Endless Space is a brilliant little 4x game by indie studio Amplitude. It’s not as indepth as some other titles in the genre and it has some way to go to really approach the level we’d expect and want from a proper 4x title (it’s still a little light on the combat side – especially in terms of ship hull and weapon varieties. Worse, it has absolutely no carriers, fighters or space stations which is a big negative). Nevertheless this game is a lot of fun and there are plenty of choices to be made when playing it, leaving many players with a huge number of questions. In order to help you get more out of the game, and hold your own against the harder AI or even in multiplayer, we’ll go through some strategies and general tips.
I’ve played this game quite a bit both before release and after – mostly in multiplayer with James Wells, another author at Mana Pool and during this time there are quite a few things we’ve learned.
This guide is correct at the time of writing, based on Endless Space v1.0.30.
Custom Faction / Race Design
In absolutely all cases, a custom faction is better than the pre-made ones. You can tailor the race to your play style and the type of game you are playing and it’s generally the best way to go. A lot of choices are perfectly viable, but I would recommend you think of what you want to achieve with your race and try to design some synergies between your chosen traits. In order to get the best selection of points for positive traits, there are a few negative traits you can pick which really make no difference at all to your chances. I recommend you always choose them:
- Dust Impaired (Hero) – Makes the abilities your heroes can use during battles more expensive. Honestly, this makes no difference at all. You’ll rarely use them and if you play correctly you’ll have plenty of dust once this becomes an issue.
- Sloppy Sawbones (Hero) – Increases the time it takes for your heroes to heal after they are injured. Several comments. First, the fleet with your hero on it will rarely get completely defeated. Secondly, if this happens you have bigger things to worry about than waiting a few turns longer to get the hero back. Administrative heroes will never suffer from this, it’s a no brainer.
- Feeble Warriors (Defense) – Reduces the defense on your systems. You should focus on not having your systems invaded in the first place – if this does happen, having additional points to spend in both industrial capacity or fleet/combat strength is far more valuable to deal with this. The only effect is that your systems take less time to surrender during an invasion, generally by a few turns at most.
- Optional if you are short a few points for your ideal traits: Deep Roots – Makes it harder to gain ownership on systems. It’s not the end of the world, but it can be a bit of a pain later in the game if you’re engaged in massive wars. Still, it’s the best negative pick after the ‘must haves’.
There are so many options/viable strategies for positive traits that I don’t really want to give you a template for this as you should try and work around your own strengths and weaknesses. I’ll highlight a few exceptionally good choices though:
- Optimal Structure – +30% Ship Size. This is in my opinion the single best trait for fleets/ships/combat as it’s completely flexible for all strategies. Why only have an offensive or defensive battle trait if this would work for either? Perfect synergy with anything else which boosts ship combat or fleets in general. Combining this with for example additional hit-points provides some very dangerous ships indeed.
- Optimistic – Morale is very important in the early to mid game, when you’re expanding rapidly and occasionally wish to grab a planet with a negative anomaly. (Alternative: Naive – which gives a boost based on number of people you’re at peace with and can stack up rapidly if you’re the peaceful type. Naive can provide more morale per trait point than Optimistic under the right circumstances)
- Scientists - Research is the key to everything. Boosting your research is therefore an excellent idea. I wouldn’t max this unless your entire race design is based on science all the way, as the cost is a bit steep.
- Dust or Huygens ring - Having some dust to purchase your early heroes provides quite a boost.
- Legendary Heroes - Never underestimate this. With this you can have Administrator heroes at level 3 immediately, you can pick the first labor perk, followed by the perk which gives +15 flat production. This is an enormous boost at the very beginning of the game as your home world will have twice the production compared to anyone else.
As for affinities, most choices work as long as you ensure your traits and affinity have a good synergy:
- Avoid United Empire, Cravers and Pilgrims. They’re just not that good compared to the others.
- Automatons can be nice if your race is designed around production.
- Sowers are nice as you have far less food issues on lower tier worlds and get a few nice unique production technologies.
- Sophons are a good pick for an increase in Scientific Output.
- Hissho are a powerful pick if you are extremely aggressive. Design your race accordingly.
- Horatio are very situational but can be a powerful choice. Legendary Heroes is a must-have.
- Amoeba is highly underrated and extremely powerful for early rapid expansion as you don’t waste time searching for nice systems.
- Set your Home world exploitation to Food – unless you have the sower Affinity in which case you set it to Production.
