The Bestest Best Game Of 2014: Endless Legend

And you thought it had to be a game that hadn’t featured previously on the list.

Adam: Cor. It’s a strategy game!

Endless Legend takes up the baton handed down from one Civilization to the next, the stick of 4X that has passed through the hands of the Masters of Magic and Orion. It takes up that baton and finds it wanting.

Amplitude haven’t set out to fix something that’s broken in their intelligent reconfiguration of the 4X strategy game, they’ve looked to expand on certain ideas and found it necessary to scrap certain elements of the accepted wisdom. It’s an immediately recognisable type of game, as John discovered to his horror and reports below, but while it may be from the same stock as its ancestors, it’s far more knowledgeable and well-travelled. The uncle from that curious branch of the family tree who only visits once a decade because he’s off having adventures in parts of the world you’ve never even heard of.

Almost every rule in the game seems to have been designed around the idea that it might need to be broken at some point. That’s what the factions do, in a way – they overturn the conventional thinking about aspects of the 4X routine, which means the entire structure of the game has to be built around flexibility of approach.

In a year that contained new Civilization and new Age of Wonders, for Endless Legend to come out on top of the 4X pile is quite an achievement. To do so by stripping the genre down and discarding or retooling many of the inherited parts was bold, and that’s as good a word for Amplitude’s year as any. A Bold Year.

Their two projects released in 2014 – Endless Legend and Dungeon of the Endless – show a studio approaching genres with confidence and flair. The art in both games, but particularly in Legend, is equal to the inventiveness of the ideas, and with this stellar year, Amplitude have confirmed their status at the forefront of PC development. Long may they continue.

Over to John.

John: Okay, look, everything that’s a problem with strategy games is made clear within the first few seconds of Endless Legend’s tutorial. The words,

“Your army is currently composed of only a single unit, a Settler, represented by several pawns on a hexagon.”

WHAT?

A single unit, one chap, is represented by three individual people? That encapsulates strategy gaming for me better than any other example I can think of. It’s so laboured, so buried in rules, that all sense is abandoned in favour of information for graphs.

It’s work! It’s hard work! There’s nothing worse on Earth than doing taxes, and the strategy genre seems to be about trying to recreate that sensation in gaming form. “Balance this with this. Ensure you’ve put this in the right column. Worry about your resources not being able to pay for your needs…” Why do people, so SO many people, want to put themselves through this?

But like taxes, not only is it hard work, it’s obfuscated, confusing work. “A single unit represented by several pawns on a hexagon,” might as well be, “Form 46B.2 must be completed before Form 46B.1, but not until Form 46.1 has been filed online.”

“Terrain resources are Food, Industry, Science and Dust.”

Columns for graphs! Within moments the screen is a mass of data, forms, charts… I don’t understand how anyone has the will to continue. I don’t need this in my playtime! I want to shoot the guns, or talk to the lady about the missing dragons, or solve the ethical dilemma!

“Per working production, resources from Tiles, and potential modifiers (positive or negative) all have an impact on the Total Production you can expect from your city in the next turn.”

AAAARRRGGGHHH!

I’m genuinely very pleased that so many of RPS, and its readers, have had such a great time with this game. I’m also utterly mystified by the lot of you.

Alec: Bye John! OK, so: Endless Legend. ‘Fresh’ is a bloody odd word to apply to something that’s so much to do with hexagons and graphs, but it’s what I think every time I fire up Amplitude’s game. The familiar is in there, right down at the bottom, but for layers above that we have both this gorgeous, clear, crisp, hyper-modern look – right down to the UI, which is usually something that strategy games leave to wallow in unpretty archaism – and massive, fundamental changes to the Civ formula.

Where Beyond Earth proved ultimately slavish to a tried and tested design, Endless Legends is a true rethink. I’m not complacent when I play it, I’ve got so much left to figure out, and every new attempt feels like settling on a new frontier. I expect to be going back to Endless Legend many times over the coming months.

I’m pretending not to be superficial, but honestly, I really can’t get past the prettiness of Endless Legend. Turn-based strategy games aren’t supposed to look like this, right? They’re supposed to have ugly, faux-vintage serif fonts and fake scroll effects on the corners of their menus, to have maps that look like a maths textbook. Not Endless Legend. It confounds aesthetic expectations.

Just look at the cleanness of the interface, the bold colours, the quietly inventive unit types, the intricate but unfussy tactility of the terrain, the weather effects that make my body temperate drop by 20 degrees whenever Winter arrives, the seamless switch from world view to map view, even down to the way it all loads back in in tiers when you alt-tab back to it, as though some god is laying out the world for you. Strategy games aren’t supposed to look like this.

Best of all, it feels like it came from nowhere. It defies the rule that often only publisher-owned mega-studios can create the most remarkable strategy games, reminds us that there are no gatekeepers to this most PC of genres.

Jim: When Amplitude were the studio that had made Endless Space, they were notable. Now that they have both Endless Legend and Dungeon Of The Endless chalked up on their scoreboard, well, they’re an enormously important developer. In some ways this award to Endless Legend for Best Game should also be an acknowledgement of the huge achievement the Paris-based gang have made – and the use it has made of a pool of talent drawn from major studios that worked on major games across the world. Amplitude have to now be regarded as one of the most interesting (and potentially one of the most important) European developers.

