I’m Playing…Endless Space
When I reviewed Endless Space earlier this month, I did not believe it was worth the price being charged for the game. Now, almost 50 gameplay hours later, my opinion remains the same, but I have some ideas about ways to improve the game.
After playing 5 different rounds, I’m yet to beat a single campaign, even on the easiest setting. I blame this noobery (that’s right, I make up words) on the fact that Endless Space is the first time I’ve heard of the 4X genre (explore, expand, exploit, exterminate), so the subtle nuances of this type of game are Greek to me.
However, I’ve been a gamer since the late 80′s, so I find it hard to believe that I am the only one who has never heard of this strategic genre of gameplay. Granted, I’ve always been a console gamer, and I’ve played maybe a dozen PC games in over 20 years.
Part of the reason I’ve avoided PC gaming for so long is the exclusivity of this club. Many “hardcore” PC games require knowledge of earlier games in order to understand and enjoy the current games. Endless Space is no exception, with static pictures and wordy descriptions acting as the only tutorial for new players.
But before I get into how Amplitude Studios and Iceberg Interactive can fix the game, allow me to describe all of my experiences with this game so far. If you want to give me advice on how to stop losing, leave a comment. Don’t worry about making me feel like a noob.
Each game starts with one scout ship and one colony ship orbiting the player’s home system with one populated planet. Players can send the ships to surrounding systems, looking for more worlds to colonize. Also, the home world can be exploited for one of the 4 FIDS (food, industry, dust, science). Typically, I exploit my world based on the needs of the system, but after reading forums online, I started exploiting for industry to make sure other technologies and improvements are built faster. Finally, before ending the turn, I lower the tax rate as much as I can to make my citizens fervent, which comes with a set of bonuses.
In subsequent turns, I purchase improvements for the system and go through all of the low-level technologies to begin exploring and colonizing other systems. I manually improve my fleets with any new technology made available, and once I have the money, I hire a hero to govern my home system.
After about 50 turns, I’ve built a sizable empire and have met my opposing empire. At this point, I begin building a military fleet of about 4 ships per system, and I’m still mightily outmatched by the other fleet.
Soon, the other empire will offer peace, and as long as that peace does not have to be bought with my precious resources, I’ll accept it to buy more time for expansion. By this point, I’ve created the Cashmere Effect, which allows me to travel through wormholes, but my opponents are already expanding into my territory.
After another 50 to 100 turns, all the systems are colonized, and my opponent declares war with me, sending me on a feeble defensive. Soon, my empire falls to pieces and in another 50 turns, I’ve lost.
Whenever faced with a fleet battle, I select “Auto,” since the two times I tried “Manual” ended in utter defeat. Unfortunately, “Auto” does me few favors, shaving health off the enemy fleet while annihilating my own ships and heroes.
And like that, the game is over.
The only reason I continue to play this game is because it gives me something to do during the train ride to work, but after a perfect loss record, I have become genuinely offended. I do not like this game, but I absolutely hate losing all the time. This has become an issue of pride. I will not stop playing this game until I have won at least 1 match.
And all of this can be fixed with an upgraded tutorial. One of the suggestions I’ve read online is to offer a scripted tutorial mode, where a full game shows the ins and outs of the game with few decisions left to the player. Rather than static images and wordy descriptions, this tutorial would offer consequences and understanding for every action in the game.
However, a guided tutorial can only go so far, as players will eventually go on their own and leave the safety of the script. For this, the “Newbie” setting on the game should continue to hold the player’s hand with constant tips and advice, based on what’s happening in the game. Here, the player can enjoy the freedom of making his own decisions, but when the player is stuck, the game can offer suggestions for improving his situation.
If both of these guides were adopted, I would easily say Endless Space is a $30 game. But while it remains a hardcore PC game, there is no reason for this game to cost this much, and there is definitely no draw for gamers wanting to try something new.
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