Title: Endless Legend
Platform: Steam, PC, Mac
Reviewed on: Windows
Genre: Tactical RPG, Empire Strategy, Civilization
Players: Single player, Multiplayer
Written by Whistler 16th December 2014
It’s certainly been an interesting year, we’ve seen many greats crumble, we’ve seen many diamonds in the rough and so as this year comes to a close I got to review one last 4x empire strategy game (unless some other 4x empire strategy game hits the radar before 2015 which will make this rather awkward).
As well as being a 4x empire strategy title, this title by Amplitude studio also shares similarities with another sci-
However while many would be guilty of taking one glance and simply dismissing this as yet another Civilization-
Already Amplitude have shown they’re no strangers to thinking outside the box with Endless Space having you manage planets then more recent Dungeons of the Endless concocting a mixture of dungeon crawling with tower defence and Endless Legend is not the title where they plan to stop.
In fact it should be noted that if you didn’t notice the similar naming conventions here, that Endless universe is a rather spectacularly vast narrative to take in, as Endless Legend ties in both previous titles lightly yet the link is there and serves to truly paint the scale of the stage.
The stage being set on a small chapter in comparison in the form of the planet Auriga, a boiling pot of varying faction and races after the mythical Endless left their mark on the universe before becoming one with the stars in the cosmos.
And believe me when I say that the factions are a boiling pot of variability,
with eight very diverse factions each as unique as the other you’ll be amazed how much choosing one faction over another will completely change the architecture of your campaign.
Honestly I don’t know where to begin, there’s the Necrophages, an insectoid hive mind that need to be at constant war in order to sustain their need to propagate and feed which is integrated into both their lore and gameplay mechanics. Almost on the opposite side is the Drakken, an ancient dragon race that preceded even the Endless who see themselves as the peace keepers of the planet so they start off already knowing each faction as well as their location and are even capable of forcing treaties and peace with these factions. My personal favourite are the nomadic Roving Clans, a merchant faction who are masters of the marketplace, capable of seeing and benefiting from all transactions as well as being capable of moving their settlements in order to increase profits; they however cannot declare war directly so they have to play a very manipulative angle by banning factions from the marketplace or even profiting by selling units to both sides of a war. While the Roving Clans can move shop whenever they feel like it, the Cultists are limited to one city. A community designed faction, the Cultists of the eternal end are a faction who were relics created by the Endless who were driven mad and now their sole objective is to spread their belief, that of the eradication of all remnants of the Endless. These guys are incredibly unusual yet awesome to grasp, since they’re limited to a singular settlement they have a preacher unit (as opposed to a settler); these units go about converting minor faction settlements instead of typically pacifying them. A converted minor faction give the Cultists a constant stream of units and gain resource points surrounding the village back to the player.
Now you’ll see already the previous paragraph is huge and I’m barely scratching the surface of the overall depth Endless Legend has in store; there’s still a bunch of over factions each playing widely different from the above mentioned and you can even create your own faction if the endless replayability was endless enough for you. Now of course you will get bored reading about all the differences between the factions and the vast lore available for each and you might just actually pick one, once you start though it must be said that you should leave your understandings of Civilization behind (the game, not actual civilization) as Endless legend does drop off a lot of the formula in favour for some new blood.
For one veterans of Sid Meier’s Civilization series or indeed many strategy titles of similar nature will notice you cannot simply begin your settlement wherever you please nor can you just rapidly expand by cranking out settlers.
Even just as you’ve started a campaign choosing the right spot to begin your faction’s rise to power is crucial; you see as EL plays on a hexagonal based tile grid you’ll find that each tile can produce each of the four main resources (food, dust, industry and science) as well as several of the unique strategic and luxury resources. While science and dust are import it is crucial for a city to with food and industry, food for obvious reasons and industry points will dictate the speed of your production whether it be units or buildings and should you make the crucial mistake of placing a city down where there are no industry points then you’ll be hitting that restart button. Another part of this very distinct formula is how the game handles settlements, you see once you place a city down you will in turn gain a section of land which your influence spans. These sections of land are known as regions and once a region has a major faction settlement no one else can settle there unless they raze or take over that region’s settlement; this can be rather harsh on newcomers (seeing as how little the tutorial actually explains) especially when you actually start to expand and realize your region is already surrounded. However once I familiarized myself with these I found it so much more enjoyable, as it means the player is likely to pay more attention to their settlements and I found myself caring a lot more when it came to maximizing my resources and such.
