Amplitude Studio's $35 Endless Space is cast in the grand tradition of 4X turn-based strategy games. They're so-called for their emphasis on four key gameplay elements: explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate. Endless Space is aptly named, because you're responsible for shepherding a spacefaring civilization into the stars.
Besides expanding the borders of your civilization (with several unique races to choose from), you need to learn how to adapt to new planetary environments, manage relationships with other races, and handle the continued development of your own species. A four-branch tree of very different technologies, each focal point of which helps you direct your race's development, either into exploration, applied sciences, warfare, or diplomacy and trade.
As your technology improves, so will your adaptability to the environments of different worlds you discover. You'll also need to assimilate resources to grow. The four basic resources managed in Endless Space are Food, Industry, Dust, and Science (FIDS for short, an acronym you see pop up from time to time), and you can direct your civilization's management of those resources on a colony-by-colony basis.
Dust is the "currency" of Endless Space, the gold bullion that greases the wheels of commerce, simplifies the development of technology, facilitates trade and commerce with your neighbors, and more. The uses for Dust are a bit of a wildcard, unlocked as you get further and further into the game.
A growing interstellar civilization demands a fleet of vessels to manage exploration, expansion, trade, and defense. Fleet creation and development is an important component of the game. You can customize your vessels with a tremendous amount of detail depending on your needs and the state of your development.
Inevitably the expansion of a civilization's borders creates friction for its neighbors, and in Endless Space you have control over how that friction occurs. Each of the eight playable races has a base disposition either using diplomacy and trade as your tool or, let loose the dogs of war. Combat in Endless Space is more football coach than player: You issue fleet commands to direct your ships in the two-minute skirmishes that follow. But like the coach of a football game, you can't control the players on the field directly.
Every time you play, Endless Space produces a new galaxy to explore, so there's endless replay value here. You can adjust the parameters of the galaxy extensively (though not endlessly) and you can customize the race you want to play. This leads to some daunting moments for the new player, but the reward is constant challenge no matter how many times you play.
Endless Space is lovely to look at and sounds great too thanks to a proggy electronic soundtrack which fits the stark beauty of the outer space visuals.
The galaxy is your sandbox, and you will get immersed for hours, days, weeks at a time. If games like Master of Orion or Civilization appeal to you, there's a lot to love in Endless Space.
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