Endless Space Begins

By John Walker on July 5th, 2012 at 11:00 am.

I find the concept of endless space more daunting than inspiring.

Endless Space, the 4X spacy strategy is now out on Steam, and has a launch trailer with lots of pretty explosions. It also explains that in the end, it’s a game about dust. I am bemused by the role that dust appears to play in fiction. From Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, to CCP’s EVE spin-off, it’s hard to think of a more innocuous object to take such an important role. Where are the stories about fluff? And lint? Where are my games about loose bits of thread? I have been sidetracked. You can see the launch trailer below.

So, are you planning on playing this one? It’s £23, and sadly there’s no demo yet.

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108 Comments »

  1. Xzi says:

    I’ll wait for a sale, but it definitely interests me. Reminds me of Sins of a Solar Empire. But then, I bought that trilogy some time ago and have yet to play it, so maybe I’m way off on that comparison. Think I’ll start that soon…been a while since I fired up a good RTS.

  2. Njordsk says:

    If only combats were in STR, and not a card game…

    Homeworld 4X and instant buy. SoaSe kind of bored me though, too slow, HW2 was much more nervous.

  3. Drake Sigar says:

    The dust will flow.

    Already preordered a physical copy, John. Don’t you worry your pretty little head.

  4. Rowsdower says:

    I played a good deal of the beta and all and all its a decent game. It holds heavy under currents of Master of Orion and could be seen as a spiritual (and actually rather concrete) successor to the classic series.

    As far as how it plays compared to other 4x titles you can expect a faster more streamlined experience as oposed to say a Civilization title or even its cousin Galactic Civilizations. I found myself at times driven to leave a game half finished and turn to a game of Civ 4 out of a desire for a bit more depth but really the game shines as a rather quick, less intensive 4x alternative.

    Its pretty easy to recommend to fans of the genre with the less than typical price tag.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      ..

    • x1501 says:

      After experiencing a number of “streamlined” titles like, say, vanilla Civ V, I automatically view this word as a PR euphemism for “dumbed down”, “simplified” and “aimed at the lowest common denominator”. Could you please elaborate on the “streamlined” part? Is the game significantly more simplistic and lacking in features compared to MoO, GalCiv, etc?

      • RegisteredUser says:

        Having read the rest of the comments, it appears combat and ship outfitting is nothing like MOO at all.

      • Xardas Kane says:

        Because bad multiplayer at launch means dumbing down, right? Don’t make me laugh.

        • x1501 says:

          Yeah, yeah, yeah. You thought that Civ 4 was needlessly complex in many regards and “streamlining” most of the stuff down was a great idea. I thought that it was still overly simplistic for a game of such ambition and scale, and that the dumbed down sequel, with its horrendous AI and non-existent multiplayer, was downright unplayable. Unable to comprehend the gist of my argument (hey, Civ 4 was too complex for you, remember?) you decided that my key problem with the game was its “laggy” multiplayer. Unable to continue the discussion in any meaningful or productive manner, I kindly asked you to stop stalking my posts. Feeling victorious, yet somehow still slightly annoyed, you complied. We both lived happily ever after. Now, shush.

          • Universal Quitter says:

            Your views are hardly new and I, for one, am tired of hearing them. Go join MENSA, become theoretical physicist, and stop wasting time with games if you are THAT smart. We NEED you out there designing Cold Fusion Reactors and a better mousetrap. Seriously, though, don’t buy the game and keep trite expressions to yourself.

            Cynicism and wisdom may seem like the same thing to an immature person, but there is an important distinction to be made that you’ll have to learn for yourself.

