Space! Queue epic music and Morgan Freeman voice over and you get the idea of what Endless Space hopes to achieve. A new 4x game from developer Amplitude Games brings the Civilization feel to space much like Sins of a Solar Empire, but on a slightly smaller and more accessible scale. I very rarely play these 4x space games, and even though I’m an avid Civ player, I always thought taking the idea to space would be too daunting. Thankfully after playing Endless Space I believe my apprehensions coming in have been extinguished.
The story in this game is almost nonexistent. When you begin a new match you get a small back story on the society you’ve picked to play as. But besides that, there is no overarching narrative or purpose, leaving you to make your own goals. In fact, there is very little single player content at all. No scenarios or campaign segments are present, and you only options is to play a game against the AI or jump into multiplayer, which is really one of the games only major fault. It would have been excellent to at least include scenarios with set circumstances like being a young civilization that just discovered space travel, and having to explore an already populated galaxy. You could even have a limited number of turns to defend against an imminent invasion, or have to evacuate your population before your home system's star explodes. Any of these would have added to the single player content.
You get a lot of customizable options when creating the game you want to play. You have a selection of multiple pre-made cultures to choose from with different bonuses to things like technology production and population increase, but some also have negatives like limited industrial production and weaker spacecraft. One cool feature lets you create your own society with its own plusses and minuses, which is a nice addition. You can decide how many opponent cultures are in your galaxy and even the shape and size of the galaxy you are competing in. So though the single player content is limited, the customization options and multiple win conditions give it a good amount of replay.
Playing this turn-based strategy game is also very stream-lined and quick. Notifications let you know when production and research is complete in the multiple systems you will control, and you only have to worry about four main types of resources: Dust (which is basically your currency), Tech research, industrial ability, and population growth are all you really need to worry about. Special materials are needed to produce some ships and upgrades, but icons that are above each system in the galaxy view allow information about these materials to be easily attained. Overall the HUD is simple and easy to understand and use after a few turns of becoming acclimated to it.
Expanding your culture is also completely dependent on your tech tree, which is nicely broken down to four main branches of industrial, economic, exploration and warfare. Certain tech upgrades are required to colonize specific planets or to terraform them and change the types as certain planets are better for certain resources i.e. volcanic planets are better for industrial and tropical planets are better for population growth. Entering new systems is always exciting to see what planets are in them and really gives you a sense of exploring the galaxy.
Warfare in the game is the crack in its armor. As other ships enter your systems you can choose to attack them, and if you do you can either have the battles done automatically based on the combat score of all the ships within that specific fleet. The other option is to fight the battles manually, which has you choose three attacks: One for long-range, mid-range and melee. The battles play out in a rock, paper, scissors way, where each attack chosen by fleets play against each other. One major issue is how I don’t really know what defeats what without trial and error. The battles look nice but can only be view during the manual combat, which is a shame because when large fleets are fighting with a huge planet and sun in the background, they get a very epic feel.
Another interesting addition is how you hire heroes to help improve different stats. You can hire one hero and assign them to a galaxy to increase certain aspects of production, or assign them as fleet leaders that will improve defensive and offensive powers for your ships. All heroes also level up periodically, allowing them to learn new abilities to help improve bonuses applied to wherever they are assigned.
Overall, Endless Space is a great entry level 4x space title. After a few turns you get use to the HUD and the information you get from it and really start just cranking away at tech upgrades and industrial production and get a good flow on each of your turns. I really fell into Endless Space, and if you are familiar with games like Civilization and Age of Empires, you should give this game a try if you're looking for the jump into space. I really hope some more single player scenarios are added as DLC later to extend the life of this title, and hopefully combat gets expanded as well. This is a great budget-priced title for anyone’s library.
Four out of Five Hadokens