As for Endless Legend itself, well, we’ve already said enough about it, I think. A formidable strategy that encompasses thoughtful decision-making, esoteric world-building, and even a worth story. It’s full of ideas, and feels like the strategy genre woke up from a deep dream to express some fabulous inspiration.

Yes, it’s flawed. And that’s fine. So is almost everything in every end of year list you might mention.

On a personal note: I certainly played more Planetside 2 in 2014, and I might have had fun in Far Cry 4. But neither time nor mere fun and quite enough anymore. I’ve played decades of games. I’ve had my fun, and when a game like this offers me more than either a time sink or simply a playful escape, then I pay attention. This is such a game. It is our game of the year.

Back to the complete bestest best PC games of 2014.

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134 Comments

  1. A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

    Ooh, surprises! And you announced it just as it came off the Steam sale. Good job I bought it earlier today!

    • Premium User Badge

      jezcentral says:

      Same here. Yay us!

      Also, now John knows how I felt when Kentucky Route Zero won last year (including my happiness for those who did like it).

    • Gargenville says:

      I hit up isthereanydeal.com and ended up getting it for less than it was during the steam sale.

    • gfrenz says:

      as with me,
      Played it all day yesterday and fell more and more in love as it slowly unfolded. What a beautiful game.

  2. draglikepull says:

    This is the next thing on my “To Be Played” list after I finish Dragon Age. So I guess I’d better hurry up and finish Dragon Age.

    My GOTY is The Banner Saga though, and by a pretty wide margin (unless Endless Legend turns out to be better).

  3. dsch says:

    Hm, I couldn’t get into Endless Legend myself. I liked the new elements, but found that they boiled down too quickly to the same formula in elaborately described guises.

  4. mpk says:

    Bought this last night and I… I don’t know what’s going on. Please send help.

    Seriously though – haven’t had the time to sit down and properly LOOK at the game. It’s taken me out of my comfort zone because it’s not Just Another Genre Retread. The skeleton may be similiar, but it’s a different beast entirely from Civ V.

    It’s ironic that, in the year that Civ Beyond Earth has proven to be a reskinned Civ, instead of a bold new science fiction variant on the theme, this comes along. I’m intrigued by it, and if it can hold me for even half the time that I’ve played Civ V then it’s a mighty success.

    • Haphaz77 says:

      Yes, send me help too please. A good introductory tutorial / how to play would be great. I love 4X, was disappointed with Civ:BE, so was primed for something new. I’m bouncing off this :(

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        DelrueOfDetroit says:

        Play your first game as the Wildwalkers and follow the quests. Closest to a tutorial you can get. I do not play many strategy games, but my understanding is that the Wildwalkers are the closest to a ‘normal’ ruleset. I was able to win my first try on normal.

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          Devenger says:

          Just echoing this: yeah, the Wild Walkers are probably the least bizarre to play – rather than breaking the rules, they just have pleasing tricks (they produce more from forests, they’re great at fighting in forests, and they can ‘see’ enemies near their regions without traditional vision).

          The thing I wish I knew when I started playing: play on Easy first to learn things. Also, settling more cities is important. Do it quickly. Having a settler be the second thing you ever build in your starting city is not crazy. (Coincidentally, Wild Walkers are great at this, because they start with so much production from being good at using forests!)

          • sicemma says:

            Oh, let’s do “things we wish we learned first off”.

            Everyone talks about Winter being a big important thing going around every few 10s of turns. It is pretty important. Another thing that is holy shitballs important with a similar cycle that nobody mentions much is how important it is to align your –

            * amount of influence coming in from cities/quests

            * whatever vague empire goals you might have

            * number of cities and what settlers are doing on a specific turn

            so that your Empire Plan does not turn into a pile of shit. If you can crank out a settler and have him in position so that they are ready to plonk down and settle on as close to or on turn 20 exactly, you are doing very well. Don’t make big diplomatic moves or assimilate villages just before your plan is coming up. Plan and simulate an empire plan (with the ‘simulate’ button) a lot further out than the handful of turns warning it gives you and save up influence.

          • malkav11 says:

            Unless you’re the Cultists of the Eternal End, of course. One city, ever.

        • FriendlyFire says:

          The tutorial race, the Vaulters, are also good and not too complex to start off as.

      • Joshua Northey says:

        The forums are pretty helpful.

      • Volt says:

        Persevere! You’re in for a real treat!

      • vahnn says:

        If I had a nickel for every time someone said Windwalkers… The faction is called the WILDwalkers.

        I haven’t actually played that faction yet, but they do seem to be the most straight-forward of the lot, not a bad way to start. Definitely don’t start as the Necrophages, Cultists, or Roving Clans.

        Also the tutorial does include a couple important bits (namely that you CAN make a unit move and attack in the same turn… don’t listen to the fools who say you can’t), so go through it.

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        Yeah I should pick this up. 4X games are quite tough to get the hang of though, playing multiple games in the genre is a huge time commitment, hence why I just keep going back to Civ. If this is as good as the claims though, maybe time to put some hours in and learn a new one. Beyond Earth certainly didn’t do the job compared to Civ 5.

    • Lim-Dul says:

      If you’re confused about some of the systems or faction, you can watch some Tutorials/Walkthroughs/LPs from this guy on Youtube:

      link to youtube.com

      He explains the reasoning behind his movesand decisions quite well. The thing about Endless Legend is that most of the factions COMPLETELY change the way you have to approach your strategy. And not on a minor scale either.

