Endless Legend got the game of the year award from Rock Paper Shotgun. I’m as susceptible as the next guy to writeups like this and saw the game pop up on sale at Steam a couple of times over my winter holiday. So, despite the waning hours of vacation, I picked up in the last hours of the Steam sale the most complex thing I’ve played in years. It helped that I had @WickedGood on the other end of the twitter-enables-my-gaming hotline. It also helped that I had spent a good chunk of time during my vacation playing and really enjoying Dungeon of the Endless, from the same developer, so I had a lot of interest in what else Amplitude could pull off.
I opened it up and played the tutorial, marveling alternately at the beautiful art and maps, and also at the initial complexity of the thing, eventually noting to @WickedGood that I was going to need a study buddy, a bunch of colored pencils and a three-ring binder to play this game effectively. In a sharp counterpoint to the RPS Bestest Best Game writeup, John asserts this more ferociously than I:
Columns for graphs! Within moments the screen is a mass of data, forms, charts… I don’t understand how anyone has the will to continue. I don’t need this in my playtime! I want to shoot the guns, or talk to the lady about the missing dragons, or solve the ethical dilemma!
“Per working production, resources from Tiles, and potential modifiers (positive or negative) all have an impact on the Total Production you can expect from your city in the next turn.”
He’s not wrong, but I would soldier on, anyway. At least the resources of industry, science, and dust were familiar from playing DotE (this was a really welcome thing; I didn’t have to re-learn those concepts, though in fairness to John it did take me a while to understand how resource consumption and unit building/research work; that’s in a different markdown file I’m keeping).
In the spirit of getting on with it, here’s why I wrote the umpteen-word log, below, as I played a chunk of my third Endless Legend game:
I start the game, with no special settings or options, and found my city of Laldora right on a glassteel deposit, intending to take advantage of its science bonus. The starting position on my map is mostly savannah, very different from the forest and grasslands of my previous game.
Here goes: My edited-for-clarity play journal, with some annotations (like this one). I’ve tried to clean up faction and unit names, but to be honest I’m still figuring them out myself, so some of them may look a little funny.
Getting that early science bonus would turn out to be a big advantage as compared to my previous games. Highly recommended.
Quickly find minor faction Nidya within my territory, and Kajanzi immediately in the neighbor. I begin scouting for ruins to complete first Walkers quest.
Building founders square, sewer (having learned in my last game that a good happiness bonus to my city helps a lot), armies; researching language square, mercenary market and alchemist furnace.
Language square was completed quickly. I’ll try parley with the Nidya. On the way, discover Eyeless Ones faction in a third neighbor territory. The Nidya desire glassteel to become pacified; fortunately I built my city on top of a deposit and the alchemists furnace is now second on my research queue.
I find the Jotus holding two villages in the territory to the north, Hurnas to the east.
On turn 11 I have the mercenary market complete and am beginning research on the furnace that will let me exploit the glassteel.
Traveling to a ruin to complete the temples quest I see that the Eyeless Ones village has been destroyed.
On my next turn I head for another ruin and encounter the Copan faction, AI Wind Walkers — first time encountering another Wind Walkers faction in the game. We begin cordially, I send a compliment. I complete the 4th ruin and am given my second quest of expanding a city into a new region. That’s pretty ambitious for this point in the game. Moving on I encounter the Selja, Ardent Mages. They are indifferent to me for now. I hold on any diplomacy.
End of turn 15, my game freezes. This has happened once before. Last time autosave saved me. Let’s see. No! Brought me back to the beginning of the turn, so I repeated the ruin completion and my new next quest is to pacify a village in my territory. I think I’m on my way to that with the Nidya. No Selja encounter yet in this verson of turn 15.
Probably just as well that that quest was reset; expansion is a tough main quest to get so early. At writeup time, I haven’t gotten around to it yet! I should probably check the quest queue and get on that one when I resume.
I begin building my first borough. I haven’t prioritized armies, so they are still quite a few turns away. We’ll see if that comes back to hurt me. The furnace is complete so I queue up the open pit mine, glassteel alloy, and public library research.
Next turn I see the Nidja sending an army out. I hope they don’t attack; I’m just nine turns from pacifying them. I should keep my eyes on the ball and continue development just in case.
Nope, they attack. I should win this, but it may be costly.
And I did, without losing any units entirely, but they did plenty of damage. The archer block and up-close attacks, once the Nidya closed, were hugely valuable. I’m also glad I’ve trained up my hero as the opportunity came along.
Hero training and equipment is such a big factor, but an easy one (for me) to lose sight of. I keep watching for notifications for my hero to have leveled up, and spend those skill points fast! Tlato has a great set of skills that help all of my armies.
On my next turn it’s #20, so I work on empire planning. I don’t have a ton of influence at this point, so I allocate some just to the science tier. I also go ahead and buy out a ranger under construction so I can re-build my roaming army.
A couple of turns later, research is continuing well and I’m two more turns from having the glassteel I need. There’s a hostile roaming army near my southwest border.
