Endless Space: Turtling Toward Success…Hopefully…

1 - Sexy Menu!
Let the Hostilities Begin!

In my preview of Endless Space a little while back — in which I played through the tutorial and a few campaign games — I found myself enjoying most of the game and totally jonesing for one more turn after another. I say most because I really didn’t like the overtly-hands-off combat engine the game used, but I tried to be nice, since it was a preview. Now, with the full version out, I can honestly tell you what I really think. ;) Did my love affair with the game continue, or were there chinks in the armor this time around?


2 - Choosing the Amoeba
Amoeba, I Choose You!!

There are eight races in total, from the generic United Empire to the scientifically wimpy Sophons (who I played in the preview). This time I chose the Amoeba, because they wanted to have harmony with the universe and each other, man, and the stars spoke to them and stuff. I set this particular game to have three AI opponents and a spiral galaxy, and then hit the ground running, figuratively speaking. I was pleased to see that my game began with a race-specific cutscene, which I enjoyed watching, as it had nice art and such.

5 - Starting at Scorpius
Welcome…to Fantasy Isl…er…I Mean Scorpius…

As soon as the game began, I was about to order one of my explorer ships to scout around when I noticed…heeeeyyyy, all of these system icons are already marked with which planets can be colonized, have special resources and so on. I don’t know if this is a race-specific thingy, but according to an in-game event I already had half of the map uncovered. I suppose this was due to my race’s ability to “listen to the stars”. Cool man!

6 - Already Know Much of The Map! Sweet!

This was a timesaver because I didn’t have to really take the time or expense to build scout ships, so I focused on building colony ships, defense ships and focusing on improvements for my home planet, as well as my new colony on Placidus II, which looked like a sweet, sweet planet close-by.

9 - Exploiting Placidus II
This is Part of the eXploit Side of 4X.

Planets can be exploited for bonuses in either industry, dust (currency) production, food or science. In this case, I chose food, to try to keep my new colonists fed and happy. At this point, I had also queued up a bunch of technologies for research in the delightful and colorful research screen, and several of them had been completed. I therefore went into the military screen and used the ship design view to update my ships with the latest technologies, which I typically did by clicking “Auto Upgrade” (I can be a tad impatient at times, and I trusted the game).

10 - Upgrading the Defender
Ahh, That New Ship Smell…

Now at this point I noticed that my little corner of the galaxy was only connected to the rest by wormholes, which needed a specific technology in order to traverse. Since I learned after colonizing Leo III nearby that my race isn’t too keen on expansionism (I had to lower the tax rate just to keep ’em content), I didn’t expand too much more, but focused on planetary and ship improvements, preparing for the inevitable encounter with other races once they were able to traverse the wormholes. In effect, I was forced to turtle, which I was honestly fine with. I wanted to take this game a bit at a time.

15 - Gotta Lower Taxes to Keep Folks Content
Makin’ My People Content

While I was turtling, I spent much of my time tweaking planetary production queues (to add ships, mostly, as system governors did fairly well when I set them to a specific field like science or industry to focus on). I also acquired a few heroes to man a couple of my fleets and handle administrative tasks on Scorpius. Heroes have their own set of attributes and abilities, and seem to be able to level up even when they’re just sitting in a fleet doing nothing at all (maybe except ship inspections…I guess?). They’re very useful to have though.

17 - Each Hero Has Stats and Attributes
Meet Ap0110 Bastion.v0, a Floaty Mechanical Ball that Handles Governance of My Home System. ;)

During this time most of my energy was spent on clicking the “Next Turn” button, which I didn’t mind at all. I’d tweak some things and then move to the next turn, hoping that I was doing my best to prepare my empire for whatever dangers like ahead. Surprisingly it didn’t take too long for those dangers to appear. I didn’t see them coming, but SOMEHOW a pirate fleet appeared in the Leo system, just downwind of the home system. ACK! I only had one ship in the system, and while the game gives you the option to automatically or manually handle combat, this time I wasn’t even GIVEN that option. Quite annoying, even though I would’ve lost regardless, as they had three ships to my one.

22 - Crap! Where the HELL Did Those Pirates Come From
Out of Nowhere, Pirates Appeared. WTF?!

I eventually sent a larger fleet to Leo which intercepted the pirates at the next turn. Thankfully since the pirates hadn’t had time to repair — I liked how damage carried over from one battle to the next — I was able to win the three versus three battle with one very damaged ship left. It was a very, very close call.

26 - Nice Ship Detail in Free Camera
Preeeeetty Ships!

Unfortunately, after this first fight, my screen capture program decided to stop taking further screenshots, and I didn’t notice, so there won’t be any more screenshots for this particular session, and for that I apologize. Stuff did happen though! I was able to colonize arctic planets, and ran into another faction of the Amoeba as well as the Sowers, who were WAY ahead in terms of size and power than I was, sadly. I also lost another battle at Leo, and built a new colony in the Seginus system. After about sixty or so turns, I realized it was a good time to take a break, especially since the screen capture program stopped working.

