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Endless Space 2 preview: A 4X space game with some actual weight to its universe

Hayden Dingman | Sept. 9, 2016
Look for it to hit Early Access sometime in September

If you want to know how important Amplitude’s flavor text is though, you need look no further than Civilization: Beyond Earth. There, every faction felt interchangeable. There was the Russia-tinged faction, the French-tinged faction, but no reason to care about one versus the other except when it came to in-game bonuses. It made it harder to engross yourself in Beyond Earth’s world, to find that emotional attachment.

Or look at the original Endless Space. Amplitude put it best, saying that at times you felt more like a “galactic accountant” than an emperor. A 4X game that’s all-systems-no-story is just so much white noise at this point.

The sequel’s quest system is similar to Endless Legend. You have hero characters with their own ships and upgrades, plus stories that span the universe. My initial hour and a half with the game was mostly spent in pursuit of “The Academy,” a school known for churning out the “Heroes of the Galaxy.” And that brief taste and cliffhanger was memorable enough that I still want to know what happens next, weeks after our demo.

Visions of the future

Back to the menus now. I’m serious when I say it’s mostly what I want to talk about, and I don’t think Amplitude would be upset about this. After all, I have one member of the team on-record saying “The interface is the first thing we work on in a game’s design” during our recent demo. It’s clearly important.

Endless Space 2

It’s just a strange piece to explore, and I get that. User interface is not an aspect of game development given much attention by the outside world. It’s a thankless job, one of the proverbial “If you did it right, nobody will notice you did anything at all” tasks.

And yet Endless Space 2 proves how important it is, especially in contrast to other space strategy games. Again, consider Civilization: Beyond Earth.

I never liked Civilization: Beyond Earth’s interface. I enjoyed the game, inasmuch as it was a Civ V reskin, but I found the typeface weirdly cheap looking, the tech tree convoluted, the diplomacy screen lifeless, the buttons (and accompanying gradients) ugly.

Here are some screenshots of Endless Space 2’s menus:

Endless Space 2 Endless Space 2 Endless Space 2 Endless Space 2

I don’t mean to imply that Amplitude’s done something revolutionary here. Its ultra-thin sans-serifs would look at home in an Apple design manual, and the layout of various buttons (End Turn, etc.) are standard 4X design.

 

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