by Derk Bil
previewed on PC
We want MoOre!
The original two Master of Orion games have long represented the bar against which turn-based 4X game were measured. For a decade and a half, they fended off comparison with relative ease, even against the third failed game. With Endless Space, Amplitude Studios launched a serious challenger to MoO’s crown in 2012. It wasn’t quite the spiritual successor that fans had been pining for, but it got closer than any of the games that tried before. With Endless Space 2 now in the works, you can imagine our excitement as we headed over to Amplitude’s Gamescom booth to check out how the game is progressing.
Endless Space 2’s “big picture” remains pretty much the same as the one featured in its predecessor. Thinking “never change a winning team”, Amplitude set out to improve and refine rather than reinvent. For starters, the game looks much better and especially the transition from universe to planetary system - which is now animated - looks considerably more appealing. The planets neatly line up and then slowly rotate round their axis on a background canvas that visually suits to your little corner of the nebula instead of a big slab of almost-complete darkness.
The interface also received an overhaul and looks sleek and intuitive despite Amplitude’s signature minimalist approach to interface design. Information overload is avoided at all times while keeping additional information close at hand but cleverly hidden away. By holding the spacebar pressed down, you can have a gander at everything that is hidden underneath the interface’s surface by seamlessly switching to a far more abstract view in terms of graphics and available information. It offers an in-depth look at the backstory and any numbers and statistics that you could possibly want for.
In Endless Space, the only portraits you’d really see would be the ones of your heroes. This time around, there are for more people to meet so it is great that their character portraits have been animated to some extent. It may at times be as subtle as a few blinks of an eye, but it adds to the game’s liveliness.
Among the new people in Endless Space 2, are politicians, who bring a whole political system along with them that can really shake things up. Imagine playing a peace loving species and stumbling upon an empire that lives for waging war. Their demeanor may strike fear into your people and give rise to a militaristic political party. Being the emperor, you have significant influence over the elections. You can choose to support the party during the elections so that they can take lead in the senate. Not only have you made some new friends, you also reap benefits exclusive to their specific brand of political philosophy.
When you do go to war, you will automatically hit the next overhaul made for Endless Space 2. In the original game, you’d initiate a sort of rock-paper-scissors game in which you played buff cards for the various stages of a battle. This time things will be a bit more involved. Much like an American football game, you set up a formation and strategize how the formation will move and behave. If planned well, your strategy could give you an advantage over your foe but you could also be playing straight into their hand. It’s not the end of the world if you fail to pick the optimum strategy, as long as you have the biggest guns, you’re cool.
Between Endless Space 2, Paradox’s recently announced Stellaris, and the upcoming Master of Orion reboot from Wargaming, 2016 looks to be a very promising year for this strategy subgenre. We’ll know then if we’ll have a new king on the 4X space throne, or if MoO - old or new - remains comfortably seated.