- Scout your constellation immediately and don’t stop until you’ve discovered all of it. At that point, have scouts sitting at wormhole ends to meet new races and pop out as soon as you have the right technology.
- Colonise the next system as soon as possible, generally the first one you come across with a habitable planet.
- Research N-Power Plants first, the tech which gives you a flat +10 production among other production bonuses. This helps your colonies build up more quickly.
- The next research is almost always one of the bottom tree, depending on the planets in your surrounding systems. You want to colonise most of your constellation before other players do so. Your target should be to go straight for 5-6 of the best available systems at the earliest opportunity. In a small constellation with no other players, colonise all of it. You only have to colonise 1 planet per system for now, the rest can be done by the colony itself.
- The other research is a matter of going through the available tech trees in turns, simply keep going at the ‘cheap’ technologies. The only early exception is the wormhole technology in the bottom tree. Depending on the size of your constellation you might want this sooner rather than later, so you can push into the galactic core and grab good systems before other players do. If you started with the Amoeba affinity, wormhole tech is a priority as you can fly straight to the nice systems.
- Establish which system will be your ‘ship production’ system early on and focus this system on industrial output. Systems with more planets and bonuses which increase production are ideal.
- Early on, dedicate your home system solely to population growth – remember that colony ships can also be used to transport population.
- Grab an Administrator hero (production/food) and start it in your home system. Once the hero has a few levels, don’t be afraid to rotate him through your systems to help them build up early on. This hero will eventually be placed on your ship production system to boost it’s massive production even further, but right now you want your colonies kick-started.
- Once you can afford it, grab a Corporate hero. This hero will be stationed in your home system – unless you found an amazing system which would function better as trade and science hub. Focus this hero on dust/science output as much as possible.
- Your third hero will be used for your fleet and actively patrol your empire and blow annoying things to little pieces. Pick one with fleet/pilot skills.
- Your hero selection might not be ideal – so adapt accordingly. If you have no administrator, simply grab a corporate and start with the perks which increase labor, then swap him to with perks later on. There are enough levels to effectively swap roles later in the game once you gain access to more heroes and I’ve had great games with only heroes of 1 type.
- Once you have the first combat technologies, design a ship and start building at least a couple. Keep an eye out for pirate activity and make sure you can counter at the very least their fleets. To this end, your initial ships are fine with only deflectors as defense as ballistics is all the pirates will use. Avoid wars, focus on creating the foundation of your empire. (Unless you are Hissho, in which case an offensive strategy and conquering systems beats building up slowly)
Mid to late Gameplay
- Mid game arrives much quicker than you think, so prepare accordingly.
- Your home system will at this point change from population growth to trade and science hub. Change it’s focus accordingly.
- You need an active fleet with a hero – ideally utilising the maximum number of command points available to you.
- Colonise additional planets within your systems once you run out of space. Don’t colonise too soon or you will suffer from negative morale.
- You might want to grab the bottom tech trait which enables moon surveys and removal of the mediocre anomalies. This will help you make some vast improvements to your systems as the improvements based on having explored moons are now outright fantastic.
- Ensure you get the technologies which increase your scientific output. In particular the one which gives a flat +40 science to your systems as it’s a lovely push to your science! Really, don’t slack on science!
- Try to acquire a cooperation treaty or two. Even if you’re planning to be aggressive, don’t fight too many wars at once, as there’s no benefit to doing so.
- Colonise and reinforce choke points. Until late game, most travel will occur through the warp lanes and you can defend accordingly.
- Don’t build system improvements that don’t provide benefits. Seriously, don’t. If you have no moons, the moon based improvements are a waste. If you have no planets of the type required by an improvement, don’t bother with it. Sounds obvious but many people waste so much dust.
- Don’t build defensive improvements everywhere. You don’t need them. Focus on defending frontier worlds. The dust you save from not having defensive improvements on systems away from borders with opponents, can be used to maintain more ships. Which you can used to actually defend said systems properly.
- Keep an eye on your tax levels. Adjust this frequently. Lower taxes makes for more productive citizens – don’t keep the tax higher than you need to keep your dust balance positive.
How you design your ships makes a fair bit of difference to your performance in combat. Luckily, designing ships is incredibly straight forward in Endless Space, and tends to come down to a pretty standard set of tactics. There are two types of ship design:
- The hard counter. Generally required when you are behind in technology or are otherwise struggling to defeat ships from a specific opponent/design. These ships are generally designed for 1 task only and their survival comes second to completing their mission.
