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Endless Legend | Officially released. Available now on Steam

Endless Space: Alpha First Look Preview

By on May 2nd, 2012 1:37 pm

Endless Space | Amplitude Studios - alpha version

I had access to Endless Space for a first look a few days before being released as alpha for pre-orders. Let me tell you right now that I’m very impressed with what I’ve seen so far. I think we have a truly marvelous space 4X gem here.

But, first a bit of background. And while this is by no means a review (since that applies only to finished products), later on I’ll have a word about the best things and the not so best things about this build, and why I think ES can become a great 4X game.

Endless Space is being developed by Amplitude Studios, an indie games studio founded in 2011 that allegedly specializes in strategy games development. Endless Space is their first game project, and what a great way to start developing strategy games than with a 4X game?

Now, this is what a call an alpha! And a user interface.

First of all I’m impressed with the level of quality the build shows at pre-order time. Let’s not forget that this is supposedly an alpha version, well perhaps close to beta, but still released as alpha. I didn’t have a single crash and everything appears to be already functional. However there are still some factions missing and some things that need polishing, fine-tuning and made more fast for sure. But, the game is already very playable, at least for the 40 or so turns I played you don’t really feel the difference from a finished game.

Secondly an important word on the user interface. The UI always plays a huge role in games. It shouldn’t be that way but usually it is. We want the UI to be as “transparent” as possible, to allow the player to do what he is supposed to do and to know what he is supposed to know without interfering too much nor ending up frustrating more than helping. In 4X games this is particularly important due to the sheer amount of info and gameplay features diversity and complexity that these games tend to offer. I think Endless Space’s UI is superb! Let me tell you why.

First of all, there are plenty of tool tips available, so I didn’t have any doubts about what things were for or what they gave respect to. Surprisingly enough it’s rather easy to navigate through the many game screens, taking into account that the game offers quite a deep economic management scope. Screen transition is flawless and the overall look of the UI is very pretty and user-friendly. The UI is also very intuitive. Right-clicking on your mouse takes you out of the current screen while left clicking does all the selection job as it should. Jumping from one screen to another can even feel very organic at places. At one time I thought: “what if I clicked the hero portrait from this report window, wouldn’t it be nice to get to the hero screen immediately? Nah.. Don’t think so. OMG! It worked!”. Yep, I had a few of these moments while playing. Good job!

Endless Space | Alpha Version - System Screen

Game setup richness

You have plenty of customization options to choose from at game setup. You can choose from many galaxy parameters, some basic like galaxy size, shape and age, and others more advanced like number of wormholes or resources abundance (this last one particularly important in my view).

And while you can’t change anything about your empire, since you can only choose from five predefined factions (for now), these surely have many and distinct traits, that should, in theory, allow for good gameplay diversity and replayability.

About winning the game, there are seven distinct victory conditions possible at the moment. We have the traditional ones to be found in many 4X games like score, diplomatic, scientific or supremacy, while others not so common and more intriguing like wonder, expansion and economic. I didn’t have access to a manual and there are no tool tips available for these last three victory options, but the last two should probably be about a land-grab percentage and a certain amount of economic indicators achieved, most probably related with Dust, the game’s financial commodity.

There’s definitely much richness to be found at game setup. You can’t design your race from ground-up unfortunately, but if the available factions are charismatic enough everything should be fine.

The planetary vs star system management riddle

Ok, if you’re not into this sort of space strategy game design discussion thing I think you could probably skip this section, but it’s still a good read nevertheless (I think). Feel warned though.

A common riddle that the space 4X game designer has to face sooner or later is how to deal with the different levels, or scopes, of a stellar empire’s management. You have a galaxy, stars, star systems, planets and sometimes other stellar objects like comets, moons and asteroids. Where should the management focus be put on? What should the player be able to manage? And what would be too much?

Some space 4X game designers put complete focus on star system development and neglect (or heavily abstract) planet development, other games favor individual planets management only, and star systems are only placeholders for those planets. It’s always a tough decision to make. The question is: “where should management focus be put on?” I, mainly as player, feel this uncertainty. I think Endless Space has come up with an interesting and ambitious solution for this riddle: system management and planetary management are both managed as two distinct management layers, that intersect in some aspects.

How have they done it? In ES there are specific star system improvements available but also planetary improvements. These latter ones called exploits. And while the system and planetary building options are distinct in scope, they share the same building queue. So, when you instruct something to be built on a planet that will go to the system queue (the only building queue available) and if you then order a star system improvement to be built, that will come second in the queue and so forth.

I don’t hide that I had a bit of difficulty grasping the concept at first but then it started to grow on me. I see star system improvements as special structures or projects that affect the entire system, but only that system. So you may decide to invest resources and time on specializing star systems rather than planets, while keeping planetary development still possible at the same time. In a way star system improvements feel like a special technology that you decide to invest on only in a particular system while normal techs researched from the empire’s tech tree have an empire-wide effect. See the new layer?

Heroes, a gameplay feature I will talk a bit later on, manage at star system level while planet exploitations are exclusively left at your command or at the hands of the AI if you decide so.

Endless Space | Alpha Version - Planet Screen

I’m truly fascinated by this system-planetary management level distinction. If micromanagement does not become too deep and disastrous this may become a great model for others to follow in the future. Some things are system scoped while others are dealt with at planetary level. I think it’s a good compromise, but let’s see how it feels after playing for 250 turns.

Star systems and planetary management surely was a 4X gameplay feature that really caught my eye, but what about the other traditional 4X gameplay features?

The 4X gameplay features checklist

Exploration and expansion can feel a bit standard and bland at places, but there are a few nice twists that can help make it more fun and rich as you progress. Neighbouring star systems are unknown at first until you send some fleet there to “investigate” how many planets are available and what sort of anomalies or resources are present. However it’s not a rich investigation system in a sense that you could need special types of ships, devices or people. To my knowledge all ships scan star systems the same way, and while there are plenty of anomalies (that give bonuses or malus to planets) or resources to be found (that do feel to be critical as the game progresses) there is nothing too remarkably different about exploration to register, at least for now.

But, there are events (I witnessed at least one). There are also plenty of these resources and anomalies. Resources also come in two flavors: strategic (that affect production) and luxury (that affect mainly morale). There are also plenty of planet types (13 of them!) to look for as technology progresses. So, in summary, there seem to be enough elements to keep you engaged in the exploration and expansion phases.

Research is usually an area where 4X games of late have not been able to innovate adequately. What has been proven still works but attempts to innovate have not succeeded in my opinion. ES research feels like a mix of proven techniques with a special arrangement through four distinct areas: exploration & expansion, social & diplomatic, science & industry and warfare. There are special techs for each faction but nothing really that innovative about research overall. I’m not saying it isn’t nice, though. It just seems not that innovative to my personal disappointment.

Endless Space | Alpha Version - Research Screen

It wouldn’t be a 4X game without diplomacy. However it’s still a bit too soon to talk about it because that’s an area that will need an extensive amount of play to grasp how right and balanced it feels. Right now what I can say is that the diplomacy screen is pleasing to the eye and that you are supposed to have a set of treaties available to you. I don’t know yet if we can trade maps, techs, be able to bribe, frame or request any special favors. At the beginning everybody is in “cold war” status, meaning that anyone can attack each other before a peace agreement is set. But besides this I don’t have much to add about diplomacy at this moment.

