Endless Legend, a very good 4X strategy game for the PC, got a new expansion last week. It's a good time. The expansion is called Tempest and, like the best expansions for strategy games, it doesn't just add, it changes. OK, yes, it adds — the game has a new faction and a ton of new quests — but it's how that faction works (and how its backstory ties into the rest of the game for other sides) that makes it so interesting.
The Morgawr are another race with sci-fi leanings, emerging from the ruins of an ancient underwater scientific facility.
See, Tempest is all about water. Something the base game never did very well. I mean, it had water, in so much as it was there to separate continents and islands, but it was never as fully realised as in competitors/genremates like Civilization.
Tempest changes that. The new race, the Morgawr, look and act like bad guys from a Pirates of the Caribbean movie, and are built to best take advantage of the expansion's aquatic changes in that the oceans now have weather, have stuff in them you can loot and, most importantly, can be controlled to secure resources.
Every faction can now engage in naval combat on the waves as well. Oh, and there are giant sea monsters.
Naval combat plays out much like ground combat does.
Depending on the type of map you play on, this has a huge effect on how everything pans out, because you can essentially now pick the Morgawr and play Endless Legend as the Ironborn, ignoring conventional approaches to roam the seas, secure fortresses and fight kraken.
And even if you don't, and the new faction doesn't interest you, the ocean changes will still have a dramatic effect on how you play the game.
It took me a long time to get my head around the new stuff. Starting off as the Morgawr helps, since they're so geared towards living, trading and fighting on the ocean, but it still took me a while to shake established strategies and work out new ones that best took advantage of all the new locations and features lying around (and on top of, and below) the seas.
My first Morgawr city. While their perks are built towards the sea, you still have to build their cities (and do much of your traditional fighting) on land.
That persistence is worth it, though, because aside from the fun of exploring new ways to kill things and make money, what Tempest does is add to something that's already one of Endless Legend's greatest strengths: It's sense of world. That this is isn't just a map, it's a living, breathing place, with weather, and villages full of minor factions, and ruins of civilisations past, and factions that each have their own rich story that unfolds over a game.
Adding a meaningful ocean to the game feels like rounding the whole package off, giving life to the one part of the game that felt empty at release.
The best little bonus of the expansion, though, is the four new tracks by FlybyNo, whose work with Amplitude is quietly putting out some of the best game soundtracks around. You can check those out here.