Hello there! Are you excited by space? Are you super into spaceships and vast galatic empires? Are you mildly aroused by the concept of controlling a vast fleet of warships that travel the universe subjugating civilizations?
Yeah me too.
So 4X games, set in space, are my bread and butter. Except they aren’t! Because many are super shit. In fact, of the ones I’ve played I don’t have a ton of favorites. AI War is amazing and everyone should get it, but I had the misfortune of cutting my teeth on the legendarily not very good Master of Orion 3, which cooled me on things. Alpha Centauri was fun but you know a distinct lack of warships. Galactic Civilizations felt like playing a German boardgame with a pride of mildly demented grandfathers. Sword of the Stars 2 was a goddamn atrocity. I got my money back, a first. It wasn’t even completed! Just sort of shipped hoping no one would open the box. I guess Star Ruler is actually getting super neat I should take a look at that… Star Chamber, a weird trading-card/strategy hybrid was probably the most fun I’ve had with the genre in a long bit.
So the point is a new thing popped up on Steam today, Endless Space.
Now, with all the starts being kicked recently I am getting slightly mildly suspicious when someone promises me a cool game in exchange for investment/preorder whatever. And seriously, I preordered SotS2 and it was so bad. But Endless Space intrigues me. It’s reasonably cheap, $27 for the most expensive version. It also has a neat sort of alpha/beta participation system, where when you buy the game you get Games2Gether Points. Which sound really silly! But it’s not a bad idea, it’s a distinct developer-mediated methodology for getting fan input. Sometimes you want a wild font of ideas on a forum, it can be great. But sometimes a half-dozen people saying you should “allow people to enter the game like the matrix so that we can play like if it was the matrix” and you just want to take a reading on something more concrete. The examples up at the moment are competing logos for a faction design, and competing designs for a certain type of pirate ship. And I mean, why not? You’re guaranteed to nail down a few little features that don’t actually matter, and it creates an atmosphere of participation for fans who let’s face it are not always the most brilliant design mavens.
And that’s not all! It actually looks kind of really neat. I wish they had a real demo out, because it looks like it hits an amazing note of simplicity married to complexity that these sorts of games really need. It has a beautiful, clean interface (from the screens and videos I’ve seen) that just looks like a joy to observe while pretending it is a display on the deck of your command carrier. It’s unfortunately vague on a lot of gameplay specifics, because you know it’s a 4X so you… 4X things. It’s really hard to pin these sorts of games down without actually spend an hour or twenty with them, so that does make me pause. But fucking look at this:
And it’s all like that, just this slick as hell UI letting you do what you actually want to do: colonize, build, diplomacize, and murder. Also interesting is that the battle system seems a bit unique. Basically you make important decisions, but leave the actual to-do to mostly automated processes. On the one hand, I like telling everything what to do. On the other hand, part of the allure of being a Space Ruler is that you get to order people to do shit and make them figure it out. If the system allows for actually interesting tactical decision-making in the battles, it’ll definitely be fun. Particularly if new techs open up the field a bit more.
And I mean what a goddamn tech tree, right? Again: Clean, beautiful, functional. I love it when games like this realize that accessible UI is what you need to feel like an in-control ruler. If I’m governing by Excel I am not going to feel cool.
Anyway! There’s a very neat look at the Alpha build with some nice things to say at Space Sector, and in the meantime here’s a movie! I really think I might drop money on this. I mean, SPACE.