There is however an interesting detail about diplomacy (or espionage perhaps) that caught my eye. One of my heroes had an intriguing trait called “Adventurer”. This trait is described as “Talented on spying, killing, sneaking and stealing”. The reason why I mention this is because the game apparently doesn’t offer espionage options. And while at this stage I couldn’t grasp anything in the game to believe there should be espionage options, this trait made me hope that there could be some espionage aspects after all, correlated with the heroes system or perhaps the way diplomacy works as game progresses. Too soon to tell, but, looks promising.

For the ones of you wondering, yes, there is ship design in ES. And a very promising one also. You can equip your ships with a set of modules, each belonging to one of seven predefined set of module types: deflect, support, armor, engine, shield, kinetic (projectile), beam, missile and flak (point defense). This can give you a good understanding of what to expect from ship design because one thing that this tells you is that all your designs will have modules from one of these distinct types. Although the support module type is an open door to any type of special module really. Creating new designs is easy enough. A bit confusing at first with lots of information on different modules, but still easy and fun.

Endless Space | Alpha Version - Ship Design

There’s also fleet management. There’s fleet creation, retrofitting, renaming, merging, disbanding and scrapping. The game’s spaceship unit is a fleet by the way. Everything that moves between stars must belong to a fleet. When a ship is built it is put on the “star system’s hangar”. When you want you can assemble fleets by selecting ships from that hangar and merge them into a single fleet if you want, as long as they are in the same star system.

Regarding space combat, and looking back, I think Romain de Waubert in our interview has described it the exact way I experienced it. Battles are not fought in turns nor in an RTS fashion “select ships and attack” kind of way. ES features a mix of battle cinematics with a few (but perhaps important, I don’t know yet) “decisions while you watch” during combat. So, you can’t control your ships during combat, like selecting, giving orders, targeting enemy ships or individual modules, that kind of stuff, but you may still have an important tactical word to say on what happens during battle.

I’m a little bit skeptical at this point about space combat though. I mean, if this combat system will be successful at capturing our attention or not. You can decide to auto-resolve combat and all that but my first impression is that it may become a bit too repetitive to watch battles and not have a meaningful intervention. But, perhaps when the game progresses and new techs are available it will be more fun to make combat decisions.  It’s too early to tell about this one. Let’s say it wasn’t love at first sight perhaps. Although battles do look aesthetically outstanding, however that’s not the point in the end in 4X games, at least for me.

Endless Space | Alpha Version - Space Combat

The hero system is fun to play with. Heroes have different traits that affect the star systems where you put them on but they also level up in time (and from what I could tell they actually level up according to what happens to them). You can assign heroes to fleets or to systems. You can even clone a hero if you have the resources to, but only if you’re playing with the Horatio faction, which are cloners. I wonder what the other factions will unlock …

Bottom line

I’m still not sure if ES space combat cinematics combined with “a word to tell during combat” mechanics will be able to capture much of our attention, but it’s way too soon to tell. And the way space combat plays out in the end isn’t really that big of a deal, in any case.

I also felt the need to have tools to help me plan my expansion better, to help me figure out which planets are available for colonization. Although there are a few hints in the UI to help you with this I felt the need for a list, perhaps in the empire management screen, that could tell me all the planets available for colonization sorted by type, resources, etc. In huge map-sizes, and when you start unlocking hostile environment colonization techs, this can become a particularly critical feature to have. But let’s not forget that this is still an alpha. Boy, the build stability and maturity level surely made me forget about that some times.

The game offers a superb UI. Functional, appealing, accessible. And while transitions from UI screens are flawless, the game performance (particularly turns) still leaves a bit to be desired. After setting up a medium-sized map with 8 AI players, turns were taking a bit too long to process. You need to have a look at this one guys.

It’s naturally too soon to have a definitive take on things and I feel that I only just scratched the surface. But, if we add up the quality the game already shows with the amount of polishing and tweaking it will suffer at the hands of the player’s feedback, Endless Space can only become a great game.

Now, or when it’s finished, there’s no doubt in my mind that this game will be a must for the veteran 4X gamer. And depending on the final state of the game (although it sure is looking promising!) it may also be, perhaps, the perfect game to introduce new people to the genre. Well done Amplitude! You game has surely lived up to the expectations. Now, please continue your great work!

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Endless Legend | Officially released. Available now on Steam

82 Comments


  1. Zer0sum says:

    Thanks for the write-up Adam. One thing that really impresses me is that these guys have a wonderful style. Their game looks very beautiful. One of the things I struggle with in StarDrive is making a really nice looking galaxy map, and they just nailed it here.

    Oh, and also, stay tuned for a press release from us tomorrow!

    • Adam Solo says:

      Hi Dan. Yes, they surely are good on the aesthetics side also. Yes, everything looks very beautiful. The galaxy is clearly one of such examples.

      StarDrive news tomorrow? Great, the more info on space 4X games we have the merrier! And, no need to feel jealous about ES, your game also looks beautiful.

    • Kyle "Lordxorn" Rees says:

      Yes Zero I agree. I totally love their visual and UI design elements. If the ascendancy guys are genius at 4x theory, Amplitude Studios is genius at UI. I am simply amazed at the level of development in ‘Alpha’.

  2. zigzag says:

    I can’t wait to get home from work so that I can play this! The descriptions and screenshots look fantastic!

    I know you tend to be positive in your previews, but is it accurate to say that the biggest shortcomings the research and combat systems? Also, how tedious was planetary management since it’s two screens removed from the main screen?

    • Adam Solo says:

      Hi zigzag. If you mean “tend to be positive” in previews in the sense of “tending to be constructive”, yes, I always try to. But not all previews of late have really been positive in the sense of favorable though.

      I would say that ES’s current shortcomings seem to be focused more on expansion (where to colonize next and the info required for the best decisions) and space combat. The first I’m more positive that there’s some work to do. The later I’m not so sure. I only played 3 or 4 simple battles, so I can’t jump into any conclusions as I say in the preview.

      Research could be seen as a shortcoming but only in the sense if you’re after something particularly new or revolutionary. Research feels quite solid and looks deep enough. No major problem there.

      You know what, that’s the funny thing. Yes, planetary management is 2 screens away from the main screen but the way the UI is built makes it incredibly easy and organic to switch screens (from galaxy to system to planet and back again to system and to galaxy). Didn’t thought possible that a level 2 screen could be so practical. But, I only played for 40 or so turns, so, only more comprehensive gameplay sessions will tell how tedious or not it can actually be. There’s an option to set planets development to auto, although I’m a bit skeptical how that can work in conjunction with the system queue. There could be some conflicts. But, so far, so good.

      And since you say to “can’t wait to get home from work so that I can play this!” I’m curious, and interested, to hear what you have to say about it :)

      • Kyle "Lordxorn" Rees says:

        To be fair, a preview of a ‘Alpha’ game state should not indicate any preference, which I don’t Adam does anyways. So in my humble opinion, it would be fair to pre-judge a game based on an ‘Alpha’ state. However, this is THE best Alpha state game I have seen yet, and I have been gaming for over 20 years.

        Sure I can see the other side of the argument, they are charging for an Alpha game, and thus are open to negative previews. However, I would rather offer my suggestion on their forums, and thank them for the opportunity to play the game early (because I HATE waiting =P) and a chance to influence development.

