by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
Winter is coming, seriously…(cont.)
Fortunately, there is research that can alleviate some of the pain. There is nothing to keep you warm during winter, but at least you can research city improvements that increase efficiency to the point where winters become a little more manageable. Through research, you also increase army sizes, improve weapons and armor, speed up travel over roads, and more.
Most regions are populated by minor races that, once subjugated, can provide additional population and bonuses to the region. Assimilating them, they even provide bonuses on an empire level. Subjugation of minor races can be done through combat or by fulfilling quests given at their villages. Quests can involve attacking other villages, delivering resources or exploring ruins on the map for items that can then be used by your heroes.
City influence isn’t measured by its claim on territory, but by points that are generated each turn and then pooled together. These points can be used in the Empire Plan, adding empire wide bonuses. They are also required for diplomatic actions. Want to declare war? You’re sod out of luck if you do not have enough influence points. Want to negotiate a new trade agreement? Not without shelling out a huge swad of influence points. The AI, too, is fairly active and tells you it is closing its borders when the relationship cools down or offers compliments when it wants to get closer.
Initially, I found the requirement of influence points in diplomacy to be a little restrictive. I mean, why would I need influence to wage war, right? It makes sense for things that need to be negotiated, but war is a unilateral decision. As I played, however, I found I placed much more value on all of the diplomatic actions. Nothing is done on a whim as any points spent on diplomacy can no longer go towards the Empire Plan.
A thinking man’s game
It was that realization that made me have another close look at Endless Legend’s core components. I studied the economical aspects, thought about how different each battle plays out and how a well thought out Empire Plan can pull you through the winter while the lack of one can put you on the brink of annihilation. I considered how badly the strategy I developed playing the Ardent Mages worked in my second game when I chose the Broken Lords as my race.
It became clear that Endless Legend is a thinking man’s game. Whatever minute change you make, it has a profound impact on how a session evolves. Your chosen race, the route you follow along the tech tree, focusing on peaceful expansion or brutal conquest, it all sets you on a different path. Even assigning a worker to a different resource may prove to a ripple effect if it means a unit is produced in time to defend from an incoming army.
Where managing your empire and navigating the treacherous waters of diplomacy takes lots of thought, however, war can be a little too easy. The AI’s aggressiveness changes depending on your empire’s ranking and behaviour. Subtle warnings often tell you of an impending skirmish with a neighbour and when war breaks out you either scramble to defend your cities or go on the offensive. The AI’s decisions are sound as long as it has standing armies, but once you take them out it is rarely able to pose a threat again.
Good games are often simply about applying familiar gameplay mechanics in a tried and true fashion while draping them in visuals that set them apart from their peers. Great games are about discovery, about experiencing new things that you’ve not experienced before. They make you want to go out and tell your friends to go and play them.
Endless Legend makes me glad to have you as my audience so I can tell so many more people than just my friends that they should buy this game. Endless Legend is not a fast game, but if you prefer your games deep and thoughtful, then it is this game that will put your brain to task.
Wonderfully polished game full of surprise and discovery.
Some players may find the pace to be a little slow. AI could do with improvement.