If Endless Legend was a woman, I’d be cowering at the other side of the bar fighting off a mild anxiety attack, shooting it “come hither” glances that probably look more like “get in the back of my dirty white van” glances.
It’s beautiful. It’s brainy. It’s a 4X turn based strategy game that effortlessly elevates the genre to the modern age, eschewing some of the expected formula in favour of some new ideas. Set in a fantasy world rapidly approaching twilight, you lead one of eight fantastical empires as they set out to make their mark on the world. The idea is to paint the world map’s tiles in your faction’s colour, but obviously – there’s so much more that goes into it.
I started out with The Broken Lords – a race of honourable, chivalrous knights who sacrificed their corporeal bodies to survive extermination and now exist as spirits bound into extravagant armour. They’re the vampires of Endless Legend’s expansive mythos, and what makes it truly amazing is that these traits – their bipolarity, caught between championing justice, defending the weak and the endless thirst for the lifeforce of sentient beings – are all reflected in game. Each race has such a divisive set of traits and statistics that it completely changes the feel of every campaign. It’s not just the case of an exclusive unit or some production bonuses – they each have an exceptional, individual narrative with quests which earn you heroes and unique abilities.
There’s just a tiny splash of RPG mixed in with the overworld strategy – your heroes level up and have their own skill trees, discovering multiple tiers of equipment you can use to customise their abilities. It’s a relatively small element of the game that doesn’t take precedence over the empire building, which is an entirely different kind of beast. The world is split into regions, and each region can only have one city in it, which cuts back on micro-management and essentially hamstrings players from just setting down cities next to each other to dominate resources. Rather than building lots of cities you’ll be concentrating on a singular few and expanding them across the map, which requires you to have at least some semblance of a long term plan as new districts increase unrest amongst your empire and you’ll have to think about research and upgrades that balance it out.
There’s a lot of interesting new ideas here. It plays like a Civilisation game from an alternate universe. The interface is clean and simple, managing to carry across the fusion of classic strategy gameplay and Amplitude’s fresh take on it in a clean, gorgeous menu system that makes the more complex information incredibly easy to navigate. Relegating workers to different resource production is as simple as clicking and dragging from one tile to the next. Tech trees have been replaced by tech pools – there’s no progression, you can pick and choose anything to research and queue it to support a long term strategy or just do whatever suits the situation you’re in right now.
There are still clusters of turns where no-one really does anything, and at first, the empire management might seem like a chore – just routinely plugging away at resources and expansion whilst your armies roam around the world map conquering minor factions and claiming luxuries. But your empire’s strategy ultimately determines how you’ll survive the shifting seasons, prepare for the ever-looming apocalypse, and win the game, by wonder, domination, or conquest. Alongside the competing empires are several minor factions – made up of minotaurs, monsters, and roaming orcs – and you can assimilate these into your empire and put their individual bonuses to work for you. The Broken Lords excel at conquest, which fits well with their insatiable thirst for Dust (The game’s combined energy/currency resource), but other factions – like The Wind Walkers, succeed through Wonder. The Roving Clans can’t declare open war so they go through mercenaries and can uproot and move their cities on the backs of giant scarabs. Each empire is so definitely different that you could replay the game with every one and have a different experience each time.
Endless Legend is a truly top notch strategy game with a weird fantasy narrative and a one-of-a-kind, fascinating art direction. This is a genuine evolution of one of gaming’s most prestigious genres, and from a relatively surprising place – it’s like the weird heavy metal uprising showing tired pop music that, in fact, there isn’t just one tried and true formula to making a hit. Sure, it might do things a little differently – but give it enough time, and you’ll come to relish in the quirks. Endless Legend is the way forward. Embrace it now, and you’ll have one of the best strategy experiences of your gaming career.
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.