  5. MaXimillion says:

    Like Endless Space, I really tried to like Endless Legend but just couldn’t. The combination of a clinical UI, simple combat, poor AI and lack of interesting map elements makes the game feel… bland, I suppose. The unit customization stuff seems a bit pointless as well.

    Also, did John just call Endless Legend an RTS?

    • ijw473 says:

      I felt the same way. I own both this and Endless Space and I just couldn’t get into them because, once you are no longer distracted by the very pretty UI and art, the games are very simple.

      I love the genre, but these games struck me as very attractive spreadsheet challenges, much more so than others (ex. Paradox’s games, Distant Worlds).

      • mouton says:

        I only played Endless Space, but my impression was similar. A bunch of spreadsheet columns with little actual fun. I don’t want racial traits that add +2 food or -1 industry, i want racial traits that significantly change the way a race is played.

        • clearb says:

          …. that doesn’t make sense. There are a lot of games you can say that about, but not EL. Try the Necrophages (no friends), or even better try the Cultists (which pretty much break the core rule of 4X games). The way I see it, even those “+FIDS” racial rules change the way you play – as the Broken Lords (once again, a race requiring a rethink of your strategy as population is bought, and does not grow naturally) you -need- to plan for Dust requirements. As the Vaulters you love your Science, and gain benefits from some tiles, so you looks for tracts of those you can expand into.

          In many senses this forces you to play the role – you start thinking of expansion areas, where to maximise your strengths and minimize your weaknesses, etc.

          Tl;dr: if you want a fresh race, try the Broken Lords. Even better, try the Cultists.

          • sicemma says:

            In many senses this forces you to play the role – you start thinking of expansion areas, where to maximise your strengths and minimize your weaknesses, etc.

            This really is the best single thing about it – everyone mentions that is has different factions compared to usual TBS games, but to me the best thing about them isn’t just that they’re different from each other, it’s how well the design of the factions themselves lends to RPing as those factions in the game. And the specific flavour text and quests are just icing on top.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      Clinical UI? These have the best UI of any games released in ages. I mean I can see disliking the style, (though I have no idea why), but it works great. I don’t think the game is very simple at all. Certainly there are lack of difficulty problems because the AI isn’t great, but that comes with the genre.

      • sicemma says:

        Jesus yes. Endless Space was the same way – I remember an interview with them where they said they spent enough time on optimisation that they were basically running up against how fast DirectX and windows themselves allow you to Do A Thing in terms of UI speed. Holy fuck is it hard to go back to some of those other games where the UI is full of half second/multiple second stops and lurches afterwards. It’s like someone took that kind of criterion/polyphony digital zeal for frame speed/input responsiveness and applied it to a TBS game.

        • Chrysomore says:

          Amazing innit? It’s going to be legitimately hard to go back to Civ after being spoiled like this. Even in the late game I barely have time to pick my nose between rounds, much less go make a leisurely cuppa and a sandwich (try not to imagine the effect this has had on my health and hygiene).

      • Baboonanza says:

        I actually don’t think the UI is particularly great. It’s pretty and responsive and has some lovely touches but it’s far too often obtuse and inaccessible.

        I write UIs for a living, have been a PC gamer for 20 years and I had serious trouble figuring some of it out.

        I like the feel the same way about the game really. There are so many lovely things about it and the twists they’ve put on the genre are great but ultimately it feels shallow and unchallenging to me. I’m going to give it more time though and I reckon MP could be a lot of fun.

        • morbiusnl says:

          trouble figuring it out? can you give some examples? ES and EL has some of the best intuitive interfaces Ive seen. also can you give a example of a good UI then?

    • vahnn says:

      “Simple combat,” he says.

  6. Arren says:

    That encapsulates RTS gaming…

    RTS gaming, eh, John?
    ::shakes head::

    Also, a “single unit” isn’t necessarily “one chap”, FFS. The only thing more tedious than pedantry is pedantry that can’t even get its facts straight.

    • airmikee says:

      “Okay, look, everything that’s a problem with strategy games is made clear within the first few seconds of Endless Legend’s tutorial. The words,

      “Your army is currently composed of only a single unit, a Settler, represented by several pawns on a hexagon.”

      WHAT?

      A single unit, one chap, is represented by three individual people? That encapsulates RTS gaming for me better than any other example I can think of. It’s so laboured, so buried in rules, that all sense is abandoned in favour of information for graphs.”

      Looks like he’s talking about a problem with a strategy game trying to be similar to RTS games, especially if you read the article further and see that indeed, he is complaining about the game, comparing it to doing taxes even.

      Looking at a part of one sentence, out of context from the other sentences, and accusing someone else of not having the facts while being pedantic? Did you intentionally go for that ‘psychological projection’ approach in your comment? If so, bravo, and I applaud you.

      • Arren says:

        airmikee:

        Blockquotes are for context. Unlike you, I don’t excerpt a wall of text — both because it’s unsightly, and because I trust the reader to use the quote as a signpost for what I’m referring to, not an ersatz gotcha purportedly proving I didn’t read the entire text*.

        The “RTS” line was drivel, and your apologetics on its behalf absurd….. or would you care to substantiate the ways in which EL is “similar” to an RTS, and how that pertains to the yawn-worthy tax comparison?

        If noting that there’s a distinction between “RTS” and “TBS” — they are diametrically opposed, after all — is pedantic, then my comment’s pedantic as all get-out, full stop. Its facts, however, remain straight.

        Happy Holidays.

        * I did, thanks for asking.

      • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

        This whole argument is just a wee bit hilarious. The “unit” convention being described was inherited from dozens of TBS games that came before. It’s literally the least innovative or interesting thing about EL, unless we count the fact that it’s played on a Personal Computing device powered by electricity.

        Obviously not everyone’s going to be familiar with all genres’ conventions (articles on DOTA read to me like something spat out by a random word generator) but take it from those who play 4X games, this is like a new RPG being taken to task for the absurd idea of abstracting a character’s health down to a single number called “hit points.” It totally is absurd, but that ship sailed years ago, and it would be weird to read a respected game journalist reacting to Skyrim being all “THESE NUMBERS MAKE NO SENSE I REFUSE TO PLAY.”

    • DanMan says:

      I hate to be pedantic (I don’t), but that’s a bit pedantic, isn’t it?

      • gmillar says:

        Pedantic? Do you go around calling Gears of War a first person shooter?

        • Chris D says:

          As a PC gamer I rarely have cause to refer to Gears of War at all but I probably would. Not necessarily deliberately but it’s the kind of slip I could easily make. Ok, technically it’s inaccurate ,but I remain unconvinced that moving the camera a little to the left and a bit behind makes it an entirely different genre.

          I do agree that the difference between RTS and TBS is more pronounced than that, but forgivable for someone who’s not a fan of strategy games in general. Of course, not being a fan of strategy games is clearly a massive character flaw.

        • Dawngreeter says:

          I think a lot of people not into shooters do exactly that. FPS is the name of a thing when you start it up and then shoot stuff.

          Which is not to say it’s correct usage. It just happens to be not so uncommon.

      • Zeewolf says:

        Pointing out the RTS-mistake is maybe pedantic, although you’d think someone like John Walker would know what RTS stands for, but to point out that he bases his whole argument on a complete and surprising misunderstanding of what a unit is, is maybe not so pedantic.

        But of course, his main point seems to be that he doesn’t have a clue, and don’t understand how other people do, and that point is well made. Even though it’s kind of useless.

    • dsch says:

      John is a decent writer but he has a definite comfort zone.

      • Chrysomore says:

        That comfort zone just happens to be liberally spotted with little ghost-lines of powdered Adderall.

    • Ex Lion Tamer says:

      *its facts

      -KG

    • pepperfez says:

      I’m afraid you just missed the referent of John’s abbreviation: Rockpapershotgun Turnbased Strategy. It’s understandable, really, as that other genre has somewhat obscured the original meaning.

  7. Belsameth says:

    I agree with John. This must be a christmas miracle!

  8. Monggerel says:

    Not a bad choice. Personally my game of the year was Suttree (1979), but each to their own.

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    Lars Westergren says:

    Neat! I just started playing this today because of how positive RPS was, and I really like it so far. Nice that each faction seem to have some sort of storyline to them, told through quests.

  10. technoir says:

    Can’t wait for a chance to play this. So far my GOTY is Sunless Sea but 2014 brought dozens of amazing-looking games I’ve yet to try, so that might still change. What a stupendous year.

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      Lars Westergren says:

      It has been a fantastic year, hasn’t it? Don’t think I’ve ever seen so much quality and variety.

  11. Vurogj says:

    This game scares me a little. I honestly haven’t felt that “just one more turn” compulsion so hard in a very VERY long time. It feels like a stupid and nebulous thing to write, but the game just… works. It does everything right.

    I have initial doubts about the AI/diplomacy, but then again, I’m still on my first game (partly because I’ve found my self just scrolling around the map looking at things a lot), so way too early to judge.

  12. Vinraith says:

    It’s a very clever design. It’s a terrible shame the AI can’t play it, though.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      I wonder when this and Civ 5 are going to learn that the AI could play these games well if they just reduced the number of units on the map and got rid of all the ranged units and half the modifiers.

      I mean I realize that makes the units more bland, but these games are already in the bland market, and making the AI actually work would be interesting.

      • FriendlyFire says:

        You know that in Endless Legend units can’t fire from multiple tiles away, right? All combat happens in a separate context, and only between adjacent units. So that’s one thing out.

        Likewise, combat modifiers only apply in that context, which is basically a simplified turn-based combat system. It’s completely separate from the overworld map in terms of scale, turn count, enemy types and positioning, etc.

        • Joshua Northey says:

          “You know that in Endless Legend units can’t fire from multiple tiles away, right? All combat happens in a separate context, and only between adjacent units. So that’s one thing out.”

          This is just factually wrong. There are ranged units. Many shoot multiple tiles.

          “Likewise, combat modifiers only apply in that context, which is basically a simplified turn-based combat system. It’s completely separate from the overworld map in terms of scale, turn count, enemy types and positioning, etc.”

          Yes I know, I am talking about the combat, which is full of modifiers, and the AI is horrible at, just like it is horrible at Civ 5 combat, and GalCiv 2 combat, and MOO2 combat, et cetera.

          • clearb says:

            I think what he meant was that for ranged units to even start firing at your units they need to engage in battle with it first, which requires the two units to be on adjacent tiles… though admittedly that doesn’t solve the problem of AI learning to use range effectively.

          • Danley says:

            Then play multiplayer. Narrowing the system to accommodate one-dimensional AI just doesn’t make sense to me.

