By Jordan Hall (ApocaRUFF)
Endless Legend is another 4X strategy game brought to us by the same people that created the sci-fi 4X known as Endless Space. Of course, that team is APLITUDE Studios. Often described as similar to the Civilization series of games, the Endless series has some similar elements – city creation and development, armies and war, resource management, political chess, and so on. Back in July of this year, I was given the chance to write a Beta Impressions of the game. Now I’m back to give a full launch review as the game has finally been released out of Early Access.
Customization isn’t something you really expect when it comes to a 4X game. You assume you’ll be left with only what you’re given and expected to make do. However, that’s not quite the case with Endless Legend. You are given quite a lot of control over a number of things. For example, you can fine-tune your game world before it is generated, setting up things like the size or shape of the land or the temperature, difficulty, and speed of the game. This is something I greatly appreciate, as I love it when I can define my experience in such detail without having to make use of mods.
Notice the “Advanced Settings” option, which gives you plenty more options.
However, it doesn’t stop there. You’re even able to easily create your own factions within the game using the Faction Editor. Again, I’m used to having to use mods to introduce modified factions into a game, so this came as a nice surprise. This is also a feature that wasn’t available in beta, so this was a nice improvement from my last play-through of the game. With the Faction Editor, you’re able to fine tune your faction from simple aspects like name, to all of its gameplay impacting traits.
One thing you’ll notice right away is that Endless Legend has a unique art style that can be a bit confusing at first. Initial impressions will have you thinking that the game is amazingly detailed, yet the closer you get to something, the more you realize that your mind was just filling in the blanks. It’s not as detailed as you thought. In fact, most of the game’s graphics are of a low quality. The creative use of textures and colors make up for this, though, and tricks you in a wonderful away. Because of this, the graphics in Endless Legend are some of my favorite that I’ve come across yet.
Personally, I had no issues with the controls for the most part. I did have some minor issues with the UI, but that was cleared up the more I got used to it. The major complaint I had was that finding certain elements could be a challenge early on. For example, I had to ask around to figure out how I was supposed to create a custom faction, as the button wasn’t obvious nor in a place I thought it would be. But other than that, things were smooth and responsive.
It’s located here, by the way.
As Endless Legend is a single-player game with optional multiplayer, the community is what you make it. If you don’t like someone, you can simply not play with them. However, outside of that, AMPLITUDE has managed to cultivate quite the community through their “Games2Gether” interface. Here they share their roadmaps, allow users to vote on things that will be implemented into their games, and they have a healthy community forum for users to participate in. It’s very impressive and once you pay a visit you will fully understand why the Endless games are so loved as well as why AMPLITUDE is so well-liked by their players.
Endless Legend is a 4X game – that is eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate. And as such, the game revolves around those four “X’s” and what they stand for. I stylized beta impressions upon these four sides of the game, going into detail about what the game had to offer in each category. For the gameplay portion of this review, I’ll be doing much the same. However, I will be going into even greater detail than I did in my beta impressions and will compare what was available in beta with what is currently available at release.
This is one of my favorite parts of the game. Honestly, although they already had a decent amount of content centering around exploration, I wouldn’t have minded if there was even more. There are plenty of reasons for you to explore the map, such as removing the fog of war or coming into contact with the other factions that are in play. But there are also ruins to explore and useful resource nodes to find as well. Personally, it’s the ruins that make the games exploration stand out to me – not a lot of the already few-in-number 4X games reward you for exploring as meaningfully as Endless Legend does – with gold, rare items for your hero, or important strategic resources.
Exploration is also how you’re going to find potential places for your next city. The more you play the game, the more you realize how important it is that you make use of some of the resource nodes. Each tile has resource stats, but some are better than others and will offer you something unique that you can only get from that type of tile. That part of the game is quite similar to other 4X games, especially the Civilization series.
The map is made up of hexes, spread into a large grid. Well, the size of your map really depends on your selections before the game began. But even with the default settings, it is quite big and will take you some time to reveal even a small portion of it. It’s something you’ll probably dedicate several of your armies to – auto-exploring the map as you pay attention to your cities.
Every once in a while, Winter will roll around and this is a time when you’ll be hindered a decent amount. It won’t be completely impossible to accomplish things, but you’re more likely to keep your armies close and try to stay out of wars when Winter is happening. It’s worth noting that some factions are hit harder by winter than others, and may want to focus on techs that balance out this weakness to better survive the occasional lengthy winter, as there’s quite a bit of RNG involved in how long the seasons stretch out for. This isn’t a major feature, but it’s one that can affect the game in a lot of ways and is a nice touch to Endless Legend’s fantasy world.
One of the biggest changes to the game since beta is that there are now a whopping eight factions to play, rather than just the four that were available before. These new factions, when added with the ability to customize factions, give you so many options for gameplay that I doubt you’ll be bored with the game anytime soon – even if you’re a hardcore player that somehow manages to spend twelve hours a day playing.
The main method of expanding your empire is to build Settlers to create more cities. And the cities themselves can expand over time, as well. In a lot of games, the cities are fairly static and don’t change much except for some numbers on an interface. That’s not (completely) the case here.
