Endless Legend

Endless Legend is a turn-based fantasy strategy game. It’s a lot like Civilization V: building a network of cities, exploiting natural resources and commanding armies on a hex-based grid. Its interface has an array of minor niggles — let’s take a whirlwind tour of where it could be improved.

Research

The Research structure in Endless Legend is a series of tiers, with each tier grouped into four sections. A straightforward approach would be to have a list, but lists can easily look dull and overwhelming. I like Endless Legend’s attempt to mix it up by using these large circles per tier, with individual technologies (the small circles) split into four quadrants:

Endless Legend's research display.

Endless Legend’s research display.

But it has problems. The individual pictures on each technology icon are so small (60×33 pixels on a 1920×1200 display) and non-distinct that I think it’s unlikely that many players will learn to recognise the technology from the icon (unlike Hearthstone’s units, for example). With no titles visible either, that means that you have to do a lot of mouse-overing to get the details on popup, even if you did know which one you were looking for. (The search functionality does help alleviate this a bit.) The difference between researched and non-researched technologies is also fairly slight; pale blue for researched, pale green for non-researched. This hue-only difference makes it that bit harder to see at first glance what’s what.

The technologies currently being researched are shown in a more vibrant yellow, with a little numeric icon to show their order in the build queue. But I couldn’t find an easy way to rearrange the research queue. If I want to swap items 2 and 3 in my queue of 4, the only way I found to do it was to remove 2, 3 and 4 and re-add them in the new order. Easily solved with a list display to allow drag and drop rearrangement, like the game already has for city build queues.

The World Map

The Endless Legend world map allows zooming in and out using the mousewheel, which works nicely. As you zoom out, some information displays are hidden (e.g. the resources per tile, if you have that turned on). When zoomed out, you get some useful icons which vanish as you zoom in. By itself, these things are not necessarily wrong, but in practice I found myself zooming in and out just to change the information available on the area I was interested in, which turns out weird. Here’s the map zoomed in (with tile information on):

Standard view of the game map.  Click to enlarge.

Standard view of the game map. Click to enlarge.

Useful things clearly visible in this view (when full-screen): I can see the city boundaries (the white bordered hexagons), tile output (the four or five numbers in each hex) and the city status. Now let’s zoom out:

Zoomed out view of the game map.  Click to enlarge.

Zoomed out view of the game map. Click to enlarge.

The city status remains the same, while the tile output is gone. City boundaries have become almost impossible to make out (slight scaled effect on the tiles). Now you can see the paths much more clearly (the black lines; you can see them clearly on grass in the first screen shot but less so on other terrain tiles), and you also get useful icons for the resources which are available. If we go side by side, below, you can see that the resources are visible (e.g. the red and pink hex) in the original shot, and in fact they have a small animation on them in the game which means you can spot them a bit easier than it seems — but it’s not easy to quickly see which resource it is. But there’s also a similar animation on the blue hex in the game, which isn’t a resource at all. So you end up scrolling in and out to see special resources or tile resources or city boundaries:

What's clear in one view is not clear in the other.

What’s clear in one view is not clear in the other.

Battle screen

In general, the battle screen is quite nice, but there is some unclear highlighting on the tiles. Here’s orange vs green on an orangey-green background:

A battle screen in Endless Legend. I got trounced.

A battle screen in Endless Legend. I got trounced.

I believe some of those titles (the ones I can deploy forces to?) are highlighted orange, and the enemies are highlighted green. But it would take a lot of picking through that screenshot to work out which was which. (This would be a classic image to talk about colour blindness, but Endless Legend does have a colour blind interface mode; good on them.) Maybe I was just unfortunate in my colour choices, but it could have been solved with some line borders around any highlighted hexes.

A ring of trouble

This dense little wheel in the bottom right of the interface manages to have a lot of problems:

The end turn wheel in Endless Legend

The end turn wheel in Endless Legend

The two controls at the very bottom can be independently toggled. The right-hand one switches on/off the display of resources. The left-hand one switches on/off the display of the hex grid on the map — except if the right-hand one is on, in which case clicking the left-hand one doesn’t do anything, so why can you still toggle it on and off? Meanwhile, clicking on the central circle ends the turn. Enter also ends the turn, but the only way you can know this is if you played Civ and assumed the shortcut was the same; there’s no tooltip to tell you the shortcut, and nothing in the menus. Turns out there’s more shortcuts too, but requiring the user to google for “endless legend shortcuts” is surely about as undiscoverable an interface as you can get.

The refresh-like arrow on the mid-left takes you to the next army which is “awaiting orders”, according to the tooltip. Leaving aside the iffy icon, this actually takes you to the next army which has not moved yet this turn. If you have given your army a multi-turn move with four turns left to run (which is executed when you click end turn), you’ll still get taken to it when you click the button. If you want your army to not show up via this icon, you can press a button elsewhere in the interface to “send army into sleep mode”. (The button has a shield icon for sleep mode. Not my first pick.) You can still move this army around while remaining in sleep mode (wut?); sleep mode really just means that it doesn’t show up on this next-army button.

The final problem on this display is the notifications. Every twenty turns during Endless Legend you can set an “empire plan”. You usually want to do this — it’s a bit of a blow if you don’t have the resources to take advantage of the opportunity. Or indeed, if you don’t notice that this turn is the turn that it is available. Because: do you see that little red icon on the screenshot above? With a rectangle and wiggly line in it. That’s the only notification you get that it’s empire plan time. So I merrily sailed past it several times. Turns out that’s a notification area which has text collapsed by default. I’d at least expand it by default; new players need explanation, experienced players can learn icons. But in fact, a popup in your face (which the game already has for various less other details) would be the right thing to do. “You have not set an empire plan; are you sure?”

I’ll leave you with this little language glitch in the interface:

And as for the game…

I’ve played a fair amount of Civilization V in the past. To me, Endless Legend felt too much like a Civilization V mod. I realise if-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it, but Endless Legend seems to first copy everything wholesale, then add a few new interesting features, rather than strike out on its own. You’ve still got commerce, trade routes, barbarians, science for a research hierarchy, diplomacy, war, and all the rest, with a lot of the city improvements being familiar as well. Endless Legend adds a few nice variations (regions, factions, unit building, more interesting combat), but the overall gameplay was still too similar for me to find much to enjoy that I hadn’t already spent hours doing before.

Review note: I played Endless Legend version 1.0.46 on PC, in April 2015.

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7 thoughts on “Endless Legend

  1. Have you tried each of the factions in EL? They offer a level of variety and divergent gameplay that vanilla Civ doesn’t offer; possibly Civ mods provide comparable options. I do find that EL has far more replayability for me than Civ, partly due to the faction variations, and partly because it’s hitting a lovely balance between complexity and accessibility. The UI is a big part of that.

    The big UI faux-pas for me is making and do different things, depending which one you hit.

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  2. Ah, wordpress stripped my comment of key elements:
    The big UI faux-pas for me is making “enter” and “enter” do different things, depending which one you hit.

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    • I didn’t try too many factions, I’ll admit. Do you mean that the enter next to the letters and numpad-enter do different things? If so, that’s quite a bold move!

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      • Yes, Enter/Return by the letters opens the chat window, while Enter on the numpad ends the turn. You can imagine the comedy when my friend asked how to chat.

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  3. If you press the (+) underneath the notifications, they should expand do something a bit more readable/noticeable.

    To me, EL was a joy to play with just the same draw as Civ5 (never got really into 4), but the different faction really make it stand out in my eyes. Also, right click to go back from any menu (iirc) is just so good, it should be in more games.

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    • Yeah — as mentioned, I’d expand them by default. In this case, expand for novices, leave collapsing for experts. I didn’t know about the right-click to go back; I’d file that one under undiscoverable, but as you say, it would be interesting if it became a known convention. Right-click much easier to reach than escape if you’re already mousing through.

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      • Or even worse, not being able to use escape or any other key but being forced to click a button some place on the screen ..
        And it turns out i skipped that part in your text about the expanding notifications.

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