Accents have this amazing ability to really bring out meaning. when Arnie says brutal, you know shit is really going down and when a francophone talks about beautiful, you know he means drop-dead gorgeous. Romain de Waubert de Genis, Creative Director and COO of Amplitude Studios: „We wanted to make a 4x that is beautiful“. And the „Endless“ series has definitely been that. No different the next entrant in the glorious line that is Endless Space, Dungeon of the Endless and Endless Legend: Endless Space 2.
As the name implies, it is a direct descendant of Endless Space, meaning: Some, if not most of it, will be familiar to players of the first installment. It is a turn-based space 4x, focusing on usability with no lack of depth. Players get to choose among a variety of different spacefaring races, each with unique characteristics that can be recombined module-wise according to one’s insane mind. The demo showcased two very well know races, the Sophons and the Cravers. We weren’t able to get any stats or details on how they will affect mechanics, but most probably the Sophons will be Science-focused and the Cravers warlike.
The tech tree in ES was always one of it’s beauties. Able to expand in four directions (science, exploration, trade and military) in near-to-seamless tiers, it’s not only beautiful but also useful. One can expect a return of race.specific traits unlock-able on the tech tree.
And: there’s all-new and shiny probes. Yes, probes! Small, cheap, probably unmanned or un-aliened. Able to traverse space in any direction, albeit slowly. Useful for getting to know the neighbors before they decide you’re lunch.
Otherwise, the UI promises a wholly new feature for stats-nerds out there. Holding Space, anywhere in the game, will give you additional info, stats and cool graphics to gawk at. Endlessly pressing space is even conceivably possible. (As teased by the trailer )
In the system view, a few visual features got streamlined (population icons are now slabs), but the basics stay the same: Systems produce FIDS (Food, Industry, Dust and Science). Additionally, Influence will be required for some actions, reminiscent of EL.
As far as we could see, it will be possible to produce improvements on a specific planet - this might just be a variation of the well-known „exploitation“ option, but could perhaps also mean deeper strategic choices (if, for instance, an industry-enhancing building can only be produced once per system on a single planet, the choice might be a though one).
The races have gotten a complete visual revamp, as can be seen below.
Quoting Romain again, ES 2 basically takes many of the lessons learned from Endless Legend and ports them back to ES. For instance, we now have a real influence of population species on planetary production. Demo-wise, we were shown the Harushem, a peaceful farming people who like to produce food. The Harushems not only produce more food, the vote differently too. (Peaceful, you guessed it.)
Speaking of voting: a whole mode of interaction with your population comes with the Senate. All actions and interactions now have an influence on your population’s political leanings, a war-like neighbor (like, say, the Cravers) making them more militaristic (as well as building ships. Guessing military tier buildings will count as well). And, depending on the result of your vote every 40 turns, you unlock Laws (Influence-based buffs, optional influence upkeep costs). For instance, the militarist faction, even as Sophons, has access to the very handy +100% damage buff. Yay, militaristic Sophons! Expensive influence-wise, but wholly worth it to get more bang for your space-buck.
A feature that will not be making its return to ES is the card battle system. (For the three of you not having played ES: Go play it. Now.) Instead, the players will be able to select different maneuvers for their fleet, depending on it’s composition. (Larger vs. smaller vessels, guessing speed factors in it as well).
One feature that will still see a lot of polish is probably the combat animations. We were only graced with the intro, and left hungry for more. ES always excelled at portraying epic fights as they should be portrayed: in glorious 3d with bomber runs added in for laughs. Actually, ES might be the only 4x franchise to benefit from VR becoming the next screen to have.
All in all, the demo certainly left us wanting more. 2016, here we come!
Full disclosure: No "gifts" were given to us during the Gamescom preview event, besides a USB stick containing the pictures you see up there.
I might sound over-enthusiastic, but that is because I really like the Endless series, most of all Endless Space. I love the way how a 4x can become something beautiful, something excellent. Far too often, genre pieces get stuck in retro graphics and clunky UI. Not so ES: Smooth sailing all the way through, with a MP base that's still active.