I’ve been playing Endless Space for a while now, having been fortunate enough to be involved in the Beta. For those of you who haven’t heard about this game yet, it’s a 4X space sim, much like the Galactic Civilizations series. For those of you who have never heard of Galactic Civilization, then think of the game Civilization, but in space.
I was able to jump right into Endless Space, having obsessed over turn based strategy games in the past. I knew that you’d have to feed people on your worlds, build improvements, build various ships, research tech…and everything was where I expected it to be.
The setup screen is much like any other, giving you the ability to make the map as large or as populated as you want it to be. You can set victory conditions, game speed, galaxy shape…basically everything you need to customize (and maximize) your play experience.
Galactic Civilization II went as far as letting you create your own ships from scratch using a simple in-game interface, where you could add weapons, shields, armor, engines, and other things to the ugliest or prettiest ship you could conjure up. You won’t be able to design your ships from the ground up in Endless Space, but you can customize it and upgrade it as you research new technology.
Combat operates a little differently in Endless Space. Unlike Galactic Civilization II, combat is carried out in phases. You’ll have a long-range phase, medium-range phase, and a short-range (melee) phase, and you can activate special abilities on each phase, which have a rock / paper / scissors mechanic. Your level of technology, the way your ships are customized, and the special abilities you choose all have an effect on the outcome of the battle. Of course, outnumbering your opponent twenty to one doesn’t hurt…
One thing that caught my eye immediately when playing this game for the first time was the slick interface. It not only has a futuristic feel to it, but it does its job well. There is still a learning curve involved with figuring out where all of the information is displayed, but it didn’t take me long to catch on.
Colonization works similarly to that of Galactic Civilization…that is…build colony ships and find worlds suitable to your race. You can research technology that will make uninhabitable worlds tolerable and thus, colonizable. What’s new in Endless Space is the ability to colonize worlds from other colonized worlds within the same system. If you colonized a world via a colony ship and there are three other worlds available to be colonized, you don’t need to build three more colony ships. All you need to do is perform the action via the solar system’s production que, where other improvements and ships are built.
Fleet size limits are determined by technology, and individual ship sizes are determined by the size of the ship’s chassis. You’ll often be grouping a bunch of small ships together, placing one or two dreadnoughts in a group, or a combination of the two with a few cruisers added in for good measure.
The overall interface, zoomed out to galaxy level, is fairly easy to understand. You’ll be able to see which planets you can colonize and which ones you can’t, as well as what special resources that you may have found on them. Fleets orbit planets, though they must be created after they are built, otherwise, they’ll sit in your planet’s shipyard doing nothing.
You can hire special characters, which can be placed on planets and fleets to provide bonuses. What’s more, they can level up as they perform their duties after being assigned, allowing the player to customize their abilities to best suit their current need. You’re limited in the beginning by how many special characters you can hire, but you can unlock a larger pool via the tech tree.
The tech tree itself is fairly large. You’ll have the ability to see what you’re unlocking as well as pick a tech that’s farther down the branch. Picking technologies farther ahead will create a que, and the AI will research the required prerequisite techs in order to get to the tech you wanted in the first place. You’ll be able to research techs related to combat, planetary improvements, and foreign relations, just to name a few.
I enjoyed my time with Endless Space, and I have no doubt that I’ll be wasting many more hours clicking on that “next turn” button. It’s slick, it’s stable, and it does what it sets out to do well. 4X turn based strategy game fans should take a look at this game further. Oh, and you Battlestar Galactica fans may find some of the music a little familiar…
My gaming laptop’s video card was kicking on regularly and my system has a decent setup. I’d double-check the system requirements and your PC specs before purchasing.
Final Verdict: 9/10