Glassteel delivered, Nidya pacified, and the Kazanji are looking like a good target next door, though their additional army is roaming nearby, too. And my game froze again. The turn had just begun with an additional population gained.
The freeze thing is annoying.
I parley with the Kazanji and am asked to find and destroy the eyeless ones village. The village is in Sormel, where I have not yet explored. On turn 31 I buff up my hero further with some titanium armor and crossbow, now that the alloy research is completed. I’m thinking I should get another hero to lead my second army closer to home while the read bears go look for the eyeless ones.
I look north to find Sormel, but it looks like I need to identify another territory. I think it’s going to be the one further to the west. This is where, I think, keeping the long game in mind will be important; should I go after this side quest, or build my own empire more directly? While I’m thinking about that, I get a somewhat jealously-postured missive from the Copan. I tune my resources a bit to put more emphasis on industry and science; and on the next turn winter arrives. My wandering red bears are now far from home and it’s cold out.
New encounter: The Selja. They are indifferent. The western territory is not Sormel, so I return eastward with the red bears. It’s turn 40: Empire strategy adjusted to increase dust production and decrease military build time. I’m still a lot of dust away from being able to buy another hero.
Heroes start at around 650 dust, regular units from the mercenary marketplace around 300. That’s a lot to accumulate.
When I advance to turn 42, I reach Research Era II, unlocking all kinds of goodness. I begin researching more food storage, the public market which will increase happiness, and the tenari walker unit. My wandering red bears still haven’t found Sormel, but have come across two promising new ruins to search.
I reached Era II in my previous game around turn 70, I think. I can’t emphasize enough how much of a difference this faster research advancement makes.
Meanwhile, Copan has gone ahead and declared war. Thanks guys, I thought we had kind of a Walker-Walker thing going on here. Guess not. I’ll pull the red bears back into play. I see them coming at me with a lot, including a hero; I buy an archer unit and then a demon at the market.
Meanwhile the demon next door picks a fight; well, perhaps I picked it by wandering into his territory trying to keep an eye on the Copan. Anyway, the red bears pick him off easily. The side benefit of the fight is that my archers all get leveled up.
Another couple of turns pass. The initial threatening Copan armies have vanished, so I search a little, and find one set guarding a settler; my army and hero easily defeat them this time, and then we set out after the settler. My other army is scouting Djathat, a Copan territory.
The research in public market is complete, which will bring nice benefits.
Second army scouts to a ruin and encounters the Maji and finds a new quest: To scout a specific ruin with six Redsang, in winter only. I don’t know what that is. Meanwhile I’m still chasing that settler, but on the next turn a roaming army of two Titike catch up with my 1st Boar Warriors. We defeat them, taking some damage, and one of my ranger units levels up. Meanwhile I finally catch up and destroy the retreating settler unit.
Moving to advance on the small Copan city to the north, I see an army from Selja ahead of me. Checking the empire status screen, I see that Selja has a lot of mojo. I leave them to the city and head south again, where I gang up my two armies on another Copan city.
Here I run into what has to a be a bug, and a frustrating one: In the screenshot the highlighted opponent unit of Caecators was hit repeatedly by my units in the previous combat round, but shows at full Life. This happened in a battle in my previous game, too, and in fact happened two turns ago in this same battle, with another opponent unit. On the subsequent turn, the unit of archers took damage as expected and was defeated.
This happened several times during the combat, with damage not appearing as the battle went on and sometimes appearing after the round, but often not — units simply appear unhurt after receiving volley after volley from my archers.
If this isn’t a bug, there’s something about combat damage that I really don’t understand. To elaborate more, the behavior I see is the red damage badge showing up against a unit, say a big red 51, but with no accompanying reduction in the unit’s displayed hit points. The same never appears to happen when enemy units are damaging my guys, though.
Anyway, I got the city! Now I need to figure out what to do with it, I guess.
Somehow I had forgotten to actually assimilate the Nidya, so I did that before ending the turn and got the quest completion and received Visions of Glory. I think that’s a key to the Walkers end game. Now I get the Post and Lintel quest, requiring me to search a ruin with an army led by hero, with 2 ranged units and 4 minor faction units. This requires the larger amy made possible by Meritocratic Promotion in Era II. I’d better get on the research and speed it up.
So the game froze again. A couple of turns after restoring is empire strategy time; this time I don’t have a lot of influence points, so I allocate what I have to science and industry, for a cost of 40, hoping to increase my build and research speed.
The Copan come back for a truce. Okay, I’ll take your offer.
A wandering Rumbler army comes traipsing along so my red bears and militia take it out. As it happens, that was the unit that had stolen the loot from a ruin I searched and found empty, so this recovers it for me. Side quest complete! Meanwhile, another random ruin search by my 1st Boars finds Eayah’s Arm, a relic sword. Cool, but it looks like I need a non-ranged Hero to wield it.
Another good reason to get another hero.
