If you ask me, the king of 4X-strategy games is undoubtedly the Civilization series. With Civilization V featuring Steam Workshop, we’ve seen our fair share of compelling mods covering everything from the distant sci-fi planets and races of Mass Effect to the 7 kingdoms of Westeros. Few, if any, have captured the magic of the vanilla Civilization V experience, but Amplitude Studios’ fantasy-themed Endless Legend comes awfully close.
Endless Legend was released as a Steam Early Access game in late-April. Typically, Early Access games receive a fair amount of flack for just how rough the product is. And while that should be expected, as they’re usually in the Alpha stage of development, a select few have been released in pretty great condition. Endless Legend is one of these.
Available now is a game featuring four (soon to be eight) races, a single-player campaign, and perhaps more polish than many major releases see at release. Coming soon, early adopters can expect to have access to multiplayer, four more races, and much more.
The first thing I noticed while booting up Endless Legend was it’s undeniable beauty. Every aspect, from the character races, to the hero portraits, to the UI is expertly crafted into what is arguably the cleanest UI in any strategy game. However, missing in the UI is a map that would make scrolling great distances much less of a headache, but, in order to appease that issue, Amplitude allows you to use scroll out to completely reveal the map, or scroll in close enough to fully appreciate the characters.
The cities, much like the characters, are also gorgeous and fit in nicely with the fantasy aspect of each race. For example the elf-like Wind Walkers’ home looks like it’s made of rocks and trees. These small nuances help to create a world that feels alive and respectful of the fantasy worlds we’re familiar with, like the ones created in Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones.
Filling the role that the barbarian tribes did in Civilization V (that is, the AI that was not a part of any civilization) are called minor factions. Minor factions are made up various mythical-archetypes, like the goblin-esque Delvers or the giant arachnoid Ceratan, which can be conquered or destroyed and bring value to your city in the form of allies, food, and the like.
Combat is what helps to separate Endless Legend from Civilization V. The game gives you the option of fighting in a turn-based battle against your enemies or skipping over them completely and having the battle simulated. After the first few battles, I found myself choosing to automate every single battle. They’re a bit messy and lack much direction. You set up where you want your soldiers, choose who you want them to attack, and then… the game kind of takes over from there. It’s unrewarding and I couldn’t help but feel that it required a bit more direction, perhaps even a tutorial.
Heroes, the leaders of each race, are assigned at the beginning of a game, but can also be purchased from an in-game market later on. They’re a more powerful force against enemies and as they fight more and more battles, they gain experience and level-up. Each level allows the hero to add a point to a skill tree. Some skills are able to upgraded numerous times to become more powerful. The tree is, at this point in development, a bit sparse. The benefits of each skill aren’t always easy to understand, especially in the early stages of games. Some concepts aren’t always fleshed out, especially for someone new to the genre.
And that tends to be the biggest issue currently with Endless Legend. It’s the groundwork for an extremely great game. It’s extremely polished (though, I experienced a crash or two), but not as deep as it should be. This is most assuredly because of the alpha status of the game right now, and I’m confident the developers will put more time into defining the already great aspects of the game while adding the promised content.
Right now, I feel confident that buying into Endless Legend is a worthwhile buy. With the addition of 4 more races and multiplayer, Endless Legend will undoubtedly be a worthy competitor to Civilization.