Endless Space is a 4X strategy game in the vein of the Civilization and Masters of Orion series, which means you’re going to explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate. Build a mighty galactic empire by stripmining colonized planets and dominating rival civilizations through military might, diplomacy, or cultural influence.
So does Endless Space stand up against those big names of the 4X genre?
Conquer Everything. Or Don’t.
Choose from among nine unique races, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Some races are more peaceful and solve interspecies conflicts diplomatically, while others are brutal conquerors bent on subjugation through force. If you don’t think any of the alien cultures on offer can quench your thirst for blood or lust for conquest, create your own from scratch.
You begin with a lone planet on the edge of the galaxy, ripe for the colonizing. There are lots of planet types, including jungles planets, sandy desert planets, tundra ice worlds, and barren arid landscapes. Each planet you colonize will add to your resources: food governs population growth, industry controls fast your stuff gets built, dust is your game currency, and science regulates how fast your race figures out new technology. Your options will be pretty limited to begin with, but as you develop technologically and increase your total production, you’ll be able to colonize more and different types of planets.
You’re going to need ships to move around, and they become pretty important pretty quickly. Scout ships help you zip around and find all of the great (and not-so-great) planets to colonize, but they can’t do any of the heavy lifting. As soon as they’ve found a new star system, they’re off to the next. Colonizing ships are the guys that set down roots, but they’re one-time use only, so you’ll want to get on churning those out early on to set up your base of operations. You’ll create warships, too, and these are the ships that will take on pirates or invaders.
Stay on top of your research, because learning about science and technology is what effectively levels up your skills. Each turn is a year in Endless Space, so if you let your research slide for five turns, you’re five years behind. Don’t expect the bad guys to go easy on you, just because you voluntarily held yourself back. Even in singleplayer mode, the AI is going to keep moving towards galactic domination, whether you keep up or not.
You’re going to have to fight some guys. My favorite part of 4X games is always the bureaucratic stuff, overseeing my government and managing my people. Battling is just that stuff I do in between, and Endless Space hasn’t done a whole lot to make it more exciting than that. There are three stages for battle, long, medium, and melee, and you set all of your commands at the start of the battle. If you’ve correctly predicted how the enemy fleet is going to attack and can successfully counter, you’ll be the victor. If not, it’s a sad day in the galaxy for you.
A big part of combat in Endless Space is making sure your fleet is prepared ahead of time, and that’s going to take some planning. It will likely take several turns to even create one warship, and you’re going to want a bunch if you’ve got more than one colony. You’ll also need to move them into place, usually impossible in one turn, as well. Even in battle, then, Endless Space requires the same forward thinking strategy called for in the rest of the game.
So how do you win? There are a bunch of different ways, actually. Conquer 75% of the universe. Yeah, so no big deal, right? Remember, even if you’re playing singleplayer, like I was, you’re still swatting alien races back with a stick, so that total conquest may be harder than it sounds. If you can just hang in there, though, you can win by completing all of the research in the science tree. No easy feat, but it doesn’t require the same killer instinct as conquest.
If your people aren’t that brainy, but they’re not that fighty, either, get a bunch of money to win, or just manage to stay alive without going to war a whole lot. There are lots of ways you can hook this thing up, meaning Endless Space doesn’t require a certain play style, and you won’t be penalized for choosing the super benevolent aliens at the beginning.
If you like Sid Meier’s Civilization, and you like outer space, well, I have the game for you. Endless Space is going to hit all of your buttons. It’s incredibly involved, and you’ll be quickly drawn into your own world of conquest, subjugation, or diplomacy. Make a galactic civilization and tear the universe apart, or foster harmony amongst your neighbors and broker a peace that will last a thousand years. And then start from scratch and do the opposite, because like any great game, Endless Space also has endless replay value.