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Orion's Belter: Endless Space

The amount of developers that seem happy to revive our favourite things from times gone by is something recently discussed in the breezy parapets of Castle Shotgun. A few days later a game appeared on Steam, taking preorders that gave access to its alpha. That game is Endless Space and if it were a farmyard animal it would be plodding around a field saying ‘MOO’ quite a lot. It’s a space-based 4X game and although I need to spend more time with it before I say too many more words, it’s already caused me to miss one night’s sleep and that just doesn’t happen enough anymore. Trailer and brief excited key-tapping below.

First of all, the music in that trailer is magnificent and (although presumably not also by Matthew Slater) so is the rest of the music in the game. It makes looking at star maps feel like the most grand and majestic pursuit possible, which is as it should be. They’re attractive star maps too and it’s not the kind of attractive that gets in the way of utility; the interface is clean, clear and helpful. Apart from the usual space things such as designing ships, colonising planets and researching lasers, there’s also a lot of Dust about the place. It’s a bit like Spice, except not entirely. More on that when I’m not quite so ignorant about it.

As I’ve only put a few hours in, it’s mostly the exploring that I’ve been enjoying. Arriving at a new sun and seeing what conquerable bounty orbits around it is one of gaming’s great joys, as is resigning yourself to the fact that a planet is all but dead and dumping some settlers onto it anyway out of boredom or spite. There’s a generous range of options when generating a galaxy at the beginning of the game and it’s those and the 100-plus traits for factions that are immediately enticing.

Travelling from system to system is a case of following preset lanes, although technology will unlock other means of interstellar movement and I’ve mostly been avoiding other species, although I have seen a teensy bit of combat, which takes the form of impressive videos of action with occasional requests for player input. I’m cautiously optimistic that it might be a comfortable middle ground between automation and dense tactical interruption to the main strategic banquet.

The alpha only contains five of the eight factions that will be in the final release and the multiplayer component isn’t available yet. Apart from that it’s probably mostly a case of balance, which a few more extensive sessions will give me more of an idea about. Expect a full write up next week and expect to email me about my failure to meet your expectations on Friday. Soon though, I promise. Check the website for more details, particularly in regard to the Creating Games2gether gubbins.

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Adam Smith

former Deputy Editor

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