      • Adam Solo says:

        Exactly. They are still at Alpha but they are already charging moderately for the game. So, people have the right to be informed on what to expect. Being an alpha it can’t be reviewed in the traditional way, and opinions must be expressed with caution. Being positive where things are clearly good (and in theory can only get better) and not too harsh on things that don’t look so good because they probably aren’t finished yet or polished enough. That’s why some times these kinds of alpha previews tend to be seen as “positive” I guess.

  3. salvo says:

    yep, I agree, of course I’ve barely played it, just scratched the surface, but what a surface, yet the interface looks just superb, great work amplitude

    • Adam Solo says:

      Yea, first impressions are very good, and if they manage to balance the game right and offer some interesting surprises this can become a serious case of success.

  4. eleazar says:

    I love the visual style — very clean and classy.

    • Adam Solo says:

      I agree. And Dan in the first comment said the same. These guys really have a wonderful style. I’m impressed with the visuals and the UI as you can read in the preview. But, the mechanics are also quite solid, although we will need a bit more time on those to have a better understanding on how great the game really is.

  5. salarus says:

    Man, been following this game since you guys first showed it. It looks fantastic! I can’t wait to play!

    As far as Combat is concerned, I like the idea of a more hands off approach. My preference has always been with the full empire management and allow the combat to be done with little interaction.

    I prefer to set up the entire fleet, assign orders to squads, etc and allow the AI to fight it out. Of course this is a personal preference and completely understand those who prefer a more active role in their combat.

    Can’t wait!

    • Adam Solo says:

      I like to get a bit more tactical if possible but an RTS style combat is not really required. My initial doubts with ES’s space combat (at this early stage) is not that it is “light” or anything like that, is that the way the cinematics mix with your decisions may become … a bit too repetitive? And take too long? (don’t forget that there is auto-resolve availabler, so don’t worry)

      But, I did enjoyed watching GalCiv2′s cinematic battles from time to time. We don’t take action there (as that is not possible) but I like to see the results of my creations. So … maybe I’ll get used to ES’s space combat mechanics the same way I got used to GalCiv2′s. And by the way battles are simply gorgeous to watch, so, it’s probably just the surprise factor here and a not too impressive first impression. We’ll see.

      First impressions not always reflect things accurately as we know. Just think on the original Master of Orion. I had an horrible first impression of the game when I was young. After a week or so I couldn’t take my eyes from the screen.

  6. Adam F5ing says:

    WOW Kerberos Productions take note!

    • Adam Solo says:

      Nasty comment :) Sad, but true. But, the conditions are different, the people, the budgets, everything. Things not always work as we plan to. There are talks in the kerberos forums that things are supposedly much better now and close to the “all done” flag = true. Of course, nobody will hold their breath on this but I still think they will fix things. And there’s really great things in SotS2, we just need to wait a bit more I guess …

    • Nick West says:

      Yeah, one of the first thing I thought was how this looked more “finished” in alpha than another 4Xs I’ve seen recently…

      • Adam Solo says:

        Yes, it’s not only SotS2 we’re talking about here. Many others have not started this well. But what counts is the finish line, so, it’s still too soon for Amplitude guys to get lazy and party. Although they surely deserve a good break and some slack for the outstanding work they’ve produced so far.

  7. Nori says:

    The game looks pretty awesome, but if the combat is as non-interactive as it sounds I’ll be rather disappointed… I love the combat in MOO2 and to be honest I haven’t played a space 4x game since that I really felt got combat right… Gal Civ 2 had pretty dang boring combat, Sins wasn’t too bad… Star Ruler is ok…

    Not a preorder for me yet.. But still following it.

    • Adam Solo says:

      Hey Nori. Look, I hope you’re not making your decision solely on how space combat looks like, or what I mentioned about it. It was just my first impression. There is interactivity, in each combat several phases, although not as much as in a traditional TBS/RTS type of combat like MoO2 or Sins. But there is more interactive than in GalCiv2 (well, it could only have more actually).

      “Sins (space combat) wasn’t too bad”. Boy, you really are a tough customer ;)

      I also feel that MoO2 combat, with all the problems it has, is still one of the best no doubt.

      • Nori says:

        I haven’t decided whether to get it or not of course. Can’t completely judge a game before it is finished in my opinion. So I will wait and see when the game comes out and I can get more info on it. Just my first impression of your first impression is that the combat isn’t as tactical or interactive as I would have hoped.

        I’m tough to please gamewise because I don’t have a lot of time to play to be honest. Plus I can still play MOO2 so a new game better add something cool for me to get it… And I have way to many games to play right now… I wish I didn’t have to sleep… :P

      • Adam Solo says:

        Yea, sleeping and working can get too much in the way sometimes :) I also would like to have more time to play more games, but I’m not complaining too much.

  8. zigzag says:

    Alright gamers, how do you dequeue research in the research screen?

    • Adam Solo says:

      Yep, I had the same issue. First I thought “damn you that forget about the need to deselect a tech”. But then (probably 5-10 sec later) I though: “well, I’ll just select another” (and you want to have always 1 tech being researched any way, so, saw no big deal). And you can’t organize your system queues either (moving an item up and down), as we are in the subject of queues. However this should all be easily “resolvable”.

      \edit: There were more folks complaining already so Amplitude has already fixed the “not being able to reorder the queue issue”: http://forums.amplitude-studios.com/showthread.php?449-How-are-you-people-liking-the-alpha-so-far&p=5801&viewfull=1#post5801 A good step forward!

      There are also talks in the forums that people are feeling odd not being able to deselect techs (besides clicking another). And the need to convert non-used FIDs (food, research, production, dust) when nothing is being built. Amplitude is listening, and working hard. If they continue like this (and nothing leads to believe they won’t) they can only of course succeed.

      • Kyle "Lordxorn" Rees says:

        There is a great workaround thread on their forums, which I posted that to get around the “sticky tech que” bug, press shift.

        Also there is a workaround for Widescreen solutions not changing.

        Adam regarding converting FID, I researched a building that allowed me to convert Prod into Dust. Is that what your talking about?

      • Adam Solo says:

        No, I mean, when your queue is empty you’re losing industry resources that could be converted into something. But I see that this is probably what the IND-SCY conversion project does :)

  9. Kyle "Lordxorn" Rees says:

    Adam regarding the colonizable planets issue, I find it easy enough to see which planets icon on the Galaxy Screen are white. That for me is faster then say a comprehensive expansion planner like the one in Distant Worlds.

    Anyways, I am VERY impressing with ES especially considering that it is not feature complete. I have paid full price for games in lesser state.

    It is interesting to read all of the opinions on tactical combat, where I have read that some grew tired of the MOO2 tactical control, and some love it. ES design choice is interesting where you get to interact with a cinematic in a Magic the Gathering Lite type of card game where certain cards can counteract others.

    This game is well on its way to placing itself among the other genre greats just from the ALPHA alone! I look forward to reading your full review on release. =)

    • Adam Solo says:

      Yes, the “white dots” are nice, and do help figure out where to go next. But imagine when you unlock many hostile environment techs and play in large/huge maps. It can be a nightmare in later games to decide where you should colonize next when you have 40 or 50 white dots (I’m already feeling the need with just 6 or so after unlocking Tundra). Only trying that out with more techs and on bigger maps we will know for sure but I suspect that will be the case.

      The quality of the “alpha” build is astounding. No crashes, everything looks functional, smooth learning curve, great UI, everything runs smooth (but turn performance is poor in bigger maps).

