Endless Space® - Collection

This article was originally published in PC Gamer issue 312. For more quality articles about all things PC gaming, you can subscribe now in the UK and the US.  

The arrival of a new 4X game is a special event in the PC gaming calendar, like a solar eclipse passing across a world split up into tiny hexes. It’s rare enough to feel monumental, yet comforting in its cyclicality; a sporadic dose of complexity reminding us PC gamers that, despite our growing propensity for couch gaming, there are some pleasures that remain unique to us. One year there’ll be a Civ game, another year there’ll be a Gal Civ and then an Age of Wonders. Fill any gaps with meaty DLC, and repeat the cycle. 

But between 2012 and 2017, a trifecta of games from an upstart French developer shook up this 4X hegemony. Amplitude Studios’ Endless Space (2012), Endless Legend (2014) and Endless Space 2 (2017) reinterpreted the 4X playbook, working within its strict rulesets to push the genre further than it had ever gone before. Two of the leading figures in this 4X supernova are Romain de Waubert, cofounder of Amplitude Studios, and Jeff Spock, narrative director on the series. The Endless games have a strong narrative thrust, interconnected by a story about an extinct, advanced civilisation—the titular Endless—that destroyed itself through infighting. There is no expository intro in any of the games. Instead, you learn about the lore by finding artefacts, carrying out quests and exploring planets and the vestiges of lost civilisations. Even something as fundamental as researching technologies is a pithy lesson, as most techs in the game originate from the Endless. 

Spock believes that the 4X genre lends itself naturally to a subtle brand of worldbuilding, which still affords the player the agency they’ve come to expect from a 4X game. It was important to maintain that Civ ethos of enabling the player to create their own narratives, all the while offering compelling stories. “Because it’s a procedurally generated game, you don’t need a traditional storyline. It’s the player’s story, not the designer’s story,” he says. To that end, there are no cinematics. Instead, the Endless series relies on hand-drawn pictures and evocative prose. Quests are tales of monsters that you can hunt in haunting, misty oceans, or of species that worship mysterious beings that predate even the Endless. “I think it’s more interesting to use text and 2D images, and allow the player to come up with the rest of the imagery. All we want to do is keep throwing coal into the engine so whatever they’re imagining is rich and meaningful,” Spock tells us. “We definitely shouldn’t take over the imagination of the player,” adds de Waubert, “because then it wouldn’t be 4X anymore.”

Even in the short time span between the games, Amplitude has made iterations to abide by de Waubert’s sandbox paradigm. It’s why between Endless Legend and Endless Space 2, the faction quests evolved from linear to choice-driven. At a story juncture for the tree-loving Unfallen faction, for example, you need to pick between showing the galaxy that the faction won’t be swayed from its pacifist principles, or—in a flourish of doublespeak—that it’s prepared to defend those principles with force. The quest goals force you to channel production either into influence or military power, but you can take the path best suited to your unique circumstances in a given game. The faction quests become integrated into the game’s systems, rather than layered over the top of them.

An expansionist empire in Civilization may get a unique building with extra productivity and a couple of passive traits to help you spread your borders, an Endless game takes the idea to its extreme.

Balancing is a major preoccupation for 4X devs, and the megapatches that tend to follow most releases spend much of their time tweaking units, movement, faction bonuses and buildings to make sure the game feels just right. But Amplitude has embraced the joys of misbalance, making each faction drastically different. “With every other faction [apart from humans], we try to break at least one major rule,” says de Waubert. “And by breaking this rule, we accept that our game will probably not be very well balanced in the end. But that’s fine, because once the player’s aware of that, it lets them go crazy.” 

So where an expansionist empire in Civilization may get a unique building with extra productivity and a couple of passive traits to help you spread your borders, an Endless game takes the idea to its extreme. “We’d be in a meeting with designers and say, ‘We need a faction that’s expansion-oriented—they need to keep growing and conquering,’” says Spock. “So maybe it’s uncontrollable population—rabbits in space, you know?” The end result of this thought process was the Craver faction of Endless Space (though the only cunicular thing about them is their invasiveness). These insectoid creatures were created by the Endless for war, and their voracious consumption makes them the only faction to fully deplete planets of all their natural resources, forcing them to move onto the next star system, enslave whoever lives there, bleed it dry, then move on again. The Cravers are incapable of signing peace treaties, so you play in a perpetual cycle of consumption and war. Balance be damned. 

These kinds of idiosyncrasies exist across most Endless factions. The Cultists can only build the one city but amass armies by indoctrinating minor factions around the world. The Riftborn from Endless Space need to spend industry to reproduce (they’re manufactured rather than conceived). The Roving Clans can’t declare war, and instead exert control through the Marketplace: a global market with a dynamic economy that they can shut other factions out of.

In a sci-fi or sci-fantasy world, de Waubert believes that the “alien-ness of aliens” needs to be captured, praising the variety and weirdness of interstellar species in the TV series Babylon 5 and Iain Banks’ Culture novels. “If we were to say, ‘Here come these amazing mushroom men that reproduce through spores, but they have +2 Growth and -2 Industry, it just doesn’t work,” says de Waubert. “They have to break the game, otherwise the whole imagination of the sci-fi universe is broken.” 

A similar approach has since been seen in the Total War: Warhammer series, from Creative Assembly. The fantasy premise has allowed it to let loose with systems that weren’t possible in the historical settings. In Warhammer II, Skaven cities only appear as ruins to other players, while High Elves can manipulate and spy on their opponents via diplomacy. De Waubert reveals that the two fellow Sega developers have been exchanging ideas, but stops short of claiming credit for Total War’s innovations. “We try to learn from their experience, and share everything we can with them,” he reveals. 

All these asymmetries and imbalances may sound intimidating to the 4X outsider. But where the blockbuster Civilization series is, to an extent, fettered to its own legacy, and inhibited from making drastic changes to make it more accessible, Amplitude got to approach the genre afresh, with a new generation of potential 4X gamers in mind. “When you’re starting on a blank page, you can do things differently,” de Waubert says. 

“Half the effort with traditional 4X games was trying to figure out the interfaces,” says Spock. “You’d have to click through three menus then find a slider bar and under that you’d find another few options. We wanted to put an end to that.” Take the ‘Citizen Management’ screen in Civilization, where you assign population to gathering science, food and industry. For years, it’s remained largely similar—a system where you assign citizens to specific tiles surrounding the city, counting the amount of each resource on each tile. The Endless series simplifies this by not even having a separate screen for managing city production, but a small table overlay where you can drag and drop citizens between the resources you want them to generate. All the info you need is right there in the table, and the effects are immediately obvious.

Spock says that the goal of this “beautiful, streamlined interface is that the player could get anywhere in two, three clicks”, but that doesn’t capture the omniscient feel of managing your empire in Endless Space 2, where you can seamlessly zoom from a galaxy-wide view to a star system to a planet in a couple of seconds by scrolling. Press the spacebar on a planet or star system, and you ‘scan’ whatever is highlighted. The interface posits you as an emperor, interacting with your hologram terminal, using graceful hand gestures; it feels like a modern, less intrusive answer to those clunky metallic interfaces of ’90s titles, like Fallout and Alpha Centauri, which aims to immerse players by allowing them to look at the game world diegetically.

The interface posits you as an emperor, interacting with your hologram terminal, using graceful hand gestures; it feels like a modern, less intrusive answer to those clunky metallic interfaces of 90s titles.

This is a series of decluttered design elements, and both Endless Legend and Space follow the same principles to keep things looking clean. There are only a handful of unit types per faction, and you’re best off keeping them stacked in dedicated hero-led armies. Instead of inundating the player with increasingly advanced units through the tech tree, the games let you upgrade existing unit types through new weaponry and equipment—a system that’s instantly familiar to a playerbase more attuned to roleplaying game elements than it was even ten years ago. “Today, RPG elements are a reflex for the player, and a reflex for the creator,” says de Waubert. “But you need to not get lost in it. You have to keep in mind that the player is still an emperor, not a bunch of heroes.”

Citybuilding in Endless Legend borrows from its cosmic counterpart, where you’re confined to colonising existing planets and star systems. In Legend, the rule is that you can only build one city per region. “Having to handle 20 cities in the late game isn’t so much fun, and we didn’t want to bog players down with micromanagement,” de Waubert tells me. Some of the greatest moments in Civilization come in those first 100 turns, when the world is uncharted and uncovering it is fraught with danger and excitement. By preventing overdevelopment of an empire, de Waubert says, “You get to keep these wild places in the world where mystery always exists.” 

