And one more click I shall now go.
Endless Legend comes from Amplitude Studios, the same house that built Endless Space, a 4X strategy game for PC. Endless Legend is in that same genre, only on the ground, with hexagonal tiles and a setting grounded in fantasy. If all of those words mean nothing to you, think of it like Civilization with fantastic creatures.
You’ll select an empire out of eight factions, set up the world you’d like to play in—AI count, difficulty, region supplies, climate, and shape—and then you fire into the game. There’s a tutorial that sort of points you in the right direction of play as it teaches you how to manage your population, dive into combat, and spend dust (the game’s main currency), industry, science, and influence.
Really, though, this is a very hands-off experience when it comes to learning how to play. Once the tutorial is over, and it’ll only take half an hour-ish, Endless Legend gets out of your way and pushes you to explore. Explore you shall, my friend, because the only way to learn how to play this game is to suffer through horrible choices in empire design, research, and layout.
That’s not a problem or a complaint, really. Endless Legend forces users to learn by doing, and in a climate that’s filled with games that often do too much hand-holding, it’s nice to find one that will let you fail in designing your empire before you can succeed. Look, I still don’t think I’m very good at this game, but I know how to shape my empire better now than I did when I started.
Endless Legend does, however, offer an interesting way in providing goal posts toward the right direction. As you wander the landscape, you’ll either parley with other factions or discover quests on your own. These quests will task you with patrolling regions, assimilating a village, searching ruins, setting up a mine, or collecting dust, acting as rather smart, embedded in-game tutorials. They’re veiled as such, but they work to teach some of the game’s nuances through play.
The only feature that feels shaky, even after a lot of play, is the game’s diplomacy system. With Civilization, diplomacy has always been telegraphed when meeting new empires and working with them. Here, it feels like you're playing sort of a guessing game as you try to figure out what the other empires want. Perhaps that’s a feeling I’ll be able to shed as I round 60 or 70 hours with the game. Diplomacy is very much an endgame thing, at least in my experience, and you do so little of it at the onset that it’s sort of hard to decode what each faction wants and how to satisfy them. Ultimately, I found it best to rely on my empire’s strengths than gain needs from working with others, though that might just be indicative of my personal style of play.
There’s also a hero system in place here, but this is where the UI starts to slip. Heroes are available to empires in battle, exploration, or city garrison. Essentially, you can assign your hero to different spots in your empire, and then use their specific stat boosts in order to do certain things well. For instance, the hero I used with the Vaulter faction was leveled towards looting and then science (sort of a bad build on my part in hindsight). I used her to discover ruins, and then I posted her back at my city in order to boost my scientific studies and move through the research tree faster.
However, these heroes and their abilities aren’t communicated very well. They each have equipment slots, and that equipment can be improved as your city upgrades. They also have skill trees (these are easy enough), though how you should be spending leveling points in these trees is left up to what little you know about the game when you start. It sounds odd, but I was able to settle my brain around empire development, exploration, assimilation, and everything else in Endless Legend just fine. It was my heroes, though, that always felt mismanaged.
Make no mistake, Endless Legend is an extremely slow burn. Movement, discovery, research tree, diplomacy, and even battle are all long affairs, and it might take dozens of hours before you even figure out if this game is for you. But if you can settle in and carve out time to enjoy the experience, you’ll be treated to a deep affair with gorgeous assets, tons of minutiae, and awesome music.
Endless Legend won’t be for everyone, of course. This is very much a hexagonal conquest game that comes complete with methodic, turn-based play. While I found multiplayer way too slow and dependent on others, the single player was my jam. The best way I enjoyed this game was to fire it up in the morning, grab a cup of coffee, and prepare for a few hours to vanish.
In the Civilization community, there’s this joke that you only need to play one more turn, and then you’ll be good. Just one more turn, and you’ll be able to take a break. That applies here as well, and the one major area that I think Endless Legend has Civ beat is the slick nature of the UI. It sounds so minor, I know, but when you’re hunkered down in like 70 turns of a game like this one, having a pleasing and slick UI in front of you only furthers your need to go through one more click. (*click, click*)