I actually bought into Endless Space 2 before the Stellaris 1.5 update. I have been enjoying Stellaris so much since that I found it hard to pull myself away to write this review, but think it is important to give potential buyers some insight between the two games.
I continue to write a narrative based on a recent playthrough as I consider that one of the best ways to let you feel what the game is like.
Endless Space 2 has been released.
This review was originally written during early access. While content has been added and the game improved, my narrative still gives an accurate representation as to how the game feels, so the only part I re-wrote was the final thoughts section.
Endless Space 2 Review
I start my adventure as the Vodyani.
They are a different than other races, since they do not colonize planets, instead living in ships called Arks.
In order to grow my population, I need to send ships to collect a resource unique to my people, essence.
I am a leech.
The differences in gameplay between each race is definitely a highlight to the game. One does not simply have different attributes in Endless Space 2, they alter the game mechanics.
In the full game, you will be able to create a race with whatever attributes you desire.
Endless Legends starts similar to a traditional 4X game.
I select an initial research path and build something to help my science and dust(currency) production.
After a few turns exploring, I inevitably get a popup for my first quest.
A quest in a 4X game?
Yeah, Amplitude Studios loves to do things a little differently.
In a few turns, my explorer finds a minor faction.
Finally! Someone I can leech!
I set Leecher to start collecting essence.
Yes, that is actually the name of my ship.
Meanwhile, I continue to select new build and research options.
The first few turns move fairly fast.
I forgot to mention that you also have hero’s in the game. Every race starts with one.
They can be assigned to lead armies, but I typically assign him to govern my home colony.
My hero, Varb St Zouiena, has just leveled up.
There are a number of different skills to choose from.
I select one to improve production.
I end the turn to find one of my scout ships in battle with a pirate.
The pre-battle screen gives me some basic options.
I am a bit outmatched, but chose not to retreat as I want to watch a battle.
There are a few viewing options in battle.
Once it starts, you do not have any control over units.
I find it suspenseful and entertaining, but will wait to watch another battle once I have more units involved.
My ship gets blown into pieces.
I set about to build up my fleet, but something more pressing needs my attention.
It is time for the next election.
You can only pass laws of your leading political party. I prefer the religious laws at this time, so I choose to support them.
Any time you want to know what is going on, you can choose your senate overview.
At this screen, I can pass or abolish laws, and get a general sense for how the next election will turn out.
The party makeup is determined by support from each colony.
There are a number of ways to impact the outcome of the next election.
First, in the election itself, I can choose my level of support, or intimidation to whatever party I desire elected.
This costs influence, a global resource generated across my empire.
Alternatively, the actions I take in my empire have a direct impact on supporters.
For example, I’ll take a closer look at my system screen for my home colony. As shown in the above photo, my system has 2 representatives for military and religion.
This is due to the events that occurred locally.
One unique trait of the Vodyani is that military events also impact religion, which is why they show up on the religion tab.
If I wanted to increase my Ecologists support, I can do that.
Some of the events are uncontrollable, like being attacked.
The politics and government influence feel very fluid. It is one of the best features in Endless Space 2.
I build another Ark, but the system I was eyeing is taken. Unfortunately I was a little slow to expand. My Ark arrives and I battle for control over the colony and win.
My Ark ship is very powerful.
Meanwhile, due to building other improvements, my religious support is waning. and I get a special event.
I am also getting annoyed at pirates that keep attacking my leecher ships.
Unlike Endless Legends or Civ VI, I am unable to determine where they are coming from.
With other civilizations, I do not think it is such a problem, but my leecher ship is defenseless. I do not have the economy to support keeping a fleet to defend each leecher.
Eventually, I track down a pirate fleet that has a station ship attached. I killed that off and it seemed to alleviate my pirate problem, so hopefully, the station ship was generating all the pirate fleets.
That is where I’ll end the narrative for now. The above was just a small taste for what the game has to offer, but demonstrates most key concepts in the game.
Comparing with Stellaris, the mid game in Endless Space 2 is interesting and fast paced.
The universe does not feel as large and as a result, it seems there is more conflict and positioning that takes place.
I was bored in the middle of the original Stellaris game(before updates), but Endless Space 2 has kept me intrigued from beginning to end.
Endless Space 2 Review Final Thoughts
My favorite part of every Endless game is the huge differences between each race. There is no other civilization game on the market that is so different in style between each race.
In a lot of ways, it is almost like you are playing a different game with each different race. This is the best part of the game.
I also love how you can scale the game length, making things like research cheaper or more expensive.
Each race has an opening cinematic that is like a great motivational speech.
The game is great, and it is worth a buy.
I have grown to love the real time of Stellaris.
Stellaris plays smoother and it feels like you are waiting less for things to happen. Also Stellaris feels more like an Opera. Endless Space tells a unique story of your civilization, but I have not felt the same emotional connection to my peoples as in Stellaris.
If turn based games are your thing, then you will probably enjoy Endless Space 2 more than Stellaris.
However, if you just want a great space game, Stellaris is much more refined at this point, and I would recommend it instead.
Still, I would highly recommend following this one as it progresses.
Amplitude has a nice track record of improving their games with very solid DLCs, so like with Stellaris, my opinion may change over time.
Endless Space 2 is just not built for cooperative play. While you can have an allied victory, there is nothing to setup pre-game that aids in working together.
I have seen other games like Civilization 6 where pre-made teams can get bonuses on research completed by other civilizations. At least in Stellaris, buddies can start out close to each other and can later form factions where you can have a fleet of ships together.
While allies can share benifits in-game, it seems like more of an afterthought than anything else. Working together is one of my favorite things to do in a game, and there just aren’t very many ways to do this yet in Endless Space 2.