I find a couple of side pacification quests by parleying: One, to be non-warlike in my empire planning (coming up in 10 turns), and two, to shower a greedy village with luxurious gems I don’t have and have never seen.
I’ll circle back in about twenty turns and just burn them all out, anyway.
A few turns later: Some nice spice finds in ruins, a new two-unit army coming out of Laldora, my approval in Foranyi is 100% fervent, and now it’s winter. Man, the map is beautiful. And here comes Copan with closed borders. Sure, guys.
I just can’t take the Copans seriously anymore.
Bad tactical error, sending a couple of ranger units across minor faction territory in the winter, got caught by a pair of demons that smoked them. Expensive loss.
Time passes: The Capon seem to be returning to form, taking over the territory to their east. I complete a pacification quest by setting my empire strategy to non-warlike, but I can’t figure out what the originating village was. Is it in the territory now controlled by the Capon? What does that mean for me?
Building and research continue. My hero-led army goes on a loot quest that sends them all over the map but returns some good treasure. The Selja send a compliment, but mocking in tone. I’m still looking for the Sormel territory where I might complete that second side quest of freeing the demons’ friends from the eyeless ones. Ah, a quick excursion south finds it — I should have looked down there ages ago; not sure why I didn’t. I think the hint of water there kept me away, thinking maybe it was the edge of the continent. I hustle south with an army of two Arpuja and take care of it, then return to pacify the village.
Elsewhere my red bears are destroying the garrisons at two minor demon faction villages in the neighborning territory, and the Copan have now sent a terrified compliment to me. To rebuild and take over the territory I’ll have to start a new city there.
So I’ve played this game a lot today. It’s the last Saturday of my Christmas/New Year vacation and I had the time. According to Steam the total game time was eight hours (though note that a chunk of that was some housework and an errand; one benefit of the turn-based game is that I can walk away for a while without quitting, if I want). Here’s the map of my known world after six or seven hours of gameplay (and I would love some validation of this timeframe to get to just under 100 turns on normal difficulty):
I hold Laldora and Forany, and have pacified Mathenir and Varmrnqua but need to expand into those territories with cities to fully control them. This is a big expansion move, but is risky: It’s costly and reduces citizen satisfaction — increasing build and research times — in my other cities if not done carefully. You can see where Copan has expanded after a big early setback after coming after me (and, I think, after the Selja), and just hints of the Selja- and Meri-controlled territories. Taking Forany was huge for me: The city is in a really good location and is producing more quickly than my “main” city of Laldora. Together the two cities are pumping out science for me, and I’ve had a good run of ruins searches to stock back up on dust after a few big expenses. (I never got enough so far to buy another hero; I think that’s my next big ticket item, if I can maintain the dust long enough.)
Looking at the map, I wonder, “just how big is this world?” On one hand, seeing that there’s so much not explored makes me think I must be way behind. On the other hand, the total scores don’t necessarily suggest that, as seen in the overall empire status chart:
Check that line! I’m just below the Selja in overall score. But look at the victory statuses: The Selja are a fourth of the way to an Expansion victory (holding 80% of the total map), and not as far ahead of me as I would have expected in total score; currently the high score at 300 turns, if no other victory is achieved first, wins, so this means we are about one-third of the way through the game if it were to go to final score. Nobody appears to be even approaching the economic, diplomatic, or wonder victories at this point in the game.
This was set up as a six-faction game, so are there still two factions that aren’t even on the board because I haven’t encountered them? If so, then the world really is far bigger than I can understand right now. Is my fortune so far a random benefit of my initial starting position on the map? How much have the other factions explored into the unknown of the map?
So, this has the potential to be a long game. Can I make it? Well, though I have some anxiety about how long the game may be, I’m into it: I see hex grids when I close my eyes, I’m cribbing notes from forums and wikis, and referencing the manual (of all things!), and I’m anticipating each move, each new build and where I go from there.
The manual (pdf) really is useful. They still make those! It elaborates on the victory conditions in more detail than the tutorial, giving me a better feel for what I’m trying to accomplish, big picture, in the game, and alluding to some of the strategies that might get me there.
I missed observing last night: Now that I have started building up larger armies and have assimilated faction units, I can complete the Post and Lintel quest to advance my timeline.
That said, I could really benefit from some external calibration: Am I taking an insanely-long amount of time to complete this? I see people talking about having fulfilled all the game’s Steam accomplishments, and after all this time, I only have one. I don’t even have the tutorial one officially, though I did play the tutorial all the way through.
Yeah, how’d that happen, anyway?
For a 4X newbie, am I doing it wrong?
That’s kind of a loaded question, right? There’s no “doing it wrong,” I hope, though I aware of the mild risk of being called out as a Fake Gamer Dad for all this. Screw that.
Anyway, I’m having a great time.
And writing up this journal has made me itch to get back to the game. I’ll continue adding to this journal as time and attention allow. Maybe someday I’ll have one complete game documented, and then I can start another one.