The Bestest Best 4X Of 2014: Endless Legend

Amplitude have released two games this year and either one would be deserving of a place in this bestest best December round-up. Dungeon of the Endless can slumber on in cryosleep for now though because it’s time to sing the praises of Endless Legend, the finest 4X game of recent times.

Adam: Science fiction, fantastic factions.

Criticism often creates narratives. With Endless Legend, it’s tempting to tell a story about plucky young studio Amplitude creating a 4x strategy game that outshines the latest in the venerable Civilization series. The ingredients are there – not only the proximity of release, but the fact that Endless Legend’s factions seem to have drawn more inspiration from Alpha Centauri’s approach than anything in Beyond Earth.

That’s one narrative, but it’s unfair to both of its subjects, particularly Endless Legend, which doesn’t need to have its glory reflected back at it by another game. Amplitude have made the best 4x game of 2014 but it doesn’t matter about the level of competition because Endless Legend would have been the best 4X game of almost any year in recent memory.

Amplitude’s greatest achievement with their third release – following Endless Space and Dungeon of the Endless – is to have rewritten decades of accepted wisdom without slogging through an ugly transition period. Endless Legend doesn’t require hours of tutorials or a three hundred page manual to unpick, and that combines with the familiar nature of the genre to place many of Amplitude’s innovations under a bushel of sorts.

The factions are the core of the game, their distinctive goals and narrative filtering through into almost every part of a campaign. Whether you’re exploring, expanding, exploiting or exterminating, the specific abilities and nuances of your people will force your hand, one way or another. Rather than a list of pros and cons, with occasional buffs and unique units, Endless Legend’s factions are weird and fantastic cultural entities, with destinies to fulfil and rules to follow.

Take The Roving Clans as an example. An aversion to war limits your options for expansion and extermination – the Clans can fight but they can’t declare war. That means other nations can hem the Clans in to a corner, occupying the regions around them and leaving no space for them to grow into. Fortunately, the weakness has a counterbalance – the Clans can move their cities. They rove.

That means a Clans player doesn’t have to worry too much about which regions he/she is occupying, and can just grab the nearest available land, secure in the knowledge that a city can be packed up and moved where the grass is greener at a later date. Stick the Clans on the same world as the Necrophages, who require fresh cadavers to feed their cities and cannot sign peace treaties, and you have two factions that require completely different mindsets, as if plucked from different games.

The genius of Endless Legend is in the core ruleset, with the novelty of Regions somewhere at the base of that. Each random world is a thing to savour and gain an understanding of as you explore and exploit it rather than a pile of resources and blank spaces to plant your flag in. With all of its rules in place, Endless Legend then uses each faction to distort, break or defy those rules in some way.

It’s a game constantly in the process of interrogating its own structures and as well as being a superb creation in its own right, it solidifies Amplitude’s place as one of PC gaming’s most exciting new studios.

Jim: The past couple of years’ gaming have been odd for me because I’ve repeatedly found the games that dominate my time haven’t been (at least not predominantly) multiplayer. While Endless Legend certainly caters for those all important battles with others, it’s been its cloud saves – meaning I can play in the office and on the move with my laptop – and it’s “I’ve got enough time for a few turns” that has allowed me to latch onto Endless Legend like a grateful leech. What a horrible simile.

Anyway, here’s the thing: I usually, historically, fall out with 4X games before the love affair can begin. I never really got on with any of the Civ games, despite having tackled them on and off since I was a wee nipper. I struggled through a few campaigns of things like GalCiv, too, and more recently I leapt into Amplitude’s own Endless Space, without finding what I was looking for (despite it having so much going for it.)

Endless Legend, then, somehow dissolves the barriers that put me the wrong side of this genre. The presentation helps: I love the esoteric races, with their weird characters and fantastical conditions, their stories which run through the game, and their deeply different needs from the game world. It tastes like a good fantasy world should: a square meal of escapism you can’t exactly identify the ingredients of.

It goes without saying that I adore the sprawlingly beautiful map, with its wonderful hand-painted polygonal terrain. I defy anyone to be unmoved by that lovely collision of art and tech.

But what it gets right that’s most important is, well, everything else. The UI just works. The feeling you get exploring ruins and encountering minor factions brings life to the world.