      I don’t dislike space combat. It’s just new, we need time to digest it. But people are already complaining in the forums that the camera is too fixed. I’ll add that it may become a bit too repetitive to watch the same shots over and over again. But, with better camera support, more random shots and more time I think it can be a good bet. I mean to offer a somewhat light tactical combat, sure not the most important feature of a 4X game.

      Yes, I also found interesting that people are still finding MoO2 space combat to be the best, even with the big problems it has (slow auto-resolve, super tedious late battles). But THEY’RE RIGHT! Surprisingly enough MoO2 space combat is still probably one of the best. While some people prefer more tactical, others less tactical and even others don’t mind to have full cinematics I think people are in the mood of late for a more tactical TBS space combat experience, ala MoO2. It would be an interesting poll to launch here in the blog.

      You’re absolutely right. It’s ridiculous but an “Alpha” is competing directly with many greats. Incredible. While, this is really not an early alpha … but close to beta, judging from the game’s progress in Amplitude’s website.

      • Nori says:

        There was a patch for MOO2 that added super fast auto battles. I used it extensively for later battles where I knew I would win and it was just a matter of time. Can’t recall which patch it was, but I believe there was a option in the menu…

      • Adam Solo says:

        Yes, the patch was an absolute necessity!! :) But even so the auto-resolve was still slow. Although much quicker than before, but still a pain in late-late games when you had the maximum of ships allowed, half of them doom stars :D And when you hit the auto button by mistake “NOOO!!! Now I have to watch this to the end!!!” :)

        It could take a while … Well, they at least tried. But why wasn’t there an instantaneous auto-resolve option? Don’t have a clue. Guess Simtex realized a bit late the problem! :D At least they tried, and the patch did help.

  10. JD says:

    Again a wonderful article Adam. Although I do not know if I will buy this game I must say they seem to have made some intersting choices regarding abstracting the whole galaxy/system/planet debate. I also really like how the game UI is not curved or shiny but simple and squared. Which is so much better for legibility and readability.

    • Adam Solo says:

      Thanks JD.

      As we already discussed in the pre-orders announcement post prices are much higher for some folks (best guess is the country they live in). But we don’t know why, and it can’t be only VAT differences contributing here. E.g. The Emperor Edition costs 26,24€ for some and 17,99€ for others.

      Any one knows why the big difference? Steam doesn’t need to pay VAT depending on where you live in? I always pay VAT in other shops … I think.

  11. Walter says:

    The game looks beautiful and maybe is no a 100% a game that give me all that i expect but i will buy it in next days…

    i think is a game that i could be enjoy and will have me busy for a while and i would like to explore and try ….they seem to have made some interesting choices

    • Adam Solo says:

      It sure looks beautiful. The galaxy graphics in particular look absolutely gorgeous, the best I’ve seen to date in these kind of games. And, all the UI screens are clean crisp. These guys surely have some talented artists working there.

      • Kyle "Lordxorn" Rees says:

        The screen transitions, and how everything is organized is truly a breath of fresh air. It feels like Apple design the UI. Sorry if I sound like I am drinking the Amplitude coolaid, but after some more quality time with their game I am a convert. =P

  12. Doug Miller says:

    Yep, the game is gorgeous and the UI is really, really nice. I played about 50 turns tonight and I’m astounded that this is an alpha.

    I do have to agree on the combat though – it just isn’t making it for me. The music is great (shades of BSG) but it comes across as really repetitive. This is so jarring compared to the rest of the game that I really do suspect that there’s a lot more to be added here.

    I think this can be a really good game. I’m not sure it’ll take the place of Distant Worlds in my heart, but I’m not the least regretting the purchase.

    • Adam Solo says:

      Yea, I also noticed the BSG soundtrack similarities :D It’s great though. It’s that ethnic instrument (don’t know which unfortunately). I love ethnic music in space games by the way. Homeworld 2′s music people? It still gives me goose bumps after all these years: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-DhrBk87-8 (mana mana mana mana …) What a game series.

  13. maceman says:

    amazing… we aren’t even talking playable Beta here yet. What do you compare it to out there?

  14. Owen Faraday says:

    That UI is just gorgeous.

    I’m trying to pre-order but I guess their site is getting rammed right now because it’s not responding at all.

  15. zigzag says:

    Here are my thoughts. I realize that they may seem overly harsh, especially for an alpha, but they’re harsh because I find the game incredibly frustrating. It does almost everything right, which makes those things that it does wrong even more glaring.
    The user interface style is excellent. Amplitude clearly possess talented designers. (Admittedly, I’m a sucker for minimalist interfaces, sans serif fonts, semitransparent backgrounds, and post-processing pixel shaders.)
    The galaxy view is the worst part of the interface. Important system information, e.g. build queue information, is inaccessible, and fleet management, which, like Free Orion, requires use of separate fleet and ship menus, is tedious. It suffers from comparison with other, modern, large scale strategy games, e.g. Civilization IV and V, Sword of the Stars II, Warlock, etc. The notifications helped this somewhat, but I still found myself losing track of certain details. This is particularly problematic since it’s possible to end the current turn without administering important tasks, e.g. choosing a technology to research. Moreover, the interface elements – especially the planet labels – of view just aren’t very attractive in comparison to those of the other screens in the interface. (The galaxy itself is, of course, gorgeous.) This may change as the game develops.
    It’s difficult to criticize the system and planet screens in isolation, since they’re intimately tied to certain design decisions. Nevertheless, I did feel that maneuvering from the galaxy to a particular planet and from planet to planet more difficult than it should be. In particular, I felt that the planet screen was one screen too many. In general, I am dubious about the use of system/planet screens and believe that the screenless approach used by Sins of a Solar Empire and Legends of Pegasus is better. I like Sword of the Stars II’s approach as well.
    Most of the other screens are well done. The diplomacy and system screens are exceptional. They display information attractively and effectively and do so with a unique style. The research screen is a notable exception. The technology branches should have been separated into tabs. There’s no reason to view the entire tree at once, since the branches are separate. Zooming doesn’t help, since the icons become too small to be distinguished. It’s also difficult to determine which technologies have been researched and which have not. It’s not as bad as Sword of the Stars’ revolving research screen or Free Orion’s screen, but it suffers from similar flaws.
    There were also a number of minor issues related to the interface, particularly queues, but I’m sure that these will be solved when the game is released. Some of the current translations are also amusing (“wit” and “eponymous” were standouts), although I shouldn’t complain since the developers’ English est meilleur que mon français.
    Gameplay is mixed. The space combat system is the worst of any game in the genre. This is not an exaggeration. I cannot think of a similar game that implements combat as poorly (including games that do not provide a tactical space combat option). Others have compared the combat to that in Gratuitous Spaceship Battles. This is an apt comparison to a certain extent with the caveat that combat in Endless Space is currently much, much worse.
    The limited decision-making approach is not itself the problem. I don’t enjoy this approach as much as other approaches which give the player a more important role, but I’m open to it. The problem is that the game doesn’t adequately communicate the significance of the rock-paper-scissors decisions that the player does make. Rock? Paper? Does it matter? Who knows. The positioning of the camera also makes it very difficult to determine the direction of the battle. I spent most of my time in battle staring at the fleet health bars at the top of the screen, since the information provided by the admittedly beautiful battle scenes was essentially worthless in conveying which fleet was winning or losing.
    I agree with most of what’s been said about the strategic elements of the game. Most of them are excellent. (In comparison with the space combat system, the abstraction of ground combat is very clean.) I wish that heroes were more distinct and had a more active role in the galaxy, but since this is not a character-driven game, I understand why this isn’t the case.
    It’s difficult to judge many of the game’s elements since they are not complete. I felt, for example, that certain production bonuses provided too much of an advantage. I also felt that it was difficult to determine exactly what influences changes in diplomatic relationships. My relationship with one faction changed positively after I attacked and destroyer one of its fleets, for instance. (However, these will probably improve in time both as the game is developed and balanced and I gain familiarity with it.)
    I realize that all of this is very scattershot and underdeveloped. Let me know if you’d like to hear more about any of this.

