Endless Legends is Amplitude Studios’ latest release in to the 4x strategy genre. In a genre dominated by science fiction (including Amplitude’s previous release Endless Space), and historical games (like the genre defining Civilizations), Endless Legends is a fantasy 4x – something attempted but rarely successfully.
Endless Legend attempts some different ideas in a genre that often adheres to Civilization’s style of set up. Through it, we can see in a way what might have been had the 4x genre gone in a different path with quests that matter, combat that is more involved and other attempted ideas. They don’t all work or are fully realized but it gives the game its own unique charms.
GameplayEndless Legends has 8 different factions, each of which has its own unique strengths and weaknesses that differentiate it significantly from the others. From the dust hoarding Broken Lords who don’t need food to the nomadic Roving Clans each one plays differently and has a unique main quest line. That presents not only one of the paths to victory, but tends to reward you for doing things that fit the faction’s style. The only real issue is the lack of balance against each other – they don’t seem to have been done so particularly well which can be a bit of an issue.
Quests make up a lot of the game play in Endless Legends. There are 3 main styles of quests you get – your main faction questline, minor faction quests and roaming monster quests from ruins. Main Faction quests have the most variety and give some interesting game play choices in whether or not to spend resources pursuing them. Minor Faction quests are from a selection and when done they pacify the faction to stop them from spawning barbarian-esq units and make them your ally if you colonize the region. The ruin quests either give special hero equipment or some extra strategic or luxury resources.
The map is split into numerous regions with a hex grid map, with each region only able to hold one city. This helps early on minimizing the amount of micromanaging that can sometimes consume a 4x game. Sadly, towards the mid and late game, you are colonizing enough most of the time that it fails to significantly reduce it compared to other 4x games with numerous cities (or colonies in sci-fi games). Each region is the maximum your city can influence and which minor factions impact it though you only get food, industry, dust (money), and science (FIDS) from hexes adjacent to your city or districts.
City building is an area handled differently than most 4x games. While there is the traditional population management and passive buildings, the difference is the District system. Districts increase the reach of your city letting it reap the FIDS from adjacent hexes in the region that aren’t already bringing in. Cities and Districts can also level up once (twice if playing as cultist) which increase the city or district tiles income and approval bonus (happiness more or less) if they have 4 or more adjacent districts. Resource extractors allow you to get luxury or strategic resources from those areas in the region that have them. Sadly, this system feels pared back from where it was and doesn’t add as much depth as one would hope with only one non-borough district that I’ve seen and no other modifications or upgrades that I've seen.
The game features a social policy like feature known as Empire Plan. You spend influence (also used in diplomatic functions) to set your plan in four areas, each with 4 tiers of levels. Economy, Army, Science and industry, and Empire/expansion are the 4 areas. A new tier opens with each of the first 4 eras. The bonuses from the Empire Plan are quite substantial and you set them every 20 turns spending the influence on it allowing you to adjust what you want to focus on every once in a while.
Technology is a pleasant break from the typical tech tree that Civilizations uses so much, the technologies are divided up into 6 eras. Each era has technologies of different types you can research such as buildings, units, resources, weapons and other specialities – enough that you won’t typically be able to research them all. Once you resource 8 technologies from an era, you move forward to the next which increases the cost of research – though you can always research earlier era technologies as well. The freedom of choice is nice but one can’t help but wish there were more as due to needing to spend 2 on resources and some other staples, there is less than it might appear on the surface.
Seasons are another factor that requires some adjustment. Winter is coming in Endless Legend and with it a decrease in all sorts of production. Winter decreases food, dust, industry production as well as army movement and vision. As the game goes on, it begins putting different penalties in each winter such as decreasing unit defenses during winter. Additionally, winter comes more often as the game goes on and lasts longer until it becomes permanent.
Combat is an area that you likely have seen discussion of as it shows a window to another way of handling combat. The combat takes place within a region, with nearby allies from each side getting to reinforce the armies that are fighting and takes place in a phase-based system. The smallness of the area though limits strategy and tactics in it, as does the lack of options. Due to the lack, a lot of times it was just quicker and simpler to resolve it with auto similar to how a civilizations game would resolve a fight.
Units are a disappointment in the game, adding to the issues with combat. While on the surface it seems like there is a decent selection, it quickly becomes apparent with the games customization that the units are incredibly similar to each other with only the type (Infantry, Flying, Ranged and Support) and perhaps a unique ability at most. The gear, from technology and the racial standard abilities become the only key differentiators. Units also level up from working on quests, exploring or based on the era they are produced in which boosts their attack, defense and damage stats.
Heroes are a mixture of super units and city administrators. They each have a skill tree which has 3 parts in it – Faction, Type and Common which give skill options based on those areas. Skills either improve the city the hero is administering, the army he’s with or the hero’s own fighting skill. Additionally heroes can equip special gear that is gotten from quests that units cannot use giving them even more potential power.
The AI is one of the major issues with the game as it is lackluster in many sections. Oftentimes, the computer seems to completely ignore the player instead bickering amongst each other and its tactics are simplistic. Additionally its diplomatic interactions with the player are few – and it seems there is less between the different computer players.
Bugs are relatively rare – I’ve had the game crash twice in over 20 hours of play and normally towards the end of the game. Thankfully the game has an autosave on each turn which limits that from being particularly harmful.
Graphics and audioThe game, especially for a 4x, looks absolutely beautiful most of the time. The maps are very well drawn with attention to detail that give the different regions some feel. Different features are rendered on the map quite nicely, and so zooming in often is a treat on the eyes. Each feature is painted out there and with care given to each one is clear creating a varied appearance over the whole map.
When you zoom out, the details fade into a regional map with borders shown by player colour, region name, city and the resource icons’ showing to allow a quick bird’s eye view of what is where without getting caught in the little details.
The audio isn’t special but it has a nice fantastical feel to it that works out well and doesn’t overshadow the game. It doesn’t try to take over and instead settles nicely complementing and going on throughout the game.
In ClosingEndless Legends is an ambitious game that can’t quite live up to its ambitions. With a few patches and updates, it may be able to get closer to it – but despite that it is a highly enjoyable game with a unique take on the 4x genre.
With great ambitions come great opportunities. Endless Legends doesn't quite make it but is a solid title.