A Free Weekend Of Endless Space

By Adam Smith on November 30th, 2012 at 7:00 pm.

Endless Space is free to download and play on Steam until 9pm GMT this Sunday and its strategic turn-based space-conquering is fantastic, so you’re going to have to cancel your plans to do some Christmas shopping, hunt sharks or play with your new Nintendo-Box. There are so many space games in the crowd-funding mixer at present but it would be very foolish to forget that this year has already seen such a stellar release. To sonically celebrate the free weekend, the ace soundtrack is also available on a ‘name your price’ basis.

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  1. Premium User Badge

    Faldrath says:

    It is indeed a great game. Some quirks here and there, but it gets the “one more turn” just right. Good excuse to jump back in and see what all those patches did.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      Indeed, best 4x in quite some time. Easily the best this year.

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  2. Techercizer says:

    I pass by most free weekends without an iota of interest, but this looks somewhat worth the look. Downloading as we speak.

  3. Vinraith says:

    To those who’ve been playing this one:

    1) How’s the AI at this point?

    2) How does it stand up, from the standpoint of mechanical depth, with something like Gal Civ 2?

    Why ask questions like this during a free weekend when I could theoretically just try it myself? Because evaluating either of those questions honestly requires more than a weekend’s worth of play.

    • Cooper says:

      I only got it last week, but have played through a few games so far

      1) The AI is variable. This is largely because different faction options lead to very different styles of play. The AI seems to do much better with some styles over others. With the “Cravers” for example, I’ve notcied it often plays itself into a resource-less corner.

      Diplomacy can be a bit odd. In that diplomacy focused faction AI will only accept offers that are very heavily skewed in their favour, whilst regularly making offers of deals that are much more equitable. Then again, this might be cleverer than I’m giving the AI credit; a science heavy empire might be refusing tech exchanges of equal-research value because the Ai may be including a calculation based upo the relative research outputs of empires. Same with resources. But this is never apparent.

      That being said, the AI hasn’t been a walkover, even on normal settings after a half dozen games of experience…

      2) It’s closer to something like MOO than GC2. The depth seems to come from the ways in which factions are properly meaningful choices. Not just a series of small percentage bonuses on the default, but require utterly different approaches and strategies to the game.

      • atticus says:

        Sir, your mention of MOO has convinced me to try this one out.

        Having played BG:EE for the last couple of days I’m in a nostalgic mood, and on the list of games I’ve spent most time playing ever, MOO2 is easily in my top five.

        • dE says:

          And another hope crushed, sigh.
          It dresses like MOO2, but lacks the important parts (like clever tech tree, atmosphere and character). Please don’t expect it to be anything like MOO2. It’s not, really not.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Yeah, it’s sterile, and its few attempts at injecting a bit of character (the trade messages) fall flat.

            But what really killed it for me is infinite pirates. That’s on easiest-mode-for-babies. I couldn’t build any ship that wouldn’t get utterly murdered, anywhere, and being blockaded locked out any better ones. I emptied the coffers speed-building a large bunch of crap ones, actually cleared out the pirates momentarily, and then it spawned twice as many and started invading all my worlds, including home.

            At least let the other races with economies, rather than cheat-spawning from nowhere, stomp my inexperienced behind. Especially since the pirates were higher-tech than any of us!

            Also the combat is truly, truly, dreadful. “Welcome to space, pick a card, PICK A CARD NOW! Yes, I know there are a half-dozen of them (unlocking yet more with techs) and they have various effects to consider and counters vs. enemy cards and it’s all little scraps of text but OOPS you took longer than five seconds, guess your fleet doesn’t get to use one!”

            Hell, I even tried to be smart and noticing the pirates were only using kinetic weapons, which are only truly effective in the last of the three battle phases, managed to get planets with the local resources for it to build missile ships, which are effective in the first battle phase, hoping to knock the pirates out before the losing slugging match. Completely and utterly ineffectual.

          • cptgone says:

            dE sums it up very nicely, apart from the pirates problem LionsPhil mentions.

            most of the game is very polished though, an expansion could do wonders for it.
            some of it’s problems should be easy to sort (e.g. combat, where auto resolve favours the AI, and the player otherwise has to beat the timer, only to waaait for combat to finish).
            EDIT: dontnormally says timers are now optional :)

            this game got me wondering about atmosphere and character and how to implement it. MOO was superb in that regard, despite of it’s minimalist design and aged tech. Endless Space obviously tried to get that right, and i don’t fully understand why it fell short (compared to MOO2).

