As the reigning champion on my “4X Leaderboard”, Endless Legend’s Symbiosis expansion would have had to be pretty awful to drag the game down in my eyes.
For those that don’t know, Amplitude Studios has begun working with NGD Studios of the Master of Orion reboot fame (or infamy, depending on how you feel about it) and they developed Endless Legend’s last expansion, Inferno. Inferno was pretty rad and I really liked it. NGD did a pretty damn good job of keeping with Amplitude Studio’s flavor and the new faction, the Kapaku, and the accompanying mechanics were really interesting.
Turns out that the relationship with NGD was just beginning, as they then went on to make Symbiosis, featuring a new faction, the Mykara – a one-city race of plant/fungus/tree people – and these new pseudo-monsters, the Urkans, which can be pacified through bribery or savagery.
So, did NGD make Endless Legend better with Symbiosis, or was this a misstep for this new partnership?
What I Like:
The Mykara: Hell yes, of course I like this new faction! As someone who submitted a plant-like faction during the Endless Legend faction-creation contest, and as the person who created the concept of Endless Space 2’s Unfallen, it’s pretty clear that I love plant/tree factions.
However, the Mykara are still pretty awesome in concept and execution regardless, which makes them even cooler in my own humble opinion. They start with one city and use a fungal growth to claim relics, strategic resources, and luxury resources. Even better, they can instantly transport their armies through the relic sites, which makes them incredibly maneuverable.
As with the rest of Amplitude Studios’ expansions, the Mykara also have a strong bond with the new gameplay mechanics (the Urkans), and with them, become rather powerful once they start taming them. That being said, I feel like their base units aren’t particularly strong, which makes the need to get the Urkans even more pressing.
However, their aesthetics, their gameplay revolving around their one, very powerful city, and their relationship with the Urkans all make them a fun race to play and a unique race to look at and deal with.
The Urkans: At first glance, you might think that the Urkans are just glorified guardians (the beasts from the Guardians DLC), but they’re actually quite a bit more. Not only are they basically NPCs until they become player-owned, but once you tame them – again, through savagely beating them in combat or by bribing them with luxury goods – you can upgrade them through the use of more luxury goods.
It gets deeper, too, as the more Urkans you’ve tamed, the more skills you have access to as well. In a Venn-diagram-like fashion, the skills are only unlocked with different combinations of Urkans:
They miiiiight be a bit overpowered, but at this point in the life of Endless Legend, I’m not sure that balance is really that important. Also, they’re not so overpowered that a focused attack with the right armies can’t overcome them.
On the flipside, the AI doesn’t do a great job of using them once they tame them and they also kinda kamikaze their armies against the Urkans, but those aren’t huge issues and they’re not big enough to mention in my list below.
Either way, I like them and enjoy that they’re in the game. NGD has continued to a great job of fleshing out this game without making it feel like mechanics are just tacked on. However, that leads me to my next list…
What I Don’t Like:
The Urkan Skill Tree: Honestly, I’m just not sure that they need to be any more powerful, but truth be told, the skill tree isn’t very exciting. None of the additional skills truly excite me as a player and none of them have that “Oh! I need that!” feeling.
Starting To Feel Too Busy: There’s just so. much. going. on with Endless Legend now that I’m extremely glad they’re not making any more expansions. It’s really hard to keep track of all the things that I can/want to do in the game at this point, so it’s best to just leave it like it is now. Thankfully, they’re doing just that.
At the same time, this expansion also feels a bit short on content in comparison to the other Endless Legend add-ons. I think it’s okay, as too much more would have been a bit overwhelming at this point, but it doesn’t quite feel as game-changing as Inferno, Tempest, or Shifters.
The AI Still Sucks: It may be my favorite 4X game of all time, but the AI has always been a major weakness. The insane part, at least to me, is that there’s this awesome Community Patch by EnemyLeaderBoss that addresses the AI to such a degree that many fans simply won’t play the game without it.
That they haven’t been incorporated into the base game is a small tragedy.
I’m lucky or dumb enough that I just enjoy playing the game as I explore the universe and the storylines more than I enjoy a good challenge, but let’s be completely honest: the AI is borderline moronic and it doesn’t even do/use some of the newer gameplay stuff or even some of the things that it should have been doing since the game released.
But shit, seriously, I’ve said this before and I’ll continue to say this: the AI is an easy cherry to pick when finding negatives to talk about with 4X games. I just find Endless Legend’s AI to be particularly unimpressive, especially considering the size of the studio that made it (and the caliber and quality of the rest of the game).
The NGD Studios/Amplitude Studios pairing has breathed new life into Endless Legend and caused me to sink an additional 40 or so hours into my most beloved 4X. That’s a great thing.
It’s time for both developers to move on, though, and they’ve made it clear that Symbiosis was the last expansion, so we’re all in agreement. That’s also a great thing.
Endless Legend is what rekindled my love for this genre in a way that I never thought possible. I’ve enjoyed this game thoroughly, despite its shortcomings, and I am certain that I’ll return to it from time to time. Symbiosis managed to squeeze the last little bit of playability and ingenuity out of Endless Legend without feeling contrived or tacked on. It’s fun, it feels like it belongs, and it adds just a little more flash to a great game.
Needless to say, I’m very glad to see Amplitude Studios continue their partnership with NGD for Endless Space 2, as they’ve done great work with Endless Legend. Really excited to see what they’ll create together next!
Thank you, Endless Legend, for all the good gaming memories. You reinvigorated my passion for 4X and I’m forever grateful…