As you play, the population of your cities will grow until the population reaches a point where your current resource in-take cannot support anymore citizens. These citizens can then be distributed to various parts of your city – you could focus most of your citizens into creating more food (represented by a leaf). Or more into research if you want that particular city to be a research hub. As such, you can build various buildings to help facilitate larger populations – like Boroughs, Sewage systems, and granaries. Or buildings more centric to research like a public library.
As your tech advances, you’ll gain access to new city expansions. Some of these will actually require the physical expansion of your city to another hex. And that brings up something else – not all hexes are created equal. For example, if you know your city is likely to come under attack, you may want to place it in a high location. If you plan to make a city a place for army creation, you may want to place it in a location that has resources that benefit that. It’s in this part of the game that I feel that Endless Legend truly shines as a strategy game.
Research is pretty awesome in this game, simply because of all the options. All research options are split into four different categories and then further split into different wheels, or “eras.” To move to the next era, you must research a certain amount of items in the previous era. In beta, these wheels weren’t complete but in launch they’ve been made fully available. This is the main way your “grand strategy” will become real, as you can advance in eras with plenty of techs in the previous wheel still unknown to you, and the split between mastery of an era or rushing powerful techs in the next can make or break an empire.
I’ve mentioned that there are resource nodes to find, or hexes that are better than others to locate. There’s also ancient ruins and whatnot to find to search for loot. If you find a resource node, such as emeralds, within your territory and near a city, you can build an extractor on it so that its resources can be extracted. The resources can then either be used by yourself, or traded to help out your economy or diplomacy. In an unusual twist, these resources are farmed turn by turn rather than arriving in a lump sum, and utilized by individual armor/weapon pieces equipped to your army, as well as consumed in the case of luxuries to bolster your empire for a short duration.
Money, aka Dust, is fairly important in this game. For example, you can use your gold to speed up the construction of a new unit. Or you can use it to further upgrade your city without having to wait very long. Early on, making some smart investments with your Dust can result in a lot of improvement later on. Or, if you find yourself in a pinch, you can push out a lot of units in just a few turns if you have the Dust for it.
You can also find Minor Factions, which spawn all over the map. These are things like the Haunts – undead ghost-like creatures – that you can kill and conquer. Once you’ve killed them and sacked their city/spawn point, you can then absorb them into your own faction and make use of them. Because of this, you may want to expand your territory to an area that has a good Minor Faction spawn and take it over, so that you can make use of their units.
Those seeking a peaceful solution though may instead research proper political technology to communicate with these factions. This results in sometimes simple, other times lengthy and challenging quests that offer additional rewards in addition to pacifying the villages. Once colonized, you can gain the advantages of these minor factions without suffering the time normally needed to rebuild their destroyed villages.
This is one area that I was surprised with. I didn’t really imagine that combat would be very fun, but it turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the game. The combat is turn based and takes place on a hex-grid, much like the over-world map. One neat thing is that the terrain you were on before the battle started is also the terrain you’re using in the battle. If you’re in a rocky area with a lot of high-up places that look down on a valley below, that’s where you’ll be in the battle. So, before the fight even begins, you can begin figuring out where and how the battle should take place.
The in-and-outs of the battle system can be a bit of a learning curve. Heck, the whole game is initially limited by its steep learning curve. During your first play-through, you’ll probably find yourself losing way more units than you want to in each battle. I would say that you could just let the AI handle things and auto-resolve or spectate the battle, but really the AI is much worse than you can ever hope it to be. At least when it’s playing for you. It always seems to get a lot better whenever it’s playing for itself, though. In the end, though, I don’t see why anyone would want to skip out on the battles the game offers.
Each race only has a few units, and they all seem to fill certain archetypes. The major differences between the racial units are just the skins they wear and some base stats, for the most part. Notably some units will be more suited to certain tactics than others, due to either far above average stats, or special abilities that can easily turn an unfair fight in their favor if used correctly. I would usually feel a bit down with such a small selection of units, but I realize that combat really isn’t the center of this game. Trade, diplomacy, and exploration play a larger role on the whole. So I’m happy with what I got.
The hero is a fairly interesting concept. These are essentially “super” units, similar to generals in other games. They can be equipped with armor and weapons that you either find or craft using resources you’ve gained through exploration or extracting. One neat thing I found was that you can fine-tune your hero by spending points in a talent tree of sorts. You get points each time your heroes level, and they can even be spec’d to help out with the running of your empire, rather than leading your armies.
Perhaps the most interesting piece of the unit system is again the customization, as acquiring certain strategic resources, or reaching new technological eras allows you to update your unit schematics in the production menu. As such you can still continue pumping out your outdated units at their cheap production cost, or aim for a quality over quantity tactic by making each unit a costly juggernaut with extra abilities and stats.
Endless Legend has proven itself to be just as much fun as Endless Space. I’m hoping AMPLITUDE will stick with the Endless universe and continue to make some great games. However, I now know I can look forward to their next game no matter the setting. Endless Legend has all the elements I’ve come to love from a 4X and, personally, it’s the best one I’ve come across since Civilizations IV. This game is definitely worth a buy.
Features: 4/5 – Lots of great features to make the game amazing.
Customization: 3/5 – Not much, but a lot more than you expect.
Graphics: 4/5 – The game looks fantastic.
Controls: 4/5 – Only a few minor gripes, but nothing serious.
Community: 5/5 – It’s what you make it.
Overall: 4/5 – Definitely worth the price tag.