Endless Space Now Even More Endless Than Before

By Jim Rossignol on May 29th, 2013 at 4:00 pm.


Lovely 4X space-fancying game Endless Space has an expansion pack in the (space) oven. It’s going to introduce a new faction and new AI. Amplitude explain: “A new faction with a unique play style, “The Harmony”, will make its appearance. Battles will be even more intense with the addition of fighters and bombers, battle formations, a new targeting system, a redesigned weapon system and enhanced invasion mechanics. The AI opponents will be significantly more unpredictable with the implementation of the new ‘Adaptive Multi-Agent Artificial Intelligence System’.” Sounds intelligent. And adaptive.

Trailer in the depths.

This reminds me that my game of Endless Space is frozen mid-war. I should probably return to it so that those space peoples can experience their full narrative.

Disharmony will arrive in the summer.

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71 Comments »

  1. BTAxis says:

    Unfortunately, the combat system in this game is just not enjoyable, and all the enhancements to it that this expansion promises won’t change that.

    • BobbyDylan says:

      Exactly what I was about to say.

      It’s a good 4x, but the combat is bland, and unskipable. They’d be better off adding a autoresolve feature.

      • Luringen says:

        There has been both autoresolve and play by pre-selecting boosters and then autoresolving without cutscenes for ages.

      • AshRolls says:

        There is an auto-resolve feature…

        • JoeyJungle says:

          This was only added a couple months back, I don’t think many people who played it at launch and then never touched it after the first month know about it. It’s a weird situation, where a lot of people’s opinions about the game are well thought out and their criticisms are valid, but it’s for a version of the game that no longer exists and the things they’re criticizing have been fixed. And on top of that, they don’t even know that their criticisms aren’t applicable anymore.

          I know this is far from being the first game to have things changed with a patch, but it’s still a very odd situation to me.

          • Sparkasaurusmex says:

            It’s a situation, for sure, but I don’t think it’s that odd. I’ve experienced this with a fair number of games. I think it’s only MMOs that are understood to be constantly addressing complaints, and other types of games are expected to be ready out-of-the-box, but when they’re not they tend to be ignored. Now RPS has posted about updates to Endless Space, but I think if you were turned off by the game you might not even be interested in reading patch notes, assuming they’ve just tweaked balance and performance, because that is the more common way patches go.

          • remon says:

            Auto resolve has been in the game since the launch.

          • Grape Flavor says:

            Civilization V says hello. The internet is still full of people who will eagerly warn you about all the problems the game had in late 2010.

        • DigitalParadox says:

          There is? Well goddamn, maybe I should give this another chance. Been wanting to get into a good space 4X ever since I was rather disappointed by StarDrive

          • MentatYP says:

            What about Stardrive was disappointing to you?

          • LintMan says:

            Stardrive was a massive disappointment for me as well. It is impressive for a 1-man developed game, but then you realize it cost $30 and had the balance and polish issues of an early-mid beta release. Then looking in the forums, I saw mainly fans clamoring for more “pet” features rather than fixing/improving all the stuff that needed work such as the UI, diplomacy, the UI, ship and colony management, and the UI.

            I gave up on Stardrive when the games late-game performance issues made my game impossible to continue: The game got so unresponsive, the buttons and menus would take literally minutes to respond. And that is on my rather high-end overclocked PC with 16GB RAM, and GTX680.

            It seemed to me that Stardrive is at least 6 months away from being a good, solid game, IF the developer keeps plugging away at it and is willing to work on unsexy stuff like UI improvements, AI and diplomacy instead of new kitchen sink features.

          • Joshua Northey says:

            That is exactly what is wrong with Stardrive. It needs less time spent on useless additional content, more time spent on optimization and balancing!

          • MentatYP says:

            Thanks for the info, guys. That’s really too bad–I was so looking forward to that game. The wait continues for a proper 4X game to take some of the nostalgic shine off of MOO 1 & 2.

      • Fiyenyaa says:

        You don’t often hear people complain about Civ’s combat system, despite it being pretty much the same depth.
        The thing with Endless Space, is that it’s combat system makes it ideal for multiplayer; if you use the quick-form way of dealing with it (i.e. the one without the cutscene) it takes all of 10 seconds.
        It also makes it great for the likes of me, who don’t like overly ornate combat systems in these kind of games.

        • derbefrier says:

          I did not know the combat in this game was like this. I hate having to micromanage every little thing during a battle in real time in games like these. This sounds right up my alley. I may end up buying this now.

    • drinniol says:

      Shit BTAxis has already played with all the new additions and deemed it unworthy. Nothing to see here, internet!

      • Luringen says:

        I like it, it’s fast and to the point, even if it could use some more depth (it is fairly shallow).