Okay, yes, the tutorial was a ham-fisted encyclopedia that completely failed to really articulate what was important and where I should be aiming my attention. But once those enigmas were undone I found myself utterly absorbed. I particularly like the clarity of the combat, and the way the battles manifest on the world map. I know lots of folks found combat insufficient and over simplistic, but it was just fine for me. Any more complex and I’d have written it off as a chore, I think.

Endless Legend, like Kentucky Route Zero, proved to me that a great game can still revive a genre that I’d assumed I would never be accessible to me again. I’ve loved it as much as anything else I’ve played this year, and it’s completely and definitely on my short-list for game of the year.

Want to read more about Endless Legend? Check out Adam’s review.

Back to the complete bestest best PC games of 2014.

63 Comments

  1. Laurentius says:

    It’s a very good game with fabulous graphical design, still I played it a bit and plan to play a bit more but I didn’t fell in love with it. Watching your cities grown on the map is very satysfying but underneath it, are pretty boring and abstract numbers. (+ this , +that and +that ). Also combat is bad, in comparison Fallen Enchantress:Legendary Heroes has fantastic combat, I try to auto-resolve combat in Endless Legend whenever possible, despite beutiful graphics b/c it bores me to tears.

    • Hex says:

      I like the combat.

      You get to see the turn-order at the top of the screen, and you can give your units orders for what to do. (You can also give a move–>attack order by holding shift, then right-clicking on the destination hex, then holding ctrl+shift+right-click to target an enemy.)

      It’s not the most clear interface initially, and it can be confusing early on as to why your units occasionally seem to refuse to follow your orders, but a little experience goes a long way. It’s also very important to keep an eye on your units skills/traits and those of their targets. Sometimes it’s best to thrust a unit into the middle of an enemy horde and not attack, or to avoid like the plague any physical confrontation with an opposing unit.

      The more I type about it, the more I appreciate the combat in EL. Of course, if you know how it all works and you still hate it, there’s not much to be done, I guess. I would also recommend trying out all of the various factions, as they play so differently, and you might find one that lets you play while not requiring much in the way of combat direction from you.

      Such a great game! Well deserving of RPS’ praise.

    • theslap says:

      I’m not a fan of the combat myself and I auto-resolve as much as possible. In theory, the idea of combat taking place on the game map is pretty cool. In practice, though, the grid felt crowded and difficult to determine if terrain is passable or not. The computer ultimately decides the path your units will take which is often not very strategic.

      The animations are slow and clunky looking in my opinion. The grid can easily get overcrowded with reinforcements (especially militia which seem to be just a waste of space on the map) and the fact that “Hold Position” bugs out most of the time and there are special activated abilities on heroes/units makes the combat rather dull.

      I would’ve prefered combat closer to the Heroes of Might and Magic III (when they actually used hex grids).

      • vahnn says:

        It can get crowded, sure, and perhaps you find the animations to look clunky, but the rest of your complaints are puzzling. (Except the Hold Position order, it IS a bit finicky, but it certainly does not “bug out” and is a wonderful tool once you get the hang of it.)

        The terrain elevation representation in this game is fantastic! Unless you’re playing on an ancient and/or tiny monitor, I’m not sure how you can’t see the differences in elevation on the battlefield/map. And there’s an option before you start the game to allow you to increase the combat animation speed (Faster and Fastest are available).

        There are no special manually activated abilities in combat (except for the Ardent Mages’ abilities, which have to be researched), but a great many units actually do have special abilities. Special abilities are activated automatically if your unit initiates an attack against another. The special ability will replace the default attack. These special abilities do NOT trigger on a counterattack (e.g. enemy attacking you) unless it’s specifically a counter-attack ability (e.g. sweep-strike-back with Claw weapons). A unit is only allowed 1 movement and 1 action per turn. If a unit attacks, it is not able to counterattack and will simply take damage from the enemy. If a unit does not attack, it will counterattack the first enemy that attacks it.

        This interplay between attack/counterattack is a huge part of the strategy involved in combat, as well as properly using the 3 “stances” to take advantage of various battlefield positions, such as forested tiles (defense bonus), high ground (attack and defense bonus), or position units to block potential choke points and cut the enemies advance or funnel them to allow archers to attack from a safe zone.