            BTW 4x fans, do you know 10 minutes space strategy?
            think of it as a free, casual, barebones 4X :)
            it’s AI prolly won’t give you a hard time, but apart from that, it’s great.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Cool. It took longer than 10 minutes, but that was a good blast.

          • cybrbeast says:

            You can turn the pirates of if you don’t like them. I think they add a good challenge, and to the other enemies too.

          • mouton says:

            I agree that it feels sterile. It has some nice elements, but all in all it seems very focused on numbers. MOO1-2 had some cool technologies, interesting elements and a combat that was much more varied than this card-based rock-paper-scissors.

            When playing endless space, it feels much more like a spreadsheet, where you constantly pump a few numbers. Of course, all 4x are like that, but many mask it better.

    • solymer89 says:

      1.The AI is decent, but on higher difficulty they cheat to maintain an edge. Cheat as in they end up getting ships at seemingly random intervals during the game.
      2.Not too familiar with Gal Civ 2, I own it due to steam summer sale but have not found the time to explore deeper. From a Civ IV standpoint however, it is not nearly as in depth. That’s not to say the tech tree is small, but the colony management is fairly easy to grasp and straightforward to maintain and grow. The techs and their descriptions are the best part of the game for me as I love all the advanced tech the devs have thought of. If your in to lore, the story of endless space is an interesting one.

      • Sebmono says:

        1. I don’t think the AI gets random ships for free anymore, that was an old bug (could be mistaken, not 100% sure on that one). It does still cheat on harder difficulties in the Civ style of getting various bonuses while player faces penalties.
        2. How is ES not as in-depth as Civ IV? Colony management can get complex quickly with advances in tech and the ability to customize systems and specialize them if you want becomes a key strategy point dependent on planetary resources, buildings and tech available, and overall strategy pursued by the player. Race specific factors are a big component too and certain races (i.e. Cravers or Sowers) have unique mechanics that make the way you play them and what is important to you very different from other races.

        I think the biggest AI weakness are in Diplomacy (as mentioned previously) and in fleet management. The AI still has a tendency to send outmatched fleets to their death against a far superior fleet over and over again.

        • solymer89 says:

          I say less in depth in regards to the colony system as opposed to the city infrastructure of Civ. In ES each base resource has a handful of buildings that increase that resource. Food, Industry, Dust, and Science all have their own respective upgrades but only a couple mesh really well, and that’s not until much later in the game (the surplus food conversion to production). Basically you don’t really have to think to hard to see which structures should be build and which should be left. In Civ there are a lot more factors to consider from turn 1 on then in ES. That’s not to say ES is a bad game, not at all and I love it. Just saying that between the two, I picked ES up much quicker then I did Civ IV.

      • arccos says:

        I’m actually glad the AI cheats at higher difficulties. Once the developers max out what they can accomplish with programming an AI, they can either make that the top difficulty, or offer artificially increased difficulties like this.

        I would rather have a challenging game even if it’s done through asynchronous rules.

      • Joshua Northey says:

        Every single 4x game does this. Civ does it, GC does it. AN AI cannot compete in a game like this without bonuses. People love to slurp all over the GC AI, but it was mostly just better hidden bonuses, and an easier play environment, not actually better.

        • Zenicetus says:

          GalCiv2 also had a fiendishly non-intuitive economic model, and that always favors a competent AI program that “understands” the model better than the player, and is more able to fine-tune the settings on every turn of the game. It makes the AI seem smarter than it really is.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Comparing the mechanics to GalCiv2, the economy model is much easier to understand, and the game has a more streamlined feel (in a good way). You have a smidgen more control over tactics in combat, but it’s still basically automated combat that keeps the game moving. The UI is gorgeous and easy to use… one of the best UI designs I’ve seen for a strategy game of this type.

      The big disappointment for me, as a fan of GalCiv, is that it has a Civilization-like tech tree that’s almost identical for all factions, with just a few special faction items here and there. GalCiv2’s final expansion added varied tech trees, where you had a strong incentive to play each race differently because their tech trees were so different. That’s missing here. Much like playing Civ, I don’t adjust strategy that much when playing different factions because the tech trees are so alike.

      Still, it’s a good game… a bit of a lightweight as these things go, but I keep coming back to it every few months when I get the itch for space strategy.