          • x1501 says:

            Another one with reading comprehension problems, eh? I may have mentioned Civ 5 in brief as one of the most recent and well-known cases of developer “streamlining”, but I’m not the one who keeps bringing that month old discussion back from the dead. As for the fact that you’re tired of hearing about it being dumbed down, lacking in features and so on, it should tell you more about the quality of the game—or at least the public’s perception of it—than about my intellectual ability. But as much as I like wasting my time going after ad hominems and non sequiturs, this is supposed to be a thread about Endless Space, not Civilization 5. Let’s keep it this way.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      I have played every 4X game since 1991, and loved the Civ series more or less, including Civ 5 (I still think 2 was the best when you adjust for date of release). I think Endless Space is excellent as the new top dog in 4x. Distant Worlds is pretty decent, and if Kerberos survives long enough to make an expansion for SotS2 that might become playable, but right now I think this is the best one. The AI needs some love, but that is always really hard to pull off.

      I don’t mind the “simplified combat” at all because in most of these games the combat actually is very simplified from a decision making point of view. Sure you have the illusion of complexity because you have control, but in many games the right moves are just charging ahead, or some single pat maneuver the AI cannot handle. That isn’t complexity, it is just an illusion. The cards, while maybe not my favorite part of the game, at least have the possibility of having the AI competent at combat (unlike every other strategy game ever released more complicated than chess pretty much).

  5. Metonymy says:

    Describing the universe and all it’s interactions in terms of “dust” is fairly common, it’s an idea that’s been circulating in casual scientific thought for a while.

    Of course, the exact phrasing in this particular trailer, and it’s vague connotations of ‘the spice’ of a more auspicious setting, is pretty terrible.

  6. BobbyDylan says:

    This game is pretty good. The only downfall is the unisnpired card game combat.

    After a few hours of playing, the combat becomes a chore, and watching the same animations is outright bland.

    Good game, but the lack of propper combat will see it fall short of classic status. Maybe Legends of Pegasus will do better.

    • Sic says:

      Isn’t the point of the card-game multiplayer?

      You don’t have to do it, you know. You can just skip it.

      • Grape says:

        Yeah, let’s skip the combat! Because then we’re left with the high-adrenaline thrill of bulding shit and delegating taxes.

        Fun! Fun! Fun!

        • Joshua Northey says:

          A lot of people actually like the element of these games, that is sort of what the genre is about. If you just want combat plays SoaSE.

  7. RPSRSVP says:

    I’m done with Space RTS for a while via SOSE: Rebellion. Bad timing, right after SOSE and no demo will hurt any game going for a niche market, especially as niche as Space RTS.

    • timmyvos says:

      Fortunately it’s a turn-based game and not actually an RTS.

    • Tiax says:

      It’s not a RTS.

      • huw says:

        Sadly, it’s more RTS than it pretends to be. From the combat (if you do it manually, which you often have to if you want to win) to the fact that the enemy can still move around during your turn, to the PC just arbitrarily deciding which battles you get to take part in if you don’t select quickly enough.

        Very disappointing in that respect, really.

        • Universal Quitter says:

          I almost want to buy it just to see what the hell you guys are complaining about? Complain in a way that makes sense to those that haven’t played the game.

          Card-based combat? Simultaneous movement? Elaborate on why that stuff sucks.

    • Cam says:

      After playing so much Sins of a Solar Empire, a card-based combat system just won’t work for me. I’d rather just have Sins adopt more traditional 4x game features, while maintaining the RTS combat.(and adding customization)

  8. Toberoth says:

    I’m kind of interested in this, but the trailer gave me no idea of how the combat works. Is it real-time, Total War style, turn-based, or what?

  9. Fuzzball says:

    It’s sort of like simultaneous, turn-based card strategy. There are three phases to each battle, and for each one you select a card to play. They basically come down to a game of…rock paper scissors, with each card countering a different type of card as well as providing its benefit. It’s an admittedly mediocre style of combat to be in such an otherwise awesome game, but it does look fantastic graphically.

    EDIT: Oops, this was meant to be a reply to Toberoth!

    • Toberoth says:

      Hmmmm ok, that sounds a little odd! Thanks for the reply :-)

    • Gap Gen says:

      I dunno, it works, given that balancing a more RTS-like battle would be more difficult. Sure, your role in battle is fairly limited, but it is crucial to the survival of your ships in evenly-matched encounters. The trick is realising that there are 3 types of weapon and 3 types of armour that counter each weapon; in my most recent game, for example, I was fighting empires mostly using kinetic weapons, and then an enemy shows up using lasers, so all of a sudden I have to research shields and retrofit all of my ships, or they’re just blown out of the sky. Then the question is whether you specialise your ships to fight a certain foe, or generalise to work against anything. Then there are heroes, who when upgraded make your fleets much more powerful.

