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A Renaissance of 4X Fantasy RPGs


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There's something very nice happening right now when it comes to 4X Fantasy RPGs.

 

A couple of days ago, Endless Legend was finally officially released (Metacritic 81, userscore 85), and I've stolen this review of it by BananaBucket:

"Endless Legend has soul, it's a work of art. I've played every hex strategy game since Civ, the original, and none other than Alpha Centauri have pulled me in like this one. So many brilliant design decisions and innovations, such great story, writing, music and illustrations. Every game I've played in the last decade could learn from looking at this game and thinking about how their work shapes up terms of concept, design and execution. I was a professional game reviewer and this generation seems to need some experience to recognise a truly great single player game."

 

It's absolutely amazing (although buggy, three crashes to desktop in like 10h so far). It's like Civ5 with hexes (it has all that strategical depth and sometimes better (like Diplomacy) - yes, even trade routes, city building), but then it has like well-written and varied quests (some on par with at least basic CRPG quests) sprinkled into the mix. The artwork is astounding! The music, the interfaces, everything, is bordering on masterpieces. This French dev team Amplitude Studios have surpassed themselves and done something fantastic. Sure, there's but eight factions to pick (but they are crazy-different in a good way), gold is instead Dust, and the gameplay is very much a matter of exploring and adventuring (with a few fights here and there).

And these instances of combat take place on the map/terrain features itself, with terrain modifiers, in some absurd fantasy-Godzilla death matches! It's unrealistic, but very fun and French!

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Oh, and it has seasons, like At The Gates will have (another 4X game coming out next year, which I backed on Kickstarter), which seriously affect movement, production, trade, and so forth.

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And you can make or redesign your own units easily, and hire heroes at a special marketplace/adventure hall. All this is done in a better way than Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes (which I really like too)

You find lots of loot, and you can improve crafting via city improvements.

The skill trees are amazing, much nicer than CiV, well, I could go on and on. It's a true 4X RPG gem!

 

As if this wasn't enough.

A couple of days ago, Stardock, the makers of Fallen Enchantress and GalCiv, released an Early Access beta version of a very new type of 4X RPG.

It actually has a DM in it, with thousands of quests at its disposal, including scripting events and lots of non-combat, non-fetch quest-stuff, and everything is reversed - when you start, the Sorcerer King has already conquered the world and is about to become a God, casting a divine spell Dominion on the world via eight shards - all this to ensure that each playthrough will be different.

 

Examples of very early quests/DM interactions from my first test of the game:

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So, each playthrough is an asymmetric war against the mighty Sorcerer King.

 

Building cities, strengthening armies, grabbing items, completing quests, and rallying independent factions, you’re trying to grow strong enough to off the Sorcerer King before he can destroy the world. Though he’s more powerful, like any good villain he doesn’t outright crush you. 

 

Your goal (kill the Sorcerer King) is wholly different than the Sorcerer King’s goals (destroy the shards and therefore the world).  The Sorcerer King doesn’t play by the same rules – he operates on a completely different level than your scarce resources allow you to. A sophisticated “Game Master” AI controls his forces and other events in the world, managing pacing, reacting upon your choices, which resources you gather, etc, and generating threats to ensure an engaging game from start to finish.

Most importantly, there is a doomsday meter up on the screen, which will fill up (but it can be slowed and even slightly reversed), and when it is filled in its entirety, it's game over for you, so no more dragged out "I need to finish 50 turns but I know I will win"-4X moments.

 

The graphics so far is pretty simple and cartoonish, but gameplay-wise it is all clearer than Fallen Enchantress, so when all this has been polished, I think it came become a unique 4X fantasy RPG.

 

 

 

 

 

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*** "The words of someone who feels ever more the ent among saplings when playing CRPGs" ***

 

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Well, *cough* more or less, what I mean is any 4X games that are non-historical, if you will.

 

I'd gladly count Alpha Centauri as one, for instance, and of course, Civ: Beyond Earth as well, who I'll soon get my greedy hands upon. :)

*** "The words of someone who feels ever more the ent among saplings when playing CRPGs" ***

 

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melkathi: Please do. The first few hours, you are like on Cloud Nine and just seep it all in, all the while pretending it's CiV or something. Eventually, you'll get the hang of it, I suspect, coz I haven't yet. :grin:

*** "The words of someone who feels ever more the ent among saplings when playing CRPGs" ***

 

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I pretend it is Endless Space. And it isn't, so that is my problem :) I keep trying to spam colony ships and build a large enough fleet to scare off the Cravers.

 

But I have to play it and learn the ropes since I owe it to the devs ;) They paid my plane tickets and admission tickets to GamesCom this year, bought me dinner and were all around awesome.

My Endless Legend shirt is currently in the laundry...

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melkathi: That sounds awesome! If you ever meet them again, tell them that they have made a truly fantastic game. I tried Endless Space over at a friend's but never got it. But I saw EL and really liked the graphics and the music, and then it turned out to be brilliant. What a superb effort!

 

Oddly enough, Steam is down, so I'll show you some more pics from my Early Access Sorcerer King in the meantime:

 

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Scouting ahead, and soon dead? Heh! It looks like an arch-devil in that grove. My scout is super-weak, and that demon is like 40-50 times stronger than my unit when I mouse over it, and the Ai is pretty decent. All the monsters you see on the map will try to corner me and follow me and then move in for the kill.

 

I lost my new-found administrator that way:

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There sure is treasure, and a lot of it has to with crafting:

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An example from the crude crafting screen:

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Edited by IndiraLightfoot

*** "The words of someone who feels ever more the ent among saplings when playing CRPGs" ***

 

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Wrong screenshot for the last one. It is the administrator in the bar again :)

 

 

Watching a Sorcerer King Let's Play right now.

