Endless Legend released in September of 2014 to relative critical success. After all, It received our inaugural Game of the Year award and went on to receive Rock, Paper, Shotgun’s overall Game of the Year award, too. However, the title wasn’t without criticisms entirely. Not the least of which were that the AI was poor, and that the end game was too uneventful and felt uninspired, especially after Amplitude had done so much in the way of innovation in the rest of the game.
A recent free add-on, Eyes of the Stars, sought to address these concerns with a new ending to the faction quest lines, as well as adding other content. It did a commendable job, made even more sweet by its non-existent price tag. Amplitude also added a new minor faction, the Dorgeshi, a Roving Clans offshoot. The newly introduced ending consisted of the various factions finding a long-crashed (likely) Hissho spaceship and using it to escape the dying planet of Auriga. It’s easily one of the best quest lines for Endless Legend and tidies up the main quest ending really well.
Still missing, however, are the same satisfying conclusions with the other victory types. While any 4X’s late game is generally reduced to a slog, especially for the military victory, Endless Legend’s feels particularly hollow as your victory is met with a single “You’ve Won!” screen. Gone is nearly all of the writing and lore that makes Endless Legend so special. This is all the more glaring now, when presented with such a satisfying ending to the faction quest lines.
A little over a month after Eyes on the Stars was released, Amplitude’s next attempt at shoring up some of Endless Legend’s weaknesses comes in the form of their first-ever DLC, Guardians, for the price of $10. What exactly does Endless Legend: Guardians add to the base game?
Skoros Came, Atmos Saw, We Conquered!
As the name suggests, Guardians main feature is a squad of mid – to – late game units, called, unsurprisingly, guardians! These giant baddasses, five of them in total, start appearing in the third era and provide extra firepower to factions willing to research them and then invest a moderate to large amount of resources to build them. They alter the battlefield in not-so-subtle ways, such as exploring large chunks of the map to mind controlling enemy units, but aren’t overpowered in game-breaking ways. However, the DLC has more to it than just mid-game super units, so we’ll come back to the guardians in a bit.
Guardians also introduces a system of “Legendary Deeds”, which bring about various rewards to the first faction that meets the requirements. The first faction to obtain 30 of any particular luxury resource is rewarded with 150 units of wine, a crucial bonus to your empire’s approval rating over time. The first faction to accumulate 2000 influence is rewarded with a 50% bonus to its trade routes.. They’re great additions to gameplay, but they also provide another measuring stick of sorts as they are a quick reference of your current standing in the “race” towards each goal.
Then there are the unique structures and legendary buildings that can turn one of your cities into a research, production, dust and/or influence generating powerhouse. These additions begin with the onset of your game and each advancement in technology eras adds more variety. They add a welcome tension to the game and, with each game I’ve played, I find myself aiming for different deeds. It’s a cool new feature that sounds relatively subtle, but is something I can’t imagine not having now. Even in my most recent playthrough I had a minor rush as I worked to build a second legendary wonder in my (only) Cultist city and, when it was finished I was more than a little proud of myself.
In addition, a cooperative and competitive master quest system has been added, similar to what can be done in Civilization V: Brave New World release. These quests have you competing, or working with, the other major factions as you try to fight a quasi-zombie minor faction threat or a dust-induced collapse of various industries (just two examples). There are also random global events that can occur that further influence global interactions and aim to alter particular strategies you might be implementing. The random events work well to change up the pace of the game at times, but with only 10 of them, they feel a bit sparse. We’re not complaining too much, considering that there are other additions in this DLC, but we’d like to see more added over time.
Back to the main feature, the Guardian units are an excellent addition to the game. Their art style matches the game and universe beautifully and Amplitude managed to fit their place in the game’s lore well (if you’re interested, they’re basically the manifestation of Auriga’s defense mechanism that seem to go awry). Guardians can be opened up through special quest completion and research. They have class-wide characteristics, like being a single unit army and their immunity to winter penalties, combat debuffs, and disease. They also have a unique set of weapons, armors, and equipment to be utilized.
