4X

Endless Legend: Inferno Review

Back in 2014, when eXplorminate first came on the scene, Endless Legend won our Game of the Year. It was a surprise win, and some wondered what we were thinking. Well, we can now tell you for certain what was on our minds: EL is an amazing turn-based, terrestrial, neo-fantasy 4X. It might be the best non-space 4X out right now, and if not, certainly one of the top contenders. Does every single person agree with this claim? Probably not, but that’s why there are other opinions out there.

ELInferno

Anyway, let’s talk more about the game itself. Back in mid-October of 2016, the Tempest Expansion/DLC was released, and we figured that it signaled the end of the development cycle for EL. Considering that Endless Space 2 was entering the public early access phase, the certainty was real. EL had a great run with several free and paid content updates. The game felt complete.

Then NGD Studios made Amplitude Studios an offer the could not refuse. What? Surely not the same dev team that worked on the tepidly received Master of Orion: Conquer the Stars (MoO:CtS) from Wargaming.net? Yup, one and the same. Turns out that the folks at NGD are really talented and the issues with their previous collaboration wouldn’t any negative long-lasting impact.

Fast-forward to August 2nd of 2018, and Inferno, the newest expansion/DLC for EL, hit the Steam marketplace. Many of us were pleasantly surprised. Like, really, really surprised! We knew about the simultaneous release of ES2’s Supremacy DLC, but we had no inkling that EL still had some life l left in it. Did NGD do a good job? Is Inferno another hit for Amplitude Studios? Do apples taste good with honey? Keep reading to find out!

The Arrival

The Endless are a deceptive and despicable species. Fact! They have been tortur… er, experimenting on all sorts of living organisms for many millennia. Fact! After their civil-war ended, the galaxy was left in ruins and had to move on. Fact! On a secluded volcanic planet, the Kapaku lived in peace. These intelligent folk were very hardy and their ability to improvise served them well on their bleak world. To compensate for their diminutive size and harsh conditions on their planet, the Kapaku created the Golems: magma-based automatons to do their bidding. Did I mention that the Kapaku are really gifted when it comes to tinkering with technology?

ELI01kapakuplanet

Terfaroming 101 @ 3:00pm

All was well on their nameless, lava flowing, volcano-formed, blast-furnace homeworld until some weird aliens (not the Endless) paid them a visit and decided that the planet needed some sprucing up. So, the paradise was turned into a hellscape. It started with the cooling of the surface and quickly followed by flowing water. Plant and animal life were seeded to jump start the new ecosystem. Then came the rains and rivers that emptied into vast lakes and oceans. It was hell, I tell you. The Kapaku had no choice but to fight back.

They assembled a hard-as-a-rock force made of various stone golems powered by lava. They fought the invaders and their planet-altering technology on every battlefield imaginable. The losses kept mounting and their backs were up against the proverbial wall. The Kapaku couldn’t overcome the technological superiority of the invaders. Every advantage they had was negated and overcome. Extinction was a forgone conclusion.

The Great Migration

These saviors called themselves the Endless. Now they had a proposition for Kapaku: “Come with us and start anew or stay and die”. Decisions, decisions! Little did the Kapku know, they were being dropped into the middle of one of the Endless’s diabolical galactic experiments.

After agreeing to the deal, The Kapaku were spirited away and transplanted to a new planet called Auriga. It was a lush world full of life and strange, yet terrible seasons. It also harbored a dark secret, but none of that concerned the Kapaku. They were given only one directive and a powerful technological advantage – make this world your own and ignore the filthy beasts populating this trash planet. Exterminate them if you want, but make it your new homeworld and never forget who saved you.

ELI02city

Falling in this one city could be… Dangerous!

Okay, I think we’re all caught up to the start of Inferno now. Again, we see the creativity and depth of lore in EL. Though this time, it was NGD Studios in the driver’s seat with Amplitude Studios navigating.

Mechanics And Gameplay

As far as factions go? The Kapaku are very fun. Their new terrain looks and plays great. Where other races would suffer, they thrive. They get all kinds of production, food, dust, and research bonuses on their favorite tile types. The lava flows only speed them up, where other factions take damage from crossing them. Though, it turns out, the Broken Lords do well in these regions too.

ELI03volcanicterrain

Such a beautiful view.

The Kapaku have a special new mechanic called Volcanoforming (given to them by the Concrete Endless) to help convert unfriendly tiles/regions to their preferred terrain. Powering this new playstyle are strategic resources (like glassteel and titanium). You’ll need them often, so don’t wait on researching the marketplace to augment your resource acquisition. There is an Era II tech called Golem Camp, and this let’s them place a single unattached borough-like district anywhere in their controlled region. What I noticed is that the more lush regions become excellent growth centers when converted. The same can be said about regions with high production pre-conversion. The Kapaku are very inquisitive and smart, so they also get a science bonus for exploring ruins.

ELI04dusteclipse

It’s dust season!

The Dust Eclipse is another new mechanic introduced in Inferno. But unlike the harsher winter mechanics in the Shifters expansion, these new phenomenon are positively awesome. Some ruins become explorable again for a short time. There are bonuses to movement, attack, and defense sprinkled about the map.

Each faction gets a unique bonus due to the excess dust in the air. The Broken Lords become supercharged like the Allayi in the winter, but they also take damage each turn. The Drakken get a reduction in cost to their diplomatic actions. The Cultists use the hyped-up minors to fight because of the granted boost to their stats. There’s much more to these bonuses granted to each of the factions (which you’ll discover as you play). In addition, there are weather phenomenon (like dust clouds) that appear on land too but they aren’t as diverse as the ones introduced in the Tempest expansion. Again, like winter and the Allayi, the Dust Eclipse can come on randomly. Though the effects can differ from one Eclipse to another, the Kapaku always know when they’ll arrive.