      I agree that RTS battles might be fun, but as it is, this system works pretty well.

      • neems says:

        I basically like the battles as they are – I’m the kind of person who always auto resolves fights in Total War so I can get on with the important stuff – but they could maybe do with a little bit of tweaking, just to make them a bit more exciting. From what I can gather, in the release version you can move the camera around during battles, which might help. They certainly look pretty cool if you have a couple of sufficiently big fleets duking it out (doesn’t happen much for me unfortunately as I tend to field a few big ships rather than a fleet of little ones).

        I generally specialise my fleets, especially early on when most of your enemies will be using kinetic weapons – get in early with missiles / beams and reap the benefits. It can lead to some hurried research / redesigning when you come up against more competent foes though.

        • Jimbo says:

          The problem for me was that the battles didn’t really scale up as the game went on. The actual ship types and the composition of your fleet seemed largely irrelevant – the weapons and shields were all that mattered.

          • Apolloin says:

            Personally speaking I hated the fact that smaller ship fleets had more firepower than fleets fielding larger ships. The only advantage to the larger ships was that the damage taken in a winning battle was less likely to add up to a whole ship and thus result in a ship loss.

      • Gap Gen says:

        Yes, things like ship placement, targetting and maneuver aren’t really included in the game, which is a shame. Then again, like I said, the system works OK and it’s not trying to be anything it’s not. I think the system works well for a game that’s going to have a lot of battles – in Rome I spent forever whack-a-moling every last enemy army (I must have fought around 10 armies while marching across the Libyan coast alone one time), whereas here battles are over in 30 seconds no matter what you do. If you have a complex RTS system, you really want to limit the repetitiveness of the thing.

  10. shrodinger says:

    Dust = Spice ???? just sayin..

  11. The First Door says:

    I’m really quite interested in this, been a while since I played any pretty looking space 4X games. Hopefully it will drag me away from being repeatedly killed in FTL for a bit! Shame about the lack of a demo, though.

  12. Mistabashi says:

    I’ll definitely be picking this one up some time soon, it looks pretty perfect aside from perhaps the combat (I’ll have to wait and see how I feel about that).

    • jrpatton says:

      The battles can get repetitive. You usually pick three cards to play over and over again. So far, though, it hasn’t put me off the game. I’m really enjoying it.

      My current complaint is that there doesn’t seem to be a way to conquer through conversion. You get influence spheres, but they don’t seem to affect enemy planets. They just act as no-fly-zones for unfriendly units. It makes the diplomacy tech tree less valuable.

      • Koshinator says:

        Expanded diplomacy and sabotage/spying systems are on the list to be implemented after release.. no time frame, but should be good when they arrive.

  13. Gap Gen says:

    To what extent is the background story expanded from the beta? I liked the story, but I didn’t get the sense of it going anywhere other than hints of a background story in the flavour text.

  14. razgon says:

    Sadly, what started as the most promising TBS game for a long time has turned out a bit sad, in that it was released early, and according to the developer because they didn’t want to become bankrupt.

    It clearly shows, in a lot of optimization and some features that were planned, but didn’t make it to the release.

    Still – the core game is pretty great – I just wish they had given it a month or two more in the oven before release!

  15. Jimbo says:

    I played a couple games of this through a while back. It wasn’t great, unfortunately. It was close though, so I guess I should give it another go in release state before being too hard on it.

  16. jkz says:

    Mud is quite well represented, use it a lot in war I hear, apparently mixes well with blood.

  17. Spatvark says:

    The old Infocom Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy text adventure was all about bits of fluff and lint. Just sayin’.

