Available On: PC
The original Endless Space launched in 2012 as the debut title from indie developer Amplitude Studios. It posited the Civilization-in-Space concept that had been tackled several times before. Endless Space offered a simple yet effective interface and many interesting new gameplay mechanics to make it a very underrated turn-based strategy game.
Endless Space 2 is very much a direct sequel, building upon all the core gameplay features of the original. This time around, Amplitude has several more games under their belt – specifically the much more intriguing and innovative Endless Legend.
Endless Space 2 utilizes all the best elements of Endless Legend and stirs in a well-integrated political system to craft a fantastic follow-up that easily emerges from its Civilization shadow.
In case you missed Endless Space (for shame), Endless Space 2 is a turn-based, 4X strategy game where you run an entire galactic empire. You build ships to explore the stars and colonize star systems. Populating planets nets resources: Food, Industry, Science and Dust (currency). You research and unlock new technologies, build improvements, wage war and diplomacy, uncover secrets buried on planets, and profit from trade routes between star systems.
At its very basic level it plays similarly to granddaddy 4X series Civilization. But Endless Space 2 is full of personality thanks to its varied factions and story-based quest lines.
You choose one of eight distinct races (or craft your own). About half the factions from the first Endless Space return. The bio-engineered, cybernetic insect Cravers just want to devour everything in their path. The nomadic and religious Vodyani drain energy from entire star systems from their massive Arks. The Unfallen are giant tree people whose philosophy on life feels both familiar and wholly alien. Each faction is interesting and changes the way you play, whether it’s focusing on scientific discovery or spreading your giant tree limbs from planet to planet.
Every time you start a game of Endless Space 2 you’ll work through your faction’s primary story, as well as additional crises that unfold throughout hundreds of turns. The industrious United Empire will deal with uprisings and betrayal from within. The amphibious Lumeris quests are pulled straight out of memorable gangster and noir films, reflecting their mafia-like business deals.
Crises and events emerge every so often to offer you a choice on how to proceed. These choices usually include both positive and negative effects. On a backwater planet your people may begin toppling cultural monuments to make room for factories. Do you let this new industry boom occur or preserve your history? Outcomes are helpfully displayed directly on the screen, such as increasing happiness by 20 for ten turns. Some quests are timed, others are cooperative.
The quests and events help flush out every playthrough, making the usual slow periods between waging war or colonizing new systems much more engaging. It’s a great system that infuses some much needed story-telling into the 4X genre, and I hope every other strategy game series is watching.
The quests, stories, and heroes are all perfectly adapted from 2014’s Endless Legend. The single biggest new addition to Endless Space 2 is politics. Fear not – these are not the boring trade disputes of the Galactic Senate from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. The Senate manages to be both unobtrusive and integrated into everything you do.
Regardless of your chosen race you have six political factions to navigate: Pacifists, Ecologists, Militarists, Industrialists, Scientists, and Religious. Each quest choice you make, technology you research, and task you undertake will influence the parties.
Elections take place every twenty turns, with the results based on your population and the choices you make (and maybe some underhanded influencing on your part). Did you build a lot of spaceships to shore up defense? The Militarists have gained a strong following. Did you preserve those cultural monuments? The Religious faction is pleased.
The leading political party dictates your initial law, which can provide a major boost. Other laws can be enacted depending on your system of government and how entrenched the other political parties have become. Laws are empire-wide benefits you’re unlocking no matter which political system you advance, making it a brilliant system that rewards a multitude of play styles.
Endless Space 2 has been rated E for Everyone by the ESRB with Fantasy Violence and Mild Suggestive Themes. Combat is a blood-less affair. Watching the 3D models pew-pew each other is entirely optional as it’s determined by numbers and a few tactical options you can select.
Endless Space 2 is a complex 4X strategy game with a lot of moving parts. I would rank it a bit more advanced than last year’s Sid Meier’s Civilization VI.
Despite my love of turn-based strategy games I’d never quite fallen in love with Amplitude’s previous 4X games. Everything comes together so elegantly in Endless Space 2 that I’m prepared to declare it one of the best 4X games I’ve played in years. Its changes over the original are more iterative than innovative. But both veterans and newcomers will find a well-refined star-conquering adventure they can play again and again.