            There was a game a few years ago set to come out (but unfortunately plagiarized its whole story and concept) where enemies would randomly be controlled by humans, but there would be no indication they were except for their behavior. I don’t understand why no other game has done this yet. It would be most impressive in an action game (think Demon/Dark Souls where other players could invade your game but they didn’t have bright colors marking them as other players) and would certainly lead to a lot of griefing, but it would change our either/or approach to AI/player characters. As it is now, I would reckon that most people play single-player for the predictability of the system while the same tactics just fail to work against human opponents, because they adapt.

            I’ve yet to finish a game of Endless Legend, but am already playing more multiplayer than single-player. Playing 4x/RTS/etc. single player is almost a mindless activity once you learn the mechanics, which may just inherent to game theory whether its AI or human controlled. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy it, just that any boredom or dissatisfaction with a game is often resolved by playing with other people. If they’re obnoxious, you can always drop.

            I haven’t made it out of the fourth tech level yet so I’m not that knowledgeable about the game, so I may be even less of a challenge, but I would still play multiplayer with anyone who’s frustrated by the AI and will put the same message up on the forums later.

          • funkstar says:

            i hate to be that guy that invokes a consoleland-only game, but maybe 4x’s could do similar to forza motorsports drivatar (ugh) system, instead of plain AI it uses other player’s behaviours as the basis of the AI. Forza 5 was the first to do it based on data collected from forza 4, which then was updated as players continued playing Forza 5 (and then carried over into Forza Horizon 2).

            Course there’s all kinds of logistical issues (given that a 4x is a way more complex beast than a racing game, and collecting the necessary data) it could all go totally tits-up, but it would be an interesting experiment, no?

    • Chalky says:

      Very true, this game is seriously let down by the AI. It’s a real shame because it’s really innovative and interesting.

  13. Kompatriartes says:

    For gamers like John, enjoyment of something like endless legend is similar to the enjoyment of, say, writing programs or solving math problems. It’s bewilderingly complicated, and a good game takes more than a single sitting to complete, but the satisfaction comes from diving into a big challenge, and not letting yourself get bewildered. You just take it one step at a time, and eventually it all comes together.

  14. derbefrier says:

    I looked at this reala hard when it came up in the steam sale and ended up passing on it. I am kinda like john I guess when it comes to these games but I do enjoy them from time to time but I think civ 5 and CK2 is enough for me.

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    jezcentral says:

    Good! This makes sense. The bestest best being one of the previous games. Otherwise you end up doing what PC Gamer did, and give Best Single-Player Game to Dragon Age Inquisition, and Best Game to Alien Isolation. I guess that multi-player mode must have swung it for AI. Bioware must be sobbing into their eggnog at overlooking MP.

    • Juke says:

      Dragon Age: Inquisition very much has a multiplayer mode. It borrowed liberally from what was well received about Mass Effect 3 (as does a lot of the rest of the game, I’m finding.) So make a different joke if you like, but noone at Bioware is misty about overlooking something that is, in fact, in the game.

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    The Sombrero Kid says:

    Couldn’t agree more, it’s a fantastic game. I bought all Amplitude’s games off the back of this game, came out of nowhere for me.

  17. DanMan says:

    I’m happy this won. The only reason I haven’t bought it yet is that I haven’t even finished a single campaign in vanilla Civ 5 (let alone the add-ons I got off a Humble Bundle), so buying this would be ludicrous.

  18. airmikee says:

    “And you thought it had to be a game that hadn’t featured previously on the list.”

    Yep, I did, and I’m glad to see this win anyway. I picked up Endless Space a couple weeks ago and love it, picked up Endless Legend a couple days ago and it’s got that same ‘almost familiar, but entirely new’ feel to it. Like going to a new city for the first time, getting lost and figuring out how to navigate in a place that’s reminiscent of somewhere else, but still unlike anywhere else.

    I’m creeping up on almost 50 days of actual time played in Civ5, and I get the feeling that these two Endless games will take up as much of my free time in the near future.

    • dahools says:

      Seems like it was worth some serious awardadge after all. ;)

  19. Serpok says:

    How does Endless Legend compare to two other 4x fantasy games:
    Warlock 2
    and
    Age of Wonders 3
    ?

    • Joshua Northey says:

      In my opinion it is much better. A clear step up. They all have their merits, but that is like asking how a BMW compares to a Chevy.

    • Chris D says:

      I’m very fond of Age of Wonders 3, and would have given it a place if I’d been making the list, but it’s a fairly traditional design although executed well.

      I haven’t really played enough Warlock 2 to have a good opinion on it although it seems to be an incremental improvement on Warlock 1, even if it does steal Eador’s gimmick. (Eador is also a favourite of mine) It seems nice enough but I really need to play it some more. 4X’s are so time demanding.

      Endless Legend deserves the award, in my opinion for innovating on the genre in so many ways and the faction design is fascinating and diverse.

      • Joshua Northey says:

        Eador is a wonderful game but it takes soooo long to finish a campaign. I had put in probably a hundred hour and don’t think I was really that close.

        • Chris D says:

          Oh yeah. I’ve never finished either. It’s got serious pacing issues in that respect. On the other hand I have really enjoyed the time I’ve spent with the game.

          Probably one I’d file under “favourite” rather than necessarily “best”.

    • Jockie says:

      Personally I had more fun with AOW 3, but I feel like i haven’t really plunged the depths of Endless Legend yet. Warlock 2 was fun for a bit, but it didn’t feel as replayable as a 4x game should.

