The saga of Endless is something that is often forgotten by mainstream gaming media. Existing in the 4X genre, it’s something inherently niche due to the investment and knowledge needed to become competent at them. Then Endless itself being something more complex than other titles in the genre. Endless Space 2 has become well known for such complexity due to a number of factors: assigning and controlling heroes, the controlling of your senate and politics, juggling your own aims with your quests, and the natural alliances and politics that follow the world of 4X.
The addition of Penumbra provides another dimension to the space opera of Endless Space 2. It doesn’t change this fact. Instead, it focuses on adding more content rather than streamlining the gameplay experience in any large degree. The obvious change to the game comes from the addition of the Umbral Choir, a faction that centers on cloaking and hacking. They focus on building a tall empire as opposed to a wide one. They also stay out of sight for long periods of time as their primary line of defense in addition to their ability to use multiple different levels of invisibility modules to be able to go behind enemy lines. And of course the hacking.
We’re All Script Kids
Hacking takes the form of a few clicks from the new hacking scan menu. The hacker and their target are both able to set up offensive and defensive programs to fight the hack attempt. A shame then, that the mechanic is so shallow in comparison to the unique mechanics available to the other factions.
A big issue with hacking is that the Umbral Choir itself has no real superiority in it. Everyone can be as good at espionage as they are, and it makes it quite easy to defeat the hacking attempt and making it a waste of time. This is a real problem, due to the fact that the Umbral Choir is locked in what is effectively a one-system challenge, meaning that they really can’t afford to be outfoxed in the one thing they’re good at, while losing access to the ability to traditionally expand.
The Umbral Choir also brings the ability to use Sanctuaries, building them in any non-allied system. These sanctuaries strengthen their economy and are built covertly allowing them to “expand” in a way despite their unfortunate inability to paint the map in their colors. This further enhances their need to remain covert and, preferably invisible for long periods of time. Unfortunately, as we covered, the UC has no real upper hand in the way of crippling empires that come too close.
The tools that the Choir does have aren’t exactly explained to the player all that well in game. The tutorial is middling at best and vague at worst. At the very least Amplitude seems to be aware of this. They’ve put out a YouTube tutorial to aid players. A good move on the developer’s part, but not something in favor of the game, because it’s not something that is IN the game.
Put simply the mechanics introduced the Penumbra DLC are interesting, but could be better implemented. The Umbral Choir are undertuned (rare occurrence for the DLC factions in the Endless series), and a better in-game tutorial is necessary.
- Interesting mechanics in the hacking and sanctuaries
- Invisibility modules are a neat addition
- Another unique faction added to the other 11, increasing gameplay variety
- Very poor tutorial
- Underpowered new faction
- Steep learning curve without said tutorial
In case you’re interested, I’ll link the tutorial video for the Penumbra mechanics.