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Endless Space – Review

Building on the well-established trappings of games like Sins of the Solar Empire, Endless Space feels like a familiar space-faring outing – enticing the player to amass a large empire, expand civilization, and colonize planets and much, much more. Any turn-based strategy junkie will likely ogle at the description, get a creeping sense of déjà-vu and then turn away. Though Endless Space is definitely not an unorthodox turn-based game, calling it a blatant rip-off would do you a disservice by possibly stripping yourself of one of the morememorable strategy games this year.

Endless Space offers very little in the way of a narrative; you simply pick an empire, the scale of the playing field and you’re then treated to a brief motion comic that’s meant to establish some form of exposition. These vignettes do very little to shed light on the overarching conflict, though as all you’re likely to gather is that four different empires vie for control over important resources in the galaxy and that war then ensues between the rival factions.  Much of the lore and story is shrouded in mystery, and the resulting storyline feels underwhelming as a result.

Right off the bat, Endless Space throws you a plethora of tutorials and needless bits of jargon-heavy terminology that is initially´very tough to grasp. The tutorials are also presented in a rather uninteresting way, as clicking on something will cause a window to pop up that explains different elements through text-paragraph after text-paragraph and the average strategy-player will likely ignore these tutorials In favor of clicking around and figuring out things on their own.

Luckily, the process of coming to grips with the core gist of the game is actually made rather easy thanks to the game’s intuitive UI. All of the most important aspects are presented to you in a flexible manner and every turn of event is displayed right in front of you. The game also allows you to set units to auto-explore the galaxy – allowing you to focus on the big picture while the automation features handle the rest. That “big picture” is also a large part of what makes Endless Space such a joy to play; with a few clicks you can easily research new vital technology, amass large fleets for combat or exploration purposes, recruit heroes, negotiate with other factions and much else.

Getting a grip on all of these elements is a bit of a challenge at first, but once things set into a nice and steady groove, you’ll be surprised at what a habit-forming experience Endless Space really is. Like any good turn-based game, one turn will quickly develop into another ten turns and Endless Space is no different. Colonizing one planet will make you want to colonize another one; signing a peace treaty with one faction will make you want to declare war with another and exploring a new star cluster might lead to more surprises. And all of this is accomplished with a few simple mouse clicks.

Encounters with rival fleets and ships are inevitable, so you can’t always use treaties and mere words to avoid conflict. This leads to one of the more invigorating components of the game, which is the combat. When a combat sequence is about to ensue you have a choice of either actively participating or hitting the ‘Auto’ button to simply see the results of combat without any player input. The latter option is great if you’re not interested in doing battle and simply want to achieve victory through more passive means. However, pressing ‘Manual’ will cause the game to enter a heavily cinematic sequence wherein you’ll see all the ships soaring about and attacking one another as a result of your direct action.

The combat is divided into three phases: long, medium, and close range. Before the battle proceeds, you assign your fleet with counter-measures and defensive tactics for each separate phase, and then watch the outcome play in a dramatic cutscene. The battles can also get particularly tense if both sides bring an equal amount of firepower to the scene, and where the outcome solely comes down who plays their cards most effectively. These spacefaring bouts are often a sight to behold, watching the two sides slowly approach one another while unleashing a hail of projectiles and lasers until an inevitable, cacophonous explosion ensues is a real treat.

Save for these moments, though the presentation found here is very sparse. While the menus are designed and put together well, the actual map lacks detail and the ships simply sail around without animations like chess-pieces. The game definitely sounds better than it looks; the soundtrack is superb, and set a very atmospheric and other-worldly tone to the experience, making the act of playing the game a relaxing affair. Space nails all of the fundamental pillars of a great turn-based game. The level of depth and replay-ability is impressive across the board by supporting a variety of different playstyles that will likely cater to a wide audience. The well put-together UI, invigorating challenge, joyous exploration and exciting combat ensures that Endless Space is well worth your time – provided that deep storytelling and high production values are something that you can make due without.

 

Rating
7.5

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