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Full Steam Ahead – Endless Space

Time logged before Full Steam Ahead: 16 minutes

Earlier, while playing The Sims 4, Sarah brought up an interesting point for me to consider: how do I know when I’ve played a game enough to write about it? For some, the plot or story is easily completed in my spare time. For others, the story is loosely defined or not a central part of the game and I need to figure out how much of the game I need to play to get a good feel for it. Two hours? Ten? Twenty? Full Steam Ahead is a fun project, but I am not without my limits; I’ve come to terms with the fact that there are some games I will not be able to fully explore before writing my post.

Well, today’s game is called Endless Space, so I think we can all guess whether I discovered everything or not.

To quote Luke Skywalker, “This is not going to go the way you think.”

Endless Space (technically, I’m playing with the Disharmony DLC also) is of the genre of games sometimes referred to as “4X” titles. For those unfamiliar with gaming jargon, 4X refers to the four main aspects of the game:

  1. Exploration – boldly venturing into the unknown.
  2. Expansion – building and growing one’s sovereign territory.
  3. Exploitation – developing and improving one’s economy and industry.
  4. Extermination – conquering one’s enemies and rivals.

While I find the definitions to maybe be a little forced, they do a good job of defining the mechanics and drives at play in the game.

4X games tend to be complex affairs, lending themselves to massive scales, and Endless Space is no exception. Set in a science fiction galaxy full of interstellar empires, my goal is to control the galaxy in a variety of ways. There are a dozen different empires to choose from. The game measures distances in parsecs.

The last time I played Endless Space, I was only in-game for 16 minutes. Not enough time to play a game; not even enough time to adequately acquaint myself with the empires to choose from. This time through, I choose to play as the Amoeba, a civilization of intelligent spores. They are primarily a peaceful species, more interested in exploration and philosophy.

Behold, the Amoeba, in all their slimy blue glory.

I like the idea of playing a peaceful empire. In 4X games, I tend to focus my efforts towards scientific or cultural development. In part, this is due to my nature; ask those who have played games with me, and they will tell you I avoid conflict. Whether this is due to cowardice or patience is up for debate, but the result is my aversion to conflict. Another mitigating factor is how tedious I find conflict in most turn-based strategy games. It’s not much fun to put my civilization’s peaceful development on hold – in 4X games, often the work of several hours – just to fight a long, frequently tedious war, for the next several turns.

Thus choosing the Amoeba seems to be a reasonable choice. Also playing are a few ai civilizations, including the nomadic Vaulters and also peaceful Automatons. The game, for the first several turns, does an excellent job immersing me the role of an interstellar leader. I’m drawn into the jobs of scientific director and colonial administrator. I learn, from in-game tutorials and events, about the world of Endless Space, full of rivalries, heroes, and complex lore.

Yes I name my star-systems after my favourite authors, what’s it to you?

At turn 126, the game informs me that, soon after a pirate fleet had taken up residence in one of my outer colonies, the Automatons were declaring war on me because they felt threatened by my score; so much for the peace-loving automatons of the game’s lore, and the immersiveness of the game.

We were off to fight the’bots, ’cause that’s the only choice we gots (with apologies to John Gray and Eric Peterson)

It takes me some thirty turns to satisfactorily remove the Automatons from my territory. In that time, my colonial, cultural, and scientific efforts all stall. In the name of extermination, the other “x-mechanics” are lost. After forcing reasonable terms of ceasefire on the Automatons (and finally removing the pesky pirates), the Vaulters are running away with the galaxy, owning more than half the systems, and having far greater capacity to explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate than me or the automatons combine. In turn 176, the Vaulters send me an offer of alliance. If I refuse, I would be an obnoxious, but not insurmountable roadblock to their victory. I sign on to their alliance, only to have the Vaulters declare war on the Automatons soon after.

At this point, I decide to start a new game. Hell, if I’m going to be forced into war anyway, I may as well play a civilization that takes to war more naturally. I choose the avian, monarchist Hissho, a warlike empire that the game speaks of in terms of bloodlust and warrior’s pride. For this game, I instead choose to focus my efforts towards production. My sciences are used only to increase my military development, and my exploration is only to find resources and enemies.


Perhaps this sudden 180 degree shift in focus is the cause of what happened next. My computer physically shudders. My monitors go black, with technicolour lines striping the screens. The game’s background music (delightful, by the by) is lost in a buzzing tone coming from my speakers. I’m forced to hard reset my computer.

When I restart, I’m greeted by more lines and black screens. Attempts to repair the problem result in that most infamous or error messages, the blue screen of death. This error happened six days ago. I am now, after many repairs, able to restart reliably in safe mode, and start reliably without a graphics driver. I’ve not yet given up on repairing my computer, but my time is not without its limits.

I started writing this post expecting that the game would be too massive for me to discover everything. I didn’t expect sudden, violent computer failure to be the reason I couldn’t explore this game further. I’m not convinced that Endless Space is actually the cause, but it’s safe to say I’m done with this one, at least for now.

Exploration, Expansion, Exploitation, Extermination, and Exploding computers. This was the last screenshot I took before everything went wrong.

Next Episode: Prince of Persia – The Forgotten Sands…I hope

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