Squaddies by the Fireside: Endless Space

Pete and Alex C settle down for a lengthy chat about Amplitude’s upcoming 4X title.

(Caution! Extremely lengthy, multi-page post ahead.)

The flames burned brightly in the fireplace of the Squad lounge. Though the day had been hot, the nights had taken a turn for the cooler, so the fire had been lit as a means of making the room a little more cozy — and for serving as a convenient focal point for socialisation. It was late now, though, and there was but one figure still up and about.

Alex “unmanneddrone” Connolly sat in one of the two wing-back leather chairs either side of the fireplace. He gazed into the depths of the flames, lost amid their flickering, jumping patterns and the gentle crackling of the logs — the only sound in this otherwise silent room.

The door burst open to reveal Pete “angryjedi” Davison, clad in full spacesuit, clutching a helmet under his arm. Breathlessly, he wriggled out of the oversized outfit and nodded to Alex, who gestured for his companion to join him by the fire.

Endless Space?” said Alex.

Endless Space,” said Pete, pouring himself a gin and tonic before settling into the other of the two wing-back chairs.

Alex waited for his friend and comrade to get his breath back and enjoy a mouthful of the cold drink. Pete swallowed, closed his eyes for a moment and took in the subdued, relaxed atmosphere of the lounge at night-time.

“So,” he said finally. “Let us begin, for we have much to discuss, I feel.”

Alex nodded sagely.

“Why don’t you start by telling me how you found out about Endless Space in the first place?” he said, leaning back into the chair and cupping his G&T glass in the palm of his hand. “I found out about it through you, but how did you come to it?”

Alex frowned, thinking for a moment.

“I think it was via Space Sector,” he said thoughtfully, “which incidentally is a magnificent blog for sci-fi gaming geeks. It did catch my eye, not only because the first scant few screenshots were gorgeous and unbelievably in-game but because it didn’t have the ‘Kickstarter’ suffix attached. Finding out that developers who had worked on many of my favourite games had come together to create one of the great strategic showcase subsets was, in my own experience, a very good thing.”

Pete took another sip of his drink and waited for Alex to continue.

“What’s your history with games of this ilk, and moreover, what did you expect before jumping in?” he asked.

“My history with strategy games is a bit patchy, to be honest,” Pete began, “and I’ve only really come to them recently. Traditionally, the closest equivalent I’ve come to them is the role-playing genre.”

Pete pulled out his iPhone from his pocket and launched an app. The dormant Recorderbot, who had been standing dutifully immobile and inactive in the corner of the room until now, came to life, his face lighting up as he trundled over to the pair by the fireplace. Pete tapped an icon on his phone and Recorderbot’s chest opened to reveal a projector.

“A few years back, some friends and I took to board gaming in a big way,” said Pete. Recorderbot’s projector lit up, displaying what looked like an old photograph of a group of friends on the wall above the fireplace. “We started with ‘Ameritrash’ titles like Hero Quest and Space Crusade but shortly afterwards graduated to the more cerebral, strategic Eurogame genre.” Here the picture changed to show the friends playing a board game with a hexagonal board — Alex recognised it as The Settlers of Catan.

“It was about that time we all got into Civilization IV,” Pete continued. “I guess that was my introduction to this type of game. Since that time, I’ve given a number of turn-based strategy titles a go and while I’m clearly still not very good at them, I enjoy exploring them and learning how they work.”

Recorderbot changed the projected image again, this time to a large screenshot of a “YOU LOSE” screen from Civilization IV. Alex smiled wryly. Pete took another sip of his drink and continued.

“As for Endless Space specifically, it intrigued me from the concept. I’m a fan of space games that put a big focus on galactic exploration and discovery — as a long-term sci-fi (particularly Star Trek) fan, it looked like a good concept to base a strategy game around. I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting going in — something similar to Starbase Orion on iOS perhaps? I was pleasantly surprised at quite how Civ-like the game turned out to be — it made me feel like I already had a grasp of the concepts and rules.”

Alex nodded. Pete tapped the icon on his iPhone and Recorderbot shut off the projector.