If there is one concept that keeps coming up throughout the preview presentation of Endless Space 2, it is letting players create their own stories.
It’s around 3:30 p.m. EDT, and I’m on Skype with Romain de Waubert, Creative Director of Amplitude Studios, based in Paris, France. Their 4X science fiction strategy game, Endless Space 2, comes out of Early Access on May 19, 2017. As he walks me through some of the mechanics and gameplay, it becomes very clear that he has put great thought and care into the many decisions that players will need to make as they play through his game.
“When you make a choice, it should be a new choice, [and] you need to create oppositions with new choices,” he says as I interview him after the presentation. “With all of these choices, you will create your own story that nobody else will have. We want to make sure that [when] you take a choice [it] is really yours, and not somebody else’s.”
There is a lot to keep each decision meaningful, beginning with the choice of which faction to play. As he tells me during the presentation, each race is an archetype that has had additional development added on, with the player’s selection having a massive impact on what happens in their game. This even extends to the game’s sense of humour, sprinkled throughout to keep the experience from getting too serious. Play the inquisitive Sophons (the first to do everything, including accidentally blow up their own moon), and you’re in for a lighter experience with plenty to laugh about as they bumble their way through. Choose the Riftborn, and you’re in a desperate struggle for survival – there’s not much to laugh about, but you do get to reverse time and redo battles. These differing motivations, along with the character development they bring, is a key to Endless Space 2‘s design.
“I don’t want to play a game where I just gather food,” says de Waubert. “You want to play a game where you unify the universe in your image. It goes well beyond the gameplay, and that’s what we wanted – [those are] the games that get remembered ten, twenty years later.”
This effort to create a more memorable experience for the player appears in sometimes surprising places. Whereas many 4X strategy games have a civics mechanics, Endless Space 2 has you actually passing laws, dealing with political parties, and even having elections – a game mechanic that replicates political capital, and puts the player into a situation where public opinion matters. You can attempt to ride it or run roughshod over it, but you must always take it into consideration.
“It should be about the population and how they feel,” says de Waubert. “That allows you to create stories between and your population – between this guy who wants to recreate the universe in his image and this population who just want to eat. It’s more organic, it makes the game more believable, and it hooks you even more.”
If the Civilization series is about great power politics throughout history, then Endless Space 2 seems to be an attempt to take it to the stars, putting the player in the shoes of a galactic head of state. This even extends to the combat, where the player can set general strategy, but the battles themselves are automated – carrying out the tactics is up to the fleet commanders. What the player does with this position and power, in the end, is up to them.
“It’s about conquering the galaxy, saving the galaxy, beautifying the galaxy, believing what you see and what you are,” de Waubert tells me. “It’s all about the richness you experience pleasing your ears, pleasing your eyes, not giving you any reasons to get out of the game. It should suck you in and leave you with a little smile along the way.”