Released in July 2012 by new indie developers Amplitude Studios, Endless Space is a gorgeous 4X turn-based strategy game set in an enthralling science-fiction universe. Amplitude Studios didn’t just develop this game on their own though, using software dubbed GAMES2GETHER they were able to include their community in the development of the game. Their forum members were able to access game design documents and then give their feedback to the developers, alongside having a voting system on their website to allow everyone the opportunity to push their favoured game-design choice.
In the Endless Space universe the first intelligent species to control the galaxy were the Endless, an ancient civilisation who thrived before any of the eight-playable factions even came to exist. All that is left of the Endless now is Dust and the faction who can control and unlock its secrets first will be the ones to control the galaxy next. Will you lead your faction to power through trade and economic power? Or will you explore further than anyone else dare to find resources and ancient artifacts? These choices and more are yours to make.
Endless Space is a 4X turn-based strategy. A 4X game in the most basic terms is any strategy game where you control an empire, the 4X stands for ‘explore, expand, exploit and exterminate’ these games provide you with multiple ways to reach victory, as a contrast to other strategy games where the only victory is total annihilation.
The game is extremely complex and to truly master it you will need to spend a lot of time experimenting and trying out different strategies. You will find that every faction feels different when playing, some will be tailored towards science and research and others towards military strength or diplomacy. Play around with all of them, or create your own faction until you find one that feels comfortable for you. Whilst the game is complex, it is completely possible to just dive in and get started and before you know it it’s 7am, your alarm starts buzzing and you remember you have an exam you haven’t prepared for.
There are six victory conditions in Endless Space: Economic, diplomatic, supremacy, scientific, expansion and score. I’m about as vague as the game is with what it takes to actually reach any of these conditions and even using resources outside of the game I still don’t completely know how to enact a few of them.
When you start a game in Endless Space you will be treated to a short introduction of your chosen faction, after this you reach the main galaxy overview this is where you control your faction from. Your first move from here should be to start researching a new technology, these are split into four categories:
- Exploration and Expansion – Allows you to navigate faster and farther, unlock new spaceship hulls and colonize or improve new planet types
- Applied Sciences – Are for improving your empire’s economy and sciences as well as discovering Strategic Resources
- Diplomacy and Trade – helps you in agriculture, diplomacy, and finance. It also helps you manage your citizens
- Galactic Warfare – Unlocks new combat modules to outfit your ships and makes ships more efficient in combat
Each skill tree has its own benefits and each faction is tailored towards different skills, some are better suited for Applied Sciences and others prefer Diplomacy and Trade.
At some point in the game, it might be on your tenth turn or even the hundredth, you will encounter another faction it seems that every faction starts off hostile and thus they will attack you, initiating the combat sequence. There are two options for combat in Endless Space, the first and less interesting of the two is the ‘auto’ mode. The computer will simulate a battle between the two fleets and you will see a report of the outcome. The second, and by far the more interesting and nicer to look at, in the most basic of terms, is a complex game of rock-paper-scissors. Combat takes place over three segments, long-range, medium-range and short-range, for each segment you can choose a battle option to take, this can be defensive, offensive or sabotage. You have to make your decision before the fleets enter that range, if you fail to make a decision in time then your fleet does nothing and will usually be torn apart by the enemy. Whilst this has been a point of controversy amongst other players I personally feel that this helps to further the experience. I cannot imagine any scenario in which your enemies would sit around and wait for you to develop your strategy, like a real battle you have to think fast to try and adapt your strategy in seconds or risk losing your fleet.
The game can be extremely slow-paced at times, you do however have the option of changing the game speed, this will shorten the amount of turns you take per game but also decreases the amount of turns it will take to research or build improvements.
Navigating around the map is easy, you have the simple click and drag option, WASD or arrow key control or my preferred option of scrolling out and then zooming in on my mouse cursor. Moving around the map this way is extremely fast and efficient and makes it very easy to locate specific systems.
Whilst being a very complex game, Amplitude Studios have managed to make an extremely fun and interesting game. It’s an incredibly satisfying experience to go from having control of one planet and system to controlling and managing an entire galaxy. It is definitely possible to drop in and play a quick game although your definition of ‘quick’ might need to change in this instance. Don’t expect to finish a game in 30 minutes. Even the shortest game can span hours depending on how you play it or how your enemies play.
What this game boils down to is a very pleasing and rewarding experience that you can pour hours upon hours into. The combat is frustrating and exciting, you find yourself doubting your decisions until the very second the attack starts and is deemed successful. You’ll constantly debate whether you research more of one tree or another and once you’ve made your decision the game will throw you a situation where you need more points in a tree you haven’t even started to think about. Whilst somewhat annoying, you will find yourself thinking a few turns ahead in order to circumvent any situation the game may force upon you.
The first time I played Endless Space I was overwhelmed by the amount of text and learning involved before you even start playing the game but once you get into a game and start playing you realise very quickly that Amplitude Studios have created something very intuitive; a game that enables you to learn complex gameplay just by doing what you should be, playing. The tutorial is optional but highly recommended, if you’re having trouble with it then close it and learn to play by experimentation.
The only part of the game that left me disappointed was the apparent lack of a story mode, when you play with a new faction you are shown a cinematic introduction for them but beyond this I haven’t found anything even close to a story in-game. You just load up a new galaxy and start playing, what I believe most would call a ‘skirmish’ mode. You can of course use this to your advantage and let your inner monologue develop a story for your faction.
Endless Space gives you the ability to take control of a galaxy in any way you want. Whether you’re overwhelming your enemies with your advanced technology or you’re tearing their fleets apart with your unyielding firepower. Amplitude Studios have developed an impressive 4X turn-based strategy making it one of the best in the genre, with its ‘Endless’ replayability, breathtaking visuals and immersive soundtrack.
Performance & Quality
The game runs very smoothly on our 2009 iMac, I noticed a small frame rate drop when ending turns but it did not have any adverse effect on gameplay.
Audio quality is superb, I encountered some audio skipping during the game, it was very minor and in no way ruined the atmosphere of the game.
Overall the game feels like it was built specifically for Mac. Everything is very smooth even on the highest settings.
The multiplayer mode in Endless Space is seamlessly integrated into the single player experience, from the main menu it’s simply a matter of clicking one button and selecting a game to join. You can have up to 8 players in any one game.
I played a 1 vs 1 match against a random opponent and everything went smoothly, it took a few minutes to find an opponent but once we were in the game everything went well. A big part of the multiplayer experience in any game for me is the people I play against, if I’m being insulted during a game then that will ruin my experience, however during the game I played my opponent was very polite whilst he ravaged and destroyed my colonies. The multiplayer portion of the game is really where it excels, facing off against human opponents increases the difficulty level immensely and forces you to create multiple strategic options to protect yourself against a completely unpredictable enemy.
Currently available to purchase through Steam is an upgrade from the standard Admiral Edition to the Emperor Special Edition which includes a skin pack and unique hero, as well as some Games2Gether bonuses.
You’ll see when you start the game that there is a ‘Mods’ option in the main menu. The game features full modding support and you can find mods on the Amplitude Studios forums.
Mods should be installed to: ~/Library/Application Support/Endless Space/Modding
The user Hupailija on the Endless Space forums has plans to develop a mod called ‘Endless Dream’. This mod aims to introduce a story in the game for each faction told via events and technologies, as well as bringing new ships and events and a whole lot more to the game. This is a significant improvement to the game as the only area that was lacking previously was the story. However the mod is not yet finished and may take some months to come to fruition.