Endless Space Review
When most people think about sci-fi strategy games, they picture StarCraft. Iceberg Interactive and Amplitude Studios hope to change that paradigm with Endless Space. But is this twist on the genre a refreshment or a bore?
Endless Space anchors itself on its gameplay, so what better way to start a review of the game than through a look at how it’s played?
While most strategy games focus on a balance between development and battle, Endless Space focuses on what it calls the 4 X’s: explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate.
Players start with one star system and one colonized planet. From there, the player can begin exploiting the resources of the planet, building various ships (starting with scout, colony, and defender), or researching various technologies to improve one of four tech trees.
These tech trees allow for improvements to exploring and colonizing technologies, military fleet improvements, diplomacy options, or scientific breakthroughs. Players can choose an advanced technology, and the game will chart the shortest path to that skill, learning every technology on the way.
When players are ready to branch out from their initial colony, they can colonize other planets within the same star system or build colony ships and send them off to new star systems to begin expanding the empire.
During that time, players will manage their colonize through setting up a hero as the system governor or protecting the system with ships, also available for hero control.
As players grow their territory, they will eventually run into one of the other alien races of the game. Either meeting one of the other empires or clashing with loyalty-free pirates, player will be forced to protect their colonies or create alliances.
Eventually, the player will have to amass a fleet and fight. When fighting, players can allow the game to automatically use the available weapons and defenses of each fleet, or the player can go into a graphically-driven 3-phase battle. First, players choose long-range attacks or defenses, followed by mid-range attacks, and finished with melee battles. Every phase is timed, so players must think fast before the battle begins.
However, the automatic battles tend to favor the resources of the player, and overwhelming odds can be conquered based on the computer’s choices for the fight.
All of this feels like a board or card game. Like a game of Magic, players get a turn, and during that turn, the opponents can interrupt and change the players’ strategies.
But this also makes the game much slower, especially at the beginning. As the player gets more technologies and territories, the action speeds up and becomes intense, but the first few hours feel sluggish in comparison to other games.
While the game does offer an online mode, I did not play it, as it is very similar to the rest of the gameplay, only with human opponents, instead of all computer players.
Graphics and Sound
The game is beautifully designed, but not necessarily special.
The bulk of the game feels fairly dull, with pretty stars and planets. At first glance, this looks amazing especially with a mock-3D perspective and planetary closeups showing the colonies on each planet. But these views become repetitive after an hour of gameplay.
Fortunately, the story cut scenes and the battle sequences offer graphical diversity. The cut scenes offer a comic-like view of the game with beautiful, hand-drawn images. In the battle sequences, the details of each ship class wows the player as they fire and battle each other.
However, if the player chooses to allow the computer to do the work during the battles, the player will not see these 3D sequences.
During the game, the sounds and music offer nice background noise to the game, with voice acting only occurring during cut scenes. Instead, the music gives the player a touch of honey to the coffee that is Endless Space.
The major issue facing Endless Space is the sluggish pace of the start of a campaign. Like a game of Risk or Monopoly, players spend the first several turns reminding themselves that they are having fun, whether it feels like it or not.
However, worse than the speed of the game is the fact that this game does not feel new.
The player only sees what the developer and publisher released, and any development or advertising costs are not the concern of the consumer.
But as I look at the price of the game, I realize that the player is buying the behind-the-scenes process of the game, not the game itself.
With all elements added, Endless Space offers little more than Facebook or mobile
games, most of which are free to the player with reliance on microtransactions or advertising.
I would pay $15 for Endless Space. Players can download the game for PC (Mac coming in the future) on Steam for $30.
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