    • Adam Solo says:

      Thanks for your thoughts. I agree with basically everything you said. Agree in the sense that I recognize all the faults and other details you mentioned like, being easy to lose track of research being empty, the research screen being a bit too cluttered, planet labels not being as attractive as the rest of the UI.

      The “one too many screen” issue I agree with you but only to some extent. I also feel that level 2 for screens may be too much. But, I’m surprised how Amplitude managed to give us both system and planetary management (a feature no one has been able to give us before, at least that I remember at the moment) in a very slick way.

      We agree on space combat. There are certainly problems there. But with the right camera choices, or perhaps a free camera option (that is already being requested in the forums) I think space combat can turn out ok. This is not supposed to be Sins but a true 4X game, so I think we agree that combat doesn’t need to be too tactical. But this is a matter of personal taste here. Some people like more Civ4′s rock paper scissors combat style while others more Civ5′s more tactical combat. Some like more MoO2′s tactical others more GalCiv2 cinematic. ES could be something in between. Let’s see what comes out of that.

      As an overall statement I would say that we need to give a chance for innovation zigzag. Let Amplitude present their vision, let’s criticize but also give them a chance before rushing into conclusions.

      I also didn’t particularly focused my preview on balance issues because those are the kind of things that the devs should focus on during alpha (which the game still is at) and beta phases.

      So, while I agree with most you’ve said I also think that you are right when saying that your comments may seem a bit too harsh (at places it felt like you were in fault hunt motivation mode). Which is great because I think it enriches the general opinion on the game a lot.

      • zigzag says:

        It’s nice to agree on so much. I’m not against combat being cinematic, per se. I understand that the developers don’t want players’ combat decisions to matter as much as their broader, strategic decisions. Fair enough. My main criticism is that it currently isn’t a good implementation of what it aims to be.

        I do disagree with you somewhat on the question of innovation, however. My interest in the game isn’t that it’s innovative, only that it’s fun for me.

      • zigzag says:

        I should also point out that while some people enjoy variety for it’s own sake, I don’t. Case in point, I’m about to eat lunch, which is the same lunch that I’ve eaten every day for the past month.

      • Adam Solo says:

        Current combat’s implementation leaves something to be desired for yes. But again it’s probably an implementation issue more than anything else. With the right set of camera options probably it will be ok.

        But I felt that your comment was bit too harsh here:

        quote: “The space combat system is the worst of any game in the genre. This is not an exaggeration. I cannot think of a similar game that implements combat as poorly (including games that do not provide a tactical space combat option).”

        I think this is perhaps a bit too strong and definitive. But, that’s your opinion and I respect that.

        My comment on innovation was because I felt in you a bit of resistance on a new approach to space combat (that is not the “status quo”) and a bit too definitive on your take that different screens (or a 2nd screen) for planetary or system management can never work. That’s why I made that comment about the innovation. If that’s not the case than it was my faulty interpretation and I am sorry about that.

    • Kyle "Lordxorn" Rees says:

      Ok forgive me if I missed something in your massive wall of text,

      I want to respond to some of your criticisms.

      Firstly the UI one too many planet screens
      I disagree that there are one too many. I think it is very nicely simplified, and comparing this game to a RTS like SINS is like comparing apples to oranges. Sure the UI overlay of SINS is a nice task saver, however it is not as necessary to clutter up the game screen in a turn based true 4x game.

      The screens have TONS of functionality, you just have to get used to them. The only complaint I have is the lack of an ability to access your Ship Hanger from the Galaxy Screen when you have no fleet in orbit. It is convenient to be able to click on an orbiting fleet to form fleets from the hangar right from the galaxy screen.

      Research Screen Too Much?
      You criticize their implementation of the Research Tree being in one screen, yet said the planetary screen was one too many? The Research Tree is a perfect improvement of the Galactic Civilizations screen that too many patches to become reality.
      It is too easy to see how the four branches are broken up between Military, Diplomatic, Applied, and Practical type of techs.
      The large screen can be panned and zoomed real easily, and hover your mouse over any of the Unlocked items, and a window pops up about their benefits or effects.

      Heroes No Direct Effect?
      The heroes have direct effect on the game in the form of Planetary Governors, and Fleet Admirals. Each hero gains exp and levels, and unlock traits you can specialize your agents in. For example, want to groom an agent into a super planetary governor you can select specific traits that boost food production or science, or more of an overall bonus.

      Want to have your own Admiral Ackbar, select Offensive or Defensive traits, and raise an agent up on your fleets. They will benefit from significant boost.

      As far as clandestine type of missions, this feature is one that is planned to be implemented.

      In conclusion the ES Hero system is just as comprehensive as MOO2, or DW, just not as much as Rebellion.

      The Old Tactical/Strategic Combat Design Decision
      I can certainly understand the desire of many 4x players to have Tactical combat in any 4x game. However, as Adam has eluded to, it is almost a 50/50 split in like or dislike. While I enjoy it in the beginning, lets be honest how many battles do you start to Auto in MOO2 after so many years of playing?

      I like the combat system, and as far as deciding what cards to play, they tell what they counter or are countered by. Just have to read the information, which is accessible in the ship design screen. I think maybe a better representation of how the battle is going visually, would improve things however. It does seems to show random hits or misses, even if that is not what is really going on. Also I agree that the camera should be fully controllable, and a more macro view of the battle. I also wonder if the exclusion of a retreat option is intentional.

      Overall I disagree with your points, and think once you spend more time with the game you will discover more things about ES and UI elements that are nice designed.

      I just love the special resource system as well, as it adds a Civ4 strategic level, where certain resources like Oil in Civ4 are very important and even a cause for war. WHOA that mirrors real life?! How about that. =)

      • Kyle "Lordxorn" Rees says:

        Forgot to mention,

        I don’t understand how you can miss certain details with the notification system that is similar to Total War’s where a nice looking icon appears above the End Turn button, and clicking on these buttons opens a pop window that tells you more details and allows you to click directly to the action.

        For example, when you build a ship you can click on the pop up window and go directly to the que selection. Or you can use the Empire summary window that is pretty standard in regards to functionality to other 4x games.

        Endless Space has taken all the improvements of strategy games in general, like Total War, Galactic Civilization, MOO2, Civilization and meshes them into a 4x game.

  16. zigzag says:

    I should also mention that this game is a steal at under US$30, and that anyone considering prepurchasing it should do so immediately. (And if it means that you can’t afford the Distant Worlds expansion, so much the better.)

  17. MammothIL says:

    Great preview, Adam, a pleasure to read.
    The only thing that I’m not clear on about this game is the combat system. You mentioned that it’s managed in “phases”. What happens in every on of the stages? You set a tactical approach, organize priorities, things of that sort?