      • BTAxis says:

        That’s like saying “you haven’t fired the new gun in Call of Duty, so you can’t say it won’t make the game suddenly fun”.

        • drinniol says:

          No, it’s like saying they’re adding fighters and bombers, battle formations, a new targeting system, a redesigned weapon system and enhanced invasion mechanics plus enhanced AI to Endless Space. More than just a new gun.

    • Dog Pants says:

      Horses for courses, of course (of course), but I prefer the combat system, or lack of, to any other 4X game. I don’t enjoy real time combat, but even turn based strategy games seem to include it. A bit more depth wouldn’t go amiss, and it looks like this expansion will provide just that.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      Best combat system in a 4x period. One that actually respects the genre and keeps the combat brief pretty and skip able. As it a should be. Lots of others games have much more robust systems which in effect accomplish the same thing but take ten times longer. Not to mention that the ai is frequently horrible at them. The biggest virtue of this system is that the ai can actually be decent.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      I totally disagree, I found the combat to be a breath of fresh air. You still have a hand in battles but it is distance, straight forward whilst still strategic enough to maintain interest but leaving you to focus on the bigger scale

      And fun to boot

    • all_day_meeting says:

      Hijacking this comment to say that the game is also vastly improved with the “Fair Fight” mod. It’s a rebalance mod which makes a lot of technologies and systems more logical, along with color-coding things like planets and anomalies by how useful they are.

  2. Vinraith says:

    Shouldn’t AI improvements really be a base game addition, especially when the AI is as weak as Endless Space’s is reported to be? Everything else here sounds like appropriate expansion pack material, of course, but charging to fix the AI doesn’t exactly sit well.

    • Zenicetus says:

      The new AI may be too closely tied to the new features to back-port it to the base game. But that’s just a guess, I haven’t kept up with the forums lately.

      At any rate, the expansion is just $10, so I don’t think many who are still playing ES will complain at that price.

    • Skhalt says:

      The AI certainly was an idiot during beta, but it’s been more than capable of kicking your ass since quite a long time.

    • JoeyJungle says:

      I remember the AI being lauded at release, and a lot of people were saying it was TOO difficult even on normal and easy difficulties. I thought it was a very good AI. I didn’t play the game long enough to determine whether the AI was difficult to play against because it was cheating, or whether there’s a few dominant strategies that make the AI incredibly easy to handle, though.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      There is no such thing as appropriate expansion pack material. That is a childish and ignorant way to look at game development. Most games are better off with another pass at ai and balance than useless additional content that is unneeded.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Hopefully the fix will be in parallel with the expansion, applying to the base game as well, but will see.

    • BlueTemplar says:

      Name one 4X game with a good AI, I dare you.
      (Ok, I heard GalCiv2′s AI was not too bad, but, I don’t know about you, I found that game so boring I couldn’t be bothered to find out…)

  3. DatonKallandor says:

    Maybe this expansion will actually add a combat system. Oh sorry, I guess since Gal Civ 2 “rock paper scissors” counts as a combat system for 4x games.

  4. xfstef says:

    Adding an active combat system is borderline impossible because of the whole way that the game and its engine are built. Asking them to give you a real time combat system is the same with asking them to make a completely whole different game.
    I am personally proud of their achievements and always excited with getting a new expansion for this game. Good job Amplitude !

    • Vandelay says:

      I’ve not played Endless Space, but why are people buying a turn based game hoping for some real time strategy?

      (Pretends Total War doesn’t exist.)

      • xfstef says:

        Total war is a mix of those 2 genres ;) The thing is that Endless Space has a very minimalistic rock paper scissors type of combat in which you mostly just spectate and get to make only 3 decisions during the whole thing.

        • Grygus says:

          That’s three more decisions than you get in most 4X games, isn’t it?

          • xfstef says:

            Not really. Sins of a solar empire, Homeworld and even the old Pax Imperia, and of course many many more, actually had real time combat.

          • Sian says:

            Neither Sins nor Homeworld were 4X games, though.

          • MaXimillion says:

            The baseline for 4X space games is MoO II, which has a proper combat system.

      • LintMan says:

        I don’t think people are asking for real time combat so much as just wanting more combat depth than just the card guessing game and the number crunching. I’d have been thrilled by an updated version of the old MOO2 turn-based combat style.

        • Joshua Northey says:

          A lot of people wouldn’t be because it would make playing the game take SOOO much longer and make the AI MUCH MUCH worse at it. The more control you give humans the worse the AI will perform because there are more ways to outclass the AI.

          • LintMan says:

            That’s true on both points. It’s just that the video clip results videos always feel so unsatisfying.

