TL;DR – A polished and calming take on the 4x genre
Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars
Several years ago I picked up a new space 4X game called Endless Space. It was from a new developer Amplitude Studios and combined a strategy game with space in a way that I loved. It started a bit rough around the edges but grew into a really solid game. Now when I heard there was a sequel, I was interested but it dropped a bad time, well now I have some time at home thanks to *gestures broadly around* it was a good moment to go back and rectify that.
So to set the scene, Endless Space 2 is a 4X turn-based strategy game. This means that you pick a race like The United Empire, or The Vodyani, or The Hisso, from there you need to eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate. You will do this by building new colonies on Mediterranean or terrain or monsoon planets, researching technologies from the technology web, and probably concurring a neighbour or two.
The first thing you notice is just how polished everything is with regards to the presentation. The smooth way the ships move around, the presentation of the planets, and the way the probes move through the solar systems. To add to this all the art design is something to behold. Each of the leader and hero portraits is stunning exemplified by the art style that sits somewhere between and painting and a video. While art design is not everything in a game, it does help set a mood and it brings you into this world. This continues with the animated battles, which I will be honest I skipped most of the time, but I did like watching those big conflicts play out. Another area that I cannot praise enough is the musical score, sometimes it is soaring with a choral charge, sometimes it is a single clarinet singing into the night, but it is always amazing.
From my playthroughs, I think it helps if you find a race that you can get into the groove with. After playing around with a few the first one that I liked was The Unfallen. They are a plant species with an almost hive mind and you need to connect systems to your vine network before you can colonise them. But after playing a couple of more races I found an infinity with The Vaulters, they don’t start in a solar system but in a colony ship on its last gasps escaping a dying planet. You only ever had the one colony ship the Argosy, but you can build portals that allow you to warp from one side of your empire to another. This lead to me having these little pockets of awesome around the place that I could jump my fleets to and fro from.
One area where I think you might take it or leave it with the game is the story aspects that are sometimes inspired and sometimes more than a little odd. Everything about this game is about building this universe and this world, a world built on the ruins of the one that came before (The Endless). This makes it a really interesting setting with every tooltip providing more lore to dive into this world. Lore that is also found in their of their Endless games. A lot of this is shown through the different quest you can get throughout the game where you get to pick of two or three different options that can give you different bonuses and shape the face of your empire. However, you can have so many different quests going at the same time that it can be hard to keep track and some of the plot lines, especially around The Academy that gets dense and hard to parse.
When you are jumping into a game that has had several expansions, it can be hard to work out all the different new features on top of everything that has been added to the base game. I had played the first Endless Space, so I think that gave me a leg up before diving in that was helpful. One area that did take a couple of games to properly work out was the Tech web and how it all worked and that you could pick your own techs rather than the suggested. However, one area that I have yet to master/understand/parse is the hacking minigame and I started just ignoring it at some point in my playthroughs.
In the end, do we recommend Endless Space 2? Yes, yes we would. It is a beautifully produced world and game and if you like strategy games then you have a lot of fun with this. I will say that it is a bit slower-paced than a lot of similar games so don’t go in expecting it to be Sins of a Solar Empire or even Stellaris. But if you like a world expanding before you as you slowly take over a galaxy, then this is a game for you.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the staff of Endless Space 2
Creative Direction – Romain de Waubert de Genlis
Production Direction – Mathieu Girard
Game Design – Maxence Voleau
Narrative Director – Jeffery Spock
Art Director – Corinne Billion
Sound Design – Benjamin Michanaud
Voice Acting – Alice Retif, Elisabeth Saydah, Steven Barnum, Rupa Krishan, Ian Russel, Lucas Schuneman, Richard Man, John Cavanagh, Jeff Bateman, Nicolas Mead, Georges Robinson, Bryan Olson, Chloé Hollings, David Richter & Linda Lee
Developer – Amplitude Studios
Publisher – Sega
It’s interesting to see how the vaulters ended up in Endless Space 2. They were rather boring to me in Endless Legend. I’m surprised they have portal technology. Cool!
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