I’ve got a magic trick for you. Do you want to know how to make an entire evening disappear? It’s the easiest trick in the world. All you have to do is install Endless Legend. The same trick can be done with a few different games in the 4X genre (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) and Endless Legend is sure no exception. So prepare for that laundry to pile up and the dishes to be neglected, because you’ll be seeing the sun rise from your computer desk tonight, just don’t forget to eat.
The makers of the highly regarded 4X “Endless Space” brought things down to earth with Endless Legend, a game that seems to match the depth and strategy of the Civilization series with a fictional setting like Age of Mythology. As with any game in the 4X genre, your mileage is going to vary depending on your answer to one question: Just how deep do you want to go?
Players yearning for massive depth and a LOT of different mechanics and systems will certainly not be disappointed. The level of control afforded to the player is quite frankly overwhelming at first. It is simultaneously the game’s greatest strength and weakness. I played through a rather extensive and in depth tutorial, after which I started a new game and immediately realized I had no idea what I was doing. Like no idea at all. I ended up going through the tutorial a second time which definitely helped, but I had to start 2-3 new campaigns over before I really felt like I understood what was going on.
This is partially my fault, partially just part of the learning curve, and partially design flaw. The tutorial expects a bit too much from the player in terms of remembering where simple commands and menus are. There’s also a lack of an advisers system like you see in Civ to help suggest possible next actions. I ended up defaulting back to playing the game mostly like I play Civ, because it was familiar to me. This was still tons of fun, but it’s a bit of a waste, because there’s a lot more going on here that Civ doesn’t offer.
There’s a neat quest system in the game where you need to complete objectives to advance your civilization’s “main story”, which is more of an abstract idea of progression than a story. You can also get quests from neutral factions to placate them and possibly even assimilate them into your empire. Another really neat system is the Hero system. You start with a hero character that can be part of an army or assigned to a city in your empire. The hero will give pretty major boosts to either your army or your production depending on where you place them. They can also level up through a skill tree and be equipped with items that provide even more buffs to their surrounding area. It adds a neat extra layer to the gameplay.
At first I felt overwhelmed, but eventually things started to click and I felt like I was making progress. I even conquered one of the 5 opposing factions in my campaign and was working towards conquering a second. Suddenly I got a warning that my empire was cash starved and I needed to make money quick or risk bankruptcy. I even got a warning saying buildings and units could be sold if I didn’t make cash quick. I stopped all production in all cities and immediately started building Mints in each city to increase cashflow. The Mints would take about 3 turns. After one turn half my army was sold. After 2 turns my entire army and my hero were sold and I was completely destroyed. I went from conquering half the map to essentially dead in the water in 2 turns, completely by my own hubris.
Scenarios like that bring me back to my argument about the depth being a strength and a weakness. On one hand, once I got over the initial shock and rage I found it kind of neat that those events played out like they did. It makes you really keep tabs on your whole empire. On the other hand, I felt like the game didn’t adequately convey to me the situation I was headed towards, nor did it give me adequate time to address it. Afterwards, I had no idea how to get a new hero (seriously for anyone reading, is it possible to get more heroes?) and I was at a loss for how to turn things around.
I think once I cool off from that initial experience I’ll probably go do some reading on the game in an attempt to understand the mechanics better. I’m actually looking forward to starting a new campaign in a week or two once I take a break. That fairly well sums up my impressions of Endless Legend. Daunting to an almost discouraging degree at first, but once you get the hang of it you’ll get sucked right in, and afterwards you’ll probably need a cooling off period before trying again. But you WILL try again.