Endless Legend is an odd bird.
Created by Endless Space developer Amplitude Studios, Endless Legend takes the entire HUD of that game and places it in a fantasy setting in a clear attempt to create a new strategy series, albeit one that features disparate environments and themes. It should be noted that Amplitude has another game currently in Early Access too, titled Dungeon of the—you guessed it—Endless. Amplitude’s propensity for using the word "Endless" to describe their titles is endless.
Replicating Endless Space’s UI and placing it in a fantasy-themed 4X strategy game is more than a little confusing at first and, armed with nothing more than an instruction manual that was emailed to me, I frequently found myself Alt+Tabbing to my desktop whenever I was confronted by a new gameplay mechanic in order to read it. The final version of Endless Legend will come with an introductory level, but the absence of an in-game tutorial made my opening hour with the game a maddening exercise in returning to my desktop, reading a few lines of text, then returning back to the game before performing that routine over and over again ad nauseum.
Those who are very familiar with Endless Space will likely get to grips with the gameplay in a reasonable amount of time, but as Endless Legend is quite different from other games of its ilk, I imagine that many will struggle with it.
Aside from Endless Space, Endless Legend can and will be most easily compared to the flag bearer for 4X strategy games, Civilization V. However, Endless Legend doesn’t simply add a fantasy makeover to Civ V as we’ve seen in many other instances in the strategy genre: it’s actually a rather unique blend of 4X and role-playing, mixing in a number of RPG elements that offer some great incentives to continue exploring its vast, procedurally-generated world. The numerous quests that pop up in Endless Legend range from exploring different territories, to defeating enemy factions, to building public libraries and more in your cities. These quests are all optional, but completing them will bestow rewards upon you that will help you to build your empire.
Aside from these quests, the main driving force behind the game is to meet the other factions roaming the world and form relationships with them. These relationships can be either positive or negative and you can spend Influence Points generated by your cities to send out messages to the factions you have encountered. This can be a little hit-or-miss, though, as all of my relationships with these factions started out particularly unfriendly no matter what message I sent to them. For instance, a simple “thanks” sent to the leader of a neighboring empire quickly escalated into a declaration of war and his armies surrounding one of my cities. Perhaps he thought I was being sarcastic?
When you find yourself confronted by an enemy faction, either villagers inhabiting a nearby territory or various randomly generated monsters that roam the world, the turn-based combat is unfortunately mundane. I would imagine that this is something Amplitude is working on for the full release because zooming in on certain units reveals that they’ve been given barely any detail whatsoever. This is most apparent in the bigger units you can acquire or meet, particularly the Daemons and Hydras who both look like little more than an assortment of basic shapes.
The extent to which you can control your troops in battle is extremely limited as you only occasionally maneuver them and select the enemy infantry you want each of your units to target. Prior to each battle you’ll be given the option of whether to have the game automatically decide the outcome for you or whether you’ll control the fighting manually. Aside from being able to view the battles, electing to manually control each conflict doesn’t really add anything worthwhile to the game. Eventually I found myself routinely opting to automatically decide the outcome, as I spent most of my time focused on expanding my empire.
Empire expansion is Endless Legend’s best asset. From the outset the game gives you a bunch of various research options, which range from creating new units to ordering your city’s populace to construct new buildings, with there not being a limit as to how many different things you can research at any given time. You can also micromanage the population of each of your cities and select what you want them to be focusing on, from increasing the amount of Dust (Endless Legend’s in-game currency) your city churns out to increasing the amount of Influence it generates. Dust can also be acquired from searching the various ruins in the game’s world and can be used to purchase a myriad of new characters and items in the marketplace.
You can unlock new Heroes in the marketplace, which will add the most powerful kind of unit you can to your armies. There are four selectable factions in the Early Access build of the game (the full game will feature eight) and while each features varied standard units, purchasing new Heroes is where you’ll have the most fun. While armies can explore the environment without the aid of a Hero, they are at their most powerful when accompanied by one, as they typically have the most powerful attacks and also come with a variety of stat boosters for your armies that are unlockable via the skill tree as you level them up. Leveling up will also unlock new armor and weapons, along with different abilities such as increasing agility and attack power.
Early Access games typically come armed with a selection of bugs, and though Endless Legend’s are relatively infrequent they can be particularly crippling. The game crashed on me three times during my playthrough with saved progress lost each time, though I could revert back to an autosave. While this is in no way indicative of what the final product will be like, it makes it difficult to recommend plumping down the cash for the Early Access build.
Endless Legend features some unique ideas and, like Endless Space, should find itself a dedicated audience of 4X strategy fans. Aside from an assorted selection of improvements and additional game modes, the full game will also feature multiplayer gameplay that will give it extra legs. We'll have more on Endless Legend as it nears release. You can obtain Early Access through Steam by clicking here.