What is it?
Influenced by: Endless Space
Play it on: 2.5 GHZ Intel Core 2, 4GB RAM, 1GB graphics card, 3GB HDD.
Reviewed on: Intel Core i7 2.8GHZ, 8GB RAM, Ati Radeon HD 5800
Alternatively: Fallen Enchantress
Price: £27 / $35
Release: Out now
Developer: Amplitude Studios
Website: Official site
Multiplayer: Up to 8
At first sight, Endless Legend is a traditional 4X game, albeit set in a fantasy spin-off of the science fiction universe shared by Endless Space and Dungeon of the Endless. It's easy, in this industry, to fail to innovate—after all Activision-Blizzard has made billions out of 'more of the same'. Yet, despite its franchise heritage, at every stage Endless Legend shines. Where it takes from the past, it puts its own spin on it. Where it innovates, it does so cautiously and mostly successfully.
Firstly, it comes with carefully, heavily asymmetric factions. The Ardent Mages, for example, are masochists who generate magic, both in battle and on the main map, through self-harm, whilst The Wild Walkers are an Elf-like faction, who've abandoned their forests for a career in construction. The Vaulters, by contrast, are the Viking-like survivors of a crashed spaceship who specialise in science, whilst the Broken Lords are noble armoured warriors who have to eat dust or drain life to survive.
Let's start with settling. Like a traditional 4X game (ie, a Civ knock-off), you build cities on resource-heavy hexes, and turn food into population growth into settlers to make more cities. Except if you're the Cultists that is, who create one giant city. Or the Roving Clans, who can move their cities. Or The Broken Lords, who don't need food.
So after settling, of course, you explore the map, to meet the other factions. Except if you're uplifted dragons like the Drakken, who already know where everyone is on the map and have diplomatic relations with them from the start, and can force them into peace.
Even the diplomacy is innovative. Want to attack another faction? Well, if you don't have the influence points necessary, then you simply can't do it. But you can make it cheaper by threatening—and hence warning—the other faction. However, those same points influence points are used to pay for Empire plans - critical long-term buffs. So the more international politicking you indulge in, the less you can focus on domestic policies. Unless you're the insectoid-zombie Necrophages, that is, who don't talk but just eat, so are permanently at war with the other factions. Or the mercantile Roving Clans, who can't declare war, so have to provoke enemies into attacking them.