Dreyer
May 18, 2017
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Amplitude Studios
Review platform: Windows 10
Release date: May 18, 2017
Turn-based strategy games have seen a resurgence after Civilisation returned triumphantly, and X-Com took the world by storm with their second entry on PC and consoles. Endless Space 2 returned after a five-year hiatus after the first instalment released in 2012. Amplitude and 4X decided to take on the turn-based genre again this year with the second instalment.

Now first off, I’m not the world’s biggest turn-based strategy fan. You might call me a grand-strategy or real-time strategy fan, and even one of the biggest simulator fans when it comes to PC games, spending most of my time on the PC playing only these games—unless tasked with reviewing the odd indie game—and the biggest issue I have with turn-based games, in general, is that I end up forgetting to advance to the next turn. But alas, Endless Space 2 doesn’t really change from this mechanic, and I found myself waiting for minutes on end for something to happen until I facepalmd myself and continued playing.



Endless Space 2 is set in a fairly familiar galaxy system. You start off by selecting your civilisation type, in this case being offered quite a number of different array of options. From being the leader of a tribe of trading families to some oddly religious empire setting out to convert everyone they meet, the options are numerous. The game also offers you the ability to change options such as how big the galaxy is, and how many opponents you have. This extends into the multiplayer as well, and I suspect the multiplayer in this game will be more fun than the single-player, as I have found.

Once you start the game, you’re met with your home system, with a rather interesting live representation of each planet in orbit. Once you zoom into the system the game offers you a parallel view of each planet and its speciality. Uncolonized planets can be invaded once they fall within your sphere of influence, or if you have money to spend, you can opt to pay a fee to colonise planets outside your reach, but this can become expensive.



Each planet produces several resources namely Energy Dust and Science amongst others. As you explore you will find systems and planets that produce rare substances like Anti-Matter and Dust Water. These can then be traded with other empires on the universal Trade screen found at the top left, and this, in turn, gives you Energy Dust that you can use to colonise and expand your empire. Beyond that, you can use the resources to expand your technology tree, and improve each system with specific technologies that will not only influence the profitability of each system, but also the politics within that specific system.

Politics plays a slightly less important role in this game, however, it does redeem itself with how it manages the inter-democratic relations with other empires within the galaxy. Games like Stellaris have similar systems in place and might be more nuanced than Endless Space 2, but I did enjoy the fact that it made the entire ordeal a bit more bearable.



Unfortunately neither Stellaris and Endless Space 2 does this perfectly, since the options you’re given are quite limited, and it’s usually linked to an arbitrary meter. Multiplayer games will give you the real democratic nuance you need, thanks to the human interactions.



The game introduces a lot of interesting quirks though. When you colonise a planet you’re met with an interesting cinematic showing the planet and the fauna/flora that reside there, and when you do encounter a battle, you can watch how your fleet dukes it out against a pirate or your enemy across the galaxy.

However, like all these games, they do tend to become dull fast. At the end of my playthrough—after receiving numerous notices that one of the other civilisations was going to imminently win—I decided to declare war on every civilisation I encountered to see what would happen. In games like Stellaris, you would be met with a massive influx of enemy ships from the entire region thanks to the massive alliances formed with their neighbours. But in Endless Space 2, nothing happened. I invaded a few systems and took over but they rarely retaliated or even entered my galactic empire. I received a few threatening messages, but that was about it. Quite disappointing really, but then again this game should be played in multiplayer much like Stellaris.



Endless Space 2, even with its strange quirks and odd performance issues, has several redeeming qualities, giving you the ability to trade, explore and see interesting new planets and species, with a few secrets hiding out there. But the relationships with neighbours and enemies can become quite stale, bordering on extremely limited. The turn-based model doesn’t really help out the entire gameplay experience, and I kept thinking it would have been so much more engaging if they didn’t force you to keep ending the turn and waiting a few seconds, which can really drag the fun out of it.

Games like Stellaris have really pushed the boundaries when it comes to strategy games set in space, and Endless Space can bring some fresh ideas to that formula. But as a standalone game, I can’t really see myself coming back to it in the future. If you’re a 4X game fan, then you will find something here you might enjoy.

Summary



Turn-based strategy game fans are in for a delight, however, if you’re not someone who particularly enjoys strategy games or someone who loves the adrenaline of a real-time experience then Endless Space 2 isn’t for you. With the limited reach of the game and the constant roadblocks hampering the enjoyment, it sure will disappoint. However, if you like games like Civilisation then you will most likely have a blast, mostly in multiplayer.

Endless Space 2 really pushed the boat out with great animations and pretty decent graphical elements, but the constant performance issues do detract from the overall experience. I would recommend you check out a few gameplay videos before jumping in unless you’re a 4X fan. The game takes a lot from titles like Stellaris when it comes to politics, but stops short of being a great overall strategy game. If Amplitude pushed the envelope a bit further with a more nuanced political spectrum and ditched the turn-based aspect, I could have seen myself loving this game. But at the moment, it's just adequate.
Our score: 6.5/10

Decent - A game that may have niche appeal, flawed but enjoyable.
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