Endless Space 2 Review

Endless Space has a sequel and it’s a very worthy successor to the first. Not only does this sharpen and streamline the experience, it also adds depth. This depth can be hard to find, yet the new faction and more complex terraforming do change the game. Just like the Civilisation series, one more turn is almost impossible to keep to, at least ten being required.

Gameplay

4X is easy to say and easy to understand, explore, expand, exploit and exterminate. Here, expanding is by no means an easy task. It’s gone just beyond send out a ship and uncover the routes between systems. Now the drive towards technology that allows you to leave them is so much more important. World variety and survivability is somehow more important than what is was in the first. Not only that, you must look carefully for the resources that will increase your expansion, strategic and luxuries.

Resources were an important part of the first, with the materials you could harvest going into ships and providing large scale bonuses for your empire. This has changed somewhat in the second. The main and perhaps most obvious difference in is the luxury resources. These you can collect and use. Most importantly their use is best explained by the system level. As you unlock progressively higher technologies, you can boost your system level. This has flow on affects for some structures and improvements.

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Each of these resources have effects that can really add up when you have many systems. From providing a set boost to science, food or production to boosting influence, approval, you have plenty of options. Yet, at a fairly notable cost, if you have difficulty finding sources for them. The same is true of the strategic resources. You can watch them climb, only to very easily overspend as you upgrade your ships.

Another feature that has seen some definite work is the diplomacy side of this game. While it’s easy to overlook this, building your fleet to the stage where none may threaten your borders, working together has powerful effects. Especially if you have the trade networks or the traits to support it. Secondary, minor factions are now present and can change your plans dramatically. These can add traits to your empire, changing what works and doesn’t work for. The right race can make worlds once difficult to colonise prime targets for expansion.

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The other big change I noticed was the battle ship. Not just in space but on the ground as well. It’s now more complex and certainly makes for a more interesting game. Starting with the soldier on the ground, they can now be supported by armour and air assets. While this is very much a scissors, paper, rock relationship, it adds complexity and is a welcome feature.

The new fleet battle system is also a feature in its own right. Now unlike the first you don’t choose three cards, but one. I think they’ve also lost the hard counter of the first. These cards can be unlocked for a variety of ways, from technology to lucky discoveries. Now it represents the general doctrine of the battle. Your large fleets are divided into three armadas, flotillas. You have a morale bonus if you have more than the enemy.

The final obvious change to the game is the faction quest lines, story quests that you can follow as you progress. Not only are these quests interesting but change the nature of your faction. These represent internal politics, goals of your faction. Some you can complete without realising, others take clear effort to achieve. The rewards also can have far reaching effects, making your choice in them quite difficult. Thankfully you’re not on a hard turn timer for many of them. There’s plenty of other changes here, you’d need an essay to list them all and what they can do.

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Despite these changes, the core of the game is very much the same. The Endless are as absent and mysterious as they were the first-time round. The same fundamentals of heroes as governors, admirals still remain. They can level up and are an important part of your strategy as well. There’s also more than enough to keep you busy and coming back.

Audio and Visuals

It’s hard to really praise enough on some level. When I got into this game I knew exactly what I was playing from the get go with its theme. The more you play this game, the more you get used to the music cues, sounds. There’s times when I was lost in the music, but I knew I had to pay attention, my turn was about to start, the first of a series of messages appearing. Diplomacy has a different sound to the fleet battles, to discoveries made on your worlds, systems. Background music as well is easy to get lost in.

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Visually, the same is true as well. Studying your systems, the worlds truly look different. Now with the small, short videos of the terrain of the world you’re colonising are a nice addition. Not only this, each faction has clearly different design, aesthetics. This just adds to the game from my position. Going from the United Empire, Sophons and Lumeris are all unique entities. You almost don’t need a recognition guide, the ship styles are so obvious, so different.

The galactic map and its different overlays are very easy to read. While this is a far more advanced feature, learning how to read this doesn’t take long. For my first time, through with the Lumeris, I changed the locations of my trading companies, crossing my empire not just vertically, but horizontally too. 

Multiplayer

As the game can support up to eight players, AI or human, there’s more than enough for the studio to rest their laurels on. With the ability for the host to save the game and for it to be picked up later, is only another feature to be applauded. While there’s a part of me that wishes for an all weekender, like I once played with Master of Orion 2, Endless Space 2 says you can pick this up later. While there’s little more than this, with the game options available, you really don’t need more.

Overall

Explaining why this game is so good is hard to do. It’s all of the basics of 4X with fine controls. While you might have many systems under your command it’s never overwhelming. The new battleship and tactics are easy to learn and take time to master. The same is true of this game in general, easy to learn and perhaps, impossible to master. If there’s one complaint to stand out, is that gameplay can slow down the longer it goes. Turns take longer to resolve, process. Something you really can’t consider a flaw with the game.

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The version reviewed here was the PC Steam version.

Written by

Leon Peters-Malone

Old hat gamer who’s start goes back to the Sega MegaDrive and still remembers seeing the Genesis on store shelves. Mainly a strategy gamer, I dabble in most other genres. There’s a long list of stand out titles I want to see come back, Ground Control, Homeworld, MechCommander, a proper send off to the Tiberium world of Westwood’s creation. Also very partial to most things set in space, especially at the fleet side of things. Current gaming gear include the Xbox 360 and Xbox One, PS3 and PC.

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