  18. HexagonalBolts says:

    I bought it earlier, I’m actually really enjoying it, it’s got just the right balance of stuff going on. It took me a little while to figure it all out (important: remember you can pay cash to instantly build buildings, the AI might be getting ahead of you because it’s doing this).

  19. Gnoupi says:

    I’m quite interested, but I would really prefer to try a demo of it, before buying. Unfortunately, devs said that they can’t possibly make a demo because of their technical choices.

    So I guess I’ll wait for a sale.

  20. Dirk says:

    If I remember correctly, thread is a main antagonist in Anne McCaffrey’ Dragonriders series, so it might be relatively underrated yet not completely unrepresented in fiction.

  21. neems says:

    In the absence of a demo, if you’re on the fence it might be worth checking out some youtube vids. It really is a great game.

  22. mcwill says:

    I’m working on a 4X(ish) game about weird wriggly stuff. Will that do?

  23. Skydancer says:

    I would point everybody interested in multiplayer that we have a thread over in the forums to arrange matches:

    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/forums/showthread.php?5139-Endless-Rabble-RPS-Endless-Space-Multiplayer-antics

  24. Hoaxfish says:

    I want to like this, but then I feel that I wouldn’t get enough play out of it for my ~£20. Will certainly pick it up if it’s on sale.

    I say that as someone who only played through MOO2 once, and then put it down.

  25. Easy says:

    I’m having loads of fun, it’s very addictive, that submit turn button keeps on looking at me saying “cliiiick me”. If you’re a 4x fan, and a space opera fan, I can’t see how you wouldn’t really enjoy it.

  26. caddyB says:

    I like it, but it’s a little on the light side of things. Definitely worth a buy if you like 4x games though.

  27. pakoito says:

    Celeron 1.2 GHz, Intel GMA4500, it works (haven’t gotten to the endgame yet, tho). Game is just genious.

  28. UncleLou says:

    Why has noone since Homeworld (with the exception of EVE, as far as that counts) managed to capture the majesty of space combat? It all looks so boring and static in SoaSE or in this trailer, even with lots of explosions.

    Just thinking about how bigger ships in HW1/2 “die”, tilting to the side and down, and the scale between tiny fighters and the biggers ships, sill gives me goosebumps.

    That aside, it looks interesting. Need a demo though I think.

    • Tiax says:

      You my friend never played Nexus : The Jupiter Incident

      • UncleLou says:

        Wrong I am afraid. I have played Nexus. Never completed it though because I never quite got the hang of the combat system. I don’t remember that it was anyway near the scale of HW though, but maybe I didn’t play it far enough – but it did indeed look nice. I remember mostly the beginning with a somewhat confusing storyline, derelict ships, an ambush… maybe I should give it another chance!

    • Gap Gen says:

      Nexus’s combat was indeed awesome, although several of the missions were quite frustrating. I think I preferred its kind of combat to Homeworld; in HW it was mostly a case of getting a whole bunch of ships together and clicking on the enemy blob, whereas in Nexus you had to think more tactically about what you targetted, whether you’d blow a ship up or take down its subsystems, etc.

      • RegisteredUser says:

        And both have nothing on the original MOO, whose ship building and turn based combat had far, far more depth and levels of awesome.

        Now that’s a sad state of affairs indeed.

  29. dmastri says:

    Played the beta for awhile. Streamlined and polished, but maybe a little simple. I eventually ended up being driven back to Space Empire IV to quench my thirst for more depth, but I could see this game really shining in multiplayer and thusly have been egging all my friends on to buy it.

  30. povu says:

    How’s the learning curve? I’m always a bit intimidated by 4X space games.

    • Nebular says:

      I’m finding it pretty damn steep. There’s are tutorials that highlight what UI elements do and using the UI afterwards is a breeze, but I’ve found it just isn’t enough to help you understand the game as a whole. I’ve found that I’m WAAAAAAY behind on the score and can never figure out why… along with how the A.I. expands so fast without happiness/production issues, and so on. If there was an in-game help system like Civilization’s Civilopedia it would probably do wonders to help out new players. As it stands, I’ve found that I’m more frustrated by the game because it’s not very new-player friendly.

