By: Casey Curran
One thing Mario established earlier this generation is if you want to improve something, put it in space. This seems to be the design philosophy behind Endless Space, which takes inspiration from the Civilization series in a space setting, offering turn-based strategy that focuses more on developing a nation than warring with others. And although it is able to bring some good ideas and a lot of depth to the table, its execution is too sloppy to do it successfully.
The problem with the controls is not that they are broken — a turn-based strategy game with broken controls would be absurd. Where they fail is with how convoluted they are. Performing an action gives no apparent effect; it is something it just expects you to know. To make matters worse, it doesn’t have any indication to let you know whether or not you’ve performed a certain action during that turn.
To make matters worse, the game never does an adequate job of explaining how it works. It has instructions whenever you try to perform an action, but they are vague and expect you to remember several steps after just reading what they do. No matter how long I played, I still felt like I never had a full grasp of what I was supposed to do.
The menus look very sleek and have a nice style to them, and the overall graphics have a good amount of polish. Unfortunately, there is no way to enjoy them. Endless Space looks like what would happen if the planet select menu from Mass Effect had space battles. There will be planets to colonize, but your view is always from an orbital range. This is a shame because what makes space so interesting is the idea of what it could contain, whether it is horrible parasitic aliens or a gun that turns its targets into exploding black sheep. The sky is the limit and Endless Space fails to realize this showing nothing but… well, endless amounts of space.
The music and sound effects felt like they were going to put me to sleep. There was no sense of excitement from the music or the sounds that a turn-based strategy game will often give through game-altering moves.
Like I said earlier, the user interface is a mess. That is a shame too, because the game has quite a bit of depth. There are many different types of planets to colonize, a hero system where you appoint a general to give you extra benefits and a large number of different races to play as. There are a lot of ways to play this game.
This depth ultimately goes to waste, however, as my confusion was replaced with boredom. There was no sense of what my actions did. I’d give an order for a ship to move and the menu just disappeared. I’d request to mine a specific resource and the menu would just disappear. It just took away any addicting nature the game could have. Because of this, instead of looking for any excuse to squeeze in one more turn, I was trying to decide whether the turn I just ended would be a good place to stop.
Civilization in space is an awesome idea. Unfortunately, when you take out everything that makes Civilization so addicting, it becomes a lot less awesome. I do hope the developers can get it right because there is a lot of depth to the game. They just failed to provide a way to enjoy the depth to it, which is why I cannot recommend Endless Space.