Publisert: 28. mai
I've been itching for a new space 4x game since good ol' Master of Orion 2 is getting a bit... ol'. Endless Space sounds like the prime candidate; imaginative (enough) races, customizable starships, plenty of special resources and random events... But it falls short on almost every aspect.
The first problem is that I don't feel connected to anything that I'm doing. In Master of Orion 2, the planet view had all of the planet's populace was represented by tiny members of your race that you could drag from one task to another. It's strange how such a small UI feature immediately tells you that you're playing Trilarians, Psilons or Darloks. In Endless Space, there are these simple "meeples" that bear a striking semblance to a piece on a board game. There are no tasks. Instead, each unit of population produces an equal amount of everything, determined by the improvements in the star system. Yep. There aren't many planet-specific buildings; exploitation (which roughly means the primary focus of a planet), terraforming, moon exploration and negative anomaly elimination. Still, as far as I can tell, they go into the same system-wide production queue.
The next problem is the special resources. They're not really that special. All they really do is add a bonus to one of the basic four resources (food, industry, dust and science). If you have 4 of them, you'll get an empire-wide bonus that varies from +20% industry to leader experience gains. That is the luxury resourced. Strategic resources are even less exciting. More advanced ship modules require one of the eight strategic resource. Just having one is enough, but having more lowers the cost of said module. Again, having 4 grants a bonus, but it's just a more dramatic cost reduction.
Next in line is the ship design. The way combat works in Endless Space is that there are 3 types of weapons, namely kinetic, beam and missile. They can also be adjusted for 3 different ranges, long, medium and melee, but each weapon type can only be set to one range. So you can't have kinetic weapons for long and medium range, for example. The second biggest problem is there are only 4 levels of each weapon, and that's it. The same is true for all modules, mind you. Everything is just a flat numeric upgrade. To make things even more confusing, there are a few different sizes of hulls, and each seems to have 2 different designs. Why? Because, for some inexplicable reason, the devs decided that it would be a good idea to have capacity modifiers for certain types of modules, such as +25% weight for defense modules and -50% weight for weapon modules. If only you were able to choose those modifiers...
But the worst part of it is how it plays out in combat. For someone who's used to thinking every fight through in Master of Orion 2, Endless Space is a nightmare. When the combat starts, you have two options; manual or automatic combat, but they really have no mechanical difference. "Manual" might as well be called cinematic, because it's just an animated representation of the automated combat. The only thing you can control is the maneuvers you can do at each range, long, medium and melee. At a point where most of my systems are hitting level 3 I have about 10 of them in total (though there are a few that you can research, and leaders can give some). All ranges have the same options. What makes things even more annoying is that pretty much all cards affect 3 things, and they not-so-subtly prod the player in a specific direction. So what really happens when you engage in combat is that you study the strengths and weaknesses of each fleet, choose the cards that play into your advantages and and gives the least advantage to your enemy at each range... and that's it. You can either watch the fight unfold, or skip it. Either way, you can't control anything else.
It might sound tactical, but in the long (or short, if we're being completely frank) run squinting at numbers loses its luster as well. Surprisingly enough, it does feel satisfied when you beat the odds because you chose your cards wisely, but even that becomes a chore. And this shouldn't even be a complaint, but the enemy learns from its mistakes, and to play into the weaknesses of a consistent strategy. So basically you have to scrutinize every ship in fleets that keep getting larger and larger so that you don't get taken by surprise. And you might have to keep changing your ships' design as well to keep the enemy from exploiting a specific design.
Combine it with an irrational AI that keeps attacking your explorers (because the game starts with everyone at war with one another), and then doesn't want peace because they don't consider you trustworthy, and you're going to face a lot of combat. Even on easy difficulty level, enemy ships just keep pouring in from every which way. And it's not like they're going to attack your fleets either. No, they're always heading for the undefended systems, so you'll spend a lot of time chasing fleets that are rampaging in your territory. And when I say "every which way", I mean it. There are star lanes and wormholes in the game, but they restrict movement only in the early game. Later on, you can just ignore them.
There's a whole slew of other issues as well. The fact that the tutorials explain only the barest of basics in a few screens, while leaving the in-depth stuff (relatively speaking) is left for the wiki. Diplomacy is really bare-bones. Making deals is clear enough and offers a decent selection of offers, but again, the AI is just an inanimate cardboard cutout that barely says anything at all. It's also really difficult to understand what makes a specific AI tick.
So, to wrap things up, when I'm playing this game, I don't feel like a conqueror of space. I feel like a bureaucrat.