Review: Endless Legend: Shadows (PC)
Have you heard of Endless Legend? If you enjoy the 4X genre, you really should give it a look. 4X, for those who might not know, revolves around four central activities: eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate. Endless Legend has become my 4X game of choice. Maybe it is the massive, alien world full of ruins and quests? Maybe it is the way each faction forces a completely different style of play out of you to be optimal, or the new mechanics you suddenly have to deal with. But enough about me.
How paranoid are you of your neighbours? Do you have armies camped near their borders to see their troop movements? Perhaps you make scouts camp near capital cities thanks to an open borders policy? In Endless Legend: Shadows you have other options available to you.
Lurking in the shadows
The introduction of the Forgotten faction brings a whole new level of treachery and duplicity to the table. Experts in espionage, the Forgotten skulk in the shadows and move around the world with stealth. In combat this leads to several advantages: some of your units can pass through an enemy’s position, allowing you to attack from behind or flank someone with an otherwise defensible position. You can also hide your units with camouflage until the attack, making sure you attack with full strength. The Forgotten are a hard people with a tight society. Their survival instincts allow them to gather more Dust from pillaging, slowing your opponents down while you profit.
Their main strength though, is when their heroes infiltrate an enemies city. Over time their influence in the city grows, allowing them to pilfer technology, provide vision on units, reduce production or even lower a city’s population, among other things. There is a chance they get injured or captured while sabotaging the city, which can lead to some awkward diplomacy afterwards. If you suspect there is a spy you can spend a few turns trying to flush them out, bolstering your detection capabilities for a while.
But at what cost?
The Forgotten are pretty powerful, if you take all their advantages into account. “Extra Dust from pillaging? Improved stealth, infiltration and detection, this isn’t balanced at all!” you might be tempted to exclaim. But they have a weakness. The Forgotten are incapable of generating Science. All buildings related to Science are gone, even those special formations on the land are stripped of their Science value. If you want a new tech you either need to steal it from other factions, or pay for them in Dust. It makes you want to play a spy, to pillage your opponent’s villages and extractors. Your quest for Dust is generally aggressive and your opponents will need to keep an eye on you at all times. Expect to have people declare war on you, due to your roguish acts.
The game is balanced in such a way that spies stay a nuisance and worry at all times. Your city will never have 100% detection meaning there is always that small chance that the enemy is siphoning off technology from your hard work. It adds so much more pressure to the game, thanks to the idea of hidden enemies lurking in your city. That fear of the unknown can make for some tense moments. Is there a reason why your enemy appears to not have any army units? Is your capital safe with 40% detection. Where did that scout go to, what did it need vision of?
The questions will slowly gnaw at you, and you will eventually declare war on someone who hasn’t done a thing wrong. But in the dying world of Auriga, you have to act rather than wait. If you thought production was terrible in winter, wait until a spy sabotages your city with the best production in winter, or just as winter ends. But your search of the city finds no-one. Who did this to me? Who?! This expansion has reignited my Endless Legend playtime. I can’t wait to mix stealth with the honeyed diplomacy of the Drakken.