If you’re a fan of 4X style strategy games, you’ve probably spent countless hours researching, negotiating, and conquering in Civilization V. MakeUseOf has shown you creative ways to extend the game’s life, the various ways to get into multiplayer, and exciting mods to change your game.
But as the sun sets on Civilization V, the upcoming Civilization: Beyond Earth isn’t the only great destination to exercise your imperial ambitions. A small French developer, Amplitude Studios, recently released Endless Legend, a stellar science fantasy successor to their hard sci-fi strategy game Endless Space. Endless Legend’s core mechanics will be familiar to any 4X strategy fan, but here are five ways it blows the Civilization juggernaut right out of the water.
From the moment you load up your first game of Endless Legend, and the ridges and hills rise up from the map before you, you’ll fall in love with its lush science-fantasy world. Civilization V has hills and mountains, but they tend to manifest as obvious indicators of where the map hexes are centered, even when they’re supposed to be continuous and organic. In Endless Legend, hills roll up and down the map, ridges overlook deep valleys, and waterfalls tumble down cliff sides. A healthy dose of tilt-shift further enhances the experience, making the world look like a tiny, detailed model when you zoom in close.
The game’s soundtrack is a great accompaniment to your adventure too. Its combination of thumping drums, haunting choirs, mournful strings, and sparkling chimes transports you into the game’s timeless, mystical world. Don’t take my word for it; listen to the whole thing at Game Audio Factory!
Lively World & Story
Endless Legend’s ever present cycle of devastating harsh winters is a constant threat that helps it stand out from Civ and its sea of clones. Auriga, the game’s world, is plagued by sudden cold snaps, and though they start as simple penalties to city resources and army movement, they get more and more apocalyptic as the game goes on. You’ll know when winter is close, but you’ll never know the exact turn of its arrival, and it forces interesting gameplay decisions. Your main army might be ready to march on an enemy, but can you risk having them stuck abroad if a deep freeze hits and a foe is just out of sight? Winter forces you to think ahead, and gives the game a great cycle of fast and slow paced phases.
Each faction also tells a story in its main quest. You’ll get short term goals along with snippets of story as you play, and each goal you complete grants you rewards like resource caches, exclusive technologies, and artifacts for your heroes. Side quests with similar rewards pop up regularly too, encouraging you to explore ruins and make contact with minor factions. The system organically interacts with the game state to produce unexpected complications. You may need to search an abandoned ruin in a neighboring region, but if one of your neighbors settles there and closes their borders to you, do you go to war to reach that shrine, or do you try to patch up prior tensions so you can go in unhindered?
Varied Factions & Maps
There may only be eight factions in Endless Legend, but one look at their qualities proves that the differences between them are extremely dramatic. Try playing as the Vaulters, a technological people that recently emerged from an underground bunker, and you’ll win battles with their power to teleport armies between any cities they control. Then play the Roving Clans, a nomadic faction that cannot declare wars, but skims a tax off of every trade between other factions and can uproot their cities on the backs of giant beetles. Or take the Drakken for a spin, a dragon race that, with enough political influence, can force states of peace, or even alliance. If you can’t find a playstyle you like among the canonical factions, you can always build your own from the game’s huge pool of traits.
The game’s strong identity is further bolstered by its distinct, randomly generated regions you’ll see each time you play. When you settle a city in Endless Legend, you’re not just carving out a tiny pocket on the map; you’re staking claim to an entire named province of resources and indigenous minor factions. It’s a difference that gets rid of the patchy, unclaimed hexes that dot Civilization V’s late game maps, and since regions are primarily composed of one particular landform, each one ends up having a strong sense of place to it.
The Power of Heroes
In Endless Legend, you won’t just command faceless armies of troops. Heroes are powerful units that you’ll need to exploit if you hope to win against higher difficulty settings. And they’re not just there to fight your foes! While a battle hardened hero can give your troops the edge they need to win, you can also recruit heroes better suited to city governance. These cunning politicians can boost resource outputs or quickly stifle rebellion, making them valuable for magnifying the benefits of your best cities, or shoring up the deficiencies of a weak one.
Defeated heroes are only knocked out of the action for a while, so you can feel safe making them a longer term investment than Civ V’s great people. As they gain experience, they’ll progress up skill trees based on their faction and role, letting you groom them for whichever activities best suit your plans. You can also equip them with weapons, armor, and accessories, just like you can equip your troops. With their higher stats and the proper equipment multipliers, a properly managed hero is a force to be reckoned with, on and off the battlefield.
No One Is Safe
Have you ever been frustrated by a strategy game in which, several hours into your match, you realize that there’s just no hope for you to catch back up to your opponents? Play Endless Legend and you’ll quickly notice that the game’s status quo is refreshingly fragile. A poorly defended city can be captured by an army in the space of a single turn, and the right military tech can turn a flagging army into a powerhouse with a quick retrofit. It’s a change that’s great for strong and weak players, as the strong ones can’t just walk a victory across the finish line, and the weak ones never feel totally out of the action.
Combat results are rarely decided before a fight begins too. While you can choose to automate fights if you just want the game to compare army compositions and spit out a result, you can also fight in manual mode. Choosing to do so zooms down on the action and lets you micromanage a six exchange fight in a single turn, taking advantage of all the terrain around you. Did your opponent only bring slow melee units to fight? Stall the battle for your reinforcements by zipping your fast units through woods and around ridges, forcing a stalemate. Do you have a hero with a powerful defense sapping ability? Build your army so its initiative is just a touch lower than the hero, so they can bombard a unit right after it’s penalized. Each unit only has a few action choices, so the fights don’t bog down in tedium.
Don’t Miss This Legend
Endless Legend doesn’t have the benefit of a huge publisher and the bright spotlight of popularity to get your attention, but it’s a polished, exciting strategy game with that critical one-more-turn compulsion to play on. Amplitude has promised continued support with regular patches, and a smattering of DLC; both free and paid. So what are you waiting for? Consider this legend wholeheartedly recommended.
Have you picked up Endless Legend? Tell our community what you think of it in the comments!