      • Joshua Northey says:

        I agree on almost all points. It is not quite as heavy or in depth as some 4x, but that also means it is balanced much better, with a better interface, and quicker more fun play. As much as I love GC2, or Civ it can be a chore during parts, which this rarely is.

    • Eschatos says:

      The game is good, but it is nowhere near as complex as Gal Civ, which is both a good and bad thing.

    • LintMan says:

      I played it at release, so I haven’t seen what any recent patches have added, but I thought it was a fun game with streamlined gameplay amd an excllent UI, but somewhat shallow depth. The “card” mechanic in the ship combat didn’t really do much for me – it just felt like a random factor witthout much strategy.

      Compared to GC2, I’d say the trade and diplomacy are weaker, it has a much smaller and less varied tech tree and it doesn’t have starbases. ES also doesn’t have the grid-based open movement of GC2: all action essentially takes place at the star system level, with hyperlinks between stars. ES makes it much easier to keep your population happy without all the headaches and complxities GC2 has.

      To be fair, GC2 probably had 2-3 years of post-release development/expansion, and ES is way better than GC2 was at its release. If the ES devs keep patching their game and do an expansion or two, I can see them really being the premiere space 4X.

  4. solymer89 says:

    I’ve owned this game since beta. I can attest to it’s spacey goodness. Everyone should give this one a shot.

    • TomxJ says:

      I gave this one a shot for a total of 39 min. The Background was engrosing the soundscape and graphics beautiful. But I just simply don’t ‘get’ these sort fo games. I think I’d need a real hold-your-hand-tutorial to even begin to scratch the surface of this game.

      • solymer89 says:

        If your not familiar with other 4x games there is definitely a learning curve. Without going very in depth, the basics are explore your constellation (all stars within the wormhole boarder) and depending on your species, pick the best spots to send your colony ships to expand there. Start by growing population to increase your money/research/production. Keep doing this and filling in your territory, sprinkling in some military, until you reach a natural stopping point (either boarders with another civ, economy crash, or war) If you want to fight, build units, if you want peace, focus diplomacy.

        The rest requires more details and are really situational, but if you just keep playing more and more games, it starts to make sense. I myself am not all that great at these games and generally play on a lower difficulty because success at harder difficulties requires knowledge of almost everything that is available in the game, and forethought as to which thing will be best and when it will be best, whether it’s research, infrastructure, or military units. It can get frustrating, but it is rewarding when you play enough and start to notice your score getting better and better every game, all the while knowing WHY it got better.

        • Gorf says:

          solymer, you’ve actually just helped me out a bit there with that brief explanation.

          These games have always looked really cool to me but I’m in the same boat as TomxJ, (needing my hand held). I’ve completely skipped playing any games in this genre before and when I did finally try this out I had no idea what to do.
          I’m determined to be proficient at 4x at some point in my life tho.

        • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

          Something I can’t quite figure out is why the number of turns left to complete my current research is a bit variable. Normally it just goes down by one each turn (imagine that), but occasionally it jumps up a few numbers. I assume this has something to do with the amount of SCIENCE I’m producing? But if so, what? And why would that production change?

          • Subatomic says:

            The most likely causes are you either have a system that converted production to science now building something else, or one of your system got unhappy, which also reduces science output.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Yeah, the tutorial’s got a terrible case of infodumps.

        Stars!, from way back in the 16-bit Windows era, actually did an interactive one (as well as being the best 4X). I continue to be saddened that they never made it open source, or at least just freeware, when plans to sequel it all fell through.

        • Premium User Badge

          overthere says:

          Ah Stars! I was gutted when Stars Supernova couldn’t find a publisher. I keep checking Kickstarter to see if the guys are going to make a comeback.

  5. Waleebe says:

    Nooooooo… why this weekend when I’m 100 miles from my PC.

  6. Carbonated Dan says:

    the only multiplayer 4x worth playing – quick, competetive and approachable as a boardgame – if you’re checking out the free weekend, hit me up on steam and you can join my ES playing buds for a game

  7. KlaxXxon says:

    You forgot to mention that the more players play the game this weekend, the more free stuff they add into the game!

    http://endless-space.amplitude-studios.com/Games2gether/G2G-Community-Rewards

    If only Treyarch bought into this scheme!

  8. Sebmono says:

    Definitely the best MOO-style space 4X out there at the moment. M.O.R.E. is also looking promising but far too soon to tell how it will turn out. High hopes though!

    • Cytrom says:

      OK, now I’m curious… wth is MOO? (Other than what the cow says)

      • Prime says:

        Master of Orion.