        That Hold Position order will keep that unit in place in a defensive stance IF he cannot carry out an attack order in 1 turn. To avoid him moving, make sure to cancel any attack order (make sure he doesn’t have a red arrow pointing at an enemy!) If he’s on Hold Position and you order him to attack an enemy unit, he will still stay in that spot, UNLESS an enemy moves close enough that he can move and attack the enemy from that position in the same turn. It’s strange, yes, but it’s great once you figure it out

        There’s a lot more to the combat in this game than people think, and I think they’re put off at first by the different mechanics and don’t bother to learn the nuances involved.

        • sicemma says:

          Yeah, I think the simplicity of the combat interface makes it look like there’s a lot less to combat than there really is. It’s pared down to the absolute minimum number of buttons and functions that could possibly exist to represent what units can do, but all of those things are actually quite deep and have a lot of implications nested in them.

          Probably also didn’t help that for a fair while after the game’s release you could indeed just bung your starting ranged units at the AI, attacking head on each turn, and come out fine.

        • Laurentius says:

          It’s just that for me it does not generate satisfaction from time involved with it. In FE:Legendary Heroes which combat can feel grindishly slow at times, at least I can see and personally move my epic female hero riding skarg to dispatch enemies with her legendary war hammer and that is satisfying. In EL combat is slow and system left me deteched (nad thus bored) so I feel beter just auto-resolving anyway.

    • FireStorm1010 says:

      Truth is all 4x games at some points are + to that – to other.

      Moo1, Moo2 ? check
      Alpha Centauri ?check?
      GalCiv ? check

      In the end its simulation of a living world, wich is bound ot be in numbers, just like anything describing reality , not sure what you expect. (Physics, finance ,whatever)

      But its mechnics are plentiful and very interesting, some examples
      1-The races are nearly as different as SOTS, each plays tottaly different : Cultists with 1 city and conversion mechanics, Broken lords with pure dust economy and buying population on demand,Roving clans with moving cities, Necrophages with slavery…
      2-The luxury resource boosters, scaling up with number of cities, meaning you got a way of keeping up with smaller empire.
      3-Minorty factions that really are important, not some interesting but pointless feature like in most games.
      4-The Summer/winter mechanic , again , for once it makes great impact on gameplay.
      5-Empire influence fuled plans,again scaling up the influence needed with empire size
      6-The whole rpg aspect, different quest-stories for each race.

      • Laurentius says:

        I agree with most points: races are great, summer/winter is neat system, etc. Stii I know that there are numbers underneath in 4X games it’s just I like an illusion that I am nurturing my civilization and not just crunching number in spreadsheet. I look at the fabulous map and click my city and bam! illusion’s gone. Also I love idea of resurces in 4X games but I would lik eit to be less balanced but more unpredictable: random bonuses, also some negative perks, random epic unit, etc. Still very good game.

    • lomaxgnome says:

      Add me to the “Love the game, hate the combat” category. My biggest problem was the battlefields are just too damn small, all the fights were face to face basically instantly. Add to that the fact that you only have quasi-control and I just found it frustrating. Once I went to auto-resolve and resigned myself to some attrition losses, I was happy. Maybe I would have enjoyed combat more with a different race, most of my fighters and heroes were ranged and having that advantage almost always immediately negated was frustrating. But it was also incredibly slow for something not really in your control anyway.

      Honestly, in this respect, Civ has always gotten it right. Tactical combat may seem appealing, and there are plenty of 4x games with great tactical combat phases. But they are so slow and often such a slog that they almost always end up feeling superfluous to me. I think the HOMM series is the only one that consistently held me in both world building and combat phases equally.

      Edit: Just to add, the questing and story system of Endless Legend is brilliant and exactly what the genre needed.

  2. melnificent says:

    I play it like a cross between risk and Civilization.
    Which is probably why I make everyone unhappy from overexpansion, even with the 3 techs to improve happiness

    • Hex says:

      Necrophages also let you sacrifice malcontents to get a huge happiness boost in that city. By the end of the game I completed with that faction, I was essentially recreating the final days of the Mayan empire, as portayed by Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto.

      Fun stuff.

  3. mpk says:

    I’ve always been intrigued by Amplitude’s games, but as of yet haven’t taken the plunge. This’ll be added to the Xmas Sale wishlist!

    • Paul B says:

      I managed to pick Endless Legend up for half-price in the Steam Black Friday sale, so I’m sure it will pop up in their post-Christmas sale.

      Someone here on RPS advised this is one of those games worth the full price, so it’s now at the top of my Steam to-do list. Hope you manage to pick it up too – it sounds like it’s worth it.