    • Snargelfargen says:

      AoW 3 has brilliant hex-based tactical combat (and the AI is surprisingly competitive), gorgeous maps and a very creative hero/faction system that encourages replayability.

      Endless Legend on the other hand is a true civilization-style 4X with a focus on empire and city management, as well as innovative lore and a story progression that’s reminiscent of Alpha Centauri.

      Very different games, both good, but Endless Legend definitely deserves recognition for trying something new within an established genre.

      I haven’t tried Warlock 2. Might be good, I remember the first game having a lot of potential, but the AI could never deal with the endlessly spawning neutral monsters, which removed a lot of the challenge and unpredictability.

  20. eXplorminate says:

    Not only did you get this right, but you did it in such style and SURPRISE! that I can’t help but be proud of you guys.

    This is unequivocally the best GOTY decision I’ve seen all year. It’s the most innovative take on a somewhat-stale genre that I’ve seen in a long while.

    You did good, RPS. You did good…

  21. Schlobo says:

    Absolutely, unequivocally my answer as well. And if only, IF ONLY, as some of you lovely other RPS folk have mentioned, the AI scaled well enough for the game to be Truly Great. I figure the AI will eventually be used only as a learning tool and then eventually the real action will be in multiplayer, but man I do wish I could take my time with the game and a glass of scotch, knowing the AI was actually devious rather than just given a better starting hand than me.

    And yet, that does not diminish whatsoever the “just one more turn” factor, the utter TASTINESS of the world that is offered, and the sheer beauty of the game itself. I will lose myself for whole minutes just admiring some of the special tiles in the empires I grow, or else seeing how they interact with my structures and towns.

    If you’re even a remote fan of this sort of genre, you won’t regret getting it. Though fair warning: it may make you excited for everything else Amplitude has done.

  22. wodin says:

    With John on this one. Dominions 4 was my No1 4x game.

    As for game of he year for me I’d say Wings Over Flanders Fields Version 2. Followed by Divinity OS, Combat Mission Red Thunder and Wasteland 2. Those are the games that have had most playing time.

  23. sonson says:

    I love EL, it’s the most impressed I’ve been by a game for a very long time.

    The best way I can think to describe it; you know in the mid to late 80’s when there were rafts of games which were being made that envisioned massive scale and ideas, and there wasn’t the technology for those ideas to be properly presented, but they went with it anyway and did it via mechanical approximation and flavourful text? When ideas came first essentially without being so shackled to pragmatic technological consideration? It feels like a game from that era, but realised in lavish, original economy of design and first class aesthetic production.

    I look forward to the AI being improved but frankly it’s so rich in atmosphere and lore that I feel it works better in a narrative CKII sense, narratives of exploration and survival, evolution of races and the destruction of a planet as much as it is about the rise and fall of empires.

    There’s nothing else like it.

  24. Volt says:

    Great pick, and probably my favorite for the year too.

  25. Zenicetus says:

    Excellent choice. Probably my #1 game of the year too.

    Maybe it will help other indie studios realize that creativity in all aspects of a strategy game is important, not just the bare mechanics (although you can still sell a few games that way). This game couldn’t have won on just the aesthetics, but it sure doesn’t hurt that the UI and visual design is gorgeous. And kudos to Amplitude for coming up with a “fantasy” strategy game that didn’t rely heavily on Tolkien and D&D tropes for the different factions and character designs.

  26. dahools says:

    Very happy with this. It Was my game of the year too, not that I play as many as you guys but still.
    I like that it feels like I have to learn a new way of playing with every different faction as opposed to rinse repeat but wearing different colours like civ 5. Not that I minded that but I love the change. I love playing with faction set to random it actually feels like it means something in this game.

    Well done RPS merry Xmas and have a fabulous new year!

  27. AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

    Not what I expected. This game wasn’t even in my radar. Guess it is, now…

  28. Martel says:

    I just got this and didn’t even get to finish my first play through before leaving on family vacation. I ended up accidentally playing almost 2 hours longer than planned, which I suppose says it all. I can’t wait to get back home and fire this up.

  29. Severian says:

    Wow, surprising. But gratifying for me, since it’s one of, like, 4 games I actually played this year – and I absolutely love it. So Kudos, RPS, for bringing more attention to strategy games, TBS games, and Endless Legend in particular.

  30. default_name says:

    Wait, what? No love for Banner Saga from RPS? It may not be the Best Game, I perfectly understand that, but it sure as hell should’ve received something! Seriously, you guys!

  31. eggy toast says:

    Close, but it’s actually Dungeon of the Endless.

    Very close, though.

  32. B.rake says:

    As much as I enjoy Endless Legend (it’s like all my favorite bits of Civilization but prettier and less annoying), I’ve found myself playing Dungeon of the Endless much more- something about the frequent death and randomized cruelty makes me keep playing in spite of the futility.

    It is a small and contained experience, though, tough to award a title as grandiose as Best Game Of An Entire Year when something much more ambitious, and successful at that ambition is on the table.

  33. ben_reck says:

    yes, it is such a game.

    its innovations serve to highlight the headaches of civ and such. tired of endless automated worker/ship/army movements in Civ? Try the no workers, scarce armies of EL.

    Want to play with a large map and still be able to defend your cites? Welcome to the regions of EL.

    and so on.

  34. Lanfranc says:

    Endless Legend as bad as doing taxes? Perhaps a hint of hyperbole, John? Or are British taxes that simple, because then I’m moving to the UK immediately!

