by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
The 4X revival
There has been no great abundance of Turn-Based Strategy titles over the last couple of years. With only Civilization and Might & Magic championing the genre, it seemed all but dead. Luckily things are looking up now. With several turn-based games slated for release this year, only naysayers doubt that the genre is in the midst of a renaissance that is reminiscent of the Role-Playing revival from back in the nineties. Spearheading this 'second coming' is Endless Space.
Created by Indie studio Amplitude, Endless Space is a 4X strategy title in the vein of Master of Orion. Players control a budding civilization taking its first steps into space, only to discover that they are not alone. Facing up to seven other civilizations, players are tasked to carve out a place among the stars, choosing to do so in peace or with guns blazing.
And God created … creatures
You have a choice between eight different races. Picking one may seem a little daunting at first as ach race has a long list of special perks and most of them sport one or two weaknesses. For instance, the machine-like Sowers can colonize any planet right off the bat but will take a production hit on planet types that they have not yet researched the appropriate technologies for. Their fleets are a tad slow and they’re not great researchers either. Sophons on the other hand, are fantastic researchers, have fast ships but lack military prowess when it comes to defending their colonies. The effects of perks and disadvantages are felt most strongly during the early stages of the game when even minute differences count. Eventually, though, research acts as the great equalizer and alleviates many race disadvantages.
Starting planets are bereft of anything except the ability to build ships, erect structures that provide upgrades, or focus your industry on research or increasing cash flow. As with any good 4X game, deciding on a starting strategy is important and you will have to juggle between research, food, production and cash but each of these provides a viable option for growth. I’ve often seen the AI focus almost completely on cash (called Dust in the game), opting to buy ships and structures rather than building them and do well with that strategy. You assign roles to each individual planet, directing its focus on producing cash, research, production or food. Often, the basic properties of a planet – largely determined by its basic makeup – play an important part in assigning a role. Desert planets are great for production but aren’t going to contribute much towards your cash income while Arctic environments are best suited for research but aren't going to make you rich. Retooling a planet can be done quickly and painlessly - especially when the system has a few inhabitants living in it - allowing you to adapt your empire’s focus as needed.
The campaign map consists of three (arguably four) layers that, somewhat akin to a Matroyshka doll, get smaller with each step. From small to large, there is a Planet level, a System level, the small section of the map that you are originally confined to and lastly the full campaign map. Wormholes prevent you from traveling the full map right from the get go, effectively sectioning off portions of the map (arguably creating a layer). Wormhole technology becomes available fairly early in the game and you’ll soon be able to go beyond the borders of your section. A system can hold up to six planets, usually mixing several planet types, sizes and special resources. Structures are built 'system wide' and will provide their bonuses to any planet in the system rather than individual planets. Through research, planet specific upgrades can be unlocked as well. Meteor strikes add production bonuses, orbiting moons can be surveyed and various terra-forming options can turn even the most desolate planet into a veritable paradise.
Great depth, fantastic looking combat, gameplay that will keep you busy for months.
Races could be more unique.