Saturday, February 7, 2015

6 days of...Endless Legend!

Genre Fusing Design

That is a giant scarab my capitol is set around.
Yea it's that awesome.

Booting up Endless Legend for the first time I knew I was in for something special. I had previously played the 4x Space Civ Simulator, Endless Space, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Both are made by Amplitude Studios and are part of their multiple-game and multiple genre universe spanning series that have been released in rapid succession over the last few years. Endless Space, Endless Legend, and Endless Dungeon, are the three games currently released from Amplitude. All giving their own slightly varied experience.

Endless Legend is the most recent iteration of the endless universe. Starting the game up I was surprised to find a very sparse menu. This is something common between all of the Amplitude games. A minimalistic styled menu that gives you little to do but jump right into their game and get started. That's exactly what I was eager to do.

I didn't do very well this time around...
What the Endless series also excels at is punishing mistakes. The first few times I played I was decimated by nearly every other civilization in the game. Still though, each time I played I made progress. This is one of my favorite parts about civilization builders. Failing and returning to re-build my civilization stronger and more robust. After about 4 times playing through, I finally conquered the world and won. In total this took about 20 hours just to give you an idea of how long it takes to become proficient.

Personally I won by taking the military route after I began falling behind other civilizations in points, however it caused my people endless unhappiness to be ruled by a dictatorial warlord. Still though it was a win even though it wasn't by the conditions I had originally intended. Most of the civilizations have conditions they are better suited to winning with, but every option is always open.

The science "ladder" you climb while playing brings you into several era as you play. Each era increases the power available to units and the technology but also increases the production requirements of each city. This adds a depth that includes time as a measurable resource that must be managed. After playing Civilization games I have to say that this is a small change but makes a large difference in how quickly you may want to uncover new technologies.

This combined with the happiness mechanic makes even advancing in production and technology a balancing act. Destroying facilities and units that require upkeep from previous eras can actually help you in the short run to recover and quickly produce more powerful units. Other regular resources are provided in the same way most are in 4x turn based games. They are however more difficult to balance and utilize properly. Running short on resources is common and so is having to make hard decisions.

Combat looks deceptively simple, but is very deep.
The biggest draw that I saw in the game was combat, and the turn based mechanics. As far as I could tell, 2 people would take turns at 1 time. Which means you would be moving units at the same time and so there is at least a bit of real-time attention needed as if you are paying little attention to what your units are doing they can be attacked easily. Prioritizing movement over building can save or ruin opportunities. Combat between units is played out simultaneously on your turn between armies in a tiled strategy turn-based format. I know that this type of combat has gotten a lot of flak in reviews as a negative aspect to the game, but I consider it a positive.

Consider for a moment that the entire "default" game takes place over 300 turns, the combat helps break up the repetition of the turns with something different and stimulating in a different way. Everything Endless Legend does seems fresh even though it utilizes formulas from many previous games. The fusion of turn based civ building and combat works perfectly with the way the game is paced in my opinion.

I for one am eagerly awaiting the further release of games in the endless series. I can't wait to see what Amplitude studios comes up with next.

You'll like this game if: You like fully fleshed out universes with full stories for each faction that include an over-arcing mission to allow for victory. Highlights include great combat, wonderfully balanced civ building and well integrated mechanics that don't allow for much exploitation.

(If you have a different opinion or want to suggest a game to play and review, let me know @SimonGolden on twitter!)

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