|Dev: Amplitude Studios|
|Release: July 24, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
So, big galaxy to explore, diplomatic relations à la the Civilization series or Alpha Centauri (probably present in a lot of other 4X games as well; as mentioned before, I don't have a ton of background in the field), a massive tech tree to field, but, hey, what about the combat?
Combat is there. It exists. It's kind of neat, in a way, since it's really the only time you see 3D models of your ships (which you can outfit yourself, using a "frame" and loading it down with attachments and weapons of various purposes). When two fleets come into conflict, you can either allow the battle to resolve itself (it tells you beforehand, with a visual bar, who has the advantage) or take over control. The latter is kind of a timed three-tiered game of rock-paper-scissors. There's a long-range, mid-range, and close-range round, during which different types of weapons are used (missiles, then beams, then kinetics); the game moves through these stages on a timer. You may pick a strategy for each round, which can enhance your capabilities, while crippling your enemy in some fashion, though certain types of strategies negate other types of strategies, requiring some degree of foresight and knowledge of the system.
One of my biggest problems with the game, though, is that retreat is one such strategy, meaning it's only accessible from within the battle. You can't simply tell a battle to auto-resolve with a retreat command, so your choice will often be "lose your solitary scouting ship because it doesn't have firepower" or "sit through the battle animation so you can make your ship run away." It's not as obvious a decision as it might seem.
This is sort of an echo of my biggest general problem with the game: Overall, Endless Space doesn't do enough for you. For people who are hardcore into 4X games, this is probably perfectly acceptable, since I imagine they love micro-managing each planet on their turn so that they have the optimal empire with which to wipe out their foes (or present them with such abject niceness that they can't help by join with them in peaceful jubilation). And there are A.I. routines you can attach to each planet you control, but as your empire expands, managing it becomes a headache either way. The one place I would like to see more complexity is in finances; you can apply a flat tax rate to your entire empire, but can't tax differently by any sort of resource or what have you. This might actually make sense since, other than Dust, the game's currency, resources are more concepts than actual goods.
Endless Space also has online play. This is handled exactly as you would expect: start or join a game, choose an empire, a galaxy-size and shape, etc., then take turns building your empire and trying to overcome your opponents. Games, in both single- and multiplayer, are score-based, but what composes one's score is not entirely sure, and I'd sometimes lose a game without having any idea why.
In general, though, it was a pleasure just to watch my empire grow, even if it wasn't doing so in an effective manner, and I think that's what counts.
Date: August 7, 2012