    The hand-off approach can actually be nice. I’m a sucker for the MoO2-style battles as much as the next guy, but does it really makes sense? I’m mean, there’s not much logic in controlling each and every ship in your wall of battle individually, isn’t there?

    I’m just rereading the “Honor Harrington” book series, and they describe the difference between the level of control that are available to a ship captain, a squadron commander and a fleet admiral.

    • Nori says:

      I just want to know why no space game since MOO2 has done battles like MOO2… At least none that were any good… Not to belittle development, but it can’t be that hard ;)

      • Adam Solo says:

        Good question, don’t have a clue why (well, while editing this comment I had a few ideas why). There must be hundreds of us begging for such a system to be used and improved. But to this date it’s only RTS, Cinematic, RTS, RTS with a twist, Cinematic with a twist. At least in 4X games. For instance Star Hammer Tactics has such a system, but there’s no strategy layer, as the game name says it’s only about tactics.

        But, 4X is not really about tactics, at least in its genesis it isn’t (Civ). But more and more games have become more tactical, and 3D, and eye candy if possible “to attract more people”. Maybe it as to do also with multiplayer… although MP is not necessarily a must in 4X games either.

        It would be cool to have a dev’s opinion on this. Maybe Dan from Stardrive, the Amplitude guys or CodeForce could shed some more light here. And Ntronium guys, and Blind Mind Studios guys, etc.

      • MammothIL says:

        Oh yeah, I’d really would like to know the answer for that riddle :-) Maybe the balance of player-designed ships in turn-based combat is overly problematic? Or maybe the publisher do not believe that turn-based space battle would attract the audience?
        Anyhow, an insight from a developer would be interesting!

      • JD says:

        I may shed a little light on that question. By origin I am computer science guy (programming to be exact) so I know a little bit about gameloops and such. At first glance the turn based paradigm seems simple and easy, but actually coding a turn based tactical combat system is well to oversimplify, just much more work then coding one for real time.

        I also think the shiny fast real time action is in the eyes of publishers indeed more attractive as Adam states.

      • Adam Solo says:

        Thanks for your input on this JD. So, by your experience it’s harder to program TBS tactical combat than RTS. Then publishers probably think having more action also helps (sales).

        And, in a recent spacesector poll named “What’s your preferred gameplay mechanic in 4X games? Turn-based or Real-time?” the result was a close tie between “Turns for both strategic and combat” with 55 votes and “Turns in strategic view, real-time combat” (space 4X games status quo) with 61 votes. So, publishers seem to be right (although the poll had a very small sample). Interesting to note also that the answer “Real-time for both strategic and combat” only collected 17 votes.

      • Nori says:

        @Adam, about your poll. While I would love a turn based tactical combat game, I am totally fine with real time combat. Some great games employ amazingly tactical combat, such as the Total War series, mount and blade and Starfarer… But so few, if any, space games get the real time combat right, and like I said, none even do the turn based version. Some games do pretty good. I don’t mind the Sins model. Not my favorite though… Distant World works as well, but that is mainly because that is more of a strategy sim and is bought knowing that it isn’t a tactical combat game…

        Well anyway.. I’m not going to hold my breath…

      • Adam Solo says:

        @Nori

        Yes, it’s very likely that many space strategy fans enjoy real-time mechanics for tactical combat but I thought (just like you) that more people would be interested in playing a TBS tactical game for a change.

        But you’re right, there are great strategy games that employ very good RTS tactical mechanics, Sins is such an example, and the non-space Total War series. But Sins is way more tactical than a traditional 4X game.

        But, again, 4X games don’t usually contain much tactics, although the MoO series was more tactical. And that’s where I think the confusion comes in. 4X games on its genesis (e.g. Civ up to 4, SMAC) don’t offer a tactical component (or very little), they’re mostly rock paper scissors. But MoO came and change this. Now, we became divided between the ones that see emphasis on tactical combat as unnecessary for a strategy game to be great (which is a fact: Civ4) while others defend that a “true” 4X games must have some emphasis on tactical combat (MoO2).

        I’m happy with both approaches. The point (your point also) was that is strange not to see more tactical TBS mechanics these days. But JD here has shed some light on the subject.

      • dayrinni says:

        My opinion is that the MoO2 system does not scale too well. Do you remember what happens when you have +50 ships (just on your side!) on the board? Takes forever to really manage the combats. Then when the AI goes (if they have a lot of ships, and if you didn’t wipe them out….), it literally takes foreverrrr for combat to resolve.

        I love MoO2 but the combat, to me, really breaks down with a lot of ships present. Just my opinion. It is AWESOME when you have a small amount of ships, like 5 to 10.

      • Adam Solo says:

        Totally agree with you dayrinni. MoO2 late combat was a nightmare. And then you have the problem of who goes first. Who goes first is a HUGE advantage. Yes, we can imagine that’s the surprise factor involved or something but it was just too much advantage. With the same fleet you could win almost without losing a ship if you go first and lose equally fast if you were the defender. This was how it worked right? Or, was it like the player with the biggest fleet went first? Can’t remember exactly. But I know that who went first had too much advantage.

    • zigzag says:

      Well, whether or not it makes sense really depends on how you view yourself in relation to the game. If you believe that the “fun” in games depends on their providing a convincing roleplaying experience, then no, it doesn’t make sense. If you don’t, then it doesn’t matter. (I fall into the latter category.)

      • MammothIL says:

        Yeah, I can see where your coming from. But the problem (for me) is that we have a lot of games where the player has a direct control over his ships ( turn base Moo2, real-time Distant Worlds SotS or Armada to name a few). You also have your choice of game where you have no tactical combat control at all (like GalCiv ). I think that a phase-based control where the player can assign general orders , maybe formation type or general role of the ship (point defense, interception, ECM combat, ets) can be refreshing.
        Anyhow, how is the combat handled in ES?

      • zigzag says:

        Combat is phase-based, but the current implementation is underdeveloped. The general orders (sabotage, engineering, offence, etc.) currently don’t have any obvious impact on the battle, and the phases aren’t obviously distinct. It’s currently difficult to determine what’s happening and why. I think the final implementation will be similar to what you’ve described.

    • Adam Solo says:

      @MammothIL

      Thanks!

      First the dev’s words I picked up in the ES forums:

      “When fleets from opposing Empires meet at a system, the acting player has the opportunity to start a space battle by selecting one of the fleets at the system where they have met. The defending player is then prompted to select a defending fleet.

      Both players can chose between an automatic (instant resolution) or manual battle. The automatic battle computes the outcome from the ships statistics of the opposing fleets.

      The manual battle is a special game mode. The opposing fleets are presented in a 3D view near the system center planet of the system. The battle is broken into battle phases where each player plays one or more actions (up to three) to attack the enemy, defend his fleet, or apply modifiers to the battle.

      The battle ends when one of the fleets is destroyed or retreats, or if there is no conclusive winner at the end of the combat phases. If both fleets survive a space battle, the fight can resume at the next galactic turn.” ~Amplitude Studios

      Now in my words. Its basically a cinematic experience when you choose manual battles, but with an important tactical twist: you have 3 distinct phases where you can give orders, but they are not really direct orders like “attack that ship”, “destroy that module”, etc, but some decisions (or powers) you can throw in the battle that you think may turn the odds in your favor. For instance +20% more power to beam weapons, and supposedly beam weapons are more suitable in the 2nd phase (middle range phase) while torpedoes or missiles bonuses should be activated in the first phase (long range) and piercing/projectile weapons in the later stage (close-range phase).