    • PhilBowles says:

      I’m increasingly interested in this given the positive reviews, but the price point is too high and I’m shy of Amplitude after Endless Space, too, was well-reviewed, yet in the event proved to be a tedious, characterless attempt that, in terms of complexity, ran like something closer to a turn-based Sins of a Solar Empire than Distant Worlds (not a criticism of Sins, which I quite like, but an RTS is intrinsically more basic than a turn-based game because it can’t force the player to manage as many elements). Endless Legend sounds as though it offers a number of new ideas and distinct factions, both very different from its disappointing predecessor.

  4. Museli says:

    That header image is my wallpaper at the moment :)

    This game could have been designed with my personal checklist of good 4X stuff in mind. Factions that play dramatically differently to one another – check. An interesting tech tree that allows for diversity while still allowing you a general grasp on where everyone is – check. Not forcing me to make cities every three tiles to stand a chance – check. HoMM-esque combat, with armies splitting out into individual units for turn-based battles – check.

    I agree with Jim that the tutorial isn’t great, but it left me with a general idea of what was happening, and more importantly, a desire to look for more information to get the most out of the game.

  5. Danarchist says:

    I love this game. I tend to get overwhelmed with numbers in games like CIV towards mid-late game. Meaning I end up losing track of my overall strategy once I have more cities and armies than fingers. This one is a perfect mix of simplicity and complexity in my opinion. The art is far beyond what I was expect from a studio of this size, whoever is behind that paint brush deserves a raise. I definitely prefer this to any other 4x game out there. Fallen Enchantress is pretty close, but has some serious balance issues.This game thumbs its nose at balance and just makes every civilization totally unique.

    I went as far as to get permission from my IT department to install this on my work laptop =P its running in the background right now

  6. Vinraith says:

    A 4X game without an AI opponent that can play it is not worth playing IMO, no matter how clever it may be otherwise. This is a consistent problem with Amplitude. They should really just embrace asymmetric design and build the AI a game it can play, since they can’t seem to do it the other way around.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      So I take it you don’t play 4x games then? Because none of them have a competent AI and it is my favorite genre. Even the ones people hold up (GalCiv2) are super weak if you pay attention.

      Someday some 4x designer will understand that you need to trim down the elements and decision trees if you want a competent AI.

      • sinister agent says:

        EL’s AI is really bad though, and it fundamentally undermines the game’s greatest strength (its uniquely unbalanced factions). They arbitrarily declare war, peace, closing borders, and they don’t even bother to tell you when they’re at war with someone else, much less ask for help. I’m on my third game as the clans, and the “peaceful diplomat” clan has wiped out everyone they met – in my first game they were literally the ONLY clan doing any fighting. I eventually won because I gave them 200 of a mid-level luxury (worth a respectable, but not huge sum, depending on your needs) in return for a peace settlement… and 8 of their cities. Including their capital. This left them with one city. They agreed to this to end a war they’d declared, one turn after it started, with no fighting.

        Also, the roving clans, who depend heavily on trade, regularly close borders with me just because… numbers, I guess? I’d never even visited their territory anyway. And factions at war with the same people I was at war with (the peace clan, obv) never mentioned it, never asked for my help and even cancelled “share vision” treaties that were of no benefit to me, even when I covered 50% of the map and my territory (a) separated them from their enemies and (b) *surrounded* their enemies. And that peace clan have shot to double, triple the power of everyone else immediately every time, and then hated anyone they considered “weak”. They don’t know how to play to their faction at all.

        Everyone just randomly acts like a dick when there’s no advantage to it, and indeed, it actively costs any faction to carry out a diplomatic action. Nobody ever asks for or offers to trade anything, even when they’re the diplomacy clan and you’re the trading clan.

        It’s incredible that I still want to play it really. It’s a great game with loads of really promising ideas, and caters to a lot of playstyles. And it’s utterly, utterly gorgeous, in a way that’s just a joy to look at and explore. It’s the only time I’ve ever wanted to play a civ-alike multiplayer, the factions are that interesting. But dear god, do they need to improve the AI and diplomacy. They’re utterly hobbling the game right now.

        • Hex says:

          Fortunately the game is so streamlined that multiplayer is a much more viable option in EL than in many 4X games.

