Greetings, fellow gamer geeks. This is one of this week’s reviews where I won’t actually be covering a horror, action, or science fiction game (gasp!), well perhaps a pinch of the latter. We’re going to be taking a look at an upstart RTS extravaganza called Endless Legend by Amplitude Studios.
Let me first say that 2014 was certainly a tumultuous year for us in the PC gaming community. Iconic franchises had begun to fade while emerging modern classics sauntered onto the stage with bombast. 2014 was also the year of the RTS; indeed a whole plethora of them were churned out as if a dam had been ruptured somewhere and was spewing them out. While the vast majority of them were pretty “meh,” there were also a few that caught my eye but that just didn’t have the time to play, let alone review. Endless Legend was one such game.
I must say that upon first hearing about Endless Legend being little more than “a Civilization clone with spells,” I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit to play it. However, the more that time passes, the more I realize that many modern gamers can be a rather fickle lot; very persnickety about the most minor of minutiae, and quibbling about factors I consider irrelevant. Give me a unique story (or at least an original riff on a classic), decent graphics (I favor strong writing over visuals), and make it accessible and not too esoteric and kitschy, and you’ve got me interested. With this in mind, I dug a little deeper under Endless Legend’s hood, and I’m glad that I did…
Amplitude has already proven that they are not afraid to take risks and think outside of the box, as exhibited with Endless Space, their 2012 4x space conquest game. I played Endless Space, but found the research system wonky and the gameplay unengaging. I did see the potential in it though, however much it may have been a squandered opportunity. With Endless Legend, Amplitude shows no sign of letting up with regards to rolling the dice and striking out on their own as far as originality goes.
Endless Legend builds upon its predecessor by plopping it down into an unusual science fiction/fantasy setting, and improves upon it in almost every aspect. This was apparent from the first time I fired it up. The intro had that epic feeling to it, with gorgeous art design and proficient narration (which luckily continues throughout the game). Fantasy and science fiction can be tricky to merge, but here they’ve done it. Endless Legend has a distinctive look and style that approaches the elegance of art deco.
Where in Endless Space the races seemed as if they’d been designed as an afterthought, in Endless Legend, you can see that some grey matter was really percolating there, as each faction is beautifully conceived—unique and bristling with personality. After a cursory review of each of them for the very first time, I wanted to play all of them at once. Rarely have I been so struck by a blatant disregard of science fiction and fantasy troupes/arch types; it was very refreshing.
The game is set on the planet Auriga, a veritable powder keg of conflict with various factions all with their own differing agendas. This vast boiling pot eventually reaches a flashpoint as factions come into contact; wars will be waged, and cities and towns will be burned to the ground.
Combat is a rather bizarre combination of tactical and strategic, where your standard armies (albeit customizable) engage in fierce combat alongside mighty heroes and mythical creatures. Whereas in Age of Wonders III and Fallen Enchantress, combat is also turn-based—but is definitely of a tactical nature, in Endless Legend, the conflicts take place on the world map instead of zooming down to a more detailed battle zone. This can be great for players who favor a more Civilization-esque experience, where combat is settled more expediently.
Adjacent armies can be brought into the fray as well, but there is a curious lack of options as far as how the battles play out. One may argue that this more streamlined approach to combat is more efficient and drives that game forward at a more rigorous and uninterrupted pace. But for gamers like me who like getting down into the nitty-gritty with my troops and toggling/tinkering with their individual abilities, this can be a little disconcerting. In this regard, combat resolutions never felt like they had any real sense of accomplishment, but rather boiled down to who had the biggest and baddest armies to bring to the table. Gamers should not be put off by this as these are my own preferences; those who favor a more fast-paced style of combat will find themselves right at home with this kind of system.
Endless Legend’s visuals are outstanding, but not in a gaudy sense. Their minimalist grandeur is a sight to behold, and there is a tremendous amount of detail put into each tile and unit. If this seems like a contradictory statement, take a look at some of the included images and you’ll realize I’m not a madman (not quite anyway – shhhh). If you’re into 4k gaming, you’ll even be more blown away by their elegance and styling.
Although Endless Legend isn’t a perfect game by any means, it is a blast to play. It has that “just one more turn” appeal that you just can’t put your finger on, and I have found myself up late at night feverishly clicking my mouse half to death (that didn’t sound right, did it?) in order to raid just one more city—or research one more powerful spell. Endless Legend almost slaps you upside the head with its unabashed originality, and although it is a bit rough around the edges, it’s an endearing, accessible game that grows on you the more you play it.
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