    • JiminyJickers says:

      I agree. They always said what the battle system was going to be, but people just keep complaining about it. I’m fine with it because I knew what I was buying into, even though it is fairly shallow.

      This expansion does look to expand upon the combat and that can only be a good thing. I am very much looking forward to it.

      • xfstef says:

        I hope so too ! Their game gives a lot of attention to detail and although it takes hours to complete a matchup, they could work towards a much faster version of it which people could then use to play short matchups.

    • Zenicetus says:

      The reason you’ll always hear complaints about this type of game, is that the devs always feel they have to include the eye candy of a space battle, even when it’s auto-resolved. It’s necessary to give the player something to see while a battle is resolved, and for making trailers to sell the game.

      But having shown the battle taking place, there will always be a percentage of players with itchy fingers, who want to direct the tactics of the encounter they’re seeing. There are other games that do allow hands-on control. Because these are all small studios, it usually means the strategy layer of the game suffers, when too much attention is paid to hands-on space battles. One reason GalCiv2 still has a fairly high reputation as a 4X game is that a decision was made to put all AI resources on the strategy side. Battles in that game are pure number crunching. ES attempts to straddle the line by offering a little bit of control to the player during 3 stages of battle, but in the end, it’s mostly hands-off number crunching for decisions you made going into the battle. You don’t get to micro-manage.

      Personally, I’m fine with that. I think the playing card system ES uses for battles is a clumsy as a game mechanic, but overall I like the more streamlined battles. It lets me focus on being the ruler of an Empire, instead of a low-level tactical commander. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t love to see a space 4X game done with a AAA budget like the recent Total War games, with equal attention to the strategy and tactical layers. But nobody doing this kind of game has that kind of budget (or audience, apparently).

      • xfstef says:

        Totally agree. However the tactics in ES lie in the preparation for combat. Which means everything from spying and scouting to careful research progression and resource management and objectives. Just like Sun Tzu said you can tell if you’ll win or lose a battle even before it starts, of course the cards may give a bit of advantage/disadvantage, but in my experience it never is enough to turn the tide of a whole war, unless the sides are very equally matched.

  5. The_Great_Skratsby says:

    I really should play the game more, but colour me curious.

  6. Sakkura says:

    So this is why it was on sale the other day. Oh well, I’m still enjoying my new, old game just fine.

  7. Solidstate89 says:

    “A new faction with a unique play style, “The Harmony”

    For the Unity!

    Oh no wait, wrong game.

  8. belgand says:

    I ended up staying up all night again playing it earlier this week and I’m still unimpressed. It’s just missing the spark somehow.

    The combat system is definitely the worst part. It has a ridiculous amount of luck going on with the cards, but the illusion that you have some control. It’s also pretty unbalanced since missiles are the most effective in the first phase and do the most damage. Unless your opponents are heavily invested in anti-missile technology it makes sense to pursue missiles heavily. Trying to rely on kinetic weapons means you need to push through two rounds of combat, but without any way that makes sense. It’s not like you can create a bunch of light, nimble fighters that push in quickly to counter the slow, long-range missile boats. Hopefully this update will fix that, but it won’t fix that the game is just dull.

    • Dog Pants says:

      I’m not sure what you mean about luck with the cards, but if it’s about which counter which then that’s about learning the AI opponents’ plays. The damage done/negated is, as far as I can tell, constant. As for the missile issue, that’s only ever really the case in early games. Later on when beam weapons become more prevalent they can get in two volleys before your missiles hit and take out half your ships. By that stage it becomes a game of cat-and-mouse tech, trying to counter whatever ships the enemy are fielding at the time while they adapt to your strategies. I can’t claim the game is for everyone, and if you find the rest of the system not to your tastes then nothing about the combat will change that, but the criticisms you make suggest a limited experience of the combat.

      • belgand says:

        I think the biggest issue is that you always proceed through the same range phases in the same order and they each favor certain weapons. So unless you’re a hulking monster of armor and multiple types of defense kinetics aren’t going to be particularly effective. If maneuverability or engines actually affected combat in a significant way or you were jockeying with your opponent to establish range (an area where the card system would work really well) then it would open up a lot more in the way of strategies. As it is, however, too much is decided based on pre-set elements that always favor a certain approach.

        • Dog Pants says:

          That’s fair. I have to admit I don’t tend to use kinetics, preferring to start with missiles then switch to beam when everyone starts packing loads of chaff. The tactical options are limited, but for me that just takes the focus off combat and places it more in the economy of being able to produce the ships you need.

    • iucounu says:

      It’s a bit more nuanced than that (I tend to go for beam weapons early, as the missiles take a while to fire and hit) but a little more depth in the combat would make warfare a lot more fun. I’d also like to see AI planetary governors who aren’t dipshits – there’s a lot of build queue micro.