          Also — I have yet to experience this kind of AI ridiculousness. (The Drakken do seem to become ridiculously powerful super-quickly, yes. I haven’t had them behave as erratically as you describe in my games, yet. Knock on wood.)

        • Gnoupi says:

          I moderately like the AI, so far. To me it seems slightly less erratic than the one in Civ5. At least when one declares a war on me, while it’s not forewarned, I usually expect it. It comes usually from the belligerent factions, who are mocking my poor army. In comparison, I always felt like Civ5 had just a random chance each turn for anyone to declare war. And once they declare war, I actually see the armies attacking my cities, as opposed to 20 turns of nothingness in Civ. It’s not the most sophisticated, mind you, and I do miss something like GalCiv2, but it’s “not that awful”.

          Besides, I had the same surprise about the drakens: in both my recent games, they take over half the map with their armies. So much for the diplomatic faction.

          Also, the AI has indeed a weird relationship to money and resources. When I play as the clans, it seemed I could just motivate close to any diplomatic decision with a tiny bit of money or resources. All except technologies: those they price crazily high, surprisingly.

          • Joshua Northey says:

            The Civ5 AI will declare war on people if its military is much strong than theirs, particularly the player. Once you understand this it ceases to be confusing. Don’t want an early DoW on you, build a few extra units. Literally everyone complaining about the diplomacy AI in Civ 5 is just mad that they can no longer max-min by running no or a skeleton army and then buying off the AI with trinket gifts. Now if you try that the AI will take your trinkets and your cities, just as a player would. If you have an actual military the AI will treat you with respect.

          • Gnoupi says:

            That would seem like the logical thing, though often I have them declaring war without a unit close to me, and by the time they actually come close, I already had the time to build something stronger than them.
            Also, while I get the idea, it doesn’t make sense when you have a friendly diplomatic relation with this empire. You exchange stuff, provide even some deals in their direction… and yet, out of nowhere, they break everything for a war they can’t even support and which usually ends up in one of two ways :
            – I have more units than them by the time we actually get into conflict, and I take their cities.
            – They don’t reach me in time (gotta love war declarations from empire you never met, from another continent), and negociate for peace (at my advantage) because they are tired of war.

        • RanDomino says:

          A couple of my favorite 4xes are Warlock (haven’t gotten II yet but if it’s just a newgame+ of I then this probably goes for that too) and Fall From Heaven, and I think the reason why I keep going back to them is the AI diplomacy which is at least plausible. I’ve been playing Eador to death, but the AI is predictable to the point of each battle being a puzzle to be worked out, which is actually quite enjoyable; there is no diplomacy in Eador worth mentioning… in fact in my current game I’ve fully explored and cleared out all of my provinces (~6 hours) without a war at all. FELH was so abysmal that I never even made it far enough to have meaningful interactions with AI opponents.

          In FFH, sure, there’s a bit of good guys on one side, bad guys on the other, but you also have to pay attention to who you want to be friends with, who’s at war with whom and who’s likely to get dragged into it, who’s going to try to be friends with you, who’s going to reject your every effort to be friends, who’s getting ganged up on (providing an opportunity to be part of the gang), who’s getting too powerful, and all the other things that actually make sense for diplomacy. A two-hundred-year war can mean an endless grudge, but maybe you can work it out by building their favorite wonder, converting to their religion, and taking up their offers to join their other wars. I’ve never felt like anyone has declared war on me out of nowhere, once the logic of the AI is grasped- they’re trying to conquer the world and you’re just as much in their way as they are in yours, so, yes, sometimes they’re declaring war on you just because they’re strong and you’re weak and near. I’ve never seen another game do it nearly as well. It’s such a contrast to RTW and MTW’s “Hey ally, I’m attacking you now, oh jk we’re bffs again” for example.

          Honestly, FFH exists; can we just pack in the whole 4x genre?

          • FriendlyFire says:

            I like Warlock, but the AI having plausible diplomacy? This is the game where the same race declared war then peace on me three turns in a row. The AI’s behavior is even more erratic than Civ’s. The only reason it’s not a terrible problem is that the game is already largely focused on combat, so weaker diplomacy is less important.

  7. svr says:

    Civilization: Below Expectations did one thing right. It made me buy Endless Legend and I love it. All of the different factions make it very interesting to play one more turn…

  8. DanMan says:

    I guess that justifies it’s place on my wishlist. I haven’t played enough Civ5 yet to justify buying EL though.

