Strategy games don’t get a lot of love these days. With real time strategy simultaneously being taken over by the player killing, competitive focus of DotA style games and corrupted by pay to save time casual family games the entire strategy genre right now seems fractured and without much to champion it. I can’t remember the last time a full fledged 4x strategy game came out so when I heard Endless Space was being released I had to give a try.
Endless Space is a lot like 4x games of the past. With a hard sci fi setting full of strange and interesting races, you set out from your homeworld to explore space, colonize it, use its resources to fuel your empire, and ultimately crush your foes. Like all 4x strategy games Endless Space is turned based, but with the amount of management options you have at hand you will pack a lot into each turn. There is fleets to manage, planets to examine, improvements to build, and research to be done. If you’ve played something like Galactic Civilizations or Sid Meier’s fantastic Civilization, you will understand the basics pretty well. However, even if you are a veteran of turn based strategy games, you may find that Endless Space has a bit of a learning curve to it. Even after 35 hours of play time I felt that I didn’t understand enough about how the four basic resources (food, industry, dust or currency in this game, and science) were being calculated. I constantly struggled on a normal setting to dig myself out of fourth place in the galaxy point system and wanted to know what my opponents were doing to get such a high score.
A lot of this I attribute to the research table. It seems to me that research in this game is extremely important, it unlocks absolutely everything. The research is divided up into four main groups: Galactic Warfare, Diplomacy and Trading, Exploration and Expansion, and Applied Sciences. So say you want to research the ability to colonize on a new type of planet. This would fall under the Exploration and Expansion tab. Say you wanted to research a cool new missile. This of course would fall under Galactic Warfare. This all seems pretty straightforward at first, but once you get into the trees it gets a little confusing. For instance, in order to get a new hull type and thus bigger ships I need to learn Xenobotany. Eh? Yes before I understand how to make a larger ship, I need to learn about alien plantlife. In the Diplomacy and Trading area it’s a little worse. The ability to make peace with other alien races is under a technology called Relativistic Economics. I believe with the good intention of simplifying what is honestly a buttload of information and abilities (like most turn based strategy games have), the oversimplification backfired slightly and the merging of several concepts made everything sort of convoluted. In addition to all that some of the wording on improvements seem a bit misleading. A building will say +2 food per person on tundra type planets, but I believe takes into account all the population in the system. Maybe it was just me, but these little unclear bits throughout the game made it tough for me to grasp the more advanced concepts of the game.
Are these small issues enough to warrant staying away from this game? Absolutely not. If you like strategy games of any kind or have never tried a 4x game, Endless Space is a great game to jump in with. Veterans and noobs alike will love the beautiful art, the interesting races, the various technologies, the space battles, the trading, just about everything really. Endless Space may have some things to work out with the interface, but that is easy mode. I think Endless Space represents a new and lasting entry into the world of 4x strategy.