It’s a great game, despite being developed as a full release title by a French indie developer. I recently bought it off of steam, and to my surprise, what I thought it was, and what its shaping up to be are completely different. What I thought it would be like is a past favorite of mine, named Sins of a Solar Empire, which is also releasing a standalone expansion this June.
However, this isn’t it. Its labeled as an RTS on its steam page, but it’s not really true. Endless Space plays more like Civilization IV or V, with most all of its features being turn based. However, this isn’t an unwelcome misrepresentation, as I’ve been interested in a space based Civilization-esque title for… years. Ever since the Beyond the Sword expansion pack for Civ IV featured that “Final Frontier” scenario, which featured turn based space travel and development.
Though it plays like the “Final Frontier” scenario from Beyond the Sword in terms of star system development, movement operates differently, this time being very similar to Sins of a Solar Empire, in which units and fleets can travel between neighboring star systems. However, unlike Sins, units can only travel a specific amount of space per turn, depending on the ship type, and often end their movement in the middle of a warp lane or arriving at a system just as enemy ships are jumping to the system that you previously occupied. This makes space travel tedious and time consuming and hard to coordinate.
The combat scenarios are very well done though, making all this frustration worth the effort. During battlescenarios, the player chooses from Fleet skills called “Battlecards” to lend certain aspects and tactical advantages to your fleet and disadvantages to the opposing fleets during engagement stages, of which there are 4: Arrival, Long Range, Mid Range, and Melee. All of which are affected by your Admiral’s Fleet skills, Fleet composition, and ship blueprint modifications. The last of which is probably the coolest feature of warfare.
As you develop certain technologies, buildings, abilities, improvements, and colonization rights unlock. In my previous paragraph, I mentioned ship mods, which is the player chooses to expand along the scientific branch of warfare, these modifications become unlocked and available to the player, allowing him/her to open up the fleet menu and customize ship blueprints to optimize their preferences in warfare. For instance, the basic defense ship for each race tend to lack in Mid-Long range attack methods, so in the battle scenarios, ships pretty much toss rocks at each other until the melee phase, where kinetic weapons are intended for use. So, a player who would like an early advantage can modify and create a new blueprint for ship types to create a ship versatile in Long-range and Melee-range attacks. There are also improvements for other features such as shield mitigation, armor absorption, invasion effectiveness, etc. The downside to this, though, is that each ship has a certain crew capacity, which varies on every race’s ships, and higher level modifications require more and more crew levels to implement, sort of creating an effectiveness cap until larger ship designs are unlocked.
Heroes act similarly. When they gain levels, their upkeep in Dust raises, making them expensive over time and often turning out to be a large burden on the players economy if not grown correctly and set to govern a system instead of commanding fleets. As heroes level up through experience, abilities get unlocked for them. For Fleet Admirals, raising levels in the Offensive stat unlock fleet abilities to use in combat. Same goes for the defensive stat. For System Governors, any of the other skills increase stats from the system they’re assigned to. Wit, for example, raises the percentages of Scientific development and Dust acquisition.
Anyway, the game looks fantastic and feels comfortable. Even though there is a ton of information to take in and it’s a little hard to jump into without reading the tutorial pages, Endless Space is a very solid game, offering a similar experience to Civilization IV.