      • Dominare says:

        That’s it in a nutshell. Missile launchers seem very powerful on the surface, but once you meet someone prepared to exploit the fact that missile salvos are fired at the start of a phase but don’t actually hit until the end of one, you’ll be in big trouble. Missile defense systems also tend to be more effective than their tech-level counterpart launchers, which isn’t true for lasers and certainly not true for kinetics.

        I admit most of my experience has been in multiplayer, and of course human opponents are far sneakier and quicker to adapt to any kind of all-in “destroyers with missiles” play, but still, if the complaint is that you’re winning battles too easily then perhaps consider turning up the difficulty.

    • DarkFarmer says:

      the problem I have with endless space isn’t the combat system, which is fine IMO, but the AI. The game it is emulating, Master of Orion 2, I have never played. But I have played alot of MOO1 and you never feel like the AI is “cheating” in MOO, it feels like its a human player just like you. In Endless Space I played a 5 hour game, conqured all of the star systems only to find the AI had socked away a gigantic army many times the size of mine at his lone homeworld which isn’t terribly interesting behavior. I also lost. But anyway the AI is the most important part of a 4x game and the fact that it is so good in MOO and Civ is what makes those games great.

  9. slerbal says:

    I wanted to love Endless Space but after several attempts I have given up and admitted that I find it empty and lacking. The combat is part of that, but I never really got the sense of actually making any decisions – it felt more like the game was playing me.

    I’m sure there is a good game in there, but I couldn’t find it so I won’t be picking up the expansion.

    Edit: I meant to say: I still think I got my monies worth just for the soundtrack, so I’m not unhappy :)

  10. solymer89 says:

    I am at full chub right now.

  11. jalf says:

    I quite liked the combat system (although more variety is always nice), and thought the game was interesting… But the AI was frankly rubbish.

    So yeah, this sounds promising IMO.
    Is it going to be free?

  12. Gap Gen says:

    I’m reminded of the role of bombers in Nexus, where you could disable an enemy ship using them, which added a nice dimension rather than just slogging against the enemy shields. Sometimes you also got perks for disabling and boarding rather than just destroying ships.

  13. Pamplemousse says:

    I don’t really get why people are complaining about the combat systems. 4X games have never excelled at making individual combats interesting, even the really well respected ones play like ass if you took them as just combat simulators.

    Still this ‘cards’ thing sounds a hell of a lot better than CIV 4′s manpiles: “Put all your mans into a pile and then biff another manpile until the awful animations stop”.

  14. Curundir says:

    “my game of Endless Space is frozen mid-war”

    This is why I think Endless Space is not the best of the 4x: in a good 4x you wouldn’t let a game sit there without finishing it!

    Being interested in this game I checked it’s Steam forums a lot. From what I see however, most people have not played this for more than 10 to 15 hours total. Those are often the people that recommend this game as being the best 4x they ever played… Call me old school, but I played Civ IV more than a thousand hours. Now that’s what I call a good 4x!

    Also, I got about 200 hours out of Galactic Civilizations II. I loved that game, and I couldn’t help but noticing how many features it has in common with Endless Space. Only… Galciv has more. More techs. More ship design. More tiles. More fleet management. A very meaty game, that I would recommend to anyone disappointed in Endless Space.

  15. SuicideKing says:

    Jim, could we have another FreeSpace 2 post please? Pretty please? Been so long.

    You could cover Blue Planet: Age of Aquarius and War in BP: War in Heaven, maybe. Been having a lot of fun playing them, and War in Heaven can become pretty complex.

  16. Nats says:

    The main issue with the game IMO is that there is just not enough to do to keep you distracted. You create your colonies, research, budget and you manage your fleets and battles but thats pretty much it. When you look at Crusader Kings 2 which is another large scale strategy game, there is interesting stuff happening in that game all the time – the characters are alive, you ahve constant problems to sort out. you are constantly moving advisors around dealing with empty positions. In fact in CK2 the battles are only the icing on the cake. But In ES they are pretty much all that is interesting. Yes there are a few events, that always just affect game mechanics so they are boring, but there is not much else that happens. You could sit in one place for years and years in ES and have nothing happen at all. When the game first came out people cried out for more soul to be added to the game – better diplomacy, animated characters (both meanings of animated), game changing events, things that were exciting happening. And the devs have made a stab at it but essentially the main game remains unchanged. They added a race, a few graphics, some extra battle options and that was it essentially. The game was so promising and it was such a disappointment. This is why those who bought it havent gone back after the first month.

  17. Superpat says:

    Each time I see a space game like this, I wonder how cool a space set crusader kings game would be.. something set near the fall of asimov’s galactic empire.

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