      This all happens in real-time, so if you don’t act quickly enough the chances for you to “throw your cards” (the powers even look like magic cards) will pass by. There is a timer to help you with all this though.

      So, you see, it’s kinda of a cool concept (a cinematic/RPS/tactical mixed concept). I just mentioned in my preview that I think combat still needs some more work in order to be successful. More camera work, to make it less repetitive, but nothing that can’t be resolved with time I guess.

    • Kyle "Lordxorn" Rees says:

      It is interesting how you make the point that tactical combat can be cumbersome, and that is the challenge of game design. How do you make tactical combat fun, manageable, and challenging all at the same time.

      Moo2′s answer was loved and hated, while most games to follow have been lackluster. Civilization is one of the most simple types of tactical combat, however it can be micro-management hell. Space empires, Armada 2526 were just plain not fun. I think this is one of the most challenging design decisions, and it remains to be seen how ES turns out.

      In your mentioning of the “Honor Harrington” books, and the command and control structure of a navy, this is something that is very important in all military branches. I was in the Marine Infantry, and one thing veterans told me was that the Marines believe in the structure of Three.

      In other words you are never directly in charge of more than 3 Marines at one time. Starting with the basic fighting element in Marine Infantry, you have the Fireteam Leader with 2 Marine Rifleman. In a Infantry Squad you have 3 Fireteams with One Sqaud Leader whom the 3 Fireteams are responsible to. In that same Platoon you have 3 squads, whom the Squad Leaders answer to a Platoon Sergeant and/or Officer.

      In a Marine Company you have 3 Platoons with one Weapons Platoon, all responsible to the Company Commander. This structure is more less followed all the up the chain. At each level of command the leaders have decision making options give the American military great leeway and initiative. This is in my opinion one of the US military’s greatest strength.

      Anyways, yes micro management is something that the military does very well, however as a game design element it is a challenge. You have to design for both crowds, the people who love tactical combat, and those that don’t.

      Do you penalize those that choose to click on Auto? Or does it make it too easy to not penalize the non tactical people?

      • MammothIL says:

        @ Kyle “Lordxorn” Rees
        I agree completely with the “Rule of the Three” concept. I believe that you can find some version of it in any military that wishes to utilize the personal initiative of a soldier, but still control his actions.
        I spent a three year TOD in Israels Air Force an we too had a similar team composition. 3-4 technicians -> team leader . 3-4 team leader -> department leader. 3-4 dept. leaders -> squadron technical division. And on and on. In practice it works quite well – it allows efficient division of labor and coordination on accomplishment of any given task in a constricted time frame.
        This actually may be relevant to this topic – most of us can easily focus on a fleet consisting of a limited number of units – say half a dozen. We remember each unit, it strong and weak sides, and manage to use it in a most effective way. That’s why early game Moo2 battles are so enjoyable.
        Give us several dozens of units that we must control individually – and we have a problem on our hands. Sure, we still may succeed in playing and winning, but it probably wouldn’t be to much fun, not for X-th time. And that’s the situation that we will have in a late-game.

      • Kyle "Lordxorn" Rees says:

        @MammothIL

        Yes exactly! I am sure even the tactical people lamented the late game massive battles. One game that definitely moved in the right direction in regards to handling massive micro management of unit command and control was Hearts of Iron III. The theater assignements, and OOB control, gives you more control over your massive armies and the power to delegate sections of your front to AI commanders.

  18. Karl says:

    Played it up to about 50 turns so far and it does seem great. My only problems I’ve got with it at the moment is the lack of feeling and suspense and excitement.

    For example. When my scientists have researched a new technology I don’t just want an info box popping up on the screen. I want a cut scene of my scientists telling me they have invented a new tech with a hologram of the tech in the back ground. Some inspiring music would help.

    When i colonize a new planet I don’t just want a status telling me colonizing is being done. I want a cut-scene of my ships landing on the planet.

    I know this all sound like MOO2 but yes. I loved MOO2 and this has to be MOO2 on steroids for me. Everything MOO2 did only bigger and better.

    Luckily this is just the Alpha and so hopefully the developers will inject more drama into these events. Shouldn’t be too difficult.

    Going to play some more now.

    • Adam Solo says:

      These are great ideas! I also love MoO2′s little cut-scenes, when breakthroughing a tech or the galactic news. That made the universe feel more alive! The mini-cutscenes when you colonized a planet were also delicious. Yes they were repetitive but just delicious.

      I think someone should go to the ES forums and propose this. If you’d like to do that yourself let me know, otherwise I’ll go there tell them this myself.

  19. Joel says:

    What I’m hearing of the various combat descriptions reminds me a little of an old 4X game by the name of “Birth of the Federation”. Battle phases where you could change the focus of your attacks and implement different formations/tactics to counter those of the enemy fleet. In that game this type of phased/cinematic combat worked fairly well.

    I hope if this is the type of combat in ES that enough different, well explained tactics/formations/orders are offered to make the experience rich and satisfying.

    Also, I didn’t read in any of the previous posts anything about a tutorial or a manual. Will ES have either of these?

    • Adam Solo says:

      In ES apparently there are no formation choices (unless there’s a card about that during combat).

      Tactics are enforced indirectly via a set of decisions you can make during battle (illustrated as cards in-game) in the 3 game’s combat phases. Maybe you want to use “a card” that gives you an edge on the combat’s long range phase, say use a special missile. During the middle phase (the second phase) maybe you choose to enhance damage from beam weapons. It’s these kind of decisions you can make, high-level “captain on the bridge” decisions, during combat.

      But you need to hurry and choose wisely otherwise you may miss the chance. This is the real-time part. In the beginning when I had my first encounters I was like “What a hell is happening?” or “what a hell am I doing?”. Then I started to get the hang of it. Since this is an alpha there’s time to complete and polish stuff.

      As many have said, including myself, combat needs more camera shots or a free camera mode so that at least you can enjoy the battles beauty to the fullest. But it’s the alpha, so, it’s too soon to tell.

      About the manual and tutorial, yes, the game offers both. The tutorial is nothing more than series of text pages with steps that walk you through the various game screens. It’s a tedious way to learn but it does help. I didn’t checked the manual yet but I know it’s available through a download from Steam. Contains 29 pages and looks fairly detailed. It’s basically a walkthrough of the various screens, like the tutorial. But, again, this is an alpha, we’re lucky to get a manual at this stage :)

  20. salvo says:

    well, as I wrote above, the interface may be the best I’ve ever seen in a 4x game, though I agree to some extent to the arguments put here criticizing some aspects of it, but looking at it as a whole, and especially considering that’s still alpha, I’m quite impressed with what amplitude has achieved.
    On the other hand, I really don’t know if I will ever like the way combat is implemented, generally I like to have some sort of control but consider myself open to any other approach if it is done right. The problem is that so far I’m having the impression to play the same battle over and over agein. How do you think the implementation could be improved in that part of the game?

    • Adam Solo says:

      Yes, there is polishing to do in the UI. I’ve seen lots of great things being proposed in the ES forums to improve the UI further (mostly functional stuff to enhance the experience), so the UI should come out flawless in the end. That’s my judgement and hope at least.