“It’s more interesting if you have five or six important cities, where each of them matter and develop a character,” adds Spock. “The science one on the river, the military seaport city—this change from traditional design adds a layer of immersion that we feel improves the experience.” One of the big introductions in Endless Legend was districts, letting players spread cities across multiple tiles, bringing in more resources as well as building a distinct visual character for each city. When Civilization VI was announced in 2016, a similar districts system was its most touted feature, offering players ‘de-stacked’ cities for the first time in the series. Amplitude is proud to have fed back into the series without which it acknowledges that its own venture wouldn’t have been possible. “We know guys at Firaxis. It’s a collegial competition,” says Spock. “If we always get jealous guarding our things and spiteful when people use them, the ultimate loser will be the player.”

The design philosophy of the series can be partly attributed to Amplitude swearing by the Early Access model, building up a community of backers that’s been offering nonstop feedback since 2012. It’s helped the studio understand what players want from a 4X game, especially in the early days when, de Waubert admits, “We had a bunch of ideas, but didn’t know how to make 4X.”

Five years on, and Amplitude has created the first great 4X series of the Early Access generation and a distinctly modern classic of the genre, offering a fresh perspective that the stalwarts are already learning from. They’ve overcome longstanding 4X problems, combating mid-game lulls with compelling narratives and creating interfaces that aren’t tied down by a lineage dating back 15 or more years. De Waubert assures us that “this is only the beginning” for the Endless saga—the first intrepid turns in a new instance of the 4X game, where rules are being broken and balance has been thrown out of the airlock for the better. 

Announcement - Valve
Save 85% on Endless Franchise Complete Packs as part of this week's Weekend Deal*!

*Offer ends Monday at 10AM Pacific Time

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Fraser Brown)

Amplitude Studios has grown significantly since the Parisian developer, as a small team that you could count on one hand, first conceived Endless Space. Now they work out of two floors in a high-rise near the centre of the metropolis and are busy working on their fourth game, Endless Space 2. Recently, they announced a partnership with publisher Sega.

It s an evolution and escalation that s echoed in their games. Endless Space 2, then, is an opportunity to show everyone just how much they ve grown, combining the ideas that birthed their first game with the lessons they ve learned through the much lauded Endless Legend. I spoke to the company’s two founders to discuss why they’re making the game now, what the partnership with Sega means for the studio, and more.

… [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Fraser Brown)

Endless Space 2 is the sequel to French studio Amplitude s cosmic 4X game, though it feels just as much a follow-up to their exceptional fantasy strategy affair, Endless Legend. Comfortably sitting next to all the numbers, resources and planetary management are lively stories, epic quests, and fascinating space-faring species, each with distinct hooks the ingredients that made the company s last game something special.

I traveled to Amplitude s offices to get my hands on the game, and thus far my goal is to try and get rich the noblest of pursuits.

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer

Sega has acquired Endless developer Amplitude, hoovering up another strategy great and putting the series alongside the likes of Total War.

We at PCG are big Endless Legend fans the mad variation between factions alone sets it apart from the 4X crowd. With the takeover, Sega will take charge of publishing the inbound Endless Space 2. It'll still go through Early Access though. We're told to expect it later this year.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Adam Smith)

Sega have acquired Amplitude, creators of the Endless series of strategy games. Endless Legend was our game of the year in 2014 and its predecessor Endless Space is set to receive a direct sequel that will enter Early Access later this year. Sega will now publish that game, as well as assuming responsibility for the back catalogue of Endless games, which includes Dungeon of the Endless, a fantastic tower-defense/roguelike hybrid.

Amplitude are one of the smartest young strategy studios around and they join Creative Assembly, Relic and Sports Interactive (Football Manager is> a strategy game) in Sega’s stable of PC developers. That’s a mighty strong line-up for a company that old men like me still associate with ancient consoles and platform games rather than PC publishing.

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer

Amplitude Studios is celebrating its fifth birthday with its second annual Endless Day: a day that lasts from 21 to 25 January, and that offers up rare heroes and achievements to people who play their games during this time, and who fulfil various conditions. That stuff is detailed here, and includes a trio of heroes simply for starting new games of Endless Space, Endless Legend, and Dungeon of the Endless. You can also bag some time-limited achievements, though these will require a mite more effort.

(Amplitude hints here that you might be able to get these things after January 25, perhaps by mucking about with the time settings on your computer.)

