I'll admit, I found it very difficult to write this, the first review for Runzwithfire.co.uk. I didn't suffer from writer's block, my regular job hadn't blindsided me with additional tasks like it normally does, I wasn't even disturbed by Mrs Runz or the kids. No my friends, the difficulty came with the fact that I have become hopelessly addicted to Endless Space, Amplitude Studio's new 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit and eXterminate) game, and having had it for little under a week I have devoted about 30 hours to it in my quest for galactic dominance. That's pretty much all my spare time, leaving me with very little opportunity to actually sit down and tell you how great it is. It's a situation that many fans of the 4X genre will be able to empathise with and I'm sure many of you have lost entire weeks or months to Sins of a Solar Empire, Galactic Civilisations II or Civ V and Endless Space will have you no less hooked. It's easy to lose yourself to the allure of 'just one more turn' as you're intrigued to see how the AI will react to your newly constructed warfleet or itch to finish researching that much needed technology which will solve whatever current problem is afflicting your empire most.
At its heart, Endless Space is a 4X game in the best traditions of the genre; you're cast in the role of leader to one of eight fledgling empires each with their own unique traits and aesthetic feel (see 'Love Thy Neighbour'), or alternatively you can opt to create your own race using a range of 100 positive and negative traits. It's your job to lead your people out to the stars of the galaxy in a bid to colonise new worlds, exploit their resources and eventually dominate the competition, either economically, scientifically, diplomatically or militarily. In fact there are seven ways in which you can claim superiority and win, although it much be said that not all them are immediately apparent and whilst it's obvious when you're winning due to territorial dominance or close to researching the science victory, other means of victory are less clearly explained and rarely is information clearly presented on how close the other empires are to achieving their goals.
There's a fairly broad selection of options in the galactic map types allowing, for example, spiral galaxies or colliding galaxies and options on the galactic age determine the liklihood of star systems being filled with rich verdant worlds or older, more barren rocks which are more difficult to colonise. The options provide variance to ensure that galactic maps don't get repititive on multiple playthroughs, but I would say that by default the maps feel a little bit claustrophobic. Even the huge maps containing roughly 80 star systems become very quickly crowded, especially with eight empires playing, and with a fairly standard setting of one Empire per constellation in most cases (although some settings do change this) there can be little dynamism during the early phases of the game compared games such as Galactic Civilisations II or Civilisation V.