Endless Legend is a hexigrid turn based strategy game set in a randomly generated medieval fantasy world that has you making alliances, declaring war and peace with other nations. If it sounds familiar, that's because it is, but there's the promise of turn based battles rather than bumping your units into enemy units. However, its little more than you watching these battles play out on the hexigrid. The entire game amounts to little more than watching a gorgeous painting dry. Its a true time sink for anyone into the genre, but after spending 12 hours into it, I didn't start to "enjoy" Endless Legend until about six hours in once I had mastered certain nuances.
The game is like several others in the genre, you'll make settlements in regions and grow the settlements and chose their development. Then over time, they'll amass industry, science, food and "dust" or the game's currency. Industry gets things done quicker and I wish I had paid attention during the tutorial to know that. Science researches upgrades faster. Food keeps your citizens alive and dust pays for a lot of things. Each settlement will have a default yield of all four resources, including a fifth and that's influence that every so often you'll get to unlock more things that can be upgraded. If you'd like a higher yield, you need to balance your town's populous to put effort into each of the five. Its little more than clicking and dragging an icon from one grid cell to another. These citizens are never seen, its like a statistic that you have control over.
Now that everyone is up to speed on these genre as a whole, you'll use these settlements to generate units. You can speed up any process by spending dust to get it done on the next turn. The nation / faction you select will determine the units you can use. Everything from dragons, to ogres, archers to knights and so on. The game breaks down into three different class types, infantry (melee), ranged and support. You can combine units on the world map into an army, so six units into an army, but then the icing on these little cupcakes are heroes, which you can buy for around 2,000 dust. The heroes are tougher than units, but they can still be killed. When they're killed they respawn after a battle with little health. If they're injured, they're disabled for a few battles and you can assign only one hero per army.
You'll move your armies around and engage in battles or attack settlements. That's when the army separates back into units. As a general you've moved your armies, and now its up to them to fight on the hexigrid. Before hopping into battle, you've got a choice, manual, spectate or auto. Auto will just tell you what happened, who died, who survived. Spectate will watch the turn based battle play out for a total of six phases. So each unit goes once and that's a phase. If you select manual, at the start of each phase, you'll get to point each of your units at an enemy to attack. Then they'll do what it takes to carry out your order. If they can't do it by the end of their turn, they fall back on your choice of either offense, defense or stand their ground. So if you want an infantry to attack a supporter way in the back, but they just can't reach them in this turn, they'll move as far as they can, and attack someone else instead if you have them set to offense.
If a unit is attacked, they'll defend or attack back right then and there, but that counts as their turn. Your units have all sorts of abilities, defense, offense and stats. Your units use the abilities, you don't. You're sitting there watching the whole thing play out up to six phases. After six, if there is no decisive winner its considered a draw and its back to the world map! During the battles, if you have other nearby armies, they'll join the fray as time goes on, so if there's an army two spaces away on the world map, they'll join the battle in phase three. It definitely makes things interesting.
Another thing that's interesting is troops from each unit will fall dead, but that doesn't mean they'll be any less effective. So if there are six archers in one unit, five of them are dead, that lone archer can deal as much damage as the six of them. The amount of troops per unit is only a visual aide.
So you're not just conquering your enemies, you're winning battles or at least your units are. You'll build boats to get them from place to place, or just walk them. When capturing settlements, you've got a choice, attack or siege. Siege will cut off their resources and weaken them for your attack.
Attacking settlements can be difficult to the point that it made me think there was some sort of a glitch. You can keep attacking an enemy and see the damage indicator telling you that you've done 45 damage, but their health doesn't go down. This is the effect of being within city walls or even around a settlement in general. You'll need to keep attacking them knowing that at some point their health will finally go down. Its a strange hidden mechanic with no reference that they're safely fortified. Settlements also come with extra militia in a garrison. If you can't capture a settlement on that turn, the militia will regenerate.
Conquering a new settlement will mean its people will hate you, but you can just arrange some morale boosters to be built. You'll also need to fix whatever problems the settlement has. A few of the cities that I had taken over had food shortages, so I had to reassign the populous from dust (gold) harvesting to food harvesting. The game will warn you if your people are about to starve so you can fix it. In fact the game notifies you of far too much with prompts that you'll need to open. These processes have been done, these units have leveled up, this hero needs you to select their perk.
Heroes have perks, just like you as a nation have upgrades. To be honest, there was far too many upgrades and perks that my mind went numb and I just started randomly selecting things. Some of the upgrades boost your harvests. Other upgrades unlock new units. As for the heroes, they'll unlock skills and passive buffs, but again nothing felt like a game changer especially when you have such little control.
One interesting facet is the seasonal change. There aren't four seasons, no; here there are just the two. Summer and winter. The winter makes travel slow and starves your people, so if you don't have enough food stored up from the summer months, you might have to pull everyone off of other duties and assign them to food harvesting. It really forces you to use things that most wouldn't even think about when playing.
Like most games of this nature, when you start, you can list a lot of specifics such as world size, climate, how many nations and difficulty. You can select random for most of them and hop into a new game generated just for you! The rival nations will watch your actions. If they feel threatened they can declare war or even offer a truce with some rewards if you're about to curb stomp them back down the hole they came out of. Its interesting seeing nation leaders so happy to trade with you or say hey we have common friends, let's be allies! No one asked to travel through my land though and that's usually a good sign that they're about to wage war on you and make a play for a city. There are neutral minor factions too that you'll need to either murder, bribe or negotiate with.
I spent twelve hours staring at a beautiful painting and at some point I started auto skipping the battles. I discovered that an easy crushing victory on spectate turns into a draw when auto battling. You're almost forced to watch these slow battles play out and that's just part of Endless Legend. Even if it weren't for the battles, the game is dull, but still gorgeous to look at with beautiful music. I'm not even sure that I can recommend it to fans of the genre, just because you've played this before, but its now time consuming with these battles you have no control over.