  9. wodin says:

    Dom 4 was my X4 game of the year.

  10. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    I love everything about this game, but I think I love the factions the most. Usually I have one or two favorites in a 4X game (usually “the science guys”, whatever that means in the specific game) that I play exclusively. Often I don’t play any premade faction at all and only use a custom one. But in Endless Legend that is not the case, because all factions are so great. In fact, I don’t think there is any faction I don’t want to play.

    Since everything else about this game is also great, this might actually be the first 4X that I will beat with every faction available.

  11. brat-sampson says:

    This game terrifies me. It’s my first time really with the genre, I turned it on at about 4pm and remember looking at a clock at 5, 7 and then it was 10pm and I remembered I should eat some dinner…

    • Rikard Peterson says:

      After that kind of thing had happened to me a couple of times with Eador: Genesis, I realised that despite it being a huge time sink, I wasn’t really having a lot of fun with it, so I uninstalled it and haven’t tried the sequel despite having it in my Steam library.

      This is the biggest problem with strategy games in general, in my opinion. They all just eat time. Sometimes, it’s worth it (XCOM totally was, at least the first time through), but other times I’m not so sure.

      • Joshua Northey says:

        I loved Eador, but yeah that game takes soooo long. Not for people with kids and I think I gave up halfway through the campaign. A lot of bang for your buck gametime wise, but you are also a lot more likely to get bored with it than you are to finish it.

        • RanDomino says:

          Like I said in my above comment, I look at Eador as more like a dynamic series of puzzles rather than really a ‘game’. Sure, if you take too long, eventually the AI faction on your map will come get you, and the pacing overall is awful (explore a little and grab the low-hanging fruit, hit end turn a hundred times, brief moment of several amazing tactical battles, heroes are now gods of apocalypse marching around map annihilating each enemy capitol in turn), but dem battles are so good. Eador’s combat is better than HOMM3. Yes, I said it.

      • bill says:

        I just started on Crusader Kings 2, which is my first serious strategy game, and I played the introductory scenario last night.

        Well, I say played, but after 40 minutes I was still clicking through the popup tool tips that were trying to explain the interface. I hadn’t actually done ANYTHING yet. Maybe tonight I’ll get to do something.

        • PhilBowles says:

          CK II is a fantastic game, though of a very different type and I’m currently waiting for its ‘roleplaying pack’ before picking it up again.

  12. Tridus says:

    Honestly, the only knock I have against Amplitude these days (having forgiven them for the Endless Space expansion launch debacle) is their lack of interest in coop. These games support multiplayer but really don’t do anything to make coop a thing aside from saying “it’s possible to not kill each other”.

    It’s too bad.

    • malkav11 says:

      Are there 4X games that really do much with coop, though? I can’t recall ever running into one that does it as anything more than being able to sign a peace treaty and possibly a permanent alliance with the other player.

      • PhilBowles says:

        A couple of the Civ incarnations (IV, certainly, from memory III and possibly II) had an ‘allied victory’ option that counts an ally’s progress towards a victory condition as your own, and most have had UN variants that reward cooperative voting (as does Master of Orion II).

        • FriendlyFire says:

          CiV allows you to start a match as a team which combines certain elements of the game, namely research. You can do everything individually, but you share the same tech tree and you can dramatically boost research speed by both researching the same thing at the same time. It’s quite fun.

  13. CMaster says:

    Bought it in the Steam sale.

    Can’t.
    Stop.
    Playing.

    Best Civ-like since SMAC?

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    teije says:

    This looks very interesting. Despite being a huge 4X fan in all settings since Civ 1, this somehow flew under my radar. Most recently, liked both Fallen Enchantress and CIv5, but neither one of them stayed with me beyond the initial infatuation. Once I carve out some time from my current EUIV addiction, I’ll definitely check this out.

    • Bobka says:

      If you liked Fallen Enchantress but didn’t stick with it, it might be worth check out Age of Wonders III. It’s similar in many ways (obviously it draws from a far older tradition, but I hadn’t played the older games), but I felt like it did away with a lot of the clunkiness of Fallen Enchantress, and was overall more captivating.

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        teije says:

        Thanks – I may give that a try. I’ve played all the older ones in the series and enjoyed them lots – still have them too from Gog. It’s the old problem – more good games out there than time right now. This is a good time to be gaming for both strategy and RPG fans certainly.