- The general multipurpose design. The ships you will build when you either don’t know the opponent, or are ahead in technology. These are meant to fight anything rather than be specialists against a specific type of opponent. These ships are generally designed for survival.
The hard counter
This one is easiest. These ships are meant to fight a specific opponent, so you must know what you’re trying to counter. These ships require your best weapon type, preferably two different weapons to avoid getting countered easily. Defensively – you stack only the defense against the weapon you are trying to counter. Reflectors for Ballistics, Shields for Lasers and Flak against Missiles.
The best hull type for this type of ship is the Destroyer. As each race has different names for their Hull, look for the ‘Small’ (1cp) hull type with -20% bonus on weapon modules. This enables you to stack more weapons on these ships. Cheap and cheerful is the motto here. Stack 5-10 defense modules (depending on opponent / relative tech levels) and fill the rest with weapons. Either Ballistics OR Lasers + some Missiles to throw your opponent.
If your tech level is very far behind and you don’t feel you can easily hard counter – your last resort is cheap Missile boats. Stack nothing but Missiles on these ships and pretty much keep throwing them at their fleets in batches. Don’t send single ships as that wont really accomplish much.
The general multipurpose design
As I said, designing ships is pretty easy. First pick a hull, generally the largest you have available as having sufficient defense and hitpoints is key. Note the bonuses on the hull types, you generally want ones which give bonuses to the type of module you have equipped the most. You can swap hulls during design (within the same size) so compare your space when you have filled it completely. You might be able to squeeze a little more out of a different hull.
- 1x Intelligent Tools. Additional ship repair every round – this increases your effective hitpoints in combat enormously.
- 1x Engine Module. Take the best of second best. The exception is smaller ships with a lack of space. On bigger ones, the engine is pretty handy unless you’re trying to squeeze out more hitpoints or weaponry.
- 1x Smart Cargo. These are brilliant for obvious reasons: they give you more space on your ships. They make your ships more expensive but quality > quantity.
- 1x Accelerated Magnetics. Brilliant increase to your defensive capabilities.
- 10x Armor
- 10x Kinetic Plating
- 10x Shield
- 10x Flak
- 15+ Beam Weapons
- Fill any remaining space with additional weaponry, or armor if you feel your ships need a little more health.
Anyone who is behind in weapon technologies will struggle immensely against Dreadnoughts build like above. This doesn’t work well on small ships. For Medium sized ships, adapt accordingly by halving the number of modules. You can’t go wrong with Dreadnoughts though and unlocking these should be a priority in the mid game.
I recommend you build at least 2 different type of ships for your fleet and mix their primary weapon types. This will make it a lot harder for your opponents to hard counter your ships. Obviously an ideal fleet carries all weapon types, so has 3 different designs, but this isn’t always feasible.
Terraforming and Exploitation
Some of the most raised questions are in regards to Exploitation and Terraforming. Most people don’t really know what planets are suitable for what purpose, so a few bits of information will go a long way.
Tables originally created by messej at the Endless Space Forums.
Simple put, use the exploitation marked with arrows for each planet type. Some planets are suited for multiple exploitations, and your strategy in the star system will dictate your choice. E.g. prioritise food when your system still has free population slots, otherwise focus on Production, Dust or Science. Don’t slack on production in underdeveloped systems, you can always swap their exploitation to Science later.
Last but not least, your late-game choice of planet type/terraforming depends on what exploitation you want to focus on in each specific star system. On your ship production system(s), focus fully on production. On the rest, Science is usually the way to go unless you’re struggling for Dust, but your terraformed planets should bring in enough to meet all your needs. If you do struggle, develop 1 system with only Arid planets set to Dust exploitation as that will bring in a lot of Dust. The below starts with the worst planet types and ends with your ‘ideal’ planet.
You cannot directly terraform from a tier 4 to a tier 2, you need to go through each tier to get to your final desired outcome. You obviously need to posses the required technology.
- Food: Any -> Terran.
- Production: Lava -> Desert -> Tundra -> Jungle -> Terran*
- Science: Barren -> Arctic -> Tundra** -> Ocean.
- Dust: Desert -> Arid -> Terran
* At end-game a Terran with Farm Exploitation is better than a Jungle with Production, due to the food to industry conversion, until then, the Jungle/Production will trump it.
* Use only to progress to the next tier, never leave a planet at this for this output type. Don’t bother terraforming this if you cannot reach the next tier immediately.