Surprisingly enough for a 4x strategy title the visuals in this game are fantastic, while it does mean you’ll probably lose sight of your units at some point or the other the map is sight to behold.
There is a ludicrous level of rich detail painted into every tile that helps heighten the sense of immersion as you explore this familiar yet alien-
While at first the interface will arguably appear very unfamiliar with the several sub menus for trading, diplomacy, managing your armies, managing your heroes, research etc etc and pop ups tend to really get in the way (ie. getting told my cities have finished building when I’m in the middle of talking with my neighbouring faction) however as I found myself completely at home with the UI after my first few sessions the gameplay comes second nature as I begin my 3rd playthrough already.
However while the menus for managing my army have begun a mere extension of my keyboard and mouse, combat on the other hand still feels for lack of a better term, off.
There’s nothing exactly wrong with it and the auto resolve option is there but it definitely still feels odd; armies can be comprised of a faction hero and several units with a capacity of four that can be upgraded.
Rather than entering a battlefield similar to the Total War series or Age of Wonders III, once two opposing armies bump into each other combat begins with locking off a segment of the world map surrounding the battle. I do love this though as it means choosing your battles can mean a lot more such as choosing to fight at a narrow pathway surrounded by water or choosing to attack your enemies from the high ground, however there are times when the battlefield can utterly cripple either side such as not giving one side the chance to even get in range of the other. Once battle starts you’re given a side where you can freely place your units to get as much tactical advantage as you can, however fights tend to be less of strategy and more of simple numbers since the stronger army will likely win every time.
Of course for both conquering the lands and progressing as a civilization you’ll need to get to researching all those useful tech upgrades where once again simplicity offers itself to the overall experience.
Striking a balance between Endless Space and Beyond Earth’s rather complex tech web and the more standardized Civ V; tech trees are separated by era (which unlock after so many techs are researched) in circular discs and each research option is clearly explained along with nice icons to help quickly find that weapon’s upgrade or that strategic resource unlock. While I myself loved Endless Space’s tech tree I could understand the difficulties some had at grasping it whereas EL’s is quick and painless, allowing you to easily plan ahead and choose researches without having to get an wiki out to figure out what is what.
While you can play the campaign anyway you wish there is also the Quest system which acts as a sort of guide in order to help push your faction towards their unique story driven goals. It’s a subtle tweak but this is what I wanted from the questing structure that was offered in Beyond Earth, side quests will come and go such as from discovering a lost ruins or from minor faction villages but the major quest line offers a large insight into your faction. Quests can take some effort and on more than one occasion can even go against what kind of playstyle you’re going with such as the Drakken’s diplomatic styled missions suddenly chucking in quests forcing you to break an alliance or the Vaulter’s scientific conquest being put off in favour of taking the warpath, but through all of this it’s clearly explained and adds to variety the gameplay has to offer.
I could go on to write a book as I sing Endless Legend’s praise and it’s certainly took me a long time to synthesize my thoughts on this unique title, but simply put what EL has done what I’ve been hoping the guys over at Firaxis would do ever since Civ IV. Endless Legend not only refines core mechanics of the 4X genre, but expands upon them and certainly thinks outside the box to paint a plethora of unique elements with it’s polished quest architecture, its beautiful visuals and some of the best faction variety I’ve ever seen in a strategy title. Amplitude have certainly been experimenting the core frameworks that make up the 4X genre and have painted an seemingly endless world I shall indulge in for many hours to come.
Plenty of variety,
A bit daunting at first,
Somewhat clunky combat,
Endless Legend does what Civilization couldn’t and is honestly one of the most surprising indie gems to come out this year with a 9/10.