Amplitude Studios seems to be pretty busy as of late. With the release of Endless Legend on Steam, the company has two games currently in the Early Access beta program. This led to some hesitation on my part before I installed Endless Legend. Their other game Dungeon of the Endless felt like a very polished demo when I previewed it last. With Endless Legend being a 4X strategy title, there isn’t much room to cut corners.
Fortunately, there is plenty of game here. Unfortunately, it isn’t as polished as Dungeon was.
I want to start with this warning since the game is being currently being sold for $34.99. Endless Legend is a glitchy bit of software. I am playing this on a laptop and I met my fair share of annoying red screens like the ones above. For the most part, they aren’t game breaking. What happened in my case was some assets would fail to load properly during commands like moving my troops. You’ll sometimes be able to move past this by clicking around and changing the action of the command line. Sometimes you’ll have to just waste a turn when it pops up. However, there was the rare instance where I had to force close the game and reload it.
This is an Early Access game currently in Pre-Alpha, whatever that means. At some point I assume it will reach an Alpha stage, then a Beta stage, then finally a full release. If you want to explore something without glitches, wait until the game gets a few more patches underneath it.
The game itself is a mash up of 4X strategy and tactical gameplay. The closest example I can remember playing recently is Stardock’s Fallen Enchantress series. This is actually quite similar in concept, but with enough differences to really change the way you play the game.
I would like to say that Endless Legend has a legitimate chance to overtake Fallen Enchantress as a simulation game. The idea of colonization sims like this is to grow power while maintaining a balance between war and diplomacy. If you get too big for your britches, the enemy AI is supposed to put you in your place. Unfortunately, the AI here is mainly of a group of war hungry assholes. I’m hesitant to say they’ll be able to fix this because the game really pushes for these obscenely large borders instead of just city-by-city growth.
At first, I didn’t really understand this fairly simple concept as I would spend most of my time fighting off smaller factions that surrounded me while trying to expand my villages. That was all the game wanted from me then. When you settle a village, you actually assume the entire region of that area. You must then wrestle that control away from some minor monster factions, but once you do, you own that territory. At that point you need to expand to a new region and do the same until you begin bumping up against your adversaries. Then it’s basically a slow march to war as you work on growth and defense against the AI territories.
Unfortunately, the battle system isn’t all that grand. The regions of battle are absolutely tiny making it really hard to maneuver your troops around. There is some really brilliant stuff like the implementation of elevated terrain that essentially blocks off portions of attack, but in the end it never felt satisfying. I’d rather auto-battle it out than sit through one of those tactical battles. Since there was never an upside to using it, it really felt wasted.
I will say that the terrain thing is really an area where Endless Legend truly differentiates itself. Cliffs can actively block your movement on the world map, which can be a huge deal if you don’t build your cities properly. See when one of your cities is under attack, a wall comes up in defense. So if your city is stuck in between two pieces of terrain blocking you from easy access, you’ll have to find a way around or lose the city. There are some really interesting things going on to make this feel a bit different than your average game.
The game itself is a looker. Variable weather conditions, nice-looking models, and a great transitional view from basic map to detailed terrain make this game truly stand out graphically. There are still quite a few little details that need to be ironed out before this really becomes a title to look out for. No multiplayer is available yet. The game has only half of the promised factions so far and a number of glitches. They are, however, actively working on this. In fact, an update appeared just a few hours before I began typing this that attempted to fix a number of these glitches and issues.
While I don’t think that Endless Legend will be able to capture some of the classic elements of RPGs that Fallen Enchantress was able to accomplish, I think it really has the opportunity to create an exciting foundation for war that could really work well with multiplayer. Right now, it’s halfway there.