In this session, I mostly had a great time with Endless Space. I truly enjoy every element of the game, from the planetary planning to the research, all except the combat, which I truly and honestly despise. It’s not just that I suck at it — and so far I totally do — it’s just that I’m not fond of how hands-off this is. Honestly, give me total control, or give me no control, this “card” system — yes, I know they’re actions but it feels like I’m pulling from a deck of cards at random — honestly feels half-assed to me. Even a semi-hands-off system like that found in Gratuitous Space Battles would work better for me because I’d feel a tad more connected to my ships. Here, I feel like I’m watching a movie, and I barely feel connected to my ships at all.

So ultimately, I am really liking Endless Space so far exceeeept for the combat. It wouldn’t be as bad if the automatic control of combat was competent, but so far even then I’m losing with superior numbers (I tested a four versus three setup with my latest ships and barely survived, even though I had a good advantage). Thankfully, though, I enjoy every other part of the game so much that I’ll keep playing for a long while. ;)

Thanks for reading this first installment of my Endless Space review. I hope you won’t let my disdain for combat, merely one element in the game, dissuade you from playing this. So far it’s a great turn-based 4X game that I’m very much enjoying, just with the caveat that the combat is horrid. ;) Now please enjoy my gallery of screenshots from this entry, have a great day and stay tuned for my next entry, in which I’ll try to like the combat a bit more, if at all! ;)

Author: Brian Rubin

19 thoughts on “Endless Space: Turtling Toward Success…Hopefully…

  1. Here’s hoping Legends of Pegasus is a more hands-on 4x game. I’m having fun with Endless Space but it’s not as feature full as I thought it would be when I saw the alpha. They definitely could have done more with it.

    1. Yeah, I hear ya. The game was released a month earlier than originally planned, so maybe that’s why it doesn’t feel as feature full. Welcome to the blog, by the way!

    2. I completely agree with you on all points. Until LoP comes out though, I will have to play Rebellion to get my 4x game fix until then.

  2. About combat… Most races stick to one type of weapon (usulally short-range machinguns) so if you want to beat them, build ships with defense against that particular type of weapon. The bonuses are huge.
    Also, I find the mid-range weapons far better than missiles or machineguns. Might want to give them a try.
    Finally, fighting is pretty necessary at times in the game, so you should always make sure to have researched som improved weapons, defenses and ship types (and keep replacing your ship blueprints with updated ones).
    Good luck!

    1. Good tips, Stian, thanks, I’ll see what I can do about this on my next go-round. Also, I wonder if the fact that most races stick to one weapon, as you mention, is a weakness of the AI or a feature of the particular races.

      1. Well, you should probably stick to one type of weapon as well, considering the amount of research you need to do to get high-level weaponry. I tend to stick to beams (mid-range), but I don’t know why the AI tend to stick to machineguns. I haven’t played a lot of the game yet, so maybe they research new weapons later on. There are probably more tips on their forums ;)

        1. I s’pose that’s fair, seems limiting though. I dunno, this sounds like one more knock against combat. Having variety in weapons = too expensive to research. I’m trying not to be negative here, I love most of the game, but GAH the combat…

          1. Keep in mind that 60 turns is still pretty early in the game. The AI does end up researching alternate weapons tech, which usually seems to start showing up around turn 90-100 or so in my games. Things get a lot more interesting at that point, as you need to start building ships with alternate defense technologies as well.

            I was not a big fan of the combat during the alpha and beta either, but now that I have a number of longer and larger games under my belt, I’m finding that it isn’t as shallow and one-dimensional as I thought. In fact, I’ve learned to both build ships and influence the combat through hero traits and cards in a lot of interesting ways – it’s very different from most 4x combat, but it’s deeper than a lot of people who haven’t played it for very long think it is.

            I do wish it wasn’t just broadsides. Give it some more time though and work out how the different systems and combat cards work together (not to mention heroes with dust-abilities that give new cards) and you might be surprised that it’s more enjoyable than you think.

            Dust really is what this game is about. The more you tech and the more dust you have, the more interesting the game gets!

            1. Oh yeah, I know it’s early, that’s what these review diaries are all about, to chronicle the journey of me playing the game, giving my impressions along the way. I’m really, really hoping I do like the combat better. ;)

  3. I think i’m on the same page as you Brian, I’m finding Endless Space very satisfying except for the combat part, I feel totally unattached with the ships. I design and build them but when they are fighting I have barely any idea what’s going on except that this card beat that card or that I lost a ship or the AI is winning. Another downside is that there is barely any time to choose and decide on the cards, it feels pretty much like gambling.
    Yes you can tell what weapons and armor the AI has installed on their ships so u can prepare a good counterforce, but isn’t this like cheating if the AI doesn’t adapt? imo this doesn’t feel polished at all. Pretty much yall need to do is to design ships that counter what your current enemy is amassing, pretty straightforward and dull if u ask me.

