Reviews? I do those?
I’m a big fan of Amplitude Studios. Actually, I’m a big fan of Microprose which is what Amplitude Studios dresses up as every Halloween. When Microprose failed and took fan favorites like Master of Orion or Master of Magic with it, they left an enormous gap in the 4x turn based strategy world. Endless Legend fills that gap, but it doesn’t do much more with it. This is the evolution that genre fans will appreciate, not the revolution that 4x games need to reach beyond their predecessors.
Any Civilization player will appreciate the basics of Endless Legend. The player starts off with a small army and a settler with which to found an empire and explore the world of Auriga. The army, with a hero unit in the lead, explores ancient ruins to gather crucial resources for the opening turns and becomes a powerhouse army later. Battles are grid based affairs which the player can also auto resolve should they face overwhelming odds. Meanwhile, the city back at home is researching technology, developing resources, building units, and generally focusing on whatever victory condition the player has decided to go for. Victory conditions are the fairly standard with only the quest based version offering any substantial difference. If you’ve played Civilization or Stardock’s Fallen Enchantress, you have a good idea of what to expect.
This is not to say that Endless Legend is totally derivative. It has a number of small and large changes that keep it feeling fresh. Among the most prominent is the division of the world into territories. Each territory may host one city and that city reaps the benefits of the resources within the territory. Territories also host minor races which generate monsters if unpacified and or provide workers for the territory capitol if pacified. Another twist is the winter. Auriga’s winters last for a varying number of turns and grind production and movement to a halt. In the early game, reduced movement and production are frustrating, but later in the game the player gets some tools to adapt and thrive. Winters can have game changing effects by slowing wars in full swing and slowing building momentum. Adapting to this mechanic is one of the key ways to regain the advantage in a losing conflict.
Factions deserve special mention as they are varied in their aesthetic design as they are in their gameplay. Each faction has something beyond the usual focus on a given victory condition. For example, the Cultists only get one city, but they can convert minor races to provide resources and produce military units. The Drakkan can force opponents to accept truces and other diplomatic proposals. The powers feel unique and help set the races apart. The different play styles, combined with the story telling quests, encourage repeated playthroughs to see all that Endless Legend has to offer.
A few problems do creep up. The AI isn’t particularly aggressive, even when it has a substantial advantage. I played most of a game having only a small army on hard and wasn’t challenged until I had almost won. This is aggravated by the ability to upgrade units. Like Endless Legend’s predecessor, Endless Space, the player can upgrade their units with new equipment to create a more powerful unit. I often created a single upgraded doom stack which scared away most of my competitors. Combined with a powerful economy to purchase units and an aggressive AI can become a frightened kitten with one round of army buying.
The issues are ultimately small and don’t address the broader issue that 4x games face today. As much fun as Endless Legend is, it still feels like a contemporary of the 4x masterpieces from long ago. It’s becoming clear that developers will need substantially new ideas to push the genre forward and prevent it from stunting….eventually. For now, Endless Legend is a polished and fun experience. Go play.