Next month will see the release of Endless Space 2, which comes out on May 19th – time for a preview of this very promising 4X game.
Just to clarify, when we say ‘comes out’ we really mean that the game will end its run in Steam’s early access program. It’s had a fairly lengthy run in early access since its debut last summer, but it’s been in development longer than that. If memory serves me right, it was announced during Gamescom 2015, when we met with Amplitude and caught a few brief first glimpses of the game.
Since then, we really enjoyed Paradox’ Stellaris, which was happy to serve our deep space exploration needs for many months. Having played Endless Space 2 though, I can conclude that it may look similar but it’s a different kind of game that many of its 4x counterparts. It lacks the real time strategy aspects of Stellaris, but an even larger part of that is a lack of emphasis on combat.
Combat is present, of course – as you go head to head with other (alien) civilizations often throughout the course of your game. Tactical choices are minimal though, and combat more or less plays out automatically – based on a game of calculated chance, so to speak. It’s a little more nuanced than “brute force or strength in numbers always wins”, but it’s definitely not the game’s core focus.
Instead, the game focuses on the rise and fall of civilizations in a much more in-depth way than a game like Stellaris does. Even compared to the first Endless Space, the game world and back stories are far more fleshed out in Endless Space 2. The randomly generated universes are of course still vast, but even in early access it feels like there is a lot more to do inside of it. A large part of that is a strong focus on lore – no matter which faction/race you choose to play with, there is a well-written and deep background story to them. This doesn’t only improve the quality of individual playthroughs, it will also definitely make each race feel more unique than the last one. This is the kind of diversity that the recent Master of Orion remake was missing, and I’m not even mentioning the grand story that takes place across all races – and I won’t, because I don’t want to spoil it either.
Endless Space 2’s game mechanics are rock solid, though very similar to the first game. Don’t change what already works, I suppose. Instead, developer Amplitude added more substance to the package – as outlined above. In addition, they also gave the game an audiovisual boost – the game looks and sounds great, despite the fact that it’s (like nearly all 4X titles) interface-heavy. The interface screens received a fair amount of polish compared to the days of the first Endless Space, but it’s the cutscenes and battle sequences that really shine.
Of course the game is still in early access, and not without its faults. Some of these are technical, and I have my reservations about the somewhat recently added ground battles as well. For a game that doesn’t rely on combat, they feel like an out of place addition – especially considering how simplified the combat system in Endless Space 2 really is. We’ll have to wait and see how this affects the overall balance of the game – but luckily the wait is almost over. Expect the release version of Endless Space 2 in the middle of May.