I’ve been seeing a little bit of hype for Endless Legend since it came out, but not very much. For a game with pretty strong reviews (stronger than the similarly timed and themed Civilization: Beyond Earth) and a previously successful game (Endless Space), it flew somewhat under the radar. That’s largely due to competition from the better known Civ franchise and Amplitude being a small studio.
It’s not based on the game. Endless Legend is awesome. And hey, it’s 50% off right now!
Yay, No Infinite City Spam
Lots of 4x games try to solve the infinite city spam problem in different ways. Endless Legend handles it by having cities control a “region” of the map.
You can place a city in the region more or less wherever you want, but the region can only have one city. So you can’t just crowd out cities with more cities and make a general mess. I find this a much more elegant solution, especially combined with the other things they did:
- Cities start off as a hex and it’s surrounding hexes, but you can build upgrades to grow the city and increase it’s size. Cities can become very big, and you get all the tile yield in the area of the city without needing workers to “work” it (workers are strictly additional to tile yields and assigned indepedently).
- Each region can have a minor faction, who is already there. You can pacify them through conquest or diplomacy and then settle the area for bonuses. If you assimilate them into your empire you can get more bonuses and extra units to build. That sole city in the region becomes very important because you need it to get the minor faction and it’s bonuses.
The end result of all this is that you don’t need 50 cities to really control an area like you do in some other games, and the one city in each region is very important because of the need for regional control. It makes the cities feel really significant, as they should.
Tactical Combat? Yay!
Your armies move around the strategic map like in every other 4x. A big difference between Endless Legend and a game like Civ is that when armies encounter each other, the map expands into a tactical map. From here, you can arrange your troops in deployment, and then give orders for combat. Both sides give all orders for the round simultaneously, and then combat executes. If an order can’t execute (because the unit you wanted to attack is already dead, for example), units have some default orders they fall back on. You can also auto play this if you don’t want to do it yourself.
I like the addition a lot, as it makes combat more in depth while still making some kind of sense. Civ IV’s combat was more or less entirely about army composition as you’d just throw stacks at each other, and Civ V’s combat had a really weird scale with archers able to shoot clear across cities and units not being able to form coherent armies. This isn’t as sophisticated as say Age of Wonders III, but it’s enough to make combat more meaningful without making it the entirety of the game.
One other nice thing is that you can customize your units. There’s an editor in game to choose new equipment for units to make new ones before training them, which makes them more expensive and might require strategic resources. It reminds me of a game like Fallen Enchantress (or Galactic Civilization & Endless Space’s ship builder), and it’s a lot of fun to create your own custom armies.
Factions & Empires, There’s A Lot Going On
There are a wide variety of factions, and they play very differently. One of them can’t even declare war, for example. One can’t build new cities. The uniqueness of them really changes how you approach the game, and it’s a very welcome addition compared to the generally the same factions of Beyond Earth.
Then you’ve got city management, hero management, the ability to form empire plans on what you want to focus on for bonuses, lots of different ways to win, and so on. There is a lot going on in this game, so much that occasionally I find it takes me a while to take in everything the UI is trying to show me. In true Amplitude faction the UI is pretty good and conveys a lot of information relatively well. It’s just that with how many different things are happening at once in your empire, it can take some time to take it all in. There are still a few rough edges to polish off, however. One thing I noticed is that notifications can come up even while you can’t deal with them, such as getting a notification popup for a new minor faction while the tactical combat UI was also opening, so I couldn’t use the popup for anything. But it’s a minor issue.
Multiplayer Is Here, But Co-Op Isn’t
One thing the Civ games do better is coop play. Endless Legend supports multiplayer pretty well, but not for true coop play. The most you can do is play separately until getting alliance tech unlocked, then forming an alliance in game. There’s no allied victory though, so the game will tell one of you that you lost even if you both win.
If you compare that to the recent Civ games, which feature full team play from turn 1 along with allied victory, and it’s a deficiency. Endless Space had the same gap, and I’m not entirely sure why Amplitude doesn’t seem interested in it. Perhaps it’s just a budget issue, they are a much smaller studio after all.
All that said, Rhiss and I played Endless Space in coop and had fun despite missing those things. We’re going to play Endless Legend too, and I expect to have some fun with it.
Overall, this is a great game. For the cost during the sale it’s an incredible value, and I’d encourage every 4x fan to give it a try. It’s entirely possible we’re looking at the best 4x of 2014 in this not terribly well known game.