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Gameplay

Sound
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Genre: Strategy & War
Min OS X: 10.6


Endless Space - Admiral Edition
November 7, 2012 | Franklin Pride
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Galaxy Map

Requirements:

Mac OS X: 10.6.7 |CPU: 2 GHz Intel | RAM: 4 GB | HD Space: 2 GB | Graphics:ATI Radeon HD 2400 XT, NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT, Intel HD Graphics 3000

Review:

In recent history, there have been a few space strategy games released. However, none of them have been of the turn-based variety that Master of Orion made famous. Iceberg Interactive's Endless Space is different. The galaxy view has turn-based movement and mechanics, fights are done in a turn-based style, and all players are able to do their move simultaneously during the turn. It's a welcome relief from the more recent trend towards high-definition graphics and real-time battling.

Not that it looks bad, far from it. It's just that the style used in Endless Space harkens more towards the classic space strategy games. The galaxy map is 2D, with sprites moving along it, the ship design screen is a simple ship hull selection with modules picked from a list, and the overall layout is very reminiscent of Master Of Orion 2. The only major difference in graphical style is that the turn-based battles are rendered in 3D with particle effects for all the weaponry. It all looks great.

Endless Space also plays quite well. The overall strategy of the game actually requires that you remain relatively peaceful for most of your race's history. If you declare war left and right, you'll miss out on trade routes and other profitable opportunities. In addition, even the smallest of ships can blockade your systems, so starting a war without a proper series of fleet blockades on strategic choke points can end up leading to your bankrupt husk being slowly starved into oblivion. Normal difficulty will kill you if you aren't careful.

This is mainly due to the fact that the computer AI is excellent at managing the galaxy view. It prioritizes the most valuable planets, pushes research towards colonization and fleet speed during peace time, and even modifies and retrofits its ships to be effective against your choice of defensive and offensive weaponry. There are some ways to confuse it and reduce its effectiveness (like having one module of each weapon variety), but overall the AI is excellent at responding to your strategies with its own.

The battles are the only exception. They are composed of three phases, long range, medium range, and melee range. In long range, missiles are the most effective. In medium range it's beam weapons, and in short range it's the blasters. As a result, you tend to optimize your turn action based on the effective weapon. If the enemy is heavy in rockets, you may play an action that decreases their accuracy or damage with rockets during the long range phase and ramp up the offense on the other two. The computer doesn't do that. You'll commonly see the computer buffing its blasters at long range where they're least effective, playing a defensive action on a phase where none of your weapons are effective, or even just repairing when at full health. It seems rather random.

As a result, you can generally mass up a single type of weapon with a few decoy modules of a different type and the computer will almost always die horribly if you take direct control. If you don't, it seems to be done on a point basis. If your fleet has a higher value, you take few casualties regardless of the weapon varieties and defenses. If yours is weaker, the opposite. Since you can only take manual control of one battle at a time, you'll sometimes find yourself debating which fleet to potentially lose and even miss the deadline for picking (yes, you have a time limit to pick manual vs. automatic).

Outside of war, you also have plenty of options. The research tree is forked into four different branches that don't cross over, for one. If you focus on your economy, you'll end up neglecting colonization, construction, and war. If you spread your efforts out, you may end up behind on tech in a major branch and start losing your lead. You may also find yourself blocked off by enemy/friendly territory and unable to expand if you take too much time to spread out. There are a lot of essential decisions to make, and each can make or break your civilization.

The sounds and music are also excellent for getting you in the mood. The background themes are very spacey and atmospheric, the war music is a little repetitive at times, but enjoyable, and the beeps and boops of the interface are very soothing. The weapons sound just a little bit too underwhelming, but in the end you're mainly looking at the health bars to see what died, not listening to the sound of the beams flying by. The sounds work quite well for what they represent.

To put it simply, if you are even the slightest fan of space games, buy Endless Space. It's complex, enjoyable, and one of the better turn-based games to come out in recent history. The computer will give you a challenge even on normal, there are loads of different strategies for how you can construct and run your civilization, and you'll be hard-put to play two games the same way. It's an excellent space strategy game from one side to the other.

Pros:

Numerous options for advancement
Challenging civilization AI
Beautiful graphics

Cons:

Weak combat AI

Franklin Pride is a game development graduate and professional programmer/consultant for the Unity development engine. He's currently working on completing his first two computer games (The Farming Game, Uncle Fred's Deep Space Security) while consulting on the side.



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