      That was the major problem for me also. You have the impression to be fighting the same battle over and over again as you say. The battles are beautiful but they always feel a bit the same. Truth is that GalCiv2 battles were also always the same but there is more camera freedom in GalCiv2, so you can vary angles and zoom in/out so that the thing is not to tedious. And you could record battles, speed up, slow down (if I remember correctly). Nothing of this is to be found in ES combat at the moment. There’s a lot of work to do here still but there is a good base already, so I’m positive combat will be much better.

      So, to answer your question on “how do you think the implementation could be improved in that part of the game?” I would say that we need to have more control on the camera shots, we need more camera options, random shots perhaps and probably different speed options. Something that surprises you a little every time you watch, otherwise it’s way to repetitive and boring because you have little control, and everybody will just start using “auto-resolve”. And it would be a pity because battles are absolutely gorgeous, probably the best graphics ever seen in 4X games. Yes even taking Sins into account. Rebellion, it’s probably a different story.

      In summary I think the combat’s big problem at the moment is one of direction. The ES combat film director would probably not win an Oscar :) So, the short answer is: “WE need to be the Director” :) Then I think everything will be fine.

    • zigzag says:

      I think that there are currently two major issues with combat. The first is that the game doesn’t provide enough information to the player, e.g. how the player’s decisions have affected the battle, etc. The camera definitely contributes to this. The second is just a lack of content, unimplemented hero abilities, technologies, etc. I think that the release will resolve both of these issues which will go a long way in making combat more interesting.

  21. aReclusiveMind says:

    After 6 hours and 150 turns or so of Endless Space, I stand in agreement that the combat is the worst part of the game right now. I had high hopes for the cinematic battles, but instead of being dynamic and exciting to watch, they end up being line up and fire like something out of an American Revolutionary war movie. There aren’t any fighters zipping around or evasive tactics being implemented. Instead, it essentially comes down to line up and fire and hope you have stacked the correct defense type for their offense. Yawn. Looking up the tech tree, I just see incremental improvements of the 3 basic weapon types. Is that really all there is?

    The UI and noncombat gameplay is great, which makes the combat weaknesses all the more glaring. The only issues I really have in this area is that border control is nonexistent and that there don’t appear to be defensive installations such as starbases or orbital cannons of any kind. It is very frustrating to have ships protecting your borders and watch enemies fly right past to your inner systems. I believe they are going to fix this issue though.

    I do feel like Legends of Pegasus still has a chance to be my personal 4x of the year, but the bar is certainly set pretty high. I hope they squeeze all they can out of their 3 races (too few in my opinion) to make them unique and intriguing to play. Also, they need to stop talking about terraforming and start talking about what makes their game fun to play. I certainly hope they plan to bring in more than 3 weapon and defense types.

    • Adam Solo says:

      At this stage I think it’s safe to assume that we all (more or less) agree that combat is the worst aspect of Endless Space. Many things have been said about the why. Camera aspects, lack of info, lack of content, basically not enough engagement. This has been confirmed here and almost everywhere else I’m following this game. I’m pretty sure the devs have got the message by now. It’s true that 4X is not really about the combat but as some of you pointed out (including yourself) the game quality difference stands out pretty obviously.

      But I was of the impression that there is some degree of border control. Well, at least there are boarders (not always the case in 4X games). But if you mean border control in the same sense as Civ implements borders then I don’t know yet.

      Legends of Pegasus is an intriguing case. I also think it has a fair chance to be something special but there is little info about it. Usually this is not a good sign. We have the interview with the devs though: http://www.spacesector.com/blog/2012/02/interview-with-novacore-studios-on-legends-of-pegasus/

      I’m surprised by not seeing LoP press previews and previews at this stage, 2 to 3 weeks to release. But maybe they just didn’t come our way yet :)

      • aReclusiveMind says:

        Kalypso in general doesn’t seem to be very active/effective in reaching international markets. Part of this is due to the fact they publish niche games like economic simulations (Recent picked up Port Royale 3 myself) and city builders. The other is that a lot of their interview and marketing time is spent within the European non-English speaking marketplace. I often have to hunt down gamestar.de video to find out more about their games. Other publishes are guilty of this as well, but I do think it is a major factor as to why we aren’t hearing more yet.

        It is true that their forum is somewhat dead, but I hope the game comes out and generates interest based on its gameplay merits. Kalypsochris has answered some questions and revealed quite a bit of info that is unavailable elsewhere. I like the fact that their races seem like they play very differently, even down to how their ships are created (one of the races doesn’t have set hulls as I understand it). I hope they send you a review copy so you can let us know how it is. I’d happily buy it if it bring back the TBS/RTS gameplay that we’ve been missing for awhile.

        I am seeing others present the same issues to Amplitude. Their alpha is a diamond in the rough. I have hope they will polish it up over the next few months.

      • Adam Solo says:

        But Kalypso also has offices in the US. I thought they would be more active in that part of the world also. But I see that their main target is Europe, particularly the Germany and UK markets.

        I’m also very curious about the LoP’s campaign. It’s something that really intrigues me. How did Novacore pull this off? I mean, to offer a full fledged campaign in a 4X game. That will be the first in a space 4X game if I remember correctly. At least a true first because I really hope the campaign is something special, and not some scenarios glued together without a compelling background story.

  22. salarus says:

    Picked up the Alpha release from Steam last night…Wow, this game is pretty! I played 65 turns and have been loving UI and management systems. I have no doubt that when released this could be one of the best, if not the best, 4X game released this year. I’m still shocked that this is an Alpha build, blows me away.

    There are a ton of good ideas on how to fix the fairly stagnant combat system as it stands now. I’m not entirely sure I’m fully on board with the issuing of loose commands during the combat phases, but I’m sure with the time they have it’ll work out to be great.

    This game totally caught me off guard and I couldn’t be happier about it!

  23. aReclusiveMind says:

    I hit a game ending bug. A shame as I was doing well. Essentially, after so many turns, seemingly 150ish, the AI will sometimes start building fleets at an absurd rate. The AI player score went from around 8000 (1000 or so points behind my 9000) to a whopping 55000 in a turn or two. Another turn or two later their score rose to 155,000. The music began stuttering and the end turn sequence took 10 to 20x as long as normal, maybe more.

    Anyway, just a forewarning that this is an Alpha even though it doesn’t always look/play like one. I should have known better, ha.

    • Adam Solo says:

      That kind of stuff was predictable. But is indeed a nasty one. Hope it always happens at turn 150, haha. That way it would be easy to fix. They have about 3 months to clean it up.

    • Ezequiel says:

      Try changing the difficulty and see what happens. The bug might be present on the modifier the AI assigns itself according to difficulty setting.

  24. David says:

    Sure is a good looking game.

  25. Rip the Jacker! says:

    Starlanes — Bad

    Rock-Paper-Scissors Approach to Weapons — Worse

    No Direct Control Over Combat (as in M002) — Pathetic, and Totally Unacceptable

    When are these developers going to get it right? All they have to do is look at M002, and then make a 21st century version. Personally, I think they are too slack to tackle the “complexity” of making a proper combat system. As far as I am concerned, if the combat system doesn’t AT LEAST do what M002 did, then I won’t even bother to download it, much less buy it.

    Oh well, I guess we’ll have to wait until the next release, and then maybe, just maybe, the developers will get it right this time.

    To Adam Solo: I want to thank you for creating a website that showcases M002-like games; it makes it really easy to keep track of what is in the works, rather than tracking it down. Cheers!

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