Military Units

The Kapaku’s main military units are composed of Stone Sentinels (infantry) that are hardy and inexpensive because their upkeep can be free after a particular chapter is completed in their main quest. The Golem Riders are fast moving cavalry units. Geomancers are a support unit that hangs back and casts reinforcement spells on the other troops. The effects of these spells – like extra boosts – change according to the tile the target unit occupies.

ELIo5sentinel

Now that’s a tough looking infantry type.

A few more advantages that the Kapaku have: increased movement, damage bonuses, and healing when fighting on favorable terrain. They also gain industry stockpiles from siege damage inflicted on enemy cities. The Kapaku waste nothing. Playing on a small map can lead to interesting RTS-like rushing and a quick victory, if the conditions are right.

ELI06heros

Two are better than one!

The Kapaku heroes are unique in EL. Because they are so small they have to ride Golems, which makes them a cavalry unit. They have all of the special abilities and bonuses of the regular units as well the additional focus of the hero skill tree. The heroes make an excellent addition to any faction that plans to settle and/or fight on the new terrain. As a governor, they receive bonuses to science, production and dust generation when exploiting a tile. They also get approval bonuses, additional strategic resources, and a reduction in cost to upgrades as well as the ability to upgrade and retrofit units in neutral and enemy territory. If that wasn’t enough, during an eclipse, an army led by an experienced Kapaku general also gets a bonus to attack.

The BIG Picture

Inferno is not the biggest expansion/DLC that Endless Legend has. Actually, it’s on the smaller side when compared to Tempest, Shifters, and Shadows. Each of those introduced major new mechanics, like oceanic exploitation and weather, the harsher winter season, and the Aurigan Pearls, and the espionage mechanics. Nevertheless, the Dust Eclipse adds a new wrinkle to the gameplay and makes the game more exciting as it provides a clever counterpoint to the brutal Aurigan winters.

Ultimately, what Inferno brings to the table is a refinement of existing mechanics and a boost, of sorts, for older factions that haven’t had much attention since release.The additional lore, art and music all measure up with past expansions too. That’s important because I feel that some of the older content has faded from memory for many players, and a fresh injection of high-quality content can hopefully rekindle the excitement.

ELI07volcanoformation

There’s a lot to unpack here.

The collaboration with NGD shows that Amplitude Studios is flexible and capable of partnering with other developers when it comes to their own IPs. NGD presented a well thought out idea and executed it with precision and respect to the existing franchise. What does that mean for the future? I don’t know. I could see another expansion like this for EL, and maybe next time, they (NGD or someone else?) will take a bigger risk and create something even more unique. But that really depends on how well Inferno sells. Either way, I’m playing EL again, and that’s saying something. Prior to this latest release, I was already at 425 hours or so of online-play (not MP). To get me to come back and play more is a huge accomplishment. Great job NGD and Amplitude!

TL;DR: The collaboration between NGD studios and Amplitude Studios in Inferno has led to another fantastic addition to an already masterful game. The Kapaku are a fun faction, and their new terrain adds another piece to an already lavish puzzle. The Dust Eclipse is a nice break from the Winters on Auriga. Endless Legends lives!!!

You might like this game if:

  • You’ve been looking for a reason to dive back into Endless Legend
  • You’ve always wondered what it would be like to play another unique alien faction
  • You want to try a RTS-like rush tactic in a TBS 4X

You might NOT like this game If:

  • You are looking for an additional major mechanical update
  • You’re tired of Aurigan winters
  • You were looking for a major AI update

eXemplaryNew

Review Policy

Nate’s copy was provided by Amplitude Studios as part of the VIP program. He played for 490+ hours (with 65+ spent in Inferno) on a Sager NP-8153S (XoticPC Built) Laptop: 15.6″ FHD IPS Display, 6th gen Intel i7-6820 HQ Skylake CPU, 24GB DDR4, GeForce GTX 1070 w/ 8 GB vram, 250 GB Samsung EVO SSD, 1 TB 7200 RPM HD.

11 replies »

  1. Hmm Exemplary and yet Age of wonders 3 got Recommended after reexamination (base game got Consider:-/ ) :)
    this feels a bit biased towards Endless legend.
    With these 2 games I always feel like Mac vs PC thing. Each has something to each own. Both are great, but im likely in the AoW3 camp with exemplary and EL as “consider/recommended” :))
    (I havent played Inferno, so maybe you are right with this one, but previous are not exemplary from my PoV :) )

    Like

    • Well, it’s really a matter of opinion. AoW3 is a fantastic game. But it is missing major components of a full 4X title, Endless Legend does not. Even though, the combat in AoW3 is leagues above EL, it is missing other components. At the end of the day, there is no way to get it right. Had Triumph Studios released another major expansion for AoW3, it most definitely been a candidate for an eXemplary score.

      Like

    • I love AoW3. I think it is an awesome tactical combat game. It’s the closest thing to a tabletop wargame that I have ever found on PC, but it’s not really a 4X. Both Exploit and Expand barely exist in AoW3 and that’s a full 2 of the 4 X’s.

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  2. Are you guys playing the same AoW3?

    No exploit?

    No expand?

    It seems your definition of “4x” means Civ like, regardless of quality of game, so AoW3 will never compete here.

    Time for a re-examination of the basic terms used I think, get Mez on board, sort this out!

    I’m writing this with the best intentions possible, I just find it baffling you insist on treating Aow3 as less than 4x.

    Like

    • Yeah, I mean, if it were ME I’d give AOW3 an exemplary rating. But I wasn’t around when we last reviewed the game and there’s been zero reason to return to it (from a review perspective) since.

      Of course, I’m also the guy that caused the “no exemplaries for new games” rule, so maybe I’m just a big softy.

      Like

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