    Seriously, though, I liked EL a great deal. Just a shame the combat system is pants.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      UK taxes are usually simple, because if you work for an employer then they do all your taxes, and you just get your paycheck minus the tax (and other deductions).
      If you’re self-employed I assume it’s more complicated.

  35. felisc says:

    I’m with John on that one. I’ll join him next door in the fun corner, where we have beer and salmon and chocolate. Enjoy your plate of military biscuits and glass of warm water, eh. … Gnihihi.
    Seriously, Amplitude definitely deserves the praise. A fine choice.

  36. Carra says:

    Bought it during the steam deals yesterday. Always looking out for a great strategy game, this might do it.

  37. Nihilist says:

    Right on!

    I fell madly in love with EL, never got into ES, too “space laney” for my taste and that isn’t the context of space for me, but EL? Beautiful, substantial, fantastic. There is so much win on every level and after the latest patch the AI isn’t as bad as everybody says.

    I believe that there are games that take away from you and that some games are giving and this game is giving to you, so much.

    Currently the only game that I marked with favourite in my Steam Library. I think I will add AI War and Assetto Corsa too, out of personal preference, but EL is my GOTY, too, no questions asked.

  38. Shazbut says:

    Skimming over and just reading John’s bit by chance, I so utterly am coming from the same place as him that I can’t possibly play this game as a result, despite knowing nothing about it.

    • Nihilist says:

      John’s bit is a bit unforgiving, not to say unfair. This game isn’t all numbers and excelsheets, it’s the entrypoint into another world.

      You could easily say that sliced bread is too much of an abstraction compared to a loaf of bread. Maybe I am now unfair, but to me it reads like that.

      • drinniol says:

        Wait wait wait I don’t understand this ‘sliced’ thing TAXES TAXES TAXES something something.

        I like doing my taxes.

  39. Rizlar says:

    Ah shit. The one game I was trying to resist this christmas. Guess I’m going to have to buy it now.

  40. raiders5000 says:

    Hey John,

    I can totally understand your point of view. I truly do. But in all honesty, if it weren’t for Endless Legend, I never would’ve understood Endless Space. I’m more grateful for Legend then pleased.

    To everyone else,

    I got Endless Space (with it’s latest update is awesome now), Dungeons of the Endless, and Endless Legend. It’s too hard to find time for all of them. They are all that good. My poor Civ BE must feel like a stepchild right-about-now.

    • Nihilist says:

      What did the patch with ES, that it is awesome now?

      When I play EL I always think: Get back and play ES, because you like SF more than Fantasy. Two hours later I give up on ES AGAIN, for the hundredth time.

      It is interesting, because both games follow practically the same ruleset, but then… Endless Space is pretty much a territorial game. Which feels wrong. Really wrong. You follow space lanes, even though you can leave them later on, the AI is using them always I guess.

      This leads to a problem that many 4x space games have. You look more at Icons and other UI abstractions, all the time. Here I look at circles and lines, not at a universe of wonders. This crampiness of space and the obtrusive Galaxy view…these ruin my immersion.

      In EL I can go anywhere from the beginning. I look at a map that is living and sprawling and I even fight battles in these gorgeous surroundings. This is what I miss in ES. I am not opposed against the card combat in ES, but then again, everything that surrounds it sucks the fun out of it. It’s about choke points and fleets and it gets tedious pretty quick.

      At first I thought I needed bigger maps, but I soon realized that every game plays the same. I think there are great ideas in ES and the concept is spot on, but the execution sadly emphasises the flaws more than anything else. Not so EL. EL has character everywhere you look at. ES in comparison feels flat, lifeless..boring.

      No Endless Space isn’t endless, it doesn’t even feel like space, but then… I soooo want to like it. I hope Amplitude will make ES 2 , redeeming what went wrong with the first one, so that I can love ES finally.

  41. aethyrium says:

    John’s response makes me mad in an unreasonable way. I know that’s his opinion to dislike strategy games, but the whole “WHAT?!” things following very simple descriptions of game mechanics, and talking about how lots of words and numbers are frightening and scary… It just makes me mad this this person is a widely-read spokesperson for PC gaming. It’s like those people who are like “books are too hard!” or the type who only like movies/tv shows with a bunch of explosions and sex and slag off well-written shows like Mad Men as just being “a bunch of boring people talking”. They’re valid opinions, sure, but I’m annoyed when those types of opinions expressing fears/annoyance at depth and complexity are front and center in journalist outlets.

    • Ayslia says:

      So as someone who has pretty much John’s exact attitude when it comes to 4X games and the like, I don’t really think your position is fair.

      I’d say the appropriate analogy isn’t a person who thinks “books are too hard!”, but rather a person who, say, thinks that The Lord of the Rings trilogy reads like an incredibly dull college history textbook, but still really enjoys books like Anna Karenina or The Sun Also Rises. That person doesn’t dislike The Lord of the Rings because it’s “too hard”, but just because for whatever reason it’s not enjoyable for her.

      Similarly, I think 4X games are much like, as John put it, doing taxes and I don’t enjoy them at all, but I’ve sunk many hours into games of other genres, ranging from adventure games to rpgs to action adventure games to games that defy genres. There’s a fundamental difference between being unable to appreciate or deal with complexity and being unable to enjoy a particular type of game. Some people out there like all genres, but I rather suspect they’re the minority. Castle Shotgun houses people with a range of gaming tastes and I for one am rather glad it does.

