This was previously posted as a review under the Endless Space - Emperor Edition. Oops.
First of all, I'm writing this as I listen to the ES soundtrack which comes with the Emperor Edition. Really enjoy it. As for the game, well...
I downloaded the two Amplitude titles, Endless Space (Emperor, with Disharmony, etc) and Endless Legend at the same time. Started playing EL first. And it's a good way to learn the Amplitude FIDS system (Food, Industry, Dust, Science). Dust = money in the Endless worlds. It introduces the world of the Endless, Auriga, which makes an appearance in ES Disharmony. Disharmony is what I'll review here; it's newer, better and has a faction you may want.
- Good looking game.
- Great sounding game.
- Fairly flawless play system (a couple of hangs in 80 hours, I can live w/that).
- Enough factions and options to make almost any custom setup you want. And you WILL want a custom faction if you play this for very long. A bunch of galaxy styles? Yes, please. Random galaxy and system events keep things non-linear early, as do, uh, pirates. Yeah, pirates.
- Disharmony has tie-ins to the Endless Legend game, so if you have played that, it feels more complete. Auriga, the Vaulters, probably a few other aspects I've missed. No pushy super-diplomats like the Drakken in EL, thankfully.
- If you miss the old MOO games, this should fit the bill.
- In comparison with other 4x games, space and flatland both, this is probably the most aggressive universe I've played. Factions will go from Peace to War in not so many turns, if they think you can be taken on the battlefield. The result is a flurry of early shipbuilding by everybody, including the player if they want to get past 50 turns in w/o a war. No leisurely stroll through the stars here while you throw upgrade after upgrade onto your planets.
- Because of that, I have a hard time believing some victory conditions are doable. Namely the diplomatic victory. And diplomacy is fairly flavorless.
- The tech tree takes several playthroughs to understand to full advantage. And the tree in Disharmony is different from the one in the base ES game.
- I wouldn't say the AI cheats, but even on Normal difficulty, there is a noticeable difference in the nearby planets the player gets vs the AIs.
- Certain features are left either to accidental discovery or forum browsing to find out about (Ctrl-RightClick for fleet warp movement is one).
- Fleet management. Easy to add ships to a fleet, but to pull one or two out, seems like you have to select Disband and then put the fleet back together.
To win: So far, all I've won is a couple of games on Scientific Victory, with a custom faction based on the Vaulters; they have a jump/portal system improvement which brings back some balance against the pesky AI. In the research tree there is also a Wonder Victory (which may vary by faction?), but that requires research and then building it. You can win Supremacy by building ships from the get-go and taking out races before they do the same to you, not my personal style. Haven't made it to 300 turns which I'm assuming is the same default game end as EL; it's kill, be killed, or research the heck out of the tree and win that way, and most of that will happen well before turn 200. ES has few autosaves and no natural interval to save games at (vs EL, where every 20 turns you have empire decisions to make); I'd advise doing regular saves.
8/10. It's a nice clean space 4x game which will frustrate at first, but is fine once you get to know it. I'm 80 hours in and have just scratched the surface.