I refrained from writing a review on this game until I had a better grasp of the mechanics and content available -- and there's a hell of a lot.
For those that are too lazy to read a somewhat cautious approach to review this game, tl;dr -
Mindblowingly good music (i'm talking supergiant quality)
A lot of hours holding on for the next turn.
Some boggy mechanics but nothing completely quality breaking.
Multiplayer is dun goof'd, save us amplitude.
Other reviews have already outlined the various 4x features that they like, there is a general consensus on the graphical aesthetics of the game being phenomenal and the outstanding music. These are well deseved and there is little I have to say about either.
As far as 4X games go, this is far from being ground breaking, a lot of its features are ubiquitous. However what the game does do well is polish these features combining complicated designs with simplified presentation. For example, the concept of citybuilding is simple at first glance, any player can create a relatively stable state by implimenting all the upgrades available, and for the most part this will work for beginners as the game is designed in such a way that the improvements benefit off and balance one another. However, at higher tiers of play, more experienced players are able to selectively design a city around a handful of upgrades and achieve very impressive specialisations and "minmaxing" as RPG players would describe it. Whilst minimal in its impact at first glance, this definitely sets apart players as I've witnessed in multiplayer games.
Multiplayer as of release has been relatively buggy, often desynchronising (a problem also inherant in the original launch of endless space). The developers have recognised this since their previous game and have implimented a resync feature which whilst not optimal is at least a fair attempt at multiplayer stability. I hope they bring further development into this specific problem as players are currently not residing in multiplayer as much as anticipated. It would certainly detract from the game's value if things remain this way.
Technical problems aside, Endless Legend is a game taking after Endless Space; the game is very lore rich, even moreso than Endless Space in my opinion. Each faction is unique and interesting, which whilst subjective to each person's perception of what constitutes "fresh" is at the very least very different from the tolkien lore archetypes. Don't get me wrong, there are still ogres or elves as one may be led to believe, but what is different is the way these factions and nations are portrayed and how their lore is intertwined with their playstyle within the game. This game is effective at combining lore and gameplay mechanics which reinforce the depth of the world and its immersion. For every generic "orc & elves" faction (which are at least less stereotypical in this game) there are factions such as the Cultists that convert villages to fight for their single fortress state and its queen, Dust Lords who do not consume food but instead will stop at nothing for dust, the energy and currency to expand or Vaulters who bear an uncanny resemblence to what would be medieval space muhreens and fight for glorious science - coincidence or not, this is cool. There are more, my favourite being necrophages will burst into poisonous clouds on death and spawn more crawling bug-things from the corpses of their enemies and more.
This leads onto the world itself, each randomly generated or generated by user seed input, it is always interesting. I found myself almost mechanical in my routine when playing Civ. The start of a game would always involve checking for the closest luxury or strategic resource and setting up camp. Endless Legend however, sets itself apart. The combination of interesting anomalies (of which I was more than happy to read its descriptions for further lore) and the implimentation of a height system in the terrain meant that locating a city now meant much more than a simple viewpoint of resources. The world appears vibrant always and the alternation between winter and summer seasons further draw a need for players to consider the environment in which they set up a city. Cities themselves are also unique. I found that many 4X games were often too promoting of brainless expansion, Civ and Endless Space were shocking exemplars in this regard. But with Legend, since cities can only exist lone in a single region, the need for strategic location, expansion and management are further incentivised.
This same depth however, is not applied to combat, where gameplay boils down to simply selecting units to either target or move. Advanced combat does improve things somewhat, restricting users to only being permitted selection every two turns but this doesn't remedy the lackluster depth here. I especially hope to see more emphasis on heroes and their role in combat.
However all of this is also stumped by the fact that the game is rather lacking in certain important areas of play. Custom faction creation appears to be quite a good idea at first glance, case in point Endless Space, which was phenomenal in the various options you could create a playstyle through your own faction. However, in Endless Legend, the very limiting restrictions of having to choose an archetype based upon the existing factions is doubled with the limiting number of options you have for the faction's traits. Compared to Endless Space, there are less categories, less negative traits and less traits overall. Furthermore, many of these traits are distinctly and very obviously geared towards the playstyles of the existing factions which further make the creation of one's own faction that much less free and satisfying.
Additionally, the customization of units and heroes within the game are frankly terrible. I can understand where Amplitude got the idea-- many games have the problem of overbearing numbers of units and technological trees. To counteract this norm, Endless Legend has been designed by nature to rely upon 3 units (and the settler, bar Cultists) for a single faction, each with a distinct playstyle. This was to be supplemented by the use of mercernaries and assimilated factions. Customization and variety would come in the form of unit design and customization within the game, choosing their armours based upon various strategic resources and accessories. This was an impressive idea in concept, however it was poorly executed. Units appearances do not change if you swap their armour (this includes heroes) and the variety of equipment mostly came down to very clear cut and distinct differences in statistics, one will have less attack than another or one will be better against ranged units than another. Yes, this does indeed promote playstyles, having a platoon of archer killers with a line of infantrymen in the front is often optimal. But it also sets players into a very rigid selection of play for combat, killing any innovative ideas one could have procured. I hope Amplitude expands this region further as this was certainly one of my biggest complaints regarding this release.
Endless Legend is certainly a fantastic game, well worth its retail price nevermind sales or discounts. We hope that amplitude does what amplitude does best and develops its released games further, I have seen few studios that have managed their community better, through the use of games2gether which is a lot more than a witty coorperate front. Players can vote on game content to be implimented and provide input that is often responded to by the developers granted enough momentum and correct timing. For what is there alone, regardless of future updates and patches, I would recommend to any fan of turn based strategy games.
Buy this game and exterminate the invalid species of Auriga.