Starface: Endless Space – Free DLC & Sale

By Adam Smith on March 11th, 2013 at 6:00 pm.

Amplitude have consistently done things the right way, as far as I’m aware. They began well by making a superb space strategy game, Endless Space, which is a fundamental part of the development process. When they finished the game, they allowed the people who bought it to play, although those people did have to register the game on Steam which caused some grumbling. You’re probably thinking they slipped up by charging outrageous amounts for inconsequential DLC but you’d be wrong. The fourth expansion has just landed and it’s as free as the last three. This one adds new random events, anomalies and heroes, and allows further tinkering with gas giants. The game will be discounted by 50% until March 18th.

Before I do the hard part – copying and pasting from a press release – I feel duty-bound to admonish myself for not writing more about Endless Space, or indeed playing it more. It’s a splendid game and even though Amplitude have sold 300,000 copies, I like to think plenty more people will discover it.

Here’s the story behind the Virtual Wakening expansion.

“Driven by their need to terraform and cultivate, it was only a matter of time before the Automatons turned their eyes to the least hospitable planets: Gas giants. A probe ship departed for an uncolonized system, hoping to test technology that could transform these jovian worlds into something livable.

It was a nice plan, but luck and reality had other ideas. The gas giant had a derelict platform orbiting it that had been of the Virtual Endless war effort – and the Virtuals had left a guard behind. Worse yet, the system was rich in minerals from its asteroid belts, so a small but well-equipped group of Pirates was also keeping an eye on it.

Automaton, Endless, and Pirate – an interesting enough mix. But there was a fourth unknown actor, watching from the “surface” of the gas giant. Deep in the viscous atmosphere, where the boundaries between gas and liquid and solid are vague and changeable, an intelligent life form tracked the signals from the platform and wondered what was going on.

Up above an uneasy truce was reached: Automatons experimented while the Pirates kept an eye out for profits. The project went smoothly until one of the Automatons, who had shown unusually clever behavior since landing on the Endless platform, noted that the radiation seeping from the planet might be transmissions from a sentient race…

Finish the testing at the risk of genocide? Try again elsewhere, regardless of the costs? Steal the technology and see what you can get for it? There are many questions, not the least of which is: What exactly is going on with that unusually clever Automaton?

The galaxy is about to get even stranger.”

I’ve done carface and now I’ve done starface (might have done it before truth be told), and I shall do no more. I’m faceless.

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54 Comments »

  1. Useful Dave says:

    Spacebeards? Well I never.

    I personally want more Nuclear Pulse Propulsion as a drive/weapon combo.

  2. Thurgret says:

    I tried to like Endless Space. In fact, I did like Endless Space. I just never finished a game, on account of the AI taking upwards of a minute or two to complete a turn towards the end-game — and with me running on a Core i7.

  3. moondog548 says:

    The game is lovely- feels like a true SMAC sequel. I’d love to delve more into the fansource collaborative process but…

    Well I’m playing the hell out of Civ V and loving it soooo… there’s just no room in my life for the (abstractly) exact same thing in space. :(

    • Joshua Northey says:

      ???? SMAC sequel? I hope you meant MOO2. it has nothing to do with SMAC?

      • Guzzleguts says:

        Dammit, I would love a SMAC sequel, or even just a graphics update would do. The game is fine, but my eyes can’t handle so much pink.

        • mouton says:

          The pink is the least of the problems. The bugs, the poor AI, the imbalances… heh

          • guygodbois00 says:

            Sorry, not to open a can of worm(hole)s here, but my opinion of the SMAC is that it is a stellar game even now. I would pay top denarii to see cooperation of Brian Reynolds and Soren Johnson on SMAC 2.
            And I’m rather poor, so…

          • MacTheGeek says:

            I don’t preorder games. I would preorder SMAC 2 with those guys at the helm.

            I would also gladly buy SMAC/SMAX a third time if the graphics could be updated to modern standards. If AOE2 can get an HD version, why not the far superior Alpha Centauri?

      • Gap Gen says:

        I’ve already mentioned this, but SMAC is a nice example of what I mean: SMAC’s overall narrative tied into your victory conditions, linking the metanarrative of your empire-building with the game’s backstory. By contrast, ES’s backstory is mainly flavour text; none of the endings advance the story of who the Endless are, say. It’d be nice if the narrative purposes of the empires had an impact on the game itself, like the aliens in SMAC:AX trying to build a portal to their home system as a unique victory condition because it fit with their stated motives.

