The sea. Old friend to one sailor, ravenous foe to another. Or, in the case of way too many strategy games, a big blue expanse of nought other than annoyance and trade routes. The newest DLC for Amplitude Studios’s revered 4X strategy Endless Legend hopes to remedy this by adding huge amounts of nautical content. And, by Jove, I think they’ve done it!
First though, let’s talk about what’s included in this pretty hefty expansion.
The biggie has to be the Morgawr, the faction introduced in the DLC. They are an aquatic race who were imprisoned underwater under the charges of being powerful, hateful and paranoid. In retrospect, with the whole locking them under the sea thing, perhaps the paranoia was justified. It probably didn’t do a whole lot to quell the hatred, either.The Morgawr have broken free of their bonds and, upon surfacing, are fairly uninterested in diplomacy. What they are interested in is bringing every civilisation who saw over their incarceration to an end, by any means necessary.
It’s a neat back story that informs how the faction should be played: aggressively. What the Morgawr lack in land prowess, they more than make up for with great ocean units—including an actual bloody leviathon—and mind control powers, allowing them to bring minor factions on side to do their bidding.
It would be wrong to call the Morgawr outright dominant, however. As the game’s designer Benoit Faguet explained in an interview over at PCGamesN, “it’s a really good faction for griefing.” That much is evident from powers such as the ‘black spot’ which, when cast upon a rival faction, makes them a more enticing target for the slings and arrows of other players.How much enjoyment you’ll get out of the Morgawr depends on your preferred play style: if you’re more of a gun-ho, send in the cavalry, renegade type, you might want to give them a miss; if, on the other hand, you’re someone who prefers to lurk in the shadows, playing your opponents off against one another and waiting to claim the carcass-ridden wastes as your own—Littlefinger, basically—then the Morgawr may well be right up your street. Either way, facing off against these piscine provocateurs will always prove an intriguing challenge.
The Morgawr look great, too—brimming with menace and jarringly out of place, as is to be expected. Units are able to move more efficiently over water than land, and that’s conveyed effectively by the aesthetic design. Vestigial fish legs do not make for good land-based ambulation. When in the water, units like the Vore and Leviathan are truly imposing beasts, swift and ferocious.
So that’s the Morgawr, but what about the other additions? To accommodate such a water-dependent faction there needed to be some kind of aquatic overhaul, making the sea more than just a route from A to B. Recognising this, Amplitude Studios have made a few key changes to how the ocean works.First is a rapidly-changing weather system, acting in stark contrast to the regularity of Endless Legend’s Summer / Winter cycle. Like fronts of high pressure moving across the map on the weather broadcast, patches of wind and lightning flitter about from one turn to the next. The wind can have an impact on movement speed, while lightning can directly damage any units unfortunate enough to be caught in their strikes. This has an impact not only on map traversal but also on naval combat, with the possibility to lure enemies into lightning ever present. This informs a large chunk of sea-based strategy, providing a counterpoint to the high ground advantage that can be utilised in land battles.
If you’re able to traverse the torrents, your reward lies in sparsely positioned sea fortresses—another addition which allows players to contest the resources contained within. If you take control of every fortress in a particular sea, you then gain control of said sea and reap the resource benefits.
The remote location of each fortress means that defending after capturing is difficult; indeed, control of each fortress is by design ephemeral, with strings of attacks and counter-attacks incentivised. This helps create that rarest of things: exciting naval battles. But it also means that, dependent on map and ocean size, gaining control of the sea for any length of time can prove particularly challenging. This is brought keenly into focus during the Morgawr’s quest line, which asks you to hold your grip on the sea for a set number of turns, thus requiring many fingers in many admiral pies.
Also included in the expansion are a variety of ships—frigates, juggernauts, interceptors and submersibles—of which all factions are able to avail themselves. This adds a whole new fascinating dynamic to combat as well as exploration, bringing the new and improved sea’s benefits to factions other than the Morgawr.As an expansion, Tempest is not only grandiose in terms of how much content it contains, but also in terms of its scope. Things aren’t just added; things are changed in a manner which creates a fundamentally different experience.
There is a problem, however, with how certain aspects of the Morgawr are explained. As a whole, Endless Legend is great at keeping the player in the know in spite of its complexity via extensive tool-tips and concise descriptions. Certain issues contrary to this arise with the Morgawr, particularly with regards to their mind control technique which were beyond me. The actual skill is apparently called ‘Catspaw’, but any mention of how to use it in-game eluded me.
There also seemed to be some instances of wacky AI. Certain factions would attack my units, then start whining about how I had somehow shattered the peace.
But overall, Tempest is a sure-handed, extensive and bold addition to an already remarkable game. Not content with simply adding a little garnish to the meal, Amplitude have re-written the menu.