  15. Gnoupi says:

    I really got taken by how different the factions are. On my first game, I actually spent more than 15 minutes reading, rereading, to try to make up my mind about which faction to play. I really appreciate the fact that it’s not just about one special building, one special unit and one percentage but about a complete different approach to the game.

  16. sicemma says:

    Can’t possibly let this go on any further without mentioning the incredible soundtrack they put in this game. Such excellent, excellent music their guy did for this – and I particularly love that it’s straight out music tunes music rather than Inception-ised BWAAAHs or ambient drones as you get so often these days.

    I don’t know if we need a different metric for 4x AIs. To me it kind of seems like the difference between, say, the difficulty of a shooter designed around checkpoints, and one designed around letting you quick save. I know it has some large issues remaining, even with mods, but in terms of actually playing the game, Endless Legend seems to be much more about –

    * How difficult the environment is (map / placement of AIs / creeps)

    Alpha Centauri is really the only game I’ve played with a similar focus on making the planet it’s own source of difficulty. Respawning, trainable creeps and a big state change over the whole map that impedes movement at inopportune times. And I love that the trained creeps aren’t just a source of another military unit, they’ve also got unique economic properties to pick between too.

    * How well suited the faction you’ve picked is suited to the environment

    One of the big hints as far as game difficult goes is what happens when you create a custom faction in the pre-game setup. You have to pick a faction as a template for its unit graphics and other art – and it turns out some factions actually default to having more boons than a custom faction can ever possibly allow. And some come up with a lot less than you’d strictly be allowed to have. Straight off your faction choice is basically a -50 / +30 or so modifier to difficulty.

    * How iron-manable the game is

    I don’t mind a game being hard but if it compromises my ability to just sit down and play a session of it I tend to get bored pretty fast. Endless Legend is one of the few 4x games I’ve found where, depending on what I’ve set the game up for, I can generally muddle through after realising I’ve made a mistake somewhere, rather than sorting through some list of iterated saves 10-20+ turns back for a solution. You’re so much more flexible in this than most games – a having a dynamic market for luxuries, strategic resources and full blown mercenary units (which you can use as roaming privateers with no flag, mwa-ha-ha) plays a big part in it as well.

  17. SkittleDiddler says:

    It’s really too bad that Age of Wonders III turned out to be so bleh. After seeing all the positive reviews about Endless Legend, I may yet again have to spend more money in my quest to find a better fantasy 4X game.

    • B.rake says:

      Haven’t tried it but did you like Age of Wonders III’s combat at all? Looks more satisfying than Endless Legend’s, in which I tend to autoresolve unless my win probability is slimmer than I’d like (though I guess the occasional manual victory itself is justification for EL’s system)- and I say this as someone who enjoys simplified turn-based grid tactics (Battle Tactics/Advance Wars etc…) but loathes managing Civ stacks. Endless Legend is a decent choice for my fellow 4x peaceniks (3xniks?)- though I’d probably have been happy with it just for the faction variety and prettiness of it all.

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        The combat is…passable. I mean, AoW III’s combat system is almost an exact replica of the systems in the other two games, but I just find it to be a little stale in comparison. Maybe I’ve got the old rose-colored glasses on.

    • Zenicetus says:

      I thought AOW3 was okay, but for me Endless Legend is a far superior game.

      Aside from just great artwork, UI design, and game mechanics, one of the main things I like is that it doesn’t really feel like a fantasy-themed game. There are factions that are sort-of like Elves or Dragon folk, but the overall feeling is more like an undercurrent of sci-fi in a Medieval setting. It doesn’t even include magic, except maybe in one or two special cases. It’s refreshing.

      • malkav11 says:

        Endless Legend is explicitly set on a planet in the same universe as Endless Space, as I recall (and I think supposedly the Dungeon of the Endless is on the same planet). One of the factions are crashed spacefarers.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      For me, Age of Wonders III is great in multi-player – when it works.

  18. Jake says:

    I loved everything about this game, the art and the factions in particular. The Cultists are my favourite, once I understood how they worked and everything clicked, and I had armies of random cultists led by zealot preachers roaming all over I was amazed by how well things seemed to play out. The stories too, told by the missions – fantastic stuff.

