February 3rd, 2015
October, 13th, 2015
Time Played: 45 hours
Last Played: 11/10/2014
Endless Legend: A Rough Diamond
The review formerly known as ‘2 hours later it was 5 hours later’
Edit: I was asked to include the trailer for the games I review, so here ya go!
It has taken me about eight months to finally articulate how I feel about Endless Legend.
I tried to review this game back in February… and I got lost in vast paragraphs of technical minutiae… Much like actually playing Endless Legend!
I’m not going to lie, Endless Legend is technical to a fault. There are a TON of systems in this game… And they are not explained as well as they could be, which often times left me guessing.
But that doesn’t mean that Endless Legend isn’t fun. In fact I was almost late for work because of this game. I simply lost track of time, I was having such a good time. Despite some rather obtuse systems that, honestly, after almost 50 hours I still probably couldn’t properly articulate, I really do like Endless Legend. As I’m sure you can tell by the title of this review.
In fact, I might like it more than Civilization V. Which is a bold thing to say; ‘cause I love me some Civ V.
Not to mention I have spent more than double the amount of time in Civ – 100 hours.
There is something refreshing about Endless Legend that just endears me to it, despite some rough edges. Perhaps it is that I had a massive hankering for a ‘fantasy/sci-fi Civ-like’ game around the time Endless Legend came out… And ‘Beyond Earth’ looked incredibly disappointing to me.
The truth is it’s probably because Endless Legend is incredibly creative, and gives each of its eight races a distinct difference that changes how they are played in a pretty meaningful way. As an example, the Necrophages– Bug-men, cannot engage in diplomacy. They can only wage war. Or the Broken Lords, living suits of armor, who do not require food due to them not technically having bodies.
Almost each race has a decent gameplay twist that makes them stand out from the others, and decent enough ‘lore’ to motivate you to play by their particular rules.
Amplitude did a very good job of setting up the world of Endless Legend, everything feels rooted in their particular universe. This game has loads of character; even the landscape takes on a persona as you play through the game. The game map includes verticality that can create very beautiful landscapes, as well as harsh and unforgiving terrain. Along with verticality the game has a seasonal system in place that changes from ‘Summer’ to ‘Winter’ after a set amount of turns. Winter changes everything about the game. And gives a wonderful, ebb and flow to the gameplay. Where you are always thinking in terms of “X, Y, and Z need to be done before winter comes…”
There were plenty of “Winter is coming” jokes, when playing with friends.
However, much like real life, winter can drag on forever and cause a fair amount of frustration as you are severely limited in what you can do while waiting for summer to begin again. During winter all production is slowed, and unit movement is reduced; never, ever, start a war with winter on your heels.
I always found myself dreading winter. Despite genuinely thinking it’s a very cool concept that I really appreciate. I know that’s weird but, hey, I like Dark Souls… My main annoyance with the game’s seasons is that as the game progresses winter becomes longer and more frequent… This is due to the planet, Auriga, dying and slowly stopping its rotation.
I told you the landscape had character.
And while winter as a mechanic is super cool, sometimes I just want to get my army across a continent in under 20 turns.
Overall, I think Winter as a mechanic is a perfect example of Endless Legend as a whole:
Very creative, and very original. But its implementation could have been better. Although I can’t necessarily articulate how it could be better.
There are multitudes of intellectually interesting mechanics in this 4X game that, unfortunately, just have rough edges. And I don’t think it’s for lack of effort on the developer’s part. I genuinely think it’s because they are just, well… intellectual.
I once read a critique of Isaac Asimov that said he wrote like an engineer. And I think that might be a perfect way to describe Endless Legend. Endless Legend feels very mechanical. I could compare it to an engine, with hundreds of moving parts, that I only have a very tangential understanding of their purpose or function. But instead I’ll say that: “Art imitates life”…
Wait, hold on, let me explain myself before we get into an “Are games art?” discussion!
I say this because, Endless Legend is more of a simulator than a 4X game. This might seem odd to say, but the scenarios my friends and I found ourselves in were shockingly close to real politics. And the mechanics of Endless Legend facilitated their depth in a way that Civ could not.
As you progress through the game’s various technological tiers, and eras, you develop more and more powerful weapons and armor for your troops, should you have a military bent– like myself. But if you’ve been waging a ten thousand year war– as I tend to do, the troops you deployed at the beginning of your futile conflict will still be rocking the sticks you gave them during the stone age. While the new troops you send out have Glassteel swords and shields and advanced combat training.
Winter will hit just as you’re one turn away from completing that incredibly important building upgrade, and completely derail your plans for about 12 turns.
Money truly is power, and those who have it will hold power over those who don’t.
The more industrious you are, the more unhappy your people will be. Finding the perfect balance between expanding your territory and placating your populace is a hard balance. Looking forward and seeing what your Empire could be, while being held back but what it currently is.
Land disputes, that turn into full on wars over small chunks of ore.
Becoming mired down in conflict that slowly eats away at both parties leaving them hollow and weak, but failing to destroy either.
Massive swings in geopolitical power. Underdogs becoming super-powers. Then losing their lead due to jealous raids on their territory.
Arguments over what to do with indigenous peoples. Subjugation, or annihilation?
Making agreements over territories, because of their indigenous occupants.
“Let me subjugate the Centaurs, and I will allow you to settle the land next to me…”
Geopolitical frustrations due to the fact that one half of the world is fighting over scarce resources, while the other half is occupied by a lone super-power gobbling up everything in their sight. And the stress and fear of knowing that everything you do is more than likely futile as you viciously try to carve out your own foothold. And then selfishly hold to your territory before the inevitable oceanic invasion as your continental neighbor turns their sights on the valuables you so desperately cling to…
Futilely trying to end a war with your closest neighbor, and trying to point their aggression away from yourself, and towards the more pressing threat.
“We have to stop fighting or the Necrophages will kill both of us!”
Waging a secret war with your “ally” using Private Military Contractors fighting your wars for you. All the while your neighbor sends his own men to futily fight off an army under an anonymous banner.
Knowing your “ally” is sending mercenaries to slowly kill you via attrition, and being unable to retaliate due to their political relationships…
Endless Legend is a game that manages to come shockingly close to reality, while also being a Science Fantasy universe far from it.
I would recommend picking up Endless Legend. Although it has plenty of rough edges, and some frustrating mechanics… The times that I didn’t have fun, were few and far between. Despite not having played the game in almost a year, I can feel the the ‘itch’, that only a game like this can satisfy.
If you’re skeptical, pick this one up on sale. I highly doubt you will regret your purchase.
I know I haven’t.