      • Gap Gen says:

        Things like race attributes and techs can dramatically transform your dust income, happiness, etc. I tend to focus production on a few planets, which become my fleet factories, and focus science and dust on other planets (although in practice certain systems will be awesome at everything and certain systems will contain one tiny ball of ice).

      • pakoito says:

        Automatize the production and focus on who send where.

      • Fhoenix says:

        Actually it’s not because you are bad and the AI is good. It’s because the AI is bad, but it cheats and has massive bonuses.

    • Gap Gen says:

      After a few games I think I have the hang of it, but overall the interface is clean and helpful. A few pointers:
      1) Combat is a case of balancing 3 types of weapon (kinetics, beams and torpedos) and making sure that you defend against the right one while firing the one that your enemy doesn’t protect against (so if he has a lot of flak, don’t use missiles).
      2) With the techs, it depends on the situation, but in general you want to research what’s quick so that you get a good range of techs, unless you *need* that next beam upgrade, say. It takes time to figure out what’s important in the tree. If you zoom into the highest zoom level you can see what each tech gives you (I missed this the first time and it’s crucial).
      3) The races matter. The Sophons tend to be weak militarily, so I had a problem in my first 2 games where I was always fighting an uphill struggle initially, before my tech advantage kicked in.
      4) Put one hero in charge of your main fleet and 2 heroes on planets. Move around the planet heroes as planets become more or less productive in different areas.
      5) Start on Normal. You’ll be fighting an uphill struggle but you learn more than if you play on Easy and win battles without trying or understanding why.

  31. Vinraith says:

    Is the AI still having the problems it was 2 weeks ago? That is, is it still not able to design ships well and still not able to handle the colony upgrade system?

    • Joshua Northey says:

      Remind me again of a 4x game where the AI does design units well and build cities/colonies well. because that will be the first. The AI is weak, but it is not wildly weaker than most other 4X AIs. A lot of them just paper that over with bonuses and call it an AI, even ones people love (looking at you GalCiv).

  32. n1Cola says:

    Preorder it and it just didn’t get to me..
    Now waiting to see how pegasus will be.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OE8k3nWkbY

  33. MythArcana says:

    *Looks under the hood*

    Yup, it’s a Steam game alright.

    • Brun says:

      Surprised it took you this long to deliver your trademark anti-Steam comment. Pushed all the way back to Page 2? You’re slipping.

  34. LintMan says:

    “Where are the stories about fluff? And lint?”

    +1
    Hear Hear!
    That’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout!

    We demand more stories about lint!

  35. Dances to Podcasts says:

    Endless space becomes a lot less daunting if you just think of it as a circle.

    • Sidewinder says:

      That wouldn’t be endless, just cornerless. But the game isn’t about endless space, but Endless space- it’s an adjectivized proper noun.

  36. Updoppler says:

    I have to say the races are fascinating, but one of them, the Cravers, are borderline plagiarized from the Replicators of Stargate: Atlantis. The Cravers were created as weapons by an ancient civilization in a fight against some other race. When the ancient civilization deemed they weren’t worth it, they cast them off to some planet and tried to eliminate them. Unfortunately, because they were distracted by their war, they left some Cravers alive. This is exactly like the Replicators of Stargate: Atlantis. In fact, the Cravers are even cyborgs, like the Replicators are technological beings. The Cravers consume resource-rich worlds they come across, the replicators do the same.

    • wodin says:

      Really thats typical sci fi stuff to be honest. Stargate would have got the idea from somewhere else and so on.

    • Dominic White says:

      Yeah, an all-consuming artificial swarm has been a cornerstone of sci-fi for at least the past 50 years. The fact that the Cravers are a sentient, biological race make it a bit more interesting. I also find it hilarious to invest in tourism when playing as them.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      I am going to save you some trouble in the future and give you a big spoiler about art.

      SPOLIER ALERT

      Everything is ripped off of everything else, there is almost no “truly original art”. It is almost all building on past things in tiny tiny increments.

  37. FeepingCreature says:

    Permutation City too.

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