"Amplitude Studios’ level of artistry helps transform the complexities of an often tedious genre into a surprisingly accessible product, without ever diluting conquest canon."
Endless Legend delivers a definitive 4X strategy experience, enhanced by impressive visuals, rich soundscapes, compelling narrative and solid information architecture. Amplitude Studios’ level of artistry helps transform the complexities of an often tedious genre into a surprisingly accessible product, without ever diluting conquest canon. Fully appreciating Endless Legend, like its contemporaries, requires time. But this vivid sci-fantasy, with its animated watercolor aesthetic, deserves every minute invested. I am not the target 4X audience. Turn-based hexagonal strategy does not denote any conceivable percentage of my gaming library. But I am now seriously reconsidering that stance. Thankfully, the full release now offers a brief but helpful tutorial, absent from early access. The fact that my inexperience with the genre did not hinder my enjoyment demonstrates how strong this release truly is.
The story opens on planet Auriga, in the formative years of the Endless Space universe. The eight refreshingly distinct factions take full creative advantage of both the science fiction and fantasy realms. These differences also profoundly impact gameplay. The immaterial Broken Lords survive on dust (currency) not food, a core resource for other factions. The Roving Clans, a nomadic race characterized by a flare for commerce and negotiation, cannot declare war. Each faction has true handicaps and advantages, exemplifying an asynchronous nature more typically found in real-time strategy.
"This efficiency, carried through multiple aspects of the game, makes decisions feel substantial."
Endless Legend allows organic acclimation, through purposeful design. Convenient tooltips extend help in-game. The beautifully minimal interface presents content clearly and effectively. Simple iconography and clean type highlight information without distracting from the gorgeously rendered map. The pairing of modern design amidst an illustrative landscape echoes the divided tone of speculative fiction. For those struggling with the smaller UI on larger displays, a “big screen” option scales type generously.
Legend uses Endless Space mechanics, standard to city management core. Empires subsist on five major resources; players must harvest crops, expand industry, accumulate wealth in dust, advance science through research and build influence to further diplomatic efforts with both major and minor factions. As cities evolve and goals change, players meaningfully distribute workers across these areas, concentrating efforts and accelerating growth. Luxury and strategic resources provide bonuses, uncovered while traversing the map. Technological advancement progresses through a tiered but ultimately non-linear skill tree. Unlocking upper level research only requires minimum fulfillment not completion. The flexible model frees players from wastefully powering through unnecessary objectives. This efficiency, carried through multiple aspects of the game, makes decisions feel substantial.
"Heroes develop along their own skill tree, and sport extensively upgradeable armor."
The two-season climate lobbies another challenge at the player. Auriga enjoys resplendent summers, promoting growth universally across developmental sectors. Civilian spirits rise, crops flourish and production peaks, essentially yielding greater dust collection through taxes. Winter attacks unpredictably and instantaneously, blanketing the environment in treacherous frost. The unforgiving season cuts movement in half, and deeply hinders all growth. Worker placement may need to be further consolidated. Seasons subtly enrich the immersion and work alongside other small, but appreciable, features to forge a greater believability. Powerful heroes lead an empire’s growing army. Heroes develop along their own skill tree, and sport extensively upgradeable armor. They can also be sold and purchased through the marketplace. Custom class creation extends further control over combat.
"It’s heavily inspired by the mechanics of Sid Meier's Civilization, while taking stylistic direction from grand fantasy mixed with a sampling of role-playing elements."
The detail of Endless Legend shines as players progress through the tenets of exploration and expansion. Like all strategy games, placement matters. The randomly generated terrain yields varying amount of resources. The combat system, more akin to RTS, best showcases a true innovation, tactical topography. Battles play out on the map instead of a removed setting, where natural barriers shield armies from oncoming attacks or obstruct a player’s offensive strategy. Stationing troops on higher ground provides a literal advantage. Players uninterested in combat can relinquish full control, and allow the AI to automatically compute and resolve battles based on statistics. Endless Legend integrates choice liberally; players dictate every aspect of the campaign. Citing this as overwhelming criticizes the genre more than the game itself. A certain level of micromanagement is expected with 4X titles.
Endless Legend borrows from every major contender in its genre. It’s heavily inspired by the mechanics of Sid Meier's Civilization, while taking stylistic direction from grand fantasy mixed with a sampling of role-playing elements. Rather than reinvent, it seeks to perfect, fine tuning the details that elevate a good title to a great one.
Review by: Ameenah Salamunic | Reviewed on: PC