Skoros, the dust guardian, is the first and only to be unlocked in the 3rd era. It’s abilities include the healing of entire armies and mind control of enemy units. Unfortunately, it’s kind of squishy, so be sure to send reinforcing armies with it.
Next you have Gios, the earth guardian, and Fotios, the fire guardian, that are accessible in the 4th era. Gios is a fast moving tank with an area-of-effect attack, and Fotios is a scout with a ranged immolating attack. Gios can double the fortification bonus of a nearby city and Fotios can reveal a 10 hex grid around him on the strategic map.
Finally, there is Neros, the water guardian, and Atmos, the air guardian, both in the 5th era. Neros is a very interesting guardian. It’s the only unit that can actually destroy structures in the overworld map. It can destroy watchtowers and extractors. It can also move faster over river tiles. It’s attack in combat damages all units in a cone shaped area in front of it. Atmos is a beast. It gets a movement bonus in the winter. It can fly and teleport within visible range. In combat, it gains damage bonuses for every unit it kills.
Overall, the guardians add a lot of flavor and replayability to the early and mid-game. However, I’m a bit concerned about how useful they really are in the latter parts of the game, considering their large resource consumption in not only science, but also industry and strategic resources. Guardian construction can slow down your empire growth and expansion, but I feel that’s only a concern for a competitive player in a multiplayer environment or one looking for a quick single player playthrough.
A Tale of Two Issues
In its current state, Endless Legend has only two real issues remaining, and those are the AI and the end game. I am not saying that the game is problem free. I’m told it still suffers from sporadic slowdowns and intermittent crashes, which I haven’t really experienced myself. I am also aware of people wanting more features and options added like a slider to control the length and severity of the winter season. With constant tweaking and optimization, these are improving.
My personal issue has been, and still is, the AI. Since early beta, the AI has received a lot of attention and has definitely improved, yet it often struggles to field properly equipped armies. The combat resolution AI still does some strange things, and I’ve had plenty of conversations with people that hate it and want a Age of Wonders III style of combat instead. The AI continues to have issues with expansion and with the effective defense of its regions. Trade with the AI is all but impossible and diplomacy could use further fine tuning. I think that Amplitude needs to seriously focus on the AI for the foreseeable future. It remains the one complaint that just won’t go away.
The end game? That’s another problem that hasn’t really been addressed by Guardians. The new conclusion to the master quest is fantastic and, in light of that, it shows the weakness present in the end game of all of the other victory conditions. In short, they are uninspired and boring. We don’t need new victory conditions. What we need is more attention and polish to the existing ones. After all of the time spent playing the game, and to only get a single splash screen? It is no wonder that people argue about end game and its overall insignificance. I have seen more than one veteran player abandon the end game completely over this issue. Once they know they are going to win, they start a new game. The only viable winning condition now is conquest because all the others are boring and tedious. Where is the ever present threat? Winter should have been conquered by now, so maybe a new force arises and threatens the whole world. You know, the ones the guardians are there to combat.
Finally, there’s the multiplayer experience. Stability has improved significantly since release. The forums used to be flooded with complaints about de-synchronizations and crashes, and now those seem to be under control. The game is being optimized for smoother and faster gaming. Balancing is an ongoing quest to find that perfect spot where everything just clicks. Eye on the Stars and Guardians certainly show the talent that is present within Amplitude Studios, and we at eXplorminate4x.com and the greater community at-large wait impatiently to see what comes next.
A new faction? Some new espionage mechanics? Naval battles perhaps, or a greater global threat? There is plenty left to explore on Auriga, and we hope that the future brings to us more and more. We wait, wallets in hand. Cash littered below our monitors, or is that credit cards? Either way, give us more more more!
Guardians adds enough to the gameplay, while not breaking fundamental elements of the game, that it’s still our only: