balanced will attempt to range attack if possible while avoiding engagement if able. Once you have locked your targets or set your movement actions for the round you watch as your units duke it out.
The combat round is the perfect example of this game’s design at work, able to zoom out to the very macro level and view your units from far above the planet as they move you are able to also zoom down to the ground level and see these units in action. Combined with the great atmospheric music these stunning visuals create an interesting and fun world.
As with most 4X games there is a research tree, the research system in Endless Legend is refreshingly flexible. Divided in to four areas that breaks down in to Military, Science and Industry, Empire Expansion and Economy. Spanning six eras each contains more and more advanced technological options. In many 4X games the tree locks you in to having to exclude certain branches of research or having to research technologies in a specific order. This is organized in a much more relaxed manner where you are focusing on “areas” of research as opposed to specific innovations letting you select the order you tackle these tasks in and que different research projects all the way through the ages. You aren’t required to research all levels of technology but once you hit a sufficient level of development you progress to the next tier.
There is also a robust diplomacy system, using empire points you are able to parlay with other empires, from here you can negotiate with diplomatic pleasantries and eventually work out trade deals or go to war. For anyone who remembers Masters of Orion this is all familiar territory and in fact much of what Endless Legend is doing is not new, but what it is doing it is doing well. These systems have been refined down in to a solid experience that is fun and balanced and well worth the price of admission. The added bonus is if you pick up the “deluxe” version you are able to play as Vaulters in Endless Space expanding the experience to truly encompass all three instalments of the series.
The only real struggle comes not from the game's design but from the genre itself. 4X titles are notoriously hard with long games that can last hours, days or even weeks and are incredibly complex. Figuring out the magic combination of resources, technology, and units is a challenge at the best of times this and any 4X game is not really a game for the feint of heart but if I was to suggest any title as an entry point this would be it, they've rounded off the edges as best they can without dumbing it down to the point of no longer being challenging. My only suggestion is they should have hired Tim Curry and Tom Cruise to really live up to the Legend in the title but for now I'll make due with the heroes they provide.
- Beautiful audio and visual design
- Robust variety in units
- Flexible research and development tree
- Refreshing combination of RPG and 4X gameplay
- 4X genre games can be quite unforgiving and difficult
- Steep learning Curve
- At times not always clear on how to use advancements