Friday, July 13, 2012

Endless Space Review

It has it's issues, to be sure, but Endless Space is well worth it if you are into 4X space games.

If you are a space junkie who enjoys strategy games, you are out of luck in today's day and age. Sure, there's Sins of a Solar Empire, but overall, there is a dearth of space themed strategy games.

It's a shame really, especially since there are so many of us out there who would enjoy more of a variety of games of this type to choose from.

Luckily, Amplitude Studios heard our pleas and has created a game which, though it may not be perfect, helps satiate our space deprived appetites.

One of the main strengths of Endless Space is its ability to take out the clutter and micromanagement typical of the 4X space genre and replace it with a streamlined presentation which keeps the action going at a swift pace.

Though fans of intensive micromanagement will feel slighted, overall I feel that this was a beneficial design decision that is certainly an improvement over Endless Space's predecessors. Games like Galactic Civilizations II (which came out six years ago), while fantastic, often became bogged down by their sheer complexity several turns into the game, ruining the overall fun factor

Endless Space never has this issue, though at times, this can be a negative. The game can be simplistic to a fault, such as when invading a planet or when modifying your ships. In the case of the former, planetary invasions are accomplished simply through the click of a button.

During invasions, your fleet will bombard the enemy system, and after a certain amount of turns, you will take the system. It isn't very interactive and the only way to stop the process is for an enemy fleet to come and destroy the ships you've ordered to commit to an invasion.

In other words, ground defenses and planetary upgrades have no real effect in repelling an invasion force other than causing it take more turns. If you don't send a fleet to repel the enemy, you will lose your system no matter what.

As for modifying your ships, Endless Space offers relatively limited options. You can change what weapons, defenses, and support modules are on your ship, but you have no say in their visual appearance (neither for the ship itself or for its modules). This is an annoyance coming from Galactic Civilizations, but by no means is it a game breaker. In reality, it just means you'll be spending more time playing the game instead of fiddling around in the shipyard adding new fins to your custom cruiser.

The research in Endless Space is pretty standard. There are four branches, each offering different ways to advance your empire. Unfortunately, different races don't have varying tech options so don't expect too much of a different play style when choosing another race to play with.

And just so I don't end this review on a bad note, I will say that the battle system in Endless Space is amazing. To me, it provides a great solution to the problem of boring Civilization-like combat in 4X games. I don't really like the idea of real time battles in the turn based genre as I'm more into Empire management than I am into combat strategy, and Endless Space's card based system works well to provide a middle ground of sorts.

Essentially, the manual battles take you to a cinematic view of your fleet engaging the enemy, with you being able to choose certain strategic cards which provide some sort of benefit to your ships. These benefits can be negated or enhanced based on what the enemy chooses, so it's important to put some thought into your choice. Do you boost your offense at the cost of losing defensive capability? Do you risk disrupting the enemies weapons instead of increasing the power of your shields?

Questions like these will be asked frequently in the heat of battle, and often times the right card choice is the difference between getting wiped out and beating a technically superior enemy fleet.

Overall, Endless Space is a worthwhile space 4X game that will keep you up well into the early morning with its addictive and uncomplicated turn based gameplay. Though sometimes the game can become too simplistic compared to its contemporaries, the spectacular combat system and non-migraine inducing Empire management features more than make up for that.

Endless Space isn't the game of the year, nor is it the best 4X space game of all time. However, it will definitely please fans of the underdeveloped space strategy genre.

If I had to give it a number, I'd say this game is an 8/10. Not perfect, but still a great experience. And for thirty bucks, it's well worth the price.

With further community and developer support, there is no telling how much this game will improve in the future. For Endless Space, the sky truly isn't the limit!

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