I haven't played that many 4x strategy games and I'm barely familiar with the term, but I have played an immense amount of strategy games and you can see Endless Space being influenced by many classics, like the Galactic Civilization series. Endless Space is a 4x turn based strategy game that puts a heavy focus on exploration, diplomacy, economy and war, but don't expect something combat focused like Sins of a Solar Empire or Freespace, this game is more focused on building your empire. You have eight different races to choose from, all of which have their traits, bonuses and negatives, and you can play the game singleplayer or multiplayer. Each race also has a massive tech tree, most of which is the same between all races, but each tree has unique technology specific to each race. There isn't a story based campaign in Endless Space and it is just big open sandbox style game that lets you customize everything. It came out on July 4th, exclusively on Steam and PC, and costs $30. The game can be played solo or with many other players online. For a general preview of the game watch this video, but the rest of this post will be focused on reviewing the different portions of the game.
One of the first things you may notice about Endless Space are the details. Every planet in the game has a specific type, size and can have many different resources attached to it. If you jump into the ship designer you will find quite a few options for designing your ships, like the chassis type, different armor options, many different weapon types and a lot more. Everything in Endless Space is pretty detailed, but not overly complex like many games of the genre. There is a tutorial system, but it is not in depth and basically just explains things with help boxes every time you do something for the first time. The tutorial system could use a lot of work, especially since it explains very little about late game and diplomacy. Despite the lack of a full tutorial system it isn't very hard to learn all the basics.
The battle system in Endless Space has its share of negatives and positives. I like to refer to it as a card based battle system, mainly because you play abilities per each of the three phases in a battle and each ability is displayed as a card, but many people seem to inexplicably hate the idea of a card based battle system for a space game. When you roam around the galaxy with a fleet, which is just a icon on the map, you will engage in battle with other players or pirates when you both come into the same system. Battles relies entirely on your abilities, many of which are researched and a few are earned by hero abilities, and how well your ships are designed. There are three main weapon types, plasma, kinetic and missile, each of which have their defenses specifically designed to protect again them, so it is pretty tough to always have your ships equipped the best for any battle, but you can try to prepare by scouting the enemy and seeing what kind of ships they have. Take a look at the battle system in action.
Many people seem to hate the battle system because it is automated and you don't have any direct control, which is a valid complaint, but not so much for the type of game this. Traditionally these types of strategy games don't allow you to fully control combat or go into in depth like you would with a Total War game. Nevertheless, combat doesn't feel all that exciting and despite the exciting visuals it does become stale and repetitive once you have to go up against an enemy who has twenty or more fleets. There are a few things that could be done to give the player more control of a battle, like allowing ships to pick priority targets so you actually strategically take out the greatest threat first. The battle system does work well and it is gorgeous to watch, but it needs more to keep players interested in it and more to give it strategic depth.
The artificial intelligence in Endless Space is bound to make you appreciate it and dislike it at the same time. This is one of the few games out there that will actually let you have a peaceful co-existence with other the AI and after playing so many games that promise that, and fail, it is delightful to see. Each race has a focus, like diplomacy or economics, and they also have a basic demeanor, like friendly or warlike; the AI actually adheres to those. Furthermore, if you ally yourself with someone you don't have to worry about inevitable betrayal, especially if they are a friendly race. The AI does have problems though.
Endless Space is one of the best turn based strategy games to land on PC in years. Sure some of elements of it are a bit lackluster, but as a package it is a impressive experience. If you are looking for something action packed and devoid of depth then don't look here, for Endless Space lets you control a massive galaxy of star systems and go through the game however you wish, but it doesn't let the AI work with in perfect synchronization. It is an impressive offering that has a ton of content, especially between singleplayer and multiplayer, and they are continually updating the game and planning for new features in the future. This is a well made, well supported game and it is worthy of your $30.
Violent Score: 8 (out of 10)
Main Website: http://endless-space.amplitude-studios.com/
Steam Page: http://store.steampowered.com/app/208140/
*Review copy provided by Reverb Publishing and Amplitude Studios
-Written by Sean Cargle