Endless Space is the newest game to enter the 4X strategy scene. With non-linear gameplay and a very demanding level of difficulty that pushes you to learn from mistakes you have previously made and strive to become overload of a galactic dominion. I didn’t think that Endless Space would be my cup of tea, and I was pleasantly surprised by how quick I became engrossed in the game. The storyline is pretty much non-existent, you are set the task of conquering the galaxy through warfare, diplomacy or science. Also the presentation is pretty minimal, but on all other counts, Endless Space is an excellent game you that you may play for years to come!
When you start a match up, the first order of business is to decide how large you want the galaxy you wish you conquer to be. In addition to the dozen or so settings available for customising the map, randomly generated star systems will ensure that no maps you play will ever be the same. Likewise, fractions and allegiances are customisable, should you wish to change the pre-set selections. There are over 70 different attributes that you can applied to a custom faction, and your choices will impact your ability to interact with other factions and exploit the universe.
Once you have decided your faction and galaxy you are treated to an introduction in the form of a comic book. Its well stylised and for the short moment it’s on screen, the art of the character and environment are a real treat. There is just enough back-story to justify the sci-fi setting and your chosen faction, but not much else. It seems pretty stripped back, but 4X games have never been about engrossing storylines. Before you know it, you’re in command of a home planet and two spacecraft, with enemies looming on the horizon.
To even stand a chance of being victorious, it’s really imperative that you hit the ground running. That basically means that yes, you will play a few games and fail, but those failings will help you in the long run. Endless Space’s UI holds your hand as you try to get to grips with this daunting game. Tutorials will appear as you click on menu’s for the first time. There are always reminders when anything of consequence happens at the end of your turn. You’re not forced to dig through menus time and again; instead, you click on notifications to easily access research, production, and expansion tools in an instant. This may not sound impressive, but for a genre that requires a ton of micromanagement and has historically lived deep within complicated menu trees, the UI’s ability to communicate in an organized and logical fashion should not be taken for granted.
On the flip side of the coin lies the incredibly complex tech tree. There are four research branches to explore encompassing 138 unique technologies. The nonlinear design ensures you exhaust numerous matches finding your way within the sea of possibilities. Quite often, what worked during your last match might not be as useful in the next, so it’s important to diversify your knowledge of the entire tech tree.
It’s also remarkable that, for all its depth, this is a game that could teach its rivals a few things about clarity. Hover your mouse over just about anything and you’re presented with an explanation of what it is and a breakdown of why it’s behaving that way. Only occasionally does the game fail to serve up relevant information, but when this happens it’s frustrating. Why can’t I move my fleet to a nearby system? No explanation. Oh, I’ve conquered that alien world? A notification would’ve been nice. Perhaps it’s biggest insult is in telling you you’re at war, but failing to let you know who your enemy is.
Even if you have got to grips with navigating the tech tree, there are some conditions that are out of your direct control. Just as the densities of star systems and planets vary, so too do their attributes. Planets are randomly assigned anomalies and advanced resources that further complicate your empire’s development path. Newfound dangers and opportunities pop up when you least expect them, and if you don’t adjust accordingly, you can count on your opponents to take advantage of your mistakes.
Establishing peace treaties and trade agreements with other empires will grant you trading route bonuses and access to rare resources, but you run the risk of exposing your systems to prying eyes. If the idea of peace with alien scum isn’t your bag, you can always declare war on the filthy vermin and wipe them off the face of the universe – unless they get to you first! You can also customize your ship designs with various offense, defence and support modules to provide greater travel speeds and powerful weapons and armour; as well as add various abilities to use in battle.
The AI is punishing, even on normal difficulty, forcing you to constantly correct past mistakes and improve your ability to micromanage. You may not comprehend the entirety of the game’s systems during your first few matches, but frustrating losses quickly give way to incremental improvements, and each successive match bears the fruit of your experience, narrowing the gap between victory and defeat. Though Endless Space is daunting in the beginning, deciphering the game’s verbiage and developing your potential are what make it a rewarding experience in spite of the challenge.
Eventually, you encounter outsiders, and before you are thrust into battle, you can negotiate the terms of engagement. Depending on your faction and resources, it may be best to butter up your opponent with a peace treaty until you’ve acquired the proper warfare tech to penetrate their defences. Quite often, though, enemy encounters result in combat. Combat consists of three phases: long range, medium range, and melee. You can assign a move for each phase consisting of offensive or defensive manoeuvres, or you can opt to auto-battle if you wish to simply roll the dice. Unless the tables are tipped in your favour, manually assigning commands is the best way to mitigate damage from an opposing star fleet.
Endless Space is a tribute to intelligent design and meticulous polish, offering endless hours of micro management goodness on all fronts. Whether you are grafting it out against an accomplished AI in the games single player or vying for cultural dominance online, this 4X turn based wonder accommodates all levels of experience and play styles, providing countless sessions of entertainment for newbies and pros alike.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.