Endless Space is a turn based 4x game (explore, expand, exploit and exterminate) set in space where you colonise star systems using one of the various factions on offer. The developers Amplitude Studios are very into community development on this project and have been using their GAMES2GETHER programme to help drive the community into being more involved.
GAMES2GETHER allow the players to vote on certain developments within the game; being so close to release, the game has most of the major features nailed down. There are however still some votes occurring that range from cosmetics, backstories and statistics for the Heroes (more on that later) in the game. It’s a cool idea and helps drive a close community; I myself have voted for a few things and it’s nice to get feedback on how other people have voted once you’ve made your decision.
The game itself has a variety of options when you start; including race/faction, map size, star types etc. There are more advanced settings as well that drive options like resource density into the mix too and surely more options will become available over time. I had a go at two of the races on offer; the first was the Sowers; a machine race that’s very construction driven and the Hissho; a militaristic avian race.
The Sowers seemed like the perfect choice to me, a race with few drawbacks that I felt could do any damage to my playstyle; a very economic and research based playstyle. I may have been right too but I soon got overwhelmed by Pirates that was less then prepared to defend myself from. I will stop there for the moment and carry on with them later. I attribute this loss more to my own lack of exploration with the tools I have been given. My own lack of testing all the buttons and objects before getting 50 turns in with pure construction and researching.
The game has some pretty fantastic tutorials; whether this is due to the User Interface being so clear or just the baby steps it takes to fill you in as you click on and explore new areas of the UI and game elements. It doesn’t overwhelm you with information, so you can take each bit of information and apply it to the labelled picture oh so easily. I ended up blasting through the first few as much of it was self-explanatory, but there is a lot to take in and I had to just work my way through the more difficult concepts slowly to make sure I didn’t miss a drop of information.
Now convinced that I had seen most of what was on offer in terms of tutorials I cracked on with my Sowers, spending about 5-10 turns intermittently doing tutorials as new elements game into play. I had a nice first 30 turns exploring the uncharted systems and waiting for my Factories (colony ships) to be prepared and sent to a neighbouring star system. During this time I nailed down exactly what I was aiming for; in the form of both planets to colonise first in the star systems I‘d scouted out and what research trees I would be following to maximise my efficiency. I however had not taken into accounts the more than hostile intentions of the various Pirates that began to roam the galaxy.
Pirates; very much like Civilizations barbarian faction, can utterly cripple you if you haven’t taken them into account. As I hadn’t, I soon had my small fleets decimated. Luckily this gave me a chance to try the combat tutorials out which are a very strange mix of rock, paper, scissors and a card game. My (basic) understanding was you choose a card for each of the three combat phases. Each card applies effects to either you, your enemy or both and each card counters another type of card; assumable blocking the effect of the countered card.
Either way the Pirates tore through my defences and began to take attack and successfully destroy most of my colonies. I knew exactly what to do; the same as all other 4x game; learn from my defeat and come back bigger and better by starting afresh. It is something I love about these types of games; as each iteration garners new information and strengthens your knowledge of the game.
I decided on the more warlike Hissho and found that Pirates were no longer the be-all end-all of my faction. I put a larger emphasis on providing a military aspect to my colonies and my expansion was better than ever. I even started using Heroes; the games special persons who have specific skill sets and bonuses that they confer to either the fleets or star systems that they are assigned to. Heroes are a good and cheap (to begin with) way to boost your systems or fleets and you can channel them down whichever route you want them to go as they level up and earn new abilities.
Much later on I realised that I could make my own ship designs with technology; which was deviously hidden in a large button on the UI that I hadn’t bothered to explore. Taking a more careful look at all the UI buttons along the top I found that I was considerably behind all the other factions and almost all my colonies were unhappy at best with my rule (which was sorted by lowering taxes substantially). I can only blame myself for this lack of exploration but at its heart this is what a 4x game is about; playing the game and learning from your mistakes to come back stronger.
I’m a big fan of 4x games; which can seem impenetrable at first but I enjoy trying to get used to their mechanics over time. For me this ticks all the right boxes and is just as accessible but different enough to Civilization V to stand on its own. Aside from the obvious difference of being in space the combat really sets it apart. I’ve already experienced the “just one more turn” that ends up being another hour or two.
Endless Space is crisp and clear in its presentation; it makes it very accessible (so long as you go far enough to take a look) and eases you in. It has all the expected 4x elements and has enough to diversify itself from both the 4x space games and Civilization V (which is easily the most assessable to date), the game will continue to evolve with fan feedback so there are few certainties for the future of the game but it is looking very promising.