Up until a few years ago, I had never played a Civilization game before. On a whim, I picked up Civilization V for a cheap price. Needless to say, I had been missing out. I immediately fell in love with the game and sunk countless hours into it. I was sent an invitation to play the new Alpha build of a space exploration/empire building game called Endless Space. Short of an updated and re-imagined Alpha Centauri, if Civilization took place in space, this would be it.
The story goes that in the distant future, the different races of the universe discover a special element that was left over by an old civilization. This element, in the right hands, can bring the wishes of whoever obtains it to reality. It has been widely accepted as the currency of the universe. The element is called Dust.
Much like any Civilization game, you take control of one of the many races in the game and build them up from a single planet colony into a massive multicultural and multitalented universal force. The game is completely turned based, so you make your choices and end your turn when finished. You play the game as you see fit. If you’re hoping for planetary domination, you can focus your growth into military development. If you’re hoping to expand your empire to the far depths of the universe, you can choose the expansion development. In fact, these are the ways you can win the game. There are 4 development stats you can increase: military, science, trade/economy, and diplomacy/expansion. Sounding like Civilization yet? Hang on, we’re not done yet.
Each location is measured in a star system. A star system can have up to 6 planets in it. Each planet can have different traits, types, and resources. Depending on what technology you have, you can choose to colonize a planet if the conditions are met. When colonizing a planet, you will have to keep up with food, industry, science, and dust output. The more food you can produce, the more people will be able to live on a certain planet. Colonized planets can also produce new advancements depending on what you have researched that can aid not only on the planet’s development, but also the advancement in the entire empire. Planets are also where you can develop new ships to use in colonization and defenses. It’s a fine balance in food production, population and development.
You move your ships along specific lines that are mapped out on your galaxy. These lines will connect to other star systems that you can explore. After upgrading and learning new technology, you can then travel to other areas that the map lines do not connect to by using wormholes. After gaining even more technology, you can even travel through the use of warp drives that don’t require wormholes, allowing you free movement across the galaxy.
After exploring your known systems, you may run into other races and their colonies. Here, you and the other civilizations can choose how to handle your relationships together. You can choose to trade with them and offer up peace, or go for the Metallica approach and kill them all. Be careful, though. Sometimes other races may have the military advantage. Each race has stats that effect how they play much like in, you guessed it, Civilization.
If you do decide to attack, or if you’re on the receiving end, you can choose to either manually play out the battle or have the CPU do it for you. There is a stat screen that will show you the possible outcome of the battle, but by playing manually, you can choose exactly what your fleet will do in the attack. When in battle, you can choose different actions for each of the three phases: long range, medium range, and melee. Certain abilities will counteract another, so choosing wisely may end up saving your fleet. Keep in mind, the enemy can counter your actions, too. You can also learn new attacks and abilities by upgrading your ships in the fleet menu. By learning new developments, you can upgrade your vessels and even unlock new ones to build.
In my short amount of time with the game, I was able to complete two full campaigns, one with a small universe with only one other civilization, and one larger universe with three other races. The first session took me around 3 hours to complete, while the second one with the larger universe took close to 5 hours. The game is complex, but does a very good job of explaining everything to you through an in-game tutorial that pops up as you play the game.
The game will offer up multiplayer in the full release. Unfortunately, in this Alpha build of the game, the multiplayer was not available. I can only imagine it being as fun as the solo play, but with a few friends playing along side you. Even though I made a few jokes about how similar to Civilization Endless Space is, I can’t help but say in the 8 or so hours I put into the Alpha build, I had a blast. The Civilization players may have a new game to play. This is definitely one game to look out for.
We played an alpha version of the game for this preview.