      • moondog548 says:

        I never played the MOO’s :( I just know that this felt exactly like SMAC would if it were off the planet’s surface. ;-}

  4. Dark Nexus says:

    I quite enjoyed the game during the Steam free weekend awhile ago. It made it on to my to-play list, but not high enough to buy right away without a deep discount being involved. If I had a shorter list, though, half price would totally be worth it.

  5. Bostec says:

    Where is the discount of you speakeh? is £26.99 50% off because that does seem a little steep.

  6. Ninja Foodstuff says:

    Have to echo the sentiments of others and say I found it to be somewhat lacking in personality. But I did not realise there had been any expansions since the original release. Do they add much to the base game overall?

    • dontnormally says:

      The addition of exploration-based “quests” (first to explore a system gets a prize!) and wonders (ancient crazy things on certain worlds needing tech to unlock their potential) went a long way towards adding that much-needed personality. But it still needs more.

    • Droopy The Dog says:

      Yes and no. In the grand scheme of things they were mostly little things, but when my major gripe with it was that it just felt so utterly vanilla those little sprinkles made a bigger difference than you might think.

      Then again, my multiplayer rivalry with my brother has developed in tandem with the updates though, so that might be as much a cause of my increased enjoyment as the actual updates themselves.

    • Zenicetus says:

      The “expansions” are more like tweaks and a few nice additions than full DLC-type expansion packs, but they’ve still made some good incremental improvements in the game. IIRC, there is a major, full expansion somewhere out on the horizon that they’ll be charging for.

      I think that perception of the game lacking “personality” derives to a large extent from the way that every faction shares basically the same tech tree, economy, and building types, with only a few differences here and there. A few factions have traits that influence strategy — like the Cravers not being able to be at peace with anyone, and their Locust Points benefit/malus to encourage constant expansion. But in general, you can play each faction basically the same way. That, and the combat system, which doesn’t bother me that much since I don’t mind the mostly hands-off combat, but some people insist on full tactical control.

      What made the final version of GalCiv2 so great (with the Twilight of the Arnor expansion) was that each faction finally got its own unique tech tree, buildings, and economy progression. The only thing that remained the same was the rock/paper/scissors weapons and defenses for combat. The other changes meant you really had to play each faction very differently, and the interactions with other factions also felt unique.

      It would be great if ES could manage to pull off what Stardock did with GalCiv2 eventually. It would require some massive re-balancing and testing, but I think that’s the one hing that would inject more “personality” in the game.

    • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

      Have they added any options for customizing production on planets? That would be the tipping point for me.

      Personally I found (and this was a few months ago) that it had plenty of personality (just not a terribly warm one) but not much gameplay. As if someone had replicated all the good stuff about MOO2 except for the part where it’s a 4X game.

      It was fun for a while, until I realized I was basically just collecting space marbles in between moving a marker along an enormous tech tree. There is a good game in there somewhere but when I played, it really felt more like a proof-of-concept.

    • armchairmagpie says:

      The game has come a long way and much has been improved since its initial release and for the largest part to the better. It still has some balancing issues – but which strategy game hasn’t? – which they are for the most part aware about. I don’t echo the sentiment that it is lacking personality in the way that each race plays exactly the same. The race affinities do force you to rethink template strategies e.g. you can’t play the Sowers like you would play the United Empire for instance. Yet on the same plate I can’t disagree on that the differences are not big enough and that’s primarily because everyone is more or less forced to wear the same clothings.
      In my opinion the lack of personality stems primarily from the unified and uniform research tree for all races and diplomacy part which embraces stillness and feels more like an annoying addition. The most controversial part it obviously has is its cinematic card-based combat aka MotG in space.

      To be fair other games in that genre have their own issues too but often age do make you blind for them. Like they focus too much on combat, or too much on diplomacy or too much on research or economy and they too force you to play the game more or less the same way unless you have a real interesting mechanic which nearly breaks the game. E.g. GC2 – my top favourite game in this genre – lacked combat depth and had loophole-ridden economy mechanics with major balance issues especially for races like Thalans if played without race customization.

      The biggest pro of ES is that a lot of additions were a result of their Game2Gether system and taking ideas (while giving credits to the persons who had them) from them. If there’s ever going to be a 2nd installation of it and they took their lessons then I am sure it could become quite the hallmark game because the team and the system around is solid.