 

 

Once Steam is up I'll send your regards to the Amplitude lot.

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Hehe! I've already taken a peek or two at it. My main gripe was the graphics. While all nice and making me feel young again, I had a hard time with that hurdle. I will give it a second serious checkout, though. Also, I find it very cool that all of their games are part of one and the same world, universe, lore, whatever. That's fab! :)

*** "The words of someone who feels ever more the ent among saplings when playing CRPGs" ***

 

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The timeline is Dungeon of the Endless - the Success, a prison transport, crashes on Auriga.

Endless Legend - the surviving crew and prisoners have formed their own society: the Vaulters

Endless Space: Disharmony - Having escaped from Auriga, the Vaulters have become one of many space faring races/nations. But maybe it is time to go back home, because Auriga holds a lot of knowledge.

 

Then you have the droid Opbot in every game and various creatures and factions had parallel evolutions on Auriga and the rest of the galaxy. (Necrophages - Cravers, Silics - Harmony, what's their names - Hissho)

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Ooh! There's even a timeline. Cool!

 

Oh, and here's that vid where Brad is talking us through the basics of Sorcerer King:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVifSmMiZPE

 

EDIT: Two super-cool features that I forgot two mention about SK:

It's a 4X game that for the first time make full use of multiple cores on your PC! So multi-threaded joy! When you hit End Turn, the Sorcerer's turn will always fly-by.

 

And speaking of End Turn, this is finally a game, where you can't click End Turn and forgetting something obvious. If you have an empty production queue or some un-picked new spell or research, this will replace the very End Turn button with info what you need to do first. Brilliant! :)

 

EDIT 2: And obviously, the world is about to go belly-up, and everything is about survival, so there is no gold!

Edited by IndiraLightfoot

*** "The words of someone who feels ever more the ent among saplings when playing CRPGs" ***

 

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SK does look a lot like FE and now I'm really curious
 
Did you guys try Age of Wonders 3? Any thoughts? I thought it was pretty but I couldn't get into it

 

 

Forgot to mention that thanks to this thread I picked up Endless Legend

Edited by ShadySands
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Free games updated 3/4/21

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Age of Wonders 3 was a mess at release. The AI was so terrible it defined new ground of terrible AIness.

The patches and expansion since have improved the game a lot, but I haven't been able to bring myself to truly give the AI another chance.

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ShadySands: What melkathi said! Also, Sk uses the latest FE engine, but it feels in many ways like an entirely different game. Right now, it's more like a grand under-dog saga, where you are under immense pressure to gather strength and allies to defeat the Sorcerer King (think LotR and the Shadow King in NWN2), but with a pretty active DM client, and lots of crafting and cool items, spells, and then a little 4X building cities on top of it, sort of. :)

*** "The words of someone who feels ever more the ent among saplings when playing CRPGs" ***

 

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For any potential non-American buyers of SK Early Access:

It's a Steam game whichever way you twist it, so buying it directly off Stardock on their site will give you a pretty decent discount compared to Steam's price on it in Euros. In my case, I saved almost 5 Euros (or like 7,5 dollars) by buying it there instead of Steam. Also, they already have a 15% discount going right now and like 10 days onwards. :)

Edited by IndiraLightfoot
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*** "The words of someone who feels ever more the ent among saplings when playing CRPGs" ***

 

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On Endless Legend: Things are pretty peaceful on Medium difficulty, which I personally like. I much preferred the latest expansion for CiV, rather than the more-aggressive 2nd one, for instance, since I'm much more of a map explorer and peaceful builder when I play this kind of game in SP.

 

There are lots of things that slowly dawn on me as I play EL. My longest playthrough, this one, just keeps on giving, and I'm 250+ turns in, and it feels like I've entered some fantasy iron age, barely. There are hidden info mouse-overs everywhere.

 

One good thing to know is that you can only assimilate one minor faction early on, so choose wisely (I just picked the first one I encountered. However, I created my own version of its monster unit, which is really cool: "Ice Wargs 2".) Later on, in like Tech Era IV, you can open up a tech that grants you the ability to pick another one to assimilate).

 

Overall, just the sounds effects and the music alone is pretty brilliant, and also the sleek UIs everywhere. :)

Edited by IndiraLightfoot

*** "The words of someone who feels ever more the ent among saplings when playing CRPGs" ***

 

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The tooltips aare something they ahd already done right in Endless Space. The UI can be a bit too sleek for some - fonts can be rather tiny :)

 

My first faction seems to always be the Dwarves. The increased dust income is nice.

 

If you want more minor factions you need to play Cultists.

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Interesting tips. Thanks, melkathi! :)

 

Here's one back at you. If you look at my screenshots they are pretty high-res. Still, I have big fonts and never a problem reading anything. How?

Well, I activated a big screen mode-toggle, and then everything just went perfect.

 

EDIT: I just checked. It's called Big Screen User Interface under Options and then UI.

Edited by IndiraLightfoot

*** "The words of someone who feels ever more the ent among saplings when playing CRPGs" ***

 

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I have to admit, Amplitude's games intrigue me.  I stumbled across Endless Legend watching videos on Youtube, and I love the art design.  The gameplay looked ridiculously easy from what I've seen (as in, I saw a guy fight 3 battles against minor faction enemies, and then win a diplomatic victory without being challenged at all), but it's possible the videos I've seen were on an easy difficulty.

 

Endless Space I recall being interested in, but isn't that the game where battles just let you play a couple cards and then watch what happens?  I know there was one sci-fi 4X that I as interested in but that feature turned me off completely.

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That's the one :p

Basically a rock, paper, scissor thing with more than rocks, papers and scissors. And obviously those choices not saving you if you only have a colony ship and the other person has a huge fleet ;)

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