Endless Space Preview (PC)

You may have noticed me recently talking about the space 4x genre a lot, what with games like Sins of Solar Empire: Rebellion and Gemini Wars coming out at similar times. With Sword of the Stars II STILL floundering in the water and Ironclad switching themes, someone has to take gamer’s imaginations back to the stars. I’m here to tell you that Endless Space is that game. Probably. Understandably, it helps to be cautious here – the last time I got this optimistic about a game it broke my heart, but since I’ve been playing an actual playable build as opposed to just seeing a bunch of tech demos (*cough*Kerberos*cough*) Amplitude has already gotten an advantage.

I like to think of Endless Space as a cross between Civilization in space, and Sword of the Stars II if it was done right – which in itself is something to look forward to. Set in a universe filled with eight distinct and unique races and relics of the lost ‘Endless’ Civilization, you take to the galactic stage and lead your faction to glory. The campaign map takes place in a Galaxy of a size and composition of your choosing. Basic gameplay, especially in the early stages, has you exploring star systems and expanding your empire by colonising other places. Each star system has a random amount of planets, each with random types. Some types can’t be colonised right away (you have to research), and some planets contain key strategic or luxury resources you will need, so planning is key – especially considering if you expand too fast your citizens will be un happy.

Not completely sold on the ship designs myself, but I like the cinematic presentation of combat

As we’ve just mentioned, there’s a technology tree which is split into four areas, each with a general ‘theme’ although it’s not 100% clear-cut. All of the weapons tech, for example, is on one tree, but chassis to unlock new ship types are on a different tree altogether, whilst certain other modules and combat elements are in a third tree, so it’s fairly spread out. Soon enough you’ll come into contact with other races. Every race starts in a state of cold war, so you can’t move into each other’s territory but you can attack each other in neutral space and have a war start. Depending on your actions, your relationship with a race may naturally improve or decline, making them more receptive (or not) to any deals you want to make – some deal types though need researching. Diplomacy is fairly robust, if unimaginative – and to be honest is one of the least important areas of the game in my mind.

Eventually, either through bumping into each other or officially engaging in wars, you’ll want to fight someone, and it’s a shame Amplitude didn’t put a little bit more into this side of things, as despite them stating they don’t want this to be a ‘war game’, you do a lot of warring. Still, the presentation of the combat is actually fairly unique and the most interesting we’ve seen outside dedicated combat layers. Wanting to emulate all the great space battles you see on TV, you don’t actually get to control your ships movement in battle, but the camera will constantly change angles and distance, like they would on TV. Fleets start off with a basic combat power, and you use special ‘abilities’ during each of the three phases (Long-range, Mid-range & Close-Quarters) to help augment that, and hopefully thwart your opponents choice. It’s basically a slightly more complex version of Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock.

There’s more, but we don’t want to spoil too much for you – know that there’s plenty more in this game to get to grips with – Ship design, multi-tiered empire improvement, random events etc… You have to wonder somewhat just what kind of resources Amplitude are working with – despite them claiming indie-ship, Endless Space looks as good and slick as anything we’ve seen, even from AAA publishers. Whilst not hugely complex, is still has a lot going on at various stages and this is as good a foundation for a game like this as ever we’ve seen. How they support the game post-launch will be key in making sure it doesn’t go stale, but this is a great start.

As you progress through the game, you'll be able to colonise more of these planets

The game is still in beta right now, but it’s due for release sometime over the next month – there’s a progress bar on the official website if you’re really interested. It’s very playable and very enjoyable as it is, but there are still things that need to be done. Custom factions should be coming; AI balancing is an on-going thing, as is general debugging and Q&A, as well as other little details. Endless Space does have multiplayer, and whilst the ability to play against 7 other people was introduced during the last big beta update, the kinks are still being worked out. It remains to be seem what kind of state the game will be in when it actually releases, but with everything as it is now, if multiplayer (for example) is the only thing that doesn’t quite work right, this would still be a very decent game.

If anything deserves to do well, it’s Endless Space. Amplitude has combined the experience they’ve accumulated through past history at AAA studios, and combined it with a passion and dream to create a product that’s robust, addictive, and rich. Space 4x games have always been the games of the imagination, not only because you create your own story as you go along, but also because of the natural effect science-fiction has on the mind. Fans wondering what to do next need wonder no longer, and keep a keen eye on the horizon. Endless Space is due out on PC sometime during July on all digital platforms.

Most Anticipated Feature: There are some aspects of the game that, whilst we know won’t change dramatically, we’re interested in seeing where they go from here. Like combat.

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By JustCommunication (SI Core) on Jul 23, 2012
Nah, I like it. Sure, it's not SOTS2, but then most strategy games either are more tactics focused, or they abstract combat through numbers and stats. At least Endless SPace tries to present it better, and there are real tactical options to be made, both before and during a fight.

Keep and eye out for my review.