        Number 2 is generally regarded as an unassailable classic, pinnacle of the genre, but that’s something I’ve never understood. I’ve played MOO and it’s good but I don’t see quite how it gets that ‘King of the Hill’ reputation. For my money Galciv2 was better.

        • cptgone says:

          MOO2 is prolly my fave game ever. GalCiv was fun too, but IMHO doesn’t come close. Space Empires IV is another classic in the genre, well worth checking out.

          • GeneralTso92 says:

            How?
            I mean that seriously, i am pretty curious and i’m much too lazy to actually do any research on it.

  9. Low Life says:

    This game is so damn relaxing, mostly due to the music and the UI sounds. One of the better ways to spend a Sunday afternoon.

    Also, I love this whole free weekend thing that’s been going on for a while.

    • dontnormally says:

      Relaxing right up until the timed combat nonsense.

      I hate being forced to decide by a timer. This is a turn-based game for chrissakes – let me relax.

      [edit]: A read through the updates shows me that they’ve changed this into an option!

      /me runs away to play this game again

  10. Arcanon says:

    Since release, they have been updating the game, fixing the AI and adding new features, pretty impressive considering it’s a newborn studio and the project was self-financed.

    There’s still room for improvement, for the AI expecially, but I trust them to keep working on the game, they deserved my money.

  11. Brilhasti says:

    stellar *ahem* releases…

  12. belgand says:

    Perhaps the constant stream of updates have fixed it up a bit, but I played it back during July and wasn’t terribly impressed. Nothing wrong with it in particular, but it definitely lacked atmosphere and just felt sort of bland the entire time. Well, and the combat (I see they’ve sensibly made the timer optional and defaulted to “off” for single-player) wasn’t particularly good.

    That said I did play an entire game in a single sitting. Staying up all night to do so without noticing what I’d done.

  13. Brise Bonbons says:

    I have considered picking this up ever since launch, but every time I’d browse the forums for thoughts I’d stumble on some troubling comments about it being shallow or the AI being terrible or what not. But now I’ve installed the free trial and can finally try it myself.

    Only problem is that I also flagged this weekend for finally playing Planet Side 2 and some of the titles I picked up during the autumn Steam sale.

    Oh harsh world, why must you burden us gamers with such weighty first world problems? I have neither time nor HDD space for your bounty!

  14. Feferuco says:

    I downloaded it knowing nothing about it and joined a game in the same state. I figured I’d learn as the game went along. I had done before playing Civ 5 and Total War during free weekends.

    Then I saw all of those menus, didn’t care to read much of them, but I proceeded. Found some solar systems, fought some pirates, hired some heroes, taxed the hell out of my people, researched some tech (though a Steam overlay bug held me back), tried colonizing some planets.

    When I describe it like this maybe it almost sounds like I was consciously playing the game, I was not. I was absolutely overwhelmed at the amount of different options and when I first clicked the ship menu and saw that I could individually upgrade my ships and that each had several upgrade slots I said farewell to my match chaps and returned to the Meojave wasteland.

    Disclaimer: I don’t want to knock the game down

  15. fooga44 says:

    Truth is the game sucks balls and it barely broke even (showing that it indeed did suck balls). There is no depth or variety. The game comes off as completely unfinished, there are some great things about it like planet customization. But the research tree’s are boring as all fuck and you end up not having much strategy at all since the beginning of the game is the most important. You want to colonize the best planets, once you’ve done that it’s pretty easy from there on out.

    The worst aspect though is the on rails movement and downright amateurish combat system. You win if you out-number your opponent + general. Generals add huge advantage to the game with their leveling up.

    • LionsPhil says:

      The funny thing is that the “on-rails movement” is lifted pretty much directly from revered 4X MOO.

  16. Wedge says:

    I don’t have time for these type of games anymore, but free awesome soundtracks are always good to add to my collection.

  17. UncleLou says:

    I’ve bought this a couple of weeks ago when it was on sale. Not played it much yet, but the look and feel of the interface is a masterclass in design. It’s just beautiful. I think they actually outsourced the interface deign to an external design company, and it shows. The game itself is a little abstract though, much more so than Civ or even Galciv, imo.

  18. field_studies says:

    Would anyone care to offer a brief comparison between this game and Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion? I understand the former’s turn-based and the latter’s an RPS, but beyond that…?

    I haven’t played either but have hear great things about both, so just wondering which might be my best first foray into space this year.