There's also a pretty extensive faction editor where you can change which traits you have, creating basically an infinite number of starting points. Feel bad for the Necrophage and want to turn them into a peace-loving community of scientists? You can do that.
To some extent this is something Civilization doesn't even have to contend with. Because the series is based in history, there's a predetermined context to what it means to play as France or Germany or the United States. It would've been nice to see in Civilization: Beyond Earth though, to help distinguish the quest system between playthroughs and build personal connections with each colonizing corporation.
To go along with your main storyline, there's a specific Hero character tied to your faction. This is a system that seems to be cropping up more and more in 4X games, but there's still no Civilization equivalent. The hero is basically a superunit that you upgrade like a character in an RPG, with a skill progression tree, equipment, and the like.
Your other units also have equipment though, which surprised me. There are basic pieces of equipment that any faction can buy, though more advanced effects require access to strategic resources. The system gives you more control over the specific direction your basic units take, helping distinguish them a bit.
Combat itself also plays out differently than any other 4X game, though I'm not sure if I'm in love or not. Unlike Civilization V, Endless Legend still allows unit stacking. When one stack of unit meets another, however, the rest of the campaign map freezes and units fan out across the surrounding tiles for a "deployment" stage.
Here you still have full control of your troops, setting them up in optimal positions and taking advantage of any terrain bonuses. However, once the battle starts you can only "suggest" whether your troops attack or defend, and what units they target. This lets the battle move slightly faster, but also removes pinpoint strategy from your hands and makes you feel more like a spectator than an active participant.
My other main complaint is that the enemy AI needs to be a bit more aggressive. There were times I could've been wiped out if my opponent had pressed on, but in many cases the AI demonstrates all the fortitude of a Union general in the early days of the Civil War.
3) Tech hubs
Research progresses differently than Civilization also. Instead of having one giant tech tree (or the "tech web" as in Civilization: Beyond Earth), Endless Legend has six research stages or "eras."
You need to research nine technologies in each era in order to unlock the next one. There are no prerequisites or progressions — you just choose a technology and research it. You could skip researching military technologies for four eras and then concentrate solely on that in the fifth if you wanted, or spread across all four research concentrations (Science and Industry, Economy and Population, Empire and Expansion, and Military) for the whole game.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.