Endless Legend – Shifters Review (PC/DLC)
Winter is Coming. And with it a whole new expansion for Endless Legend! Amplitude Studios are once again dialling it up to 11 with another cracking DLC for their 4X strategy game.
Last time Amplitude brought us new content it was in the theme of stealth and shadows, aptly named ‘Shadows’. We got a new gameplay element in espionage, along with a new faction who excelled at it. You can read our write up about it here. The new Shifters expansion however adds whole new gameplay elements to winter, along with a great new faction called the Allayi.
In Endless Legend the seasons impact the world just as much as warfare and trade. When the harsh winter season hits; it hits hard. Movement penalties slow your troops, vision is restricted and food, gold and production take a hit also. Each winter gets progressively worse than the last with even greater penalties hindering your empire. Winter truly sucks. Once summer comes back around it feels like a huge weight has been lifted and you rejoice at being able to achieve greatness once more. It’s a neat feature of the game that sets it apart from its rivals, but there’s not much to do in the winter seasons except hit next turn and hope it ends soon. With Shifters though that has all changed, and you’ll never look back.
We are now introduced to a new winter specific feature that gives you all sorts of options for those icy snowed in days. Put down that cup of cocoa and get outside, for there’s Pearls of Auriga to collect! The Pearls of Auriga are a collectable resource that will randomly spawn all over the map during winter. You can spend these Pearls during winter at an optional building called the Altar of Auriga where you can choose a number of blessings that can impact your city and empire. These range from defensive upgrades, combat boosts, winter districts and the ability to create food, production and science stockpiles by spending Pearls. There’s even options to freeze over the seas and lakes so troops can cross them.
The use of Pearls and the Altar is available for any faction but it’s the Allayi that specialