It’s not often I get to play a game from a studio that lists it as its only game, but I do have that pleasure with Endless Space, a complex 4X from Amplitude Studios. As the title suggests, the game takes place in space, and the options for victory are many. Read on as we evaluate whether Endless Space can scratch that 4X itch.
As mentioned on the previous page, the tech tree in Endless Space isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s split into four sections, each of which focus on a certain goal. The northern section is all about building your army; east is for science, west for diplomacy and south for expansion. Each of these sections is linear to an extent, and a common 4X challenge is alive and well here: focus too much on one tree, and you’ll be seriously lacking in the others.
The military side of the tree is the easiest to deal with, as it’s mostly self-explanatory based on the icons alone. But everywhere else, you can expect to do a lot of hovering over to read what each one does, just to get a better idea of things. I wouldn’t be lying if I said you could spend a solid hour looking over the tech tree and still have to reference it many times over. In addition, each ruler has its own unique techs in the tree, usually benefitting whatever makes them unique in the first place.
In the shot below, you can get a feel for the tech tree when zoomed in. Icons with a red box in the corner means it’s military related, while other colors reference which FIDS it affects (such as green for Food, yellow for Dust). For an expanded view of what’s been below, check out this screenshot. Each side of the tree is equal length, so that shot helps put things into perspective.
One of the things that helps set Endless Space apart from other 4X games is that it allows you to build your own military units. Each ruler includes three basic ship designs, with more being available in the tech tree. Unlike Civilization, where advanced units can be built thanks to techs learned, Endless Space requires you to build a ship off of a template. Because of this, the ships you start out with become useless fast, and taking the time to build and fine-tune your own ships isn’t an option, but a requirement.
For lazies like me, who like having more advanced units added to the list automatically, this mechanic can be a little off-putting. But on the other side of the token, there are others who love this aspect of the game. An upside for those who don’t much care for the DIY path is that ship templates can be automatically upgraded when better techs are learned. Doing this requires Dust, and unfortunately units on the battlefield aren’t automatically upgraded along with it. For those, you must bring them back to friendly airspace, then pay some Dust to have them upgraded.
Perhaps the strangest aspect of Endless Space is its battle system, which at its heart has a little to do with how strong your units are and a lot to do with luck. When entering a battle, you’ll be able to choose three cards to play with, each of which can counter or be countered. These represent each weapon-type; long range, medium range and melee. If you happen to pick a card that ends up being countered, expect pain.
From what I’ve been reading around the Web, the battle system is widely agreed upon as not being perfect. I suspect that as time goes on, much like any 4X title, updates will be applied and things will smooth out. No one likes to have a strong army but lose because their card was countered… it makes the effort building and fine-tuning a ship seem pointless. While cards can be overcome if your army is truly powerful, that does mean you’ll of focused way more on that portion of the tech tree than the others.
Entering a battle reveals a brand-new view of the game, which shows a classic battle in space. You’ll be able to watch each unit shoot at each other, and monitor the health gauges up top. I’ll be honest in saying that these battles aren’t horribly interesting, and the only way to see who’s succeeding is to look up at the health gauge. For those who don’t want to choose their cards or watch the entire battle, an auto mode is available. I found myself using this only when I knew for certain that I’d be the one who wins. With equal fleets, you’d never chance it. You will lose.
At the intro, I mentioned space games aren’t for me, but Endless Space proved to me that there can be exceptions. While I still don’t favor sci-fi themes, the mechanics alone are what sold me on this game. They’re complex and challenging, both in a very good way. While I’m not sold on the battle system, I will at least give Amplitude a nod for doing something a little unique.
At $30 USD, Endless Space doesn’t require a major commitment from your wallet, yet its gameplay is almost on par with a game that costs twice as much. As with any 4X, there are bugs and general oddities here and there, but these are things that will be fine-tuned as time goes on, and from what I’ve seen from Amplitude so far, the company is committed to making sure that its game isn’t just as good as it can be, but is as good as it can be in the eyes of its customers.
If you like space, if you like 4X and if you like a serious challenge, I heartily recommend Endless Space. Just don’t expect to get up out of your chair for a while.
Have a comment you wish to make on this article? Recommendations? Criticism? Feel free to head over to our related thread and put your words to our virtual paper! There is no requirement to register in order to respond to these threads, but it sure doesn’t hurt!