I played Endless Space 2 (ES2) during its free weekend last week, and picked it up on Monday before the sale ended. It’s a good 4X strategy title, especially if you liked Endless Legends (basically the fantasy version of Endless Space).
What I like most about the Endless 4X games is that they are a good combo of feeling the same, in a good way, while also introducing some unique elements that really keep the game feeling fresh. They play like a game of Civ, but you don’t play them like a game of Civ, if that makes sense.
In ES2, much like Legends, each of the races/factions is far more unique than in Civ. How they settle new planets is different, how they run their governments, what heroes and tech they have, etc. Each turn is still about moving units, building new colonies, building upgrades and ships at those colonies, and conducting warfare and diplomacy, but what you focus on will depend on who you are playing, as well as who you are facing.
In one game I was playing a peace-loving race, and the closest other major player was also peace-loving. The result was a mostly peaceful game, with us eventually allying. We still competed for star systems, as well as for completing the shared quests that occasionally pop up, but overall the game played to both our strengths. When we finally came into contact with a race that preferred war, together we were simply too strong and they didn’t go after us initially, and when they finally did declare war, we were able to counter-attack them easily.
In a second game I picked a more expansion/war focused race, and used a very heavy military technology focus to be aggressive and go after others. That was working great until three sides all attacked me, and then the game became a desperate struggle to hold my borders and repel fleets as they were coming in. Because of the tech advantage, I had bigger/better ships, and eventually those fleets and heroes gained enough experience from successful combat to return to the offensive and capture/burn more territory.
ES2 is very flexible like that, in that there are truly multiple ways to play and win, and not all of it is under your control. Sometimes even if you want peace, too many people are around you initially, or you want war but the star lanes to travel are terribly long and its just not possible.
Speaking of travel, it’s done very well in ES2. Initially ships can only move along pre-set paths between stars, and some star systems aren’t connected at all. Somewhat soon, you can research a tech that lets you fly in open space, but you must have a target system (you can’t just move one ‘hex’ north like you can in Civ). Also movement outside the paths is very slow, and not really practical most of the time. Finally, you can research and discover worm holes, which are new paths between systems that show up and are instant. This can dramatically change how everyone moves about, because what you thought was a safe dead-end system suddenly might have an instant travel connection to your enemies system. It’s great, and really keeps the ‘game board’ interesting through each phase of travel evolution.
Graphically the game is good. Some of the effects are a little cheap, like ground battles, but others, like the ship battles you can watch, look really good (almost EVE-like really). Sound is good as well, with some decent voice acting. I’ve yet to have the game crash or see a bug, and it loads up and runs very well.
If you are in the market for a 4x title, I’d recommend Endless Space 2.