4X

Endless Legend: Tempest Review

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This site has said some pretty nice things about Amplitude’s Endless Legend series over the years, all of which are still well deserved. Endless Legend: Tempest is the fourth expansion to this well-received game. If you were afraid the developer might fumble the most recent addition, worry no longer. In my review for Shifters (Endless Legend’s previous expansion), I wrote, “…it’s hard to say how [EL] could get any better.” Well, Amplitude Studios has proven that sometimes even perfection can be improved upon.

As was the case in previous expansions, Tempest adds a new race: the Morgawr. It also implements a fully fleshed-out system for fighting over and controlling the ocean. Aquatic exploitation and combat weren’t features that I ever felt were missing, but the additions don’t feel like a rushed money grab. Anyone entering the series for the first time would be unable to distinguish the new features from any included in the base game. Now that I’ve gotten used to the salty smell of Auriga’s sea air, I can’t imagine myself playing the game any other way.

Morgawr!

Before we head out to sea, let’s examine the new kid/monsters/fish-men on the block. Who or what are the Morgawr? They are failed aquatic experiments, imprisoned underwater by the Endless during the last days of their civil war. Pretty awesome right? The Morgawr journey begins with them awakening, breaking free from their prisons, and establishing a settlement of their own. Their collective mind drives them to assimilate other beings and force them to join the Morgawr’s unified consciousness. Their history and motives are a mystery, even to themselves.

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Any true Morgawr city will be located next to some reasonably-sized body of water

Basically, if you haven’t caught onto it yet, Amplitude’s story team are masters of crafting unique races with a meaningful narrative. While previously, Auriga’s denizens could be classified as cohesive kingdoms with established power structures, the Morgawr are closer to forces of nature or beasts. You are treated to a quest upon beginning the game that depicts their thoughts as they break free from imprisonment, which makes it clear that their mental capabilities are simple and almost feral. In a game full of races that stretch from the betrayed Forgotten to the magical Ardent Mages, the Morgawr fill a void I did not know existed prior to their release.

As a race that has emerged from the depths of the ocean, they are, unsurprisingly, a very naval-focused bunch. They crawl at only 3 movement per turn by default along land – that is unless they are moving along a river – in which case they can outrun anyone else. Likewise, they can embark/disembark without spending movement points and receive some economic bonuses from sea and lake tiles.

But the Morgawr aren’t just the default naval race – they also have some very interesting diplomatic options. Their Catspaw ability allows them to assimilate minor faction units for the cost of some influence. No more pesky minor faction armies besieging your city; just make them your own! Along the same vein, they can turn pacified villages hostile to their owner (excluding those damned Cultists), which carries with it some interesting harassment possibilities. I haven’t been able to use this to bring a fellow kingdom to its knees, but the fact that the option is there is exciting enough.

Perhaps their most interesting ability is “The Black Spot” (think Pirates of the Caribbean). If you place the dreaded Black Spot on another empire, they can be attacked by anyone regardless of their diplomatic status. Empires are encouraged to kill the marked race’s units as doing so will reward the victor with dust. For a race whose power is inherently seaborn, this can help even the odds – placing a Black Spot could lay even the strongest empire low as it finds itself besieged on all sides. As you can tell, narratively the Morgawr are an evil home run and, from a gameplay perspective, Amplitude continues to deliver new and exciting ideas.

The Creatures of the Morgawr

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I see 4,000,000 lights… Ahhhhhhhh!

The Morgawr units are interesting in that only one of the three unit types can ever set foot on land. The sole ground unit, the Mastermind, primarily provides ranged support. It’s best used for casting bloodlust on allied minor faction units, granting them bonus initiative, attack, and movement in exchange for some health. Masterminds probably won’t go toe-to-toe with any other races’ default units, but they do provide some bite to any minor faction unit you might have. Because the Masterminds are your only land option, it makes each game you play as the Morgawr slightly different since you are always dependent on what nearby assimilated minor factions are available to be the backbone of your ground troops. To be honest, though, if you’re focusing on the land game, you’re doing it wrong.

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If his looks don’t scare you that bone sword should

The Morgawr get two sea-only units. The first is the Vore – a fearsome beast that looks like a terrible combination of a stingray and a scorpion. After being attacked the first time in combat, it enjoys a +50% – yes, you read that right – boost to its defense for the remainder of the battle. In case having just one terrifying sea monster isn’t enough you also can train the Leviathan unit. It is submersible and hides in deep water to strike at unsuspecting foes. Like other submersible units, Leviathans can remain hidden and benefit from 5x defense in deep water tiles. Both units can also upgrade themselves anywhere, not just in friendly ocean tiles. Overall, the Morgawr lineup is diverse and visually striking. They can still build the traditional sea units if you see the need, but the Vore and the Leviathan provide a serious 1-2 punch for players looking to dominate the seas.

A Terrible and Wonderful Ocean

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No longer are ocean tiles all the same. Hoorray!

