Commendation for Design 2014: Endless Legend

Endless legend

Check out our game of the year awards 2014 page to find out how the awards were decided.

Chris Thursten: Endless Space was a good 4X strategy game, but Endless Legend is a fantastic one. This was a late entry and almost passed us by, but I’m glad it didn’t: this far and away exceeded Civilization: Beyond Earth for me.

There are two key components to Legend’s success. The first is simple: it looks, sounds and feels great. Visuals might not seem like a priority for a hex-based game, but when you’re spending entire days staring at the same map a strong sense of time and place is vital. Endless Legend’s overview looks a little like the intro to Game of Thrones. Each faction looks and feels distinct, and the part-fantasy, partsci- fi schtick tickles a part of my brain that I very much like to have tickled.

The second component is the factions themselves. Who you play in Endless Legend has a tremendous bearing on how you play and how you approach victory: which resources you prioritise, how you approach other factions, how you build your cities. Indeed, whether or not you can move your cities, or convert those of others. Then there are the quests, recruitable subfactions, and heroes; the feature that lets you design your own units, the freedom to find peaceful solutions, the way you declare civilisation-defining directives at intervals throughout the game.

Civilization V approached this degree of modernity but I don’t think it solved anywhere near the number of problems that Endless Legend does – this is, for me, the best in the genre since Civ IV. You can play as a faction of underground-dwelling magical space Vikings, for heaven’s sake. Why are you still reading this?

Phil Savage: If you are still reading this, first: congratulations for not being distracted by magical space Vikings. Second: no really, you should play Endless Legend.

The 4X genre doesn’t change quickly. With each new game a developer might make small changes to the core formula. One might tighten up the path to victory, another broaden the scope of the first 100 turns. What makes Endless Legend notable is that it doesn’t hold tradition as sacred. It makes big, sweeping changes to established and enduring systems. What makes Endless Legend remarkable is that, for the most part, these changes all work.

Chris already mentioned the strange and divergent factions. In Civilization, I’m choosing different flavours of the same species. In Endless Legend, I’m choosing between immortal, doll-like cultists and diplomatic dragons. Every faction has a questline, and this ensures each has more variety than just a handful of specialist buildings or units. As the cultists, the very first thing I’m asked to do is convert minor races. It pushes me towards the thing that makes them unique.

Endless Legend constantly redefines what a turn-based strategy can be. Battles are fought in cordoned-off arenas that spring organically from the regular map, boasting a level of tactical consideration often absent from the genre. Cities are expanded manually by building new boroughs, giving you control over the shape and size of your empire. These bold design decisions, both big and small, combine to create the most refreshing 4X game I’ve played in years.

For our full verdict read our Endless Legend review.

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