Endless Legend PC Review
Sid Meier’s Civilization V and its multiple of expansions are no doubt some of the best 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate, a term first used way back in the early 90s to distinguish a specific type of turn-based strategy) games on the market. Civilization V continues to be popular to this day, with the game continuing to have 50,000+ players daily on Valve’s Steam platform. That’s pretty fantastic for a game that came out in September of 2010. Since that time there have been a few other companies creating entries in the genre, but none have really managed to hold up their own against the giant known as Civilization. Enter Amplitude Studios, a fairly new studio who has the balls to release their own 4X game just weeks before the release of Civilization: Beyond Earth. But unlike the other people who tried, and ultimately didn’t make as big of an impact, Endless Legend takes the good of Civilization and mixes it with its own fictional universe to craft a compelling fantasy alternative to the reality based Civilization titles.
Amplitude studios are using the “Endless” label to signal that the title is part of the Endless universe, which means that this game is set within the same worlds as Endless Space and Dungeons of the Endless, just at a different point in time. The world of Endless Legend is based on one planet called Auriga, a setting that was the home to a huge battle with the Endless race, a battle which ended up destroying the planet’s environment. Sometime in the future, a transport ship ends up crashing onto Auriga, sending a large group of prisoners into the underground facilities of the planet. Once they managed to get out, the survivors split themselves into factions (some other factions existed already on the planet) and start a new life. It’s not long until everyone discovers that Auriga is dying, and so the factions battle it out to become the dominate race on the planet and save themselves before the planet dies. Of course, this means you as the player must pick your faction, build a civilization and save your race from annihilation.
An exciting aspect of Endless Legend is the fact that it isn’t tied to the reality setting of our world. This opens up tremendous opportunities within the game, and this is evident from the get go when you begin a new game and see the vast differences in the eight factions available. Now when I mention fantasy, I don’t mean the typical collection of Elves, Orcs, Dwarves and Hobbits Goblins, but a blend of science fiction with an fantasy setting. Endless Legend’s eight factions are incredibly diverse in their character designs.
The Drakken are a sort of lizard/dragon race, the Ardent Mages are a group of human looking sorcerers, The Necrophages are this weird plague hive of insectoid death, and the Broken Lords, a strange group of warriors who are spirits in bodies of armour and have the power to extend their life by absorbing life forces, in other words, other living factions. There is some truly fascinating lore crafted around these eight races and the history of the planet, which isn’t always the case for games in similar genres. As the lore is shared with their other “Endless” titles, the RPG lover in me would love to see these factions involved in some sort of action RPG title, because Amplitude Studios has created an attractive world to play in.
Factions aren’t just for show; each one has quite a distinct mode of play that changes how the player progresses in a game – this goes further than simply having a few buffs in certain stats. The Wild Walkers are the general play style, where you follow the rules of the game and use each mechanic to your advantage.
Moving away from the Wild Walkers to a faction like The Broken Lords, who can’t harvest food, which is one of the five primary resources in Endless Legend (Food, Industry, Dust, Science and Influence, FIDSI for short). The lack of food means that their population doesn’t naturally increase over time, but by spending Dust, the Broken Lords can create a new city member or repair units. This means that the faction has to spend more Dust to buy population and use those units to assign work to either one of the FIDSI resources to increase production in that specified resource. The Cultists can’t build any additional cities to take over regions, instead, they rule from their single stronghold that comes with extra defence. The Cultists are designed to use the minor factions by introducing them to their cause and using the minor factions to help with resource gathering and battles.
The Roving Clans can move their cities and gain money from sales on the marketplace, but they cannot start wars with other factions. Instead, they must use their power over the marketplace to manipulate factions. These are some of the extreme factions, but others, like the Necrophages, are simpler to understand. The Necrophages are a infestation faction that block alliances/peace options and cannot research diplomatic technologies. They are also bad at harvesting food, so they gain food from dead enemies. All these traits and special features makes playing Endless Legend different depending on the faction you pick. Personality has been drilled into these factions, which dribbles into changing up the game’s mechanics.
I haven’t even got to the main game yet, but I’m already praising Endless Legend for its refreshing additions to a well established genre. It’s a shame then that the tutorial is quite simply rubbish. The tutorial currently included goes through some of the very basic mechanics of the game, but isn’t in-depth enough to cover everything that goes on in a match of Endless Legend. It took me a few restarts and some internet searches to finally get a good understand and turn that knowledge into win against a group of normal difficulty AI, so heed the warning, anyone playing might have to have some patience as they get to grips with how the game plays.
There is no campaign as such – this follows the same steps as Civilization, where there is only one mode to play, but you can tweak various settings, such as adding how many AI opponents (or human players through an online game), the size of the map, how the map is created (water space, land space, height, etc) and the difficulty of AI and placement of starting factions. Once started, fans of the genre will see the familiar hexagon based land that makes up the world. Each hexagon counts as a section that can either be built on, or in terms of unit movement is generally one move. With just a settler at the beginning of a game, you need to quickly find a good place to build the first city, then start work to become the dominate faction on the planet by collecting resources and building up the economy for your empire.
