I feel it best to write a more up-to-date review focusing on the game that is Endless Space.
Endless Space is a 4X, Turn Based Strategy that involves you building your empire through Colonies, Fleets, Improvements and Diplomacy to attain victory.
The easiest way to fully describe the game, would be if Civilization V were set in Space. But that in itself isn't a fully accurate description. Let's get to the meat, shall we?
When I first started the game on my Netbook, I noticed how nice the graphics were and how it ran relatively smoothly on the Medium settings (It ran on High settings relatively well on my Mac) only slowing down in the late game when hundreds of fleet movements had to be rendered and checked. The game has only crashed once or twice, and that was mostly because I messed with a few game files while running the game.
As mentioned previously mentioned, the graphics were very impressive. From the Character designs, Ship designs, Menu designs, Planet designs, the game has a very clean and polished look and has Lore related artwork that really makes the game a much better experience. I found myself taking screenshots of planets and systems as they were simply amazing. Wonders, Cities and Anomalies are rendered on the planets themselves, thus giving direct visual feedback to the user.
One critique relating to the graphics was the lack of variation in city aesthetics and a lack of visual feedback given when a Planet's exploitation changed.
The soundtrack is what is to be expected from a Space themed game and has shining moments, especially the more ambient tracks, but nothing as spectacular as the theme from Star Wars for example. Still has it's good moments, but if you're sitting there for long periods of time, the soundtrack may get repetitive.
The AI is interesting to say the least, at lower difficulties, it is hilariously icompetent, rarely making me run for the hills, but at higher tiers (especially Endless) the very nature of the spontaneously insane AI can get the best of you. It is important to note that some bugs exist (or maybe they were intentional, I can't tell) in the AIs interactions. Especially related to Wars and Cease Fires, as the AI may simply beg for mercy after losing a System before continuing on their blood thirsty rampage through your worlds. Overall, the AI is quite solid, albeit if you want a challenge, aim for the higher difficulties.
Combat is something that is often criticized in reviews of Endless Space, but I found it somewhat unique and I appreciated that the devs put it in. Even though it is essentially a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors, it's still a slightly more complex Rock-Paper-Scissors. The combat system involves 2 fleets fighting each other and playing different "Battle Cards" (you can unlock more via the Tech Tree or through Heroes that you equip to your fleet) and in the Disharmony DLC, also includes specific targetting (such as the Nosebreaker tactic which involves you focusing on the emey's main ship)
While Battle Cards will cancel each other out and play a pivotal role in the combat, you will have to equip your Fleets with weapons as well.
Ships can be equipped with 3 Attack "Modules" and 3 Defense "Modules". The 3 Attack Modules are-
Missiles (Long Range combat)
Lasers (Medium Range combat)
Kinetic (Short/Melee Range combat)
and the 3 Defense Modules are-
Flak (Counters Missiles)
Shields (Counters Lasers)
Deflectors (Counters Kinetic)
Every time a Module is added, it adds an extra Missile/Laser/Kinetic attack or defense capability. A battle will involve either an Automatically decided outcome, or a Manual Cutscene (in which you can still adjust your plans in Real Time). A battle has 5 phases (Intro, Long, Medium, Melee, Conclusion) of which 3 are the times when the ships fire at each other (Long, Medium and Melee of course). Ships will fire all the weapons during each phase, but some weapons will be more effective during their respective phases.
During a battle, (if you own the Disharmony DLC) you will also have the option of adding Fighters and Bombers which add to the way combat plays out by giving/taking away an advantage. In the end, I enjoyed the combat and as with me taking Planetary screenshots, I did the same for the Battle sequences.
Multiplayer is quite enjoyable as you can play with up to 8 people in a private or public lobby and have the option of using Custom Races or the Pre-made ones. In-game chat is available, but not Private Player-to-Player chat (I'd recommend Steam Chat). While it's not uncommon to find a Public game, ES is best played with friends. There are several sync and disconnection issues that occur once in awhile, but they are rare adn usually require a quick reload of the save.
Victory can be obtained through both peaceful and non-peacful routes and give every race a fighting chance at victory.
Routes to Victory- 10/10
Modding is almost non-existant in this game, so don't buy it if you expect mods (though it would be great if you knew how to program xD). I haven't divided into modding myself, but it's quite sad that the mod scene is minimal at best
I will keep updating this review on Diplomacy, etc. at a later date :)