So, a little while back I posted a review of Endless Legend, a 4x-type strategy game by Amplitude Studios. Well, they recently released a new DLC pack for it, called Shifters, so I thought I’d throw in my tuppence-worth…
Firstly, Shifters introduces a new playable faction, called the Allayi. They’re humanoid alien beings, who believe themselves to be the planet Auriga’s only true sentient natives. Seeing as the Drakken and Necrophages were both uplifted by the Endless from non-sentient animals, one could argue that they have a point. They’re furry humanoids who vaguely resemble hares, bats and Magic The Gathering’s Moonfolk (from Saviours of Kamigawa, it’s an old expansion nowadays, but not Black Lotus old…)
The Allayi are more affected by Auriga’s seasons than other factions, changing from defensive specialists in their pale summer form to attack-focussed berzerkers in their dark winter form. (From early trailers, I had expected the colours to go the other way: I thought they’d turn white for camouflage in the snow like Arctic hares.) For most factions, winter is a difficult time, but for the Shifters it’s more different than difficult. Their ability to predict the seasons is 100% accurate, which isn’t something that any of the other factions can boast. The Allayi also have a special relationship with Pearls of Auriga, a new resource which appear every winter. The Allayi are much better at finding Pearls than other factions, and have more things on which to spend them.
They have a special support unit called a Skyfin which can mine strategic resources from regions they don’t control, and their other units are all a little bit bizarre. The Skyfin can mine resources for which the player hasn’t yet researched extractors, even from enemy-controlled regions, so it’s useful but weird. The Allayi’s other units are all standard-ish fighters, except that they change form with the seasons, becoming markedly more aggressive during Winter. Canny Allayi players will attack and claim new territories during Winter, and consolidate their hold on these during Summer… or at least that’s the plan. I’ve found that the ability to predict Winter’s coming perfectly is a massive advantage, and the Allayi’s superior ability to find Pearls means that they can expect to surge ahead of everyone else when racing to get the most of these exotic items (not having unit movement slowed by Winter helps, too.)
Pearls of Auriga are a new resource type; they appear every winter, and have to be collected by travelling armies. Players can spend their pearls at their Altar of Auriga, a special new city-district that can be built once per empire. This is a vast pyramidal building apparently made from pearls.
Shifters basically takes the Summer/Winter duality in Endless Legend and dials it up to eleven. Essentially, the whole game is restructured around the seasons, especially for an Allayi player. This seems to me to be quite an achievement — it’s almost like I’ve got another game for the price of adding this DLC.
Guardians, Shadows, Lost Tales and Echoes of Auriga
Now, I already had the other DLCs for Endless Legend, but I didn’t find time to mention them in my last post, focussing on the base game. Guardians adds giant creatures called …yeah, Guardians… to the game, who are super-expensive, and can’t join armies of other creatures, preferring to stride across Auriga alone. AddAltModeR thinks they look like giant Pokémon.
The Guardians add nicely to the flavour of Auriga as a fantasy setting, and are quite handy to have a around in a fight. When your enemies deploy them, they’re a little scary at first… but very satisfying to kill.
The Guardians Expansion also adds legendary buildings, which are like the Wonders of the World in the Civilization series. Given EL‘s unusual city-building system, the legendary buildings take the form of unusual city districts, rather than city improvements, so they are visible of the map, which is a nice touch. Also, as your city grows, if you surround your legendary buildings with regular districts, they can “level up” like city districts do, granting bigger bonuses.
The Shadows DLC adds an espionage system, and the ability to pillage your enemies regional buildings for Dust if they leave them unguarded. The espionage model spends Influence resource to get information that would otherwise be hidden. It’s simplistic as espionage systems go in 4x games but certainly deepens gameplay. The pillage mechanics add another level of resource management to war, and remind players that it’s not just your cities that you need to defend.
Shadows also adds a new playable faction, the Forgotten, who excel at the two things the DLC focuses on (spying and pillage). The Forgotten are extremely hard to play as, seeing as they can do no research, and can only get those technologies they can steal from others. Playing as the Forgotten is a completely unique experience — like the Cultists in the basic Endless Legend game they very much break the mold of what is expected in 4X games. Also, their units and heroes look pretty awesome.
Lost Tales expands on Endless Legend’s quest mechanic, with a dozen or so new quests, many of which are tied to the game’s minor factions. This DLC is markedly smaller than the others in terms of new content, but does and a lot more depth to the story, and gives players some more insight into what motivates all these weird creatures whose villages you encounter whilst exploring the map.
I’d argue that, whilst each quest grants an in-game reward on completion, digging up the squirrelled-away stories within each quest is at least as rewarding.
The last DLC I’m going to mention is Echoes of Auriga: this is actually a soundtrack DLC, which grants players MP3s of all the in-game music, which was put together by harpist/composer/sound designer FlyByNo. I’m a big fan of the music in Endless Legend, which is mostly of a folk-ambient and dungeon-synth-esque kind. Other people’s mileage may vary, but for me Echoes of Auriga was a good deal, giving me the option to listen to the Endless Legend soundtrack whilst doing things other than play the game, such as whilst writing this review…
Stand-out tracks, in my opinion, include Shadows (the Forgotten’s tune), Assimilate (the Cultists’ theme) and A Search For Forgiveness (Broken Lords).
There’s a lot of stuff tied up in Endless Legend’s DLC, and I probably haven’t even found all of it yet. For those players who want to squeeze a few more hours pleasure out of the base game, I think these DLC are all well worth it.