Each of the five resources (FIDSI) are important to having a successful run in Endless Legend. Food is used to generate population, grow cities and keep existing population alive – you’ll also want to construct buildings that help with happiness to keep productivity high with your population. Industry is needed if players want to produce any units or build improvements to the cities, Dust is money, and is used to purchase various items from the marketplace, upgrade units and speed up how long a construction/unit/upgrade takes to finish building. Science is part of the research tree and is required if a faction wants to access any new tech from the tech trees (dials in Endless Legend). The last resource, Influence, is important if any player wants to perform diplomatic actions, such as having a peace treaty or starting a war with another faction. Influence is also used with the empire plan system, in which influence can be traded for buffs, such as 50% increase in happiness or additional resources harvested from any space that your cities are sitting on. It’s a very helpful resource that can turn poor circumstances into good ones.
Resources can come from many places. Each hexagon has values for resources and building on these will add these resources to your city for each turn that passes. It’s a good idea to build expansions around a city to cover more space and gain the additional resources. Building and scouting out new regions sounds just like Civilization, but as already established from the eight factions, Endless Legend doesn’t want to just be a clone, and so the developers added faction quests that offer rewards if the player successfully finishes them. There are two types of quests, main story quests, which are based around the play style of the selected faction, and side quests that often come from minor factions scattered around the map.
Minor factions can either be attacked or bribed to join your faction, but if you go the route of friendship and do their quest, then they will join your faction with better benefits. Minor factions allow your cities to build special units related to them, such as daemons or giants, plus you can activate a key ability of the minor faction to have a small buff. Only one of these can be activated at a time (unless you have unlocked a research skill to equip two) and you’ll need to use some influence if you want to switch between the various minor faction buffs. Leaving minor factions alone can be dangerous, as some will create units to explore and attack you or other factions.
Endless Legend takes combat one step further than a game like Civilization. The starting unit acts as the hero of the faction – more are purchasable from the marketplace – and these hero units come with their own skill trees that can be upgraded by winning fights and gaining experience. General units built in the city also gain experience, but they do not have any skill trees, instead, those units just get stronger. A nice feature is the ability to equip gear to units to improve them, such as giving a standard unit tier 3 armour after unlocking it from research. These units then become additional options to build, meaning they will always have tier 3 gear equipped. This does cost extra dust, but the benefits are worth the extra money.
Fights play out in turn-based fashion. Once in combat, the player needs to position their units on their side of the grid and then tell the unit which enemy to attack. Very minimal strategy is involved, but fights are more active than the automatic system that happens in Civilization. A battle lasts six turns, and after every turn you can reselect which units to attack. If no one wins after six turns, then the battle is counted as a draw and any remaining units left will leave the battle. It’s not an in-depth system, but the inclusion of interactive fights changes up the pace of the game. If you cannot be bothered to take part in battles, then pressing automatic will skip all these and show a result. Although, I found that this often makes the outcome worse for your side unless the pie chart shows a clear victory in your favour.
While I have been super positive for Endless Legend, it’s not a game without flaws. The AI, even on the hardest setting, can’t seem to adapt to someone who knows how the system works. They aren’t aggressive enough, so once you have set up a good city and army, you’ll find their presence rather lacklustre. This makes Endless Legend a better experience in multiplayer, as the unpredictability of a human player can make matches exciting and tense compared to the routines of the artificial intelligence.
Auriga is a beautifully crafted world with a presentation that stands out thanks to the stylised eye-catching visuals. Endless Legend is one of the more pleasant and unique looking strategy games currently available. Be it in the midst of summer with a rich, colourful land oozing that dreamy world to the harsh winters that coat these lands in white and handicap the factions with negative stats, the game always comes off looking spectacular. These visuals combined with the comprehensive design and story means Endless Legend feels like it was crafted with care and love from its developers, and for the player this means a rich filled world with a lot of lore to soak in through its graphical splendour. Slightly spoiling the experience was the random crashes that happened. I’m not sure what caused the issue, but the game would seemingly crash after a three plus hours of play. Since the game saves after every turn, it’s not disastrous, but it’s an issue that remains an awful sight to see.
A new Civilization game might be here, but Endless Legend easily holds up and stands out in the genre. It takes a while to absorb everything, no thanks to the lacklustre tutorial, and the AI suffers a little, but give it a moment of your time and you will find that the fantastic visuals, unique playing factions, detailed lore, addictive gameplay, and neat ideas that extend on the 4X formula gives you a lot to like about Endless Legend. Endless Legend offers one of the more refreshing entries in the genre, and it will destroy your sense of time and disrupt your sleeping pattern. This should be a sign to anyone that Endless Legend is not only a successful turn-based strategy title, but also a great game.