Every once in a while, a game comes along that changes my opinion about the genre it represents. Endless Space is just such a game. Graphically pleasing, this debut title from Amplitude Studios brings unprecedented depth to the 4X hemisphere of strategy gaming. For those of you who don’t know what a 4X game is, simply put, it is a turn-based strategy game based on four "X's" – eXplore, eXpand, eXploit and eXterminate. You are given a small empire, you build it up by colonizing, building resources (or simply ravishing other areas for what you need), researching technologies, building up your military and then attacking other areas.
There are a couple of ways to expand your empire – you can either conquer and take what you need, or you can go down the path of the peaceful nation and use diplomatic means to acquire what you need. Players can take on the computer at a relaxed pace or hook up online against others for a more robust challenge.
Another bonus is that the game is downloadable and comes in two versions, the Admiral and Emperor editions. The latter is the special edition that has a few extras, like the Emperor Guard extra skin pack.
While this is the first title for Amplitude, the development team has a great pool of talent, featuring game designers from such titles as Battlefield, Rayman, Ghost Recon, Call of Juarez and Heroes of Might & Magic.
They’ve made leaping into the game easy. There are eight options for play. You pick one, start a campaign against the computer and the game will walk through the basic elements. Any previous experience with a strategy, civ-building game or 4X game means foregoing the tutorial and getting down to business.
Endless Space has some of the same basic elements that so many others do in the genre. Where it stands out is in the learning curve and how the game uses the interface to help players through what would otherwise be a confusing and deep playground. The combat elements could be better and actually come across as being a bit light after working up to the point in research where there is an armada capable of cruising space looking for trouble. But, all in all, it’s a great start from a solid team.
The game's interface is user friendly and each aspect is well explained just by mousing over the button on the screen. Graphically, Endless Space has a warm and inviting look.
While not a "bad" element, the combat is a little weak. There are only three weapon types and not a whole lot of tactical options. Considering how deep the other elements are, this element of the game could be described as somewhere between down and dirty and superficial. It could have been much stronger.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
As either an intro to the genre or for players looking for another good 4X strategy title, Endless Space fits the bill. The game plays well and could be the first in a vast universe of potential for Amplitude Studios.