Everything you thought knew about oceans from the previous version of Endless Legend throw it out the window and forget about it. EL fans have long requested sea combat. Not only did Amplitude listen, they actually added a fairly developed system. It does not matter which race you choose to play as, you can unlock the same ships and have the same options for engaging or ignoring the new ocean gameplay. Players can choose among four options for ships: Boarding Vessels, Frigates, Juggernauts and Bathyspheres. Boarding Vessels do extra damage as a percentage of their remaining health, Frigates have ranged combat and are the core of your ship-killing forces, Juggernauts can bombard land from sea, and Bathyspheres can lurk in silence and surface behind you for a sneak attack.

Ships, like all units, can be equipped with different loadouts utilizing strategic resources, but I would honestly like to see a little more. A traditional unit will have two or three tiers of weapons of five or so types to choose from, letting you min-max around strategies such as cheap cannon fodder or hard-hitting elite armies. However,there just aren’t enough choices with ships to give me the ability to customize my navy as I please. Since each vessel is crewed by the Fomorian minor race, rather than your own race’s people, they all feel very generic. But more on that later.

Another thing that further limits my strategic options is unbalanced units. I feel the Frigate rises head and shoulders above the rest of the ships. Its ability to do area of effect damage over time is far better than anything the other vessels have to offer, making fleet composition an exercise in banality. This doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been obvious thought put into the system; it just seems more like an addition that came to light in an expansion as opposed to the early stages of the game. We are treated to great models that are as nice to look at as every other unit in the game and the production values do help carry the system. Overall, still, it largely succeeds – the system just could have been slightly better.

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An enemy fleet hopes that the fog will give them a decisive advantage in this engagement

While sea combat feels underwhelming at times, I personally find sea exploration to be exhilarating. Sure, you can’t exactly be a sea pirate, but you can attack, capture, and control sea fortresses. “What are these fortresses?” you ask. They are ancient constructs that have risen from the depths of the sea alongside the Morgawr. Each has a central point (a citadel) with a specific function and can be attacked and then garrisoned with ships afterwards to retain your newly-conquered territory. Each fortress can have between two to four “facilities” which are essentially wings directly adjacent to the citadel. Each facility provides a wide array of goods including strategic resources, luxury resources, and even food, industry, or other stockpile generators! Each section will also provide a small boost to your overall empire output. Fortresses can’t construct buildings or expand like cities can, but they do spawn roaming Fomorian navies that will attack all seafaring traffic and try to take back conquered oceanic regions.

Interestingly enough, as your science progresses, previously unavailable facilities slowly activate. These newly unlocked facilities provide resources directly on par with the more advanced resources found in the later game. It is nice to have more valuable goods available as the game progresses, and a little surprise is never a bad thing in this regard.

The oceans are also home to “sunken ruins.” These are simply goodie huts much like the the temple ruins that have been in the game since the beginning. They provide small treasure hoards and quests to visiting heroes. Unlike their land equivalent, when you explore sunken ruins, you have to take a deep dive which results in all of your movement being used up for that turn. You won’t be able to explore multiple sunken ruins with a fast moving unit on the same turn.

One of the largest changes to the game is the addition of constantly changing ocean terrain. You can encounter rain, fog, turbulent oceans, kelp beds and lightning storms, each with its own strategic considerations. Rain increases fleet upkeep and decreases morale, so should be avoided at all costs. Lightning storms will actually damage your units if you end the turn on a tile. Fog is perhaps the most interesting of the weather effects as you can literally hide in it, remaining unseen by other fleets even though you can see them! In combat, these features can be used to gain a slight advantage in combat – almost like having a forest in the ocean.

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While lightning may ruin your fleets day it sure does look magnificent

When I first heard about the Tempest expansion, I was worried that the oceans would suffer from the same problem that afflicts many space 4X games right now – big open spaces with little to do and nothing interesting going on. Thankfully, this doesn’t seem to be the case, and these new features do a good job of walking a fine line between adding too much or too little.

The winter dynamic also plays a part in the aquatic new system, limiting players’ ability to build ships and even just access the ocean. Remember that possible debuff from winter where the ice shelf may or may not expand significantly? Well, that isn’t just useful for bridging small gaps between land masses. The cool thing is that these ice bridges can now cut off your enemies’ (as well as your own) naval production!

I’ve also run into – but sadly been unable to kill – the giant ocean menace known as the Hungering Maw, who is basically a sea-based guardian. Along with this terrifying monster comes a new minor faction: the Fomorians- the keepers of the sea fortresses. You don’t seem to be able to assimilate them as you could other minors, but you still must bribe them, drive them out by force, or satisfy their quest before you can gain control of their precious fortresses. I don’t mind this lack of interaction when compared with other minor factions. Amplitude went for narrative and immersion over making the Fomorians like every other minor faction in the game. This works much better than if they had tried to pigeonhole the new faction into some preconceived mold.

