I play a lot of games, and quite a few of them are very active in game play, but sometimes I just want to play a game where I can chill out and not have to worry about time being a factor. As a result, I find my library to be an amusing dichotomy of two categories, Chill and Thrill. RollerCoaster Tycoon was my go to chill game for 12 years, up to 2015. I loved making wooden roller coasters, but I started to realize how much time I was giving that game. I cut it down almost entirely, but then came the problem of not having a game to replace it for the purposes of relaxing. Thanks to Amplitude Studios, I have my new chill game: Endless Space 2 (ES2).
Game: Endless Space 2 (PC) Developer: Amplitude Studios Publisher: SEGA
Endless Space 2 is the titular sequel to the game that put Amplitude on the radar for many 4X players. The first was decent, but fairly flawed. It sold well enough for the studio to develop two more games: Dungeon of the Endless and Endless Legend. The former I have yet to play, but I enjoyed a great deal of time with Legend; a very fun alternative to Sid Meiers Civilization series.
You’ve probably noticed the common word across each of Amplitude’s games, and this is actually one of the reasons I have found myself enjoying them heavily. From an uninformed perspective you might think the word choice to be a narcissistic statement of replay-ability; but in actuality, “Endless” refers to an extinct galaxy spanning species in every single game. Yes, each game has a chronological place in this universe filled with lore. If you’re into learning about a fictional universe in pieces and tatters, Endless Space 2 will satisfy you immensely.
The Endless were an extremely advanced species that discovered a technology they called Dust. Dust has been referred to as “money, power and magic, all intertwined into a single miraculous substance.” This substance granted superhuman abilities to those that became infused with it, and sparked a massive technological renaissance and eventual lethal schism within the Endless civilization. A dissertation could be written about their fictional history, and with how much lore is already within each and every description and tooltip, it is certainly possible. The amount of detail in them is thankfully superb, for this universe is not grounded by conventional sciences.
Detail oozes in every component of this game, and this is the most evident in the designs of each of the Major Factions in ES2. This encompasses many facets, the first of which will be the art design of the units of each faction.
In short, each faction has a unique style for the units of their empire, and they are all fantastic. The United Empire is an industrious empire and has a boxy and angular looking fleet, giving off the impression they were designed for mass production. The Horatio are a race of clones of a megalomaniac, obsessed with perfection. Their units are ornate, immaculate, and deserving of many other labels you can find in a thesaurus. Personally, I like the Unfallen’s fleet designs the best. Their spacecraft are a blend of science and organic materials. If anything I mentioned interests you, give Amplitude’s Sketchfab page a look. If you choose a favorite faction from this alone, I don’t think I could blame you.
However, a faction is more than artwork. Each faction has mechanics that are universal and unique unto themselves, and these are critical to learn. For example, I liked the design of the Unfallen’s units, and had to reign myself in to go with their flow of gameplay, as they can only sequentially expand into neighboring systems. Meanwhile, factions like the Vodyani or the Vaulters are able to control a star system with the help of faction specific units (Arks or Argosy, respectively). Not every faction has a unique requirement for how they eXpand, and it isn’t the only area for unique elements to occur. There are the other 3 Xs, eXplore, eXploit, and eXterminate; after all.
Your space faring civilization depends on the planetoids in star systems for Food, Industry, Dust, Science, and Influence (FIDSI) production. Food grows the population in each system and refills your manpower for military purposes. Industry is used for military units, system improvements, and anything else that needs to be built. Dust is your main currency, used for unit upgrades, market purchases, production acceleration, and more. Science is used for researching technologies to improve any of the 4 Xs. Finally, Influence is essentially political currency, used for diplomatic deals and declarations, special abilities for the United Empire, and for law upkeep.
No matter your preferred style of play, you’ll find a faction that will satisfy you. If you prefer slow expansion and diplomacy, the Unfallen would be a good fit for you. For the industrious, the United Empire will suit you if you would also like to generate influence as well. For militaristic industrialists, give the Cravers a try, as they get massive gains in FIDSI from over-exploiting their systems. Technology favoring players will find the Sophons to be a good fit, or the newly added Vaulters for those who like to hold territory. The Lumeris are perfect for players who love trade networks. The Vodyani and Horatio are for players who like to exploit different population types, for labor and sustinence, or for gene splicing; respectively.
Many things about this game are greatly polished, and promote strategy development. With the new Vaulters addition, I find myself having a blast with breach pods and making a nice wad of dust from selling the stolen craft. There are a few elements that still require some work. Pirates now have their own diplomacy system, but it is lacking in depth and is fairly bare bones. Diplomacy is improving, much better than where it was at launch. Planetary sieges are nothing more than a flashy show and numbers. These are the three that stand out the most, the rest are technical, including a rare draw-request failure.
Thankfully, these are minor grievances. They are massively overshadowed by the atmosphere of Endless Space 2, with everything being incredibly calm aiding in it being my relaxing game. This is heavily aided by the game’s stellar soundtrack, with every track in the game sounding like they too were performed in the boundless expanses of the universe. Each track slightly loses and regains components as you go in and out of different menus, giving each track a dynamic feel to them, seeming slightly different even if you’ve heard them many times before.
When in a fleet battle, the combat music is calmly overshadowed by the resulting chaos. Likewise, when you get an understanding of how combat works in this game, the fleet synergies you can make are extremely satisfying. Empire management is also very fulfilling, especially if you like micromanagement. The areas of this game that are polished are very noticeable. A game with great mechanics, wrapped in beautiful designs and artwork of flat and 3-dimensional fare.
I won’t lie, however. I may enjoy this game greatly, but I can’t say that this game is for everyone. It has a moderately high learning curve, even for people who played the first Endless Space. Nevertheless, for those that can understand my rambling and the mechanics of Endless Space 2 and not be overwhelmed, you will find a great game.