    But after winning a few games I decided to come back later, in the hopes that an expansion or something will finish the game off. One problem is that games end with little fanfare, I was expecting some more story or a cutscene or something but it seemed to fizzle out a bit.

    The biggest problem though is the AI, as mentioned before. I don’t think I’ve actually had any interesting encounters with the AI at all, nearly all the enjoyment I’ve had from the game was from missions or trying to min/max. When it comes to war there is the game-breaking revelation that the AI doesn’t really defend any of its cities, so regardless of how powerful it seems you can just take over half its empire on a whim if you want to. And it doesn’t attack properly, or trade or really do anything.

    I’m curious if anyone has found a way around these issues, or if people still enjoy the game despite them. I suppose multiplayer is the obvious answer.

    • FireStorm1010 says:

      I lolve the game too. Hav been reading alot of complains about the AI, but had rather good experiece with it, it defended its cities in my games and gnerally was a big challenge (serious diffuclty)

  19. Blazar IV says:

    I am so happy to see RPS give Endless Legend this recognition. I adore the game, and I cannot stop playing!

    I’ve never really been a big 4Xer. Civ always felt the same each time I played it. One civ worked just as well as any other. But EL just gets deeper and more complex as I play. I still haven’t stopped discovering new depths. The factions are each built with certain strengths, weaknesses, strategies, and natural paths to victory. And those paths are reflected in their lore and questlines- so brilliant.

    The game had a HUGE learning curve, but once I started to get in the swing of things, I have so many resources to sway the game my way. Luxuries give specific boosts that can really work in your favor provided you choose the right one, either through luck of the map or the amazing Market. The Market! I’ve barely even scratched the surface of what could be possible there, but it’s just one more example of the polished complexity the game offers.

    I see complaints about the combat. I dunno- maybe my expectations have been low. I oftentimes auto-attack since I’m enjoying everything else. I am still looking at combat as another level of depth I haven’t really gotten around to yet.

    I’m almost 40 hours into the game, and I feel there is still so much to learn! I’m so happy Civ:BE wasn’t received so well by critics or I never would have looked at Endless Legend as another option. I paid full price a week before the Steam sale, and I don’t regret it at all. I’m happy to have paid Amplitude a bit extra because it’s been so worth it.

  20. Timbrelaine says:

    Wow. My girlfriend and I have fallen out of love… with Civ, which I’ve played since 2 and introduced her to with 4. Mebbe I’ll get us both a copy for Christmas. Trade winds and Steam sales permitting.

    • Bobka says:

      I was hoping for a story about how multiplayer Endless Legend rekindled your love for one another. Am disappoint.

      • Timbrelaine says:

        Sorry. Ours is a love that does not waver, praise be unto Netflix and thai food.

  21. AshRolls says:

    Regarding the AI issues I am confident that this will improve with patches. Endless Space’s AI was fairly broken on release but Amplitude have been excellent at supporting the game long term, resulting eventually in a good AI. Amplitude are currently taking feedback through their forums / games2gether for AI improvements in Endless Legend so they have acknowledged it can be improved.

    • sicemma says:

      I have something like 260 hours on Endless Space so far (and I’m not sure if they reset that for 1.0 either) – to me the way Endless Legend’s combat AI is useless is much better than the way Endless Space’s AI is useless. In Endless Legend, the “one combat action per army per turn” breaks the game a lot less, and there’s no “endless fleets” issue to deal with if you go combat from mid-game on. Kind of the opposite problem really, but between that and being forced into a grind, I’ll take the AI building less than it should.

  22. bstard says:

    Hmm maybe I should give it another try then. Though it empty and simplistic and seen that before.

  23. Severian says:

    Great game, definitely in my top 3 for the year. I love the focus on civ-building vs. constant warfare (as in Warlock or AoW), and there’s so much flavor and lore in the multiple races and various factions. I love that you can win by pursuing your race’s unique quest line. I love how it uses stacks of units on the strategic map, but then allows for one-unit-per-hex in tactical combat.

    Cons:
    1. The AI is poor, no doubt about it – but the recent patches are making it better. I now actually see 8-unit AI armies, fully upgraded, and ready to smash my poorly defended cities. Higher difficulty levels give the AI bonuses, but do present a challenge.
    2. Winning is a bit anti-climatic. I really do pine for an extended victory screen + high-score list, so that I can compete against myself in future games.

    Definitely recommended if you love 4x.