Take out the rockets and other spaceships, Amplitude Studios takes us to the stars again, 5 years after Endless Space . The French studio had managed to enchant players and critics with a deep 4X and atypical factions. This May 2017, Endless Space 2 is coming out here, after several months of early access. Is it as good as the first one? Better? This is what we will try to find out, even if I have my little idea in mind.
COLD AND YET SO SEDUCTIVE
Endless Space 2 is a 4X for exploration, expansion, exploitation and extermination. Impossible to override, you will necessarily have to go through its stages, and in that order. And for good reason, at the beginning, you are only a simple colonist, alone in the middle of a vast and empty universe. As you explore the galaxy with the help of your units, you will notice that life has taken place all over the place, in the form of major and minor factions. You will then have the heavy task of interacting with her, nourishing cordial relations or conversely, hostile.
The main menu lets you choose between going in a single player or multiplayer game, or at a pinch, navigate the options, manage the resolution of your application or even the information that will be displayed on the screen. Once you’ve decided on which foot to dance, a tough choice is yours, the choice of the faction. They are seven in number : Sophons, United Empire, Luméris, Unfallen, Riftborn, Cravers, Horatio. Each of them have specificities, more or less extensive depending on the faction.
The Luméris will only judge by Dust (the Endless currency) when the Unfallen need to extend their roots to spread, like a tree. Even if the factions are predefined, you can also customize your own, through points and attributes. Amplitude studio has taken into account certain criticisms made for Endless Space , giving more appeal to different factions, allowing very different gameplays.
ORIGINAL OR INNOCUOUS FACTIONS
The gameplay differences are felt from the first rounds depending on your choice. Your first decision will not be about the same technologies or the same systems to conquer. Some functions will tend to progress very quickly initially, before running out of steam later. When others like the Horatios will progress as they acquire DNAs different from theirs to evolve. This atypical difference in gameplay is the strength of Endless Space 2 , without a doubt. Once you realize that you have been let loose in the middle of a new system, one thing hits you: art direction. The game is beautiful, no need to hide it. Where Endless Spaceseemed a little sketchy even austere in its interface, its little brother will draw on the successes of Endless Legends , bringing more color and clarity.
The early-game cutscenes, recontextualizing your faction’s presence in this universe, reflect the studio’s capabilities in this regard. Short, but brilliantly done, one would almost regret that they were so short.The music, even if a little repetitive after a while, has the gift of conveying the ideology of your faction. From then on, you can start visiting neighboring systems. As you begin to explore the planets around, you realize that you will have to choose sparingly the next places to colonize. Depending on the type of planet (Gas Cold / Hot, Toxic, Mediterranean), the strengths of this large rock will not be the same. Some will boost your food production while others will increase your Dust or Science production.
Only in Endless Space 2 , peace leads to peace and money leads to victory. The AI will challenge you whenever it can, without measuring your military strength. You can easily spend 100 turns growing economically and industrially without the other factions bothering to besiege you. Once a comfortable lead is reached, the game is won, impossible to lose. Even if the conflicts are settled in advance, the wait with the final gong is long, very long. AI can be too simple at times, unbeatable at others. Your home planets and your technological choices will themselves sign your victory, or your end.
RULE THE SPACE AS YOU SEE FIT
Of course, you are not the only rank leader in your faction. Some decorated are different from the plebs and will gladly offer you their talents. Depending on their affinities and your needs, you can assign them to a system or a fleet, while retaining the possibility of changing them later. Their assignment is not final, but may require a few turns before being effective. Each hero has three skill trees, allowing you to juggle certain specializations, allowing some heroes to be versatile while others will focus on running and improving a system.
Every 20 turns, elections take place within your faction, depending on your type of government. Your heroes and your technological and industrial orientations will guide different parties: Militarist, Religious, Pacifist, Ecologist, Industrialist, Scientific. Take care of the grain before not giving too much room to certain parties. If your purse is full, spend some Dust to increase the potency of your favorite one. The policy here is fairly summary, nothing very complicated.
Each planet cannot be colonized at the start of your game. Depending on its nature, you will have to make your way through the dedicated technology tree. Be careful, however, to neglect the other parts of the tree is to place an arm behind your opponents. In Endless Space 2 , the notion of peace is not known to many. When you meet your little galley companions, you are therefore in a cold war. Impossible to attack them in their territories but if they leave it, you can give them a slight ambush.
The more turns go by, the more hostile the other factions will be towards you. Small insults, siege of a system or even kidnapping of the population, they have a lot of imagination when it comes to titillating you. If by excess of pride or patience, you decide to make war on them, no malus of warmongering will be attributed to you, as in Civilization VI for example. In this way, conflicts can start and end in a more intense way, sparing reflection, boosting production.
LASERS, ROCKETS AND RINGS OF SATURN
Each faction has 5 types of military ships. All are customizable in the “fleet” tab and can be updated each time one of your planets passes through orbit, in exchange for resources, of course. There are several types of conflicts in Endless Space 2 . Some will be in space, when two fleets meet, for example, others, feet on the ground, seats. They consist in sending battalions of soldiers in order to eradicate the population of the said planet in order to take control. “Preventive Bombing”, “Infiltration” or “Lightning Assault” the choice is yours, each tactic having its advantages and disadvantages.
Regarding space battles, the title of Amplitude offers a seductive spectacle. After having positioned each of your vessels, let the machine do it. You cannot control your units in battle. However, the different views give you enough information to make conflicts more thrilling than a hedgehog fight. In real time, you can understand enemy strengths and thus adapt for the next confrontation.
However, depending on your technological choices, certain weapon modules will be prohibited to you, be sure to always have enough to fight back against each of your enemies. And then if you’re drowning in the Dust, keep your hands clean and hire mercenaries. Depending on your more or less impulsive purchases, their prices could well skyrocket, causing an economic crisis throughout your empire. A few lootings and you are back in the right direction. If war isn’t for you, there are several ways to win a game. The easiest remains the extermination, what do you want, it is in the essence of 4X.
Endless Space 2 signs there a good continuity and a success for Amplitude. Fans of the genre will find what seduced them in the first opus when newcomers will be caught by the depth of the title. The classes have a seductive history, a little tarnished by the multitude of quests that will tend to lose us more than enlighten us. The soundtrack will enchant you for a good fifty laps, before your brain assimilates it, which will make it lose its charm. However, each faction has its own musical themes, each part having its share of differences. The gameplay, atypical according to certain factions, really allows some of them to differentiate themselves.The most classic will leave a slight bitter taste, lacking in pepper to be taken later. Once immersed in a part of SS2 , it’s hard not to continue it. The space is vast and the discoveries multiple. Each new system discovered can hold its share of mysteries, giving you a reason not to make it to bed. Endless Space 2 lives up to its name, infinite to itself.