Endless Space 2 Preview
Space, as its name implies, is an empty place with an unimaginable distance between celestial bodies. The joy of playing a well crafted 4X game, however, is the balance between explorable space and a smattering of tightly packing alien empires vying for total domination over the known universe. As you slowly branch out with a budding empire trying to spread its wings, the open space will soon feel claustrophobic as borders clash and alliances are forged and broken in this stellar game of galactic succession.
Published by SEGA, Endless Space 2 is the latest 4X turn-based strategy game to leave developer AMPLITUDE Studios. Players will select a few options in crafting the type of galaxy they wish to play in and choose one of six playable races, each with their own unique societies and philosophies. Anyone that has experience with a 4X game will find themselves falling into a comfortable groove of gameplay once you get a few dozen turns into it – especially if you have any experience playing the similarly crafted Endless Legend.
“Anyone that has experience with a 4X game will find themselves falling into a comfortable groove of gameplay once you get a few dozen turns into it”
The concept for the game is simple: win by means of conquering, diplomacy, or certain race specific objectives. Players will need to colonize more and more planets while researching technologies for better economics, military support, scientific advancement, or government. Expansion is key in sustaining your empire, however, the larger your influence grows the greater care your people need to prevent an uprising. What the game offered by means of a tutorial was helpful and descriptive; however, the overall tutorial was highly limited. I found myself unsure of what to do at some points so it became trial and error only because the guidance was thinly offered.
Endless Space 2 seems to put more emphasis on the government aspect of the game than previous 4X games. Assigning hero characters to fleets or star systems isn’t new, but the depths at which your government needs to be controlled can be tedious. Not all 4X strategy players will want to micromanage their government to such a degree and would probably rather focus on expansion and encountering other races instead of getting bogged down in keeping the residents of each planet happy. Unless I missed it, it might not be a bad idea to offer an option for simplified government management OR include a more detailed tutorial on how to deal with your populous.
Combat – both space and planet-side – is beautiful to watch. Players select their battle tactic before a fight (with alternate tactics unlockable later on) and then sit back and watch it play out. Spaceships are incredibly detailed and seeing your fleet destroy an enemy is both satisfying and haunting in the silence of space. Ground combat as well is a blast to watch: displayed as if watching on a holographic monitor, I had invaded a planet with an army of over 1200 soldiers and each one of them was represented on the screen before me. Getting an idea of the massive threat my army posed unleashed my inner warlord as I happily watched the enemy become overrun in seconds.
Exploration of other systems is satisfying as you discover hidden treasures, embark on race-specific missions from your discoveries, and encounter minor races to assimilate into your empire. It’s a touch I haven’t seen in previous 4X games that makes it less of a generic map-conquering game and makes each experience a little more personal. Playing as the Cravers – a race of planet-destroying insectoid-machine hybrids – I followed a questline to discover a hidden outpost of the Cravers creators, who had abandoned them. I was then given the option to slaughter them or accept them as my masters, to which they would enhance and upgrade my people. It was fun to have a real storyline inside the larger scope of the objective.
The controls are solid, the races are unique without seeming over-the-top, and the graphics give you cause to stop and appreciate them for a few moments. Combat – both on the ground and in space – is fun despite only issuing a single command. The only place of weakness I saw here is the thinly crafted tutorial; had I not already had experience with 4X games, this would have been a struggle for me and I feel that this is a great game to draw new players into the 4X experience. Giving a better walk through on the Government options or offering players a simplified Government menu would also go a long way in making this more user-friendly. It’s an immersive experience and I look forward to seeing how Endless Space 2 develops in the future.
***A Steam key was provided by the publisher***