I used to be an avid computer gamer but if STEAM statistics is a metric I play games less now. When I owned a Commodore 64 and an Amiga, my choice of poison was platform and shoot-em-up games. It changed when I begin to learn English and able to understand what the game was telling. I read a lot of books and wanted games with a complex and coherent narrative.
CIVILIZATION entered into my ludocultural universe and it stuck. I still think it teaches a functional history of technological and cultural progress. In a classroom, questions like “Why do we build roads” or “Why is scientific progress important” are hard to answer. With Civilization all these, and more, are on your screen, interactively, showing the results of alternative answers.
But it had some shortcomings which I thought ENDLESS SPACE 2 and ENDLESS LEGEND fixed initially. They had a grand narrative creating its own problems in addition to the problems you, yourself create by your choices. It had different civilizations whose aspects force a different gameplay style. Civilization offered a generic approach. Leaders provided you with bonuses and maluses but the overall gameplay didn’t change. It didn’t have a grand narrative other than you created.
Sadly the gameplay experience disappointed me from points I wasn’t expecting. Yes, the games had all the good features I wanted. But combat and in connection unit design often get into way to access them.
In Civilization series combat is a simple affair. You create units, move them in close proximity to each other and let them have it in seconds. Technically it is appropriate too, in those games your position is like a Hegelian geist; you are eternal, and live as long as your empire endures. Because you are not real you don’t need to give tactical decisions, except very abstract ones like movement and attack. You also don’t need to decide which soldier uses what equipment.
In Endless Space you create ships with various components and hulls discovered by your scientists. You have to create the ships from the ground up. You act as a ship designer in addition to being a leader. Then, when they battle, it executes in a, subjectively, long cinematic where you could play cards to affect the outcome.
Legends makes it even more complex. Like Space 2, you need to equip your units. They also diversify based on the alliances you make with the city states on the map. When you do battle, game launches a tiny tactical battlefield. In here you make tactical decisions, using skills and try to win it with minimal losses.
In sum my biggest gripe is the length of the combat sequences. I do know there is a quick combat option in both of these games. The problem is when you add that much complexity it doesn’t convey the reason for the outcome. Bad play? Technological Difference? Suboptimal equipment selection?
These games also introduce heroes. As a design choice they sound cool. They can be mayors and commanders, gaining levels in time; enabling them to choose perks specific to their class. But to my detriment some main stories require skills you don’t think, in hindsight, that’ll have an active effect. It isn’t a fun to realize that in the mid or late game. The time you need to “cultivate” a new hero from the get go is an avoidable timesink with clear communication.
But fair is fair, these games look extremely pretty. The UI and overall writing draws you in and provides a dreamlike experience.
I know a lot of people liked the game immensely, considering how well its sale numbers are. But I am not in those people sadly. Even though I actually wanted to like the game, I didn’t. That still pains me for some reason.