Before this year’s Gamescom, I was told by Iceberg Interactive that Endless Space developer Amplitude Studios would unveil a project I’d be personally interested in. I was told this, because the publisher knows of my everlasting love for Endless Space. It’s quite good. To my surprise, right before the convention hit, a teaser came around for Dungeon of the Endless, which showed a brand new style and game genre. They’re doing some sort of roguelike now? That’s amazing; I wasn’t even aware people knew I’m into those. Then, a few days later, the announcement came for Endless Legend, a 4X war game with yet another design. Now I don’t know what to believe. Which of these was the one that was addressed to me? The answer is “both,” but let’s stop talking about me, because I’m boring. Instead, let’s look at what’s happening here.
Both of these games will come at roughly the same period and that not too long after Endless Space, which is currently in the run for Unity Awards for bringing new life to the 4X genre. That’s a lot of releases on the same lore at once. Yet, it would not be justified to employ a “yearly release” look on this, like with Assassin’s Creed (AC) for instance. We’ll use that as the recognizable reference point right now, but please understand it’s not something specifically limited to AC. FIFA, CoD, Madden or basically anything with a year stamp on the title can be used as an example.
The closest we can get to tying the first title together with new projects is Endless Legend, as it shares the 4X style of explore, expand, exploit and exterminate. However, where the first game let us go into space, we’re now on soil and that requires an entirely different approach. For instance, we’re now bound to hexes for our civilizations and will need to look for resources while scouring the lands filled with armies of other nations. For illustration purposes: It’s going from Master of Orion to Civilization, not AC2 to Brotherhood. It’s a whole different jump. Even if we expand towards AC3 with a new story, you’re still doing the same climbs and jumps. That’s not the case for Endless Legend.
Not a lot is known of the war game beyond that reveal, but there are some screenshots that denote the possibility to group units together in an army, represented by a leader on the map. More so, combat prowess is divided into a few traits such as strength, speed and so on, along with an experience counter for veteran units. There’s also a shot from a settlement that shows the difference in ground types and building enhancements, but also resource management and research. It’s going to be pretty big. Hopefully, the game will use the same accessible entry level for players as Endless Space, because the world needs more understandable 4X games. We’ll put the screenshots below.
Now, with Dungeon of the Endless, nothing stays the same. Even visuals revert to smooth pixelated animations and the game changes to a tower defense game, mixed with dungeon crawling elements. Here, players are tasked with defending their crashed ship and explore a random environment, where waves of enemies will come for their flesh. It’s a shame not more than that is clear right now, but it’s certain that it has little to do with previous designs. Not only that, but it even tries to mix up the tower defense model. Granted, AC Revelations has tower defense games as well, but it’s pinned to the main design that is still the same. It’s not a complete commitment to changing the model; it’s just a distraction keeping you from what you want to be doing. Go hard or go home.
What’s pertinent in differences between yearly releases and this one is that Amplitude Studios only uses the “Endless” lore and throws everything else overboard. There’s no lazy rehashing of models, worlds or anything. Each game gets its own spotlight and more importantly, all of them have their own scope. Safety and brand recognition are all but thrown out of the window, as creative ideas take over. It’s this sort of creativity that we should not only see from smaller studios, but certainly from big names. Ironically, it’s AC’s Ubisoft that addressed a threat to creative design in AAA games, but it doesn’t need to be tolerated, just because it’s a present issue. Change the model; change the game, in many ways.
Here, Amplitude shows that you can come up with some pretty outlandish ways for your franchise to stick together and still craft games no one else has been thinking about. In lesser extent, this can also be said about the recent release of Saints Row IV, which gives us the same game, but otherwise destroys its old conventions. If we can take Saints Row’s steps and gradually come towards the level of ingenuity Amplitude Studios is showing, our high-production gaming community would be a wonderland of different experiences. For the skeptics, let’s remind ourselves that Endless Space is up for Unity Awards in many of their categories and that came out of nowhere. They know what they’re doing, so there’s no excuse for others not to take calculated risks. It doesn’t need to be crazy; it just needs to be good. Here’s hoping everyone produces good games.