    I started a game with Horatio on hard and thought i was gone for, pretty much half the time my score was lousy, on a 5 player match, i was either on 3rd or 4th but after seeing the whole galaxy I found out that I owned half of it, I didn’t have the military might the #1 ranked had but was doing fairly well against them, defend and rejecting them without much losses.
    So all and all I’m enjoying the mechanics and complexity of the game this bit of dull combat just leaves me wandering if i should be wasting my time on Sins instead of this.
    There are other bits that annoy me but combat is pretty much the turn off unfortunately cuz everything else is pretty good :/

    1. Aredyn, that is pretty much exactly how I feel. I’m typically a fan of randomness in games, but yeah, combat does have an element of gambling, which I’m not a fan of.

  4. I have to say I agree with Brian and Aredyn. No apologizes though. One reason is I play 4x games – for the immersion but honestly I rather play FP RPG’s like Mass Effect, DarkStar One, X3 and the like. I want to feel Im in space and in another time and another part of the galaxy/universe living a different life male or female just like in Skyrim. Freelancer had this effect on me way back in 2003 (loved it) so Im always looking for that new/more immersion. Call it my drug or idol. But in Endless Space I feel bored and down right lazy. I mean its cool to research/build stuff and expand but give me Distant Worlds Legends anyday over this. I need total control. I don’t care if its TB or RTS just hand it over to me and let me express myself not though developers idea how it all plays out?! Sometimes there is too much freedom like in X3 where you’ve played through dozens of copy and paste missions from the stations and have abandoned the story line because there was no plot line to begin with but here you have a simple interface which should be in more 4x games these days (its 2012 not 1999) but why is it.. that in almost every game there is.. there is always something that just game breaks it? Why can’t we have a space game like CIV 4.. Beyond the Sword i mean.. oh wait.. we did. It was called GC2.. yes! That is what this game reminds me of. No wait. just the combat part and that is exactly why I never could get into GC2. Hopefully, Legends comes through because Sins Rebellion (haven’t I played this before??.. oh yes, it was called Sins to??.. how weird?? And Gemini Wars looks great on paper and the big screen but plays like.. im not going there. And dont forget our hope we all had last year called Sword of the Stars 2 which should have been renamed “Retard of the Stars 2”. OK.. just venting! I got to go and play some DWL and Drox Operative (thanks Brian for getting me divorced over this game) to stay sain after this.

  5. Sword of the stars, oh my, that was such a big dissapointment, from the horrible buggy and unfinished launch to even now with all the updates is just plain bad imho.
    I also tried Gemini wars, for a small indie team it wanted to look good, but they were too ambicious and it felt pretty empty with a horrible UI and sloooow paced battles.
    Now Sins of a solar Empire: rebellion is the most impressive find for me this year, if u haven’t tried I seriously don’t know what u are waiting for, especially if u are 4X fan. Probably the most polished RTS 4X to date.
    And yes, aren’t we all waiting for Legend of Pegasus? plz don’t make it bad *crosses finger*.
    On a last note: I’m on a winning streak with Endless Space, my fleet just don’t know defeat. Outmatched, outnumbered and out-dated I think i’ve won over 20 battles with just 1 fleet. At one turn I remember having about 7 battles on the same system, maybe there’s something wrong with my game, probably broke at some point just read these stats:
    My fleet Enemy
    MP 4500 5500-6000
    Total Dmg 300-400 at least twice
    Armor 200 at least twice
    CP 12/13 11/11
    It is worth mentioning that my ships have bout now lvl 5-7, but it’s not like they were like that at the start…weird right?

    1. I’ve read the AI for the fleets is pretty bad, so once you outmatch them with tech it’s typically a slaughter. This seems to confirm those findings.

      1. But It was I the one outmatched with tech, the dmg and armor they had clearly stated it, the only thing I can think of is that the hero plays a very decisive part as well as the ships xp

  6. Cannot stand the game… oh it was fun for a bit, until i met other races. The diplomacy AI is fickle and occasionally down right stupid, “Oh you haven’t expanded in over 100 turns, but were going to declare war on you for being expansionist even though we are allies and you have never once encroached on our territory.”
    The combat is broken, and late game it comes down to winning 10 battles, then losing everything when the AI shifts gears and makes a ship you arn’t prepared for and you cannot afford to counter.
    The entire game though seems dependent upon having the most resources (research/industry primarily) which means the most planets… which means any race that doesn’t focus on expansion is handicapped from the get-go.

    1. Hi nes, and welcome to the blog! And ugh, that happened to you?! What a pisser. :/

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