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Endless Space

 

Endless Space

ESRB: Everyone - E
Platform: PC Games
Category: Strategy
 
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Endless Space is a Master of Orion style 4X game, unsurprisingly set in... Space, and it's good. So in good, in fact, that this review is pretty late for one reason, and one reason alone: I couldn't stop playing. This should tell you everything you need to know about Endless Space, but for those who need a bit more convincing, read on.

Graphics

The UI for this game is uncomplicated, well rendered, and extremely well organised. This, combined with the good artwork and variety of race designs, makes this a visually impressive 4X title already. You know exactly where everything is, and, when you view the combat, the camera picks some pretty impressive angles to show the ships fighting, dying, and exploding to their fullest. For what it is, this is pretty damn good. Also, the ship designs are pretty damn good, with each race getting their own "character" of design.

Sound

The background music is pretty good, while the combat noises are a little bit generic. The sound, in general, fits in with the game, doesn't intrude too much, and as such, there really isn't a whole lot to say beyond reiterating that the music is pretty good, if lacking a bit of variety.

Gameplay

As you'd expect from a 4X title, the real meat is in the gameplay, and what meat it is! Four research trees of around 20 items each, six base races, the ability to make your own (to a limited extent, more on that in a bit), a load of improvements, and fairly engaging multiplayer (for a 4X) to boot. The six races cover a fair spectrum of tactical choices, from the Scravers (expand and kill everything, quickly, because you eat up resources too fast), to the Sophons (out tech everyone, but don't get into wars early on, or you're screwed). I covered them in a small amount of detail in my preview articles, which are in the Related Links section of the article. Suffice to say, there's a lot of them.

So, we now get to the customisation. Race customisation is currently a little bit limited, with not a whole lot of options in each category. Enough to give you a fleshed out race *based* on one of the six, but definitely not the massive customisation of other 4X titles. It's workable, but not grand.

No, where it's grand is the simplicity. Many 4X games have a bundle of numbers for you to think about. Endless Space is a much more streamlined experience. Some may complain of there only being three weapon types, but this creates a simple system that doesn't require a lot of memorisation. Guns are for long range, inaccurate pounding, Lasers are for dominating midrange encounters, and Missiles are slow as hell, but are almost guaranteed to do high damage, as long as the opponent doesn't have the armour to match. Planetary improvements are easy to work out, and research, similarly, does whatever it says on the tin.

The most interesting feature, to me, is the diplomacy and spheres of influence. Effectively, at first, you aren't advanced enough to make peace treaties with people, and have to research it (unless you're Scravers, who can never make peace. Ever), and, until you're either at peace or war, you can quite happily trundle through people's territory. The moment you make peace, however, all travel through that person's developed territory is off limits without another treaty, and this can lead to some interesting (and awkward) situations. AI players will judge you based on several factors, and all of these are easily visible, such as having too weak (or strong) a military, expanding too quickly for other peoples' taste, or just being the top dog. Be bold, be bold... but not *too* bold. Until the right moment, at least.

By the lategame, you can terraform worlds into other world types, buy off entire civilisations, and the feeling of power this gives you is pretty unreal. Sod building ringworlds, this is *real* power! Multiplayer, as noted, is pretty good, being on a Civ 5 style "everyone takes their turn at the same time" type deal, and, for the most part, it flows pretty well. There are multiple victory conditions, from conquering the galaxy, to buying it, or simply reaching the absolute peak of scientific advancement, and none of these are *too* difficult on normal difficulty. The balance is mostly fine (although the AI seems to ignore missiles for now, perhaps because they're very much a "Your ships may die before doing any damage" deal), and... oh, yes, we forgot about heroes and combat, didn't we?

Heroes are one of the more interesting mechanics of Endless Space. For a reasonable (yet increasing) fee, you can hire heroes to help run some of your colonies and lead your fleets. They level up with time and combat, and have some interesting abilities, which cost Dust (the magical "nanotech as currency" of the game). By about level 3 or 4, they provide some pretty massive boosts to any colony they're placed in, provided they're levelled that way, or, if they're levelled another way, boost whatever fleet they're placed in to be pretty powerful. Effectively, while they're limited in scope, they give you another tactical option in the greater scheme of things, a surgical tool to aid you, if you will.

Combat, in the meantime, is realtime, and again pretty simple, because your control is limited to picking certain tactics for each range of engagement. For example, you could boost your weapons' accuracy at long range (very useful), sabotage the enemies at medium range, and then repair your ships a bit for the short range slugfest. Of course, some tactics can be countered, and if you or the enemy pick a card that counters your opponent, then the person who picked the counter gets a bonus to whatever they're doing. The camera for this segment, as noted, tends to pick some fairly dramatic angles, and the ship designs themselves are pretty cool.

In short, for the price, this is a good game, definitely getting a thumbs up from us!






Puttering in Endless SpaceAmoeba'd: More on Endless SpaceEndless Space: A Brave Experiment
 
 

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