During a celebratory livestream, Amplitude also announced a new expansion for Endless Legend titled Shifters. Ampz sez "this expansion will include a new Major Faction called The Allayi. This new civilization will be able to shift during long winters", a fine alternative to sticking the heating on and hugging a hot water bottle, I reckon. Meanwhile, "all factions will also be able to collect a new resource called the Pearls of Auriga , enabling them to unlock new powers through the Altar of Auriga and modify the upcoming winters impact". Good on them.

Here's a picture of them there Shifters (ta, RPS):

One of the upcoming Endless Space 2's new factions has been revealed as well. The Sophons are one of ES2's eight major factions, and they're basically insectoid scientists.

Community Announcements - Steph(✿◠‿◠)

Hi all,

The Endless Day has returned! :) We're celebrating today our studio's 5th anniversary with in-game events, tons of giveaways on Twitter, a special live stream and an office party!

Play Endless Legend, Dungeon of the Endless and Endless Space before Monday, January 25 to discover and permanently unlock rare Steam achievements or play with Tarosh the Archivist in each game. For more information, check out this FAQ:


  • How to unlock the Emlek Tarosh hero: you need to start a new game of Endless Space (make sure you have disabled your mods if you are playing with any), before January 25th (end of the event). If you manage to do so, the hero will be unlocked for your future games once the event is over.
  • To unlock the “Endless Day” achievement: win a game in “Endless” difficulty, started between January 21st and January 25th, but completed at any time.

  • How to unlock the archivist, Esseb Tarosh: you need to start a new game of Dungeon of the Endless. The hero will be available in your pool right away, for the duration of the event. Like any other heroes in DotE, you need to survive at least three floors with the hero or finish the game with it. If you manage to do so, once the event ends, you will be able to keep the Esseb Tarosh in your pool of heroes.
  • How to unlock the “Endless Day” achievement: you need to start a new game in any difficulty, hire the archivist hero and keep it alive, and complete the game. Make sure you start and complete a game between January 21st and January 25th in order to get the achievement.

  • How to unlock the Eslek Tarosh hero and the “Endless Day” achievement: you need to start a new game of Endless Legend (make sure you have disabled your mods if you are playing with any), before January 25th (end of the event!). Once you have built your first city, a new quest will appear: “Day of the Awakening”. Complete it and you will unlock the new hero and the Steam achievement.

Twitter giveaways will be taking place all day long on Twitter. Follow us on Twitter (@Amplitude) for a chance to win Steam keys for all our games and a great Endless goodies package! This event starts at 10am CET, and we plan to continue giving keys away throughout the whole day! So stay tuned, and good luck!

As a thank you for being part of our community, we will be unlocking the Mezari faction (Vaulters faction skin) for everyone in Endless Legend!

Don't miss our Live Stream, starting at 4pm CET with Mathieu & Romain, our co-founders! They'll discuss the studio's recent achievements, give updates on current projects, and drop hints about what comes next. Follow us on Twitch and be sure to tune in!

A Beer2Gether event will be taking place over at our studio in Paris. There's no more room for this one, sorry, be sure to be among the first to register next week to be able to visit us!

The Endless Day events conclude on January 25th at 12am CET. Achievement hunters, make sure to get them before then!

~Amplitude Studios
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Adam Smith)

Perhaps Amplitude’s award-winning strategy game really is> endless. A large free update for Endless Legend [official site] is due to land sometime today and there will be two cash-money chunks of DLC arriving alongside. The free stuff comes under the heading Forges of Creation and brings AI improvements, new modding tools, including compatibility with free map editor Tiled and the ability to reskin 3D units. There will also be Steam Workshop integration. The two purchasable packs contain new music, items and minor faction quests. More details below.

… [visit site to read more]

Jul 30, 2015
Community Announcements - Steph.(✿◠‿◠)

Hello everyone,

It's been crazy here these past few days, with the iPad announcement for Dungeon of the Endless, the Endless Legend: Shadows expansion and Gamescom approaching. The Endless mysteries have almost all been solved now and you have unlocked the ENDLESS SPACE 2 website and teaser.

Press SPACE to toggle Amplified Reality: http://www.yourvision-theirfuture.com.

Thank you so much for your hard work and enthusiasm: it was a real pleasure to follow your progress on this treasure hunt through this thread and on our social networks. Don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter and invite your friends for exclusive in-game goodies! :)

~The Amplitude team

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