      • SpoonySeeker says:

        “That person doesn’t dislike The Lord of the Rings because it’s “too hard”, but just because for whatever reason it’s not enjoyable for her.”

        Not quite the valid analogy though, because John doesn’t just dislike 4X games, he seems to actively resent any game with greater depth than Peggle and comes across as quite hostile in any review where the game has dared to provide the slightest bit of challenge exceeding that of which provided by a game of Candyland.

        So I can understand aethyrium’s consternation that John gets such an unchallenged soapbox here (now that Kieron is no longer around.)

        • JimmyG says:

          You’re not giving John enough credit. Isn’t Hexcells, like, his series of the decade?

        • John Walker says:

          What utter bollocks.

        • Butler says:

          As a long (long) time reader, I can’t really piece together a better or more appropriate response than Ayslia: “Castle Shotgun houses people with a range of gaming tastes and I for one am rather glad it does”.

          They’re opinions. John’s got one. I didn’t agree with it ,but it made me chuckle. Haters gonna hate.

        • derbefrier says:

          Seems to me he was just saying he finds the genre tedious. Finding something tedious doesn’t mean its hard. Taxes are not hard but are extremely tedious.

  42. montorsi says:

    That’s an odd way to spell Speedrunners, friends.

  43. King_Rocket says:

    I love the Civ series and other strategy games and I picked this game up on RPS earlier recommendations. However for whatever reason I just keep bouncing off it, I think I’m simply too used to the CIV UI and while Endless Legends UI looks great but it’s usage mystifies me.

    Hopefully I will be able to crack this nut over the holidays.

  44. Hunchback says:

    Curious choice.
    I found the game quite souless and the quest system lacking.

    Oh well…

  45. Gilly says:

    This game gets so much undeserved praise, I’m beginning to doubt my gaming qualification.

    Yeah, there’s some gimmicks: Factions have a unique rule each, cities actually grow over terrain…hold on, I actually can’t think of anything else. People see to just regurgitate praise in a veritable circle-jerk around this game.

    “No elves, orcs and dwarves, so unique!” – Yet there’s Wild Walkers, Delvers and…I forgot their name, but they’re Orcs. And then there’s the usual dragons, insects, demons, elementals, and other walking clichés.
    “It’s pretty!” – Maybe, but performance-wise it’s atrocious.
    “The way towns grow is amazing!” – It’s visible, which is good. But beyond that it’s still just a bunch of very straightforward numerical upgrades.
    “It has Combat!” – Utter shit. Did they ever playtest that thing, I wonder?
    “It has unit customisation!” – Which transforms those baseline units from the game’s start into…the same units with better stats.

    “Muh innovation!”, “So fresh!”, “Such design!”, “Many compliments agreed with!”. The game follows the same rules from start to finish, only with cities and units gaining stats. In Civ, you’d slowly be faced with siege weapons, ships, espionage, aeroplanes, eventually nukes, and a host of other things that actually change the game. Diplomacy options becoming available comes to mind. But EL starts out as a badly-designed bore, drags on forever as one, and eventually ends in the same way.

    Superficial! That’s the word I was looking for. The game is made to be superficially appealing, the reviews just give it a very superficial prodding, and the audience seems superficial enough to just gobble it up.
    “Must play”, they say.
    Do so, but please take of that stack of rose-tinted glasses.

    • Nihilist says:

      Sometimes you don’t feel what everybody else feels. Doesn’t mean that the emperor has no clothes, it simply isn’t your cup of coffee. It happens.

      • magogjack says:

        From nothing comes wisdom

      • Gilly says:

        I’ve felt around for the emperor’s clothes, and all I got were handfuls of hairy flab. Unless the emperor’s clothes are a g-string and a hat, he’s not wearing any.

      • pepperfez says:

        If I mistook a seemingly-naked emperor for my cup of coffee, I would be out of sorts as well.

  46. Laurentius says:

    Endless Legend – Gorgeus visual design, slick UI, great different factions, fun 4X gameplay. A bit of lacklustere empire building with too much number crunching underneath then organic feeling, combat is slow and boring.( I take combat from FE:Legendary Heroes any day ).
    Very good game all around but maybe I had different games on the plate where it came out ( Wasteland 2) I didn’t fall in love with it.

    Here is though my GOTY, after alot of pondering, this was absolutly great year for me in gaming delivering hit after hit: The Banner Saga, ShadowrunReturns:Dragonfall, Divinity:OriginalSin, Wasteland 2. It reminds me 2011 in terms of AAA titles : Portal 2, Witcher 2, DeausEx:HR, Skyrim. But looking at Steam hours (120 hours since April !!! 2014) the game I have most fun this year is FTL:Advanced Edition, I know that base game is from 2012 but I can’t help it FTL:AE is GOTY for 2014.

  47. Premium User Badge

    daphne says:

    I’m now sure to try this game, and I loved Endless Space.

    I will say however, with only 4 of the 7 RPS members even providing commentary, let alone agreement, there’s nothing unanimous about this decision even considering Alec’s disapproval of FC3 in 2012.

  48. Bobtree says:

    It’s on my wishlist, but I can’t help remembering how much I wish I’d listened to Alec’s dissent when they picked Far Cry 3 in 2012. I’m going to heed the caution of RPS crowd comments and set my sale threshold quite low.

  49. pepperfez says:

    I so so so much want to play this game, but I would much rather play a DRM-free version. GoG release please? I’d pay full price.

  50. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    Excellent choice!