Endless Space review
When I was younger, and a massive Star Trek fan, I spent hours and hours playing Birth of the Federation by Microprose. I played that game to death and so I waited patiently for a sequel and kept waiting until it was officially cancelled. Despite all this I have still been waiting for something to come along in the 4X category that captures me just as much and I believe Endless Space could be that lost sequel.
Endless Space is the new 4X from Amplitude Studios, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, 4X stands for: eXpand, eXplore, eXploit, and eXterminate and describes games such as the Civilization series and Masters of Orion. You, the player, must manage an empire and colonize space whilst researching new technology all the while in competition with other empires or players in online multiplayer. There are several paths to victory from war to diplomacy and expansion and many more in between.
Now there are many 4X games out there, especially set in space, so what sets Endless Space apart from the crowd? Well the first thing that strikes you about the game is the User Interface which is exquisite, it has very clean lines, an uncluttered and crystal clear design that’s easy on the eyes. Often these types of games bombard you with statistics and text but it’s been kept to a minimum here and you can see it’s been at the forefront of the developers’ minds. This philosophy has been extended to the tutorial as well. Rather than have you play a lengthy tutorial round or make you watch cut scenes Endless Space presents you with a full screen tutorial panel (see screenshots) when doing something new. These panels clearly set out what is required and simply lists options along the image. This overall simplicity in design means the game isn’t daunting in the slightest and instead welcomes those new to the genre.
Graphically speaking the game looks good and it will easily run at full spec on most systems. The ship and planet models are really detailed but the battle animations aren’t spectacular, they are good, but they could have been great. Each race has its own unique look that often reflects its background; there is some great variation there.
The game’s sound is good with the ambient sounds really complimenting the game and the setting but the background music is very much typical of the genre, I found it to be quite benign and boring at times and annoying and distracting at others. Once I’d switched it off in the audio menu I found I could get into the game more. The sound effects are quite pleasant and fit nicely with the UI and the gameplay itself.
The gameplay is quite engaging, the management system is really simple but in depth at the same time, and you feel like you are playing a game rather than just clicking through endless stats screens. The game features a hero system, which works somewhat like Civ’s ‘Great People’, you hire heroes who have their own specializations and then assign them to systems or fleets providing you with certain buffs. These heroes then level up allowing you to tailor their skills for the role to which you assigned them which adds a little more depth to the game. One of the most interesting and exciting elements of the gameplay is battle system between fleets which consists of three phases: Long distance, Medium, and Close range with different weapon types suiting each phase. During battle you are able to specify a battle card for each phase which decides what your strategy will be whilst the automated battle takes place. As a result the battle system takes on a cinematic quality whilst also keeping you involved.
This game feels different from the current crop of space based 4X games out there and instead looks back to the beginning of the genre, taking its cues from Masters of Orion and early Civ, whilst polishing the edges and making the genre that little bit easier to approach. It’s a game that is easy to pick up but will most likely take quite some time to master but I for one am looking forward to the challenge.
Feels great, simple menus, clear information and a great take on the battle system.
Looks great with a slick UI, animations could have been better.
Sound effects and ambient sounds are great but are let down by the music.