Endless Space (PC) Review

By Javier Jimenez 03.10.2013 3

Review for Endless Space on PC

MOO is not the sound of bovines. It stands for Master of Orion, one of the earliest and best of PC gaming's 4X games. It stands alongside Civilization in shaping the landscape of turn-based strategy gaming. Everyone knows Civ; however, MOO launched its own waves of clones, and many of the hallmarks of the genre as seen today, such as a more tactile three to four-pronged tech tree, trace their roads back to Orion.

Sadly, as PC gaming waned and console gaming rose, the 4X genre faded as well, despite being the best way to waste a day with just-one-more-turn, one-more-turn, one-more-turn. Thankfully, all that is old is new again, and so it is with Endless Space.

To call Endless Space a Master of Orion clone would be an understatement. From the first screen, it imitates the functionality and design of MOO exactly. At game start, the player is presented with a motley crew of alien archetypes, the scientific researchers, the robotic builders, the alien warriors, and humans. Players can even create their own race in exactly the way MOO did, balancing positive and negative traits, choosing a portrait and home world features, and so on.

This step-for-step imitation doesn't stop at the empire selection screen, though. It carries on into the game proper. Starting off with one planet, one exploring unit, and one colony unit, players are limited in exploration by their empire's engine range; usually about four planets away from the home world. A tech is chosen from one of the four trees (diplomacy and trading, warfare, exploration and expansion, applied sciences), tax rates are adjusted, the home world build queue is adjusted, and starships set off to explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate, complete with pulsing neon-coloured destination lines.

Endless Space is very nearly a MOO remake, just without the license. It's no cheap knockoff, though. It is made with skill, by developers who seem to know very well what makes a good turn-based strategy game.

There have been many recent knockoffs of those early 4X pioneers. None have been made with such skill as this. It shines through in the interface; so integral to a satisfying strategy gaming session. It shows in the quality hand drawn artwork, in character portraits and random events. It shows in how smoothly the game plays and transitions between states, such as flipping quickly between the galactic map to a city screen and back again, which makes managing a sprawling galactic empire a treat rather than a chore.

Everything about the game plays well and looks good. Which brings us to today, a year after the game's first release, and the reason for another write-up at this late day. Endless Space has expanded with its first paid DLC: Disharmony.

Screenshot for Endless Space on PC

The expansion has brought to the table some nice improvements to the user interface. Ship building has a cleaner look to it. The tech trees have similarly been cleaned up. Combat has undergone major changes with the addition of carrier-based fighters and bombers. There are new invasion mechanics, as well. And of course there are new techs and events and more.

Despite these new additions, Disharmony received its fair share of criticism for being buggy, broken and bad, and, honestly, it deserved that criticism on release. However, the developer, Amplitude Studios, has remained dedicated to its work and has released multiple patches to address the problems, both technical- and design-wise. And now, cleaned up a bit and dusted off after some scuffles in the playground, Endless Space stands as a very fine example of its genre.

Is it perfect? No. There are still imbalanced empires, skills and techs. There are still small bugs. However, every strategy game known to man has such problems. Civilization, the biggest name in the genre, has numerous. When all is said and done, the fact is that Endless Space is fun and it plays well, and that's all that really matters.

It's a shame that Endless Space hasn't received more attention. Civilization V received ungodly amounts of praise for reviving turn-based strategy, even though it was even buggier and more poorly balanced on release than Endless Space was, without outright brainless enemy AI and very dodgy multiplayer. The recent X-Com remake was also problematic, extremely buggy on release, and, in many ways, a thin imitation of the original X-Com,; simplified and more digestible, but blander and less interesting for it.

Screenshot for Endless Space on PC

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Endless Space has done better than just dress up old favourites or water down something "hardcore" for the modern market. It's taken a timeless classic and notably improved on its design. It fails in stumbling out of the blocks, in having an art style that is very clean but not as exciting as the original MOO, Civ or X-Com, and in having combat that is tedious and best set to "auto generate results."

However, Endless Space cannot be recommended more highly enough. It's not just a solid turn-based strategy game, but one made with skill, craft, and ingenuity. The way it plays is markedly different than Civilization or X-Com, yet compellingly similar in its addictiveness. If it has to be bought on sale, do so, but make sure to buy it.

Developer

Amplitude

Publisher

Iceberg

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

just-once-more-turnium, I thought that was clever =p

This was a cool game few years ago when it came out. I too found it too buggy!

Christos (guest) 28.08.2018#3

Definitely not worth an 8. Just because a strategy has a nice presentation and cool space battle graphics does not mean it is a great strategy game people... This was a 6/10 at best.

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