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The Hungering Maw will easily sweep aside even the strongest of fleets

Finally, the expansion includes 50 new quests and a handful of new music tracks. While I assume most of these quests are based around the sea fortresses, sea exploration, etc., I do have my fingers crossed that some of them might provide my heroes with shiny new weapons previously lost at the bottom of the sea.

End of an Era?

Tempest is most likely the final expansion for Endless Legend and it is a magnificent addition, or at least it would seem that way. The game has so many layers at this point that you really can’t engage all of them in a single playthrough. It is the first time in a long time that I have felt truly torn while making decisions in a 4X game. Will you expand for resources, try to accomplish a legendary deed before your opponents, hunt pearls, conquer the seas, cast down your enemies, focus on science, or try to squeeze out a little more influence to get just one more empire plan? There’s just so much to do and try thanks to this new expansion.

Even as someone who has spent over 100 hours combined through the last few expansions and DLC’s, I honestly feel like there is more than I can reasonably do in a single game (and that is on top of the fact that picking a tech is as wonderfully excruciating as ever as there is essentially no useless fat in the tech tree). You literally cannot succeed at every endeavor and are forced to make tough decisions even on normal difficulty. I cannot stress this one point enough as I feel that it epitomizes what a 4X game in all of its glory should include. If you are looking for a complete experience with layers upon layers of depth, look no further than Endless Legend with all of its expansions.

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Tempest adds another “win” for the series

I don’t mean to gush too much, but in an age of gaming where the norm is day-one patches and endless additions to fix the broken parts of vanilla games, it is nice to know that, for at least one game out there, all is well. I’m not the type of guy that goes back and plays games that often. For example, the 200 hours I have spent with Age of Wonders III were wonderful, but probably the extent of the time I will spend with that game. However, Endless Legend: Tempest ensures that I will be found playing EL for years to come – probably until they release a sequel (if that happens). Until then, I will be forging my story, my adventure, and my empire into the wonderfully late hours of the night.

TL;DR: Endless Legend: Tempest is the perfect farewell to what has become one of the most enjoyable 4X games in recent history for me. By adding a new, unique race and making the ocean a location to battle over and control, this expansion bursts at the seams – providing players with a plethora of meaningful strategic decisions to make every turn of the game strategic and engaging. Simply put, Endless Legend: Tempest is the latest reminder why the game as a whole can confidently stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best 4X has to – and will ever – offer.

 

You might like this game if:

  • You already love Endless Legend and are looking for something to top off the experience
  • Morgawr!!
  • You have been hoping and waiting for naval combat and for something to do in the oceans

You might NOT like this game if:

  • You are looking for a naval combat system that has perfect parity with the combat already in the game
  • You do not want to have more choices and levels to manage overall
  • You are crazy! No seriously I understand that this game might not be for everyone but if you love 4X and haven’t given the game a chance I must ask why

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Kearon played for 35+ hours of Tempest totaling over 130 hours on a 3.5 GHz Intel i5 with 16gb ddr4 RAM using Windows 10

5 replies »

  1. Great review Kearon! I am already a fan and quite biased but it was nice to see a piece explore the new stuff that Tempest brought to the table. It really is chock-full of expandy goodness.

    And your timing is perfect, Amplitude just today (yesterday?) released a Tempest patch which fixes a TON of stuff including wonky resource distribution, which was a major issue with the expansion when it first landed.

    I know what I’ll be doing this weekend. And probably next weekend. And a good chunk of my waking hours inbetween. :)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. EL is one of my all time favorite games. But let’s pretend for a moment that my gaming budget is super tight so I don’t have any of the DLC and can only afford to buy one. Which one should I get?

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    • I have good news! They always do sales now, so you could pick up the dlc on sale either next week (if they do a fall sale) or in winter.

      Shadows introduces the Forgotten and the espionage gameplay.

      Shifters introduces the Allayi and the revamped winter mechanic.

      Tempest introduces the Morgawr and the new ocean mechanic.

      So damned hard to chose. I think the Morgawr are the most alien of the bunch and have the most unique gameplay. But, the Allayi can build a medium tall empire and be complete beasts during the winter. The Forgotten sneak about and ravage your cities through espionage. Tough call.

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      • You forgot the guardians expansion, which includes the guardian units (obviously), the wonders, and all the other legendary deeds and global events.

        If I had to get just one DLC it’d be guardians. It adds so many things that blend seamlessly into the vanilla gameplay, to the point that I can’t remember what the game was like without it. As opposed to the other three expansions, which all add on a new a mechanic that feels somewhat distinct from the rest of the game, which is enjoyable but not essential.

        Tempest would be my second choice; the whole ocean control and naval battles mechanic fits in pretty well with the rest of the game, it’s something every empire will want to participate in (not just the Morgawr, who get a pretty mild advantage at naval matters).

        I wasn’t as big a fan of shifters or shadows; even with those DLCs installed, I honestly find myself mostly ignoring the new mechanics they add in (pearls and espionage, respectively). Except of course if I play the one race that came with the expansion, each of which has a huge advantage at their respective new mechanic.

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