Who on this Earth does not like spaceships, domination and an incredibly large amount of micromanagement? Everyone loves it, and it is with this idea in the mind that Endless Space is such an enjoyment. Crafted lovingly by some French wizards from Amplitude Studios, Endless Space is a smooth venture into the 4X genre, allowing you to explore, expand, exploit and exterminate with ease and beauty.
What Endless Space Got Right
It’s about as solid as a rock - Some people think there’s a recipe for crafting video games: you use 40% content and features from other games, 40% of your own ideas and visions and use the rest on revised assets. Being a fan of the 4X genre, ranging from a love of anything from Civilisation to Galactic Civilisations 2, this recipe is about as stock-standard as you’re going to ever get – however, if you know anything about cooking you know you take a pinch here and a dash there and follow your instincts.
Thankfully, the French can cook quite well and Amplitude Studios are definitely no exception. The base systems are smooth and polished – menus, movement, research, combat, it’s all simplistic to a fault and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In the very first game that I played, I picked the humans because they’re obviously the best race. To cut a really long story short, I got steamrolled because I didn’t pay enough attention to what I was doing, and was just trying to enjoy every feature I had available.
It blended really well. Nothing really went epically wrong, the few glitches I experienced apparently are common in multiplayer (it’s supposedly a bit more glitch-y than single player, which is understandable) so I’m really not too fussed over them.
It’s polished as a smooth gem, and just as pretty -
A lot of developers overlook the little bits of detail for the grander aspects – which makes sense, really, when you’re trying to save time on development and get your game out the door, but you would be surprised just how much difference a bit of polish, love and care makes to the people playing the game.
For instance, when it is not your turn you can “queue” your actions that will play out when it is your turn. It does it in a way so that, when you reach a certain point in your game, you can achieve a constant playtime almost akin to a real-time strategy game like Sins of a Solar Empire.
In all sincerity, I love Endless Space. It’s one of the best 4X games I’ve played in a long time, doing just about everything that is important to the genre correctly.
Another aspect in an irrelevant branch of the game is upgrading your ships. As your game progresses, you unlock more research along the Military tree, unlocking yourself the most up-to-date weaponry to kit out our arsenal. But, there lies a fundamental problem: your fleet of ships is using out-dated technology! What in all of the United Empire do you do?
You dock your fleet around some star-systems you control, and, after updating the blueprints for the particular ship you retrofit your fleet. This essentially just re-arms the ship with the technology selected for the ships’ blueprints. It’s very useful and doesn’t make me have a bunch of useless ships floating around that are several thousand points weaker than my current fleets’ strength.
Not only is the game detailed and smooth, the art is just straight-out pretty. I run the game on maximum settings just to see what it’s like, and while it’s not utterly breath-taking, DX10 Unreal Engine 4 quality graphics, the crisp detail to ships in combat or the clean-cut lines and the portraits of players are just amazingly beautiful in their own way. While the combat scenes are really just glorified cut-scenes, they look and act like something out of a quality science fiction movie.
Research is detailed but understandable -
It wouldn’t be any sort of strategy game without upgrades and research to unlock. The way the game works is you conquer star-systems and colonise planets. These planets generate resources – one of them being Science. The more science you generate, the faster you research, as upgrades cost a certain amount of Science to unlock (a mid-game unlock will cost something like, 35000 Science to unlock).
There are several trees to research in Endless Space: these are Military, Diplomacy, Exploration & Expansion and Science. There is no way to win if you just research ONE tree immediately – you need to spread out and balance your research accordingly throughout the mid-game, allowing you to populate planets as necessary while still remaining relevant against your opponents.
This makes it a tough decision and not a mindless upgrade-a-thon; do you go for the upgrade that lets you travel through wormholes, or do you get that new missile that may give you the edge in the next fight? It’s an immediately daunting system, but if you take the time to read through what you’re upgrading – hovering over produces information, and it’s not like there’s a time-limit for each of your turns – you can work out what’s best and what’s worst for your individual play style, and it’s really not as complex as some make it seem.
What Endless Space Got Wrong
The combat is just disappointment all around -
Honestly, it’s a minor aspect of the game, but combat feels just dull and lacklustre. When you choose to attack a fleet (or get attacked by pirates/the Enemy) you have two choices – automatic or manual. Automatic, the game plays it out for you just like the name suggests, whereas manual you transported to the previously-mentioned delicious graphical setting… and the combat system.
It’s nothing more than disappointing. It’s not necessarily bad, per se – combat isn’t always a major focal point of a 4X game – it’s just not enjoyable, really. You get into combat, have multiple phases and options to choose from, and choose accordingly. More options are unlockable along the Diplomacy tree, but really, it’s not overtly necessary, as most of the base options get the job done.
Granted, the scenes that accompany your options are pretty gorgeous and there is some delight in watching your ships flee from pirates and jumping into something akin to Warp Drive – but that’s all there is to it really. Doing combat automatically is a lot easier and less of a hassle overall, but in multiplayer it’s not so much of an option against live opponents as there’s always a chance a lower point fleet can win if you’re not stupid about your actions.
Multiplayer is still a tiny bit glitched -
There’s nothing really noticeable about the glitches present in multiplayer, but when they pop up they’re a bit annoying. Every now and then my Scout class ships wouldn’t move at all, or wouldn’t cross into territory some neutral foes had (even though territories were Open), or wouldn’t move down a certain path making it take 2 or 3 turns longer to colonise a star system. They’re definitely minor things overall, but frustrating enough to note and care about, especially when you lose a fleet due to them not being able to move anywhere.
The Final Verdict
In all sincerity, I love Endless Space. It’s one of the best 4X games I’ve played in a long time, doing just about everything that is important to the genre correctly, while providing their own taste of things. I’m an egotistical, narcissistic person, and providing an outlet to this in the form of complete and utter domination of my foes via treachery or sheer firepower is just a satisfying experience that I cannot highly recommend enough.
By Thomas Robinson - Bio