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Endless Legend review: This Civilization competitor makes a stale genre feel new

Hayden Dingman | Dec. 15, 2014
For years, every 4X game I've come across has met with the same exact response: "Yeah, yeah, it's good but it's no Civilization." Warlock, Age of Wonders, Endless Space--all good, but not good enough to keep me around. After all, if I were going to put hours into an endlessly replayable 4X game, why not just play the best?

And unlike Civilization, technology costs are based on however many you've already researched. Whether you choose to research Advanced Alloys or Empire Mint as your fifth technology, they'll cost the same.

4) Expansion

Finally, there's empire expansion. Civilization V overhauled this by making it more costly to establish new cities, overhauling Civilization IV's city-heavy strategies. Endless Legend divides the world into multiple regions, and each region is allowed to contain a single city. Want more cities? You'll have to go pretty damn far out of your way.

And since you own the whole region already, there isn't the automatic border-spreading that occurs in Civilization. Instead, to exploit more tiles you'll need to build boroughs — little three-tile expansions that add more hexes onto your city. It's an interesting feature that has a lot more depth than the usual Civilization system, but is also extremely easy to screw up if you're not thinking ahead.

There's also a summer/winter cycle that can wreak havoc on your best-laid plans. During winter your production and food intake take a huge hit, which can screw you if you've timed your turns out "perfectly." The game gives you a broad estimate of when winter will next occur, on the order of "7-19 turns." You can research technologies to narrow that range down a bit if you don't want to suddenly find yourself waging a land war in fantasy-Russian winter.

Bottom line

I haven't even gotten around to discussing Endless Legend's art style, which combines pastel colors with a tilt-shift effect to make the whole thing look like an exceedingly complicated board game. It's gorgeous.

Endless Legend isn't perfect, but it's the strongest Civilization competitor in years. The tweaks to the 4X genre are relatively small, but they're important — both because they reveal a significant number of areas Civilization could improve and because they add a ton of depth to Endless Legend itself. This is one I'll keep returning to this winter, and for the foreseeable future.

 

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