  7. biggergun says:

    I’ve bought ES shortly after release and was very disappointed. It’s somewhat unique – you often see a game full of good ideas killed by terrible execution (I’m looking at you, SoTS2), but ES is a complete opposite: it has a very solid core, great design, nice visuals and at the same time is completely devoid of content and replayability. No matter what race you play or how you try to play it, your options are pretty much limited to building everything on every planet, researching every tech, building a huge fleet of similar ships and steamrolling your enemy. There are obligatory options for science and peaceful victories, but they are basically a lot of clicking “next turn” and waiting for something to happen (nothing ever does). As much as I like Amplitude and want them to succeed, ES needs a functioning AI and a working combat system, not dlcs, no matter how free.
    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go and try Stardrive-the-spacebear-game from the neighboring post.

    • dmastri says:

      Spot on. Functionally elegant game with a streamlined and polished interface let down by sad AI and uninspired gameplay. I didn’t find the usual replayability you expect from 4x, yet i still sank almost 30 hours in so definitely worth the asking price.

  8. RaveTurned says:

    ENDLESSFACE.

    That is all.

  9. Malfeas says:

    Currently I enjoy Stardrive more than Endless Space, BUT Endless Space has kept getting content updates quite regularly. It’s getting better all the time, so I do not regret owning it and occasionally play a game or two.

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  11. Philden says:

    It seems entirely too long and too many dlc packs later to not have a playable demo out for this game.

  12. nindustrial says:

    I’ll echo some comments by saying that I bought this game right after it first came out. Solid mechanics and polish, but a little spartan overall. I haven’t touched it in quite some time, and wasn’t aware they had released *any* DLC. It is a fun little game though, I might download all the Contents and revisit.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Yes, my hope is that the universe feels a little more living, and the backstory steps out of the flavour text a little (for example, it’d be nice if, say, the pilgrims could find what they’re looking for), but it’s still a damn fine game.

  13. Joshua Northey says:

    I enjoyed this a lot and put a lot of time into it. I will take a functioning/balanced well polished game that is a bit bland over a flashy piece of garbage any day.

  14. Drinking with Skeletons says:

    Mechanically, this game is the only space 4x that I’ve encountered that really compares to MOO2. Sadly, it doesn’t have as much overall personality, which is largely what drags it down. They’ve improved it a little in that regard since launch (they’ve improved a lot since launch; great dev support for this all around) but that’s still the title’s Achilles heel.

  15. Beelzebud says:

    Well I just got it today, and I feel like it is completely worth the money so far. This is the first game I’ve played that even comes close to comparing to MOO2. It seems like they support it very well to with free addons.

    Thanks RPS for the heads up on this sale!

  16. Warskull says:

    Could we get a preview or beta impressions for this one? I am interested and wish to hear more.

  17. Beelzebud says:

    I don’t understand the comments about a lack of “personality”. Every race is fleshed out with a back story, and has it’s own unique style. Does it really come down to no voice acting? I find the written descriptions of things to be very well thought out.

    I read books though, so what do I know.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      I doubt it is the lack of voice acting. It is more likely the writing is just not quite as good as on some other favorite titles. It is certainly above average, but so much else is excellent that it stands out.

      *Reads several dozen books a year*

  18. Nihil says:

    You have all forgotten the most important thing: It has lovely music.

    Also a great little game and the art is fantastic, particularly the way you can actually see the anomolies on the planets. Shame the end game gets a bit bogged down as others have said.

  19. jalf says:

    I quite liked the game, but when I played it, the AI was pretty lackluster.
    Anyone know if that’s being improved as well?

  20. frightlever says:

    300,000 copies sold? I know that wouldn’t register on a COD sales chart but that’s pretty decent for a 4X isn’t it? Glad to see the market is that healthy still.

  21. matt925 says:

    I played endless space when it first came out. I thought it was great but like everyone else said I thought it was abit as you say vanilla. So I downloaded all the add ons after reading this story on here and haven’t stopped playing it for the last few days I really like. It it reminds me of how much I enjoyed civ 4 when the first expansion and mods came out for that.

    My only wish it had would be more of a story, what I thought was really cool was a mod someone is working on for it called the mass effect mod. Now that would be cool! But an even better one would be a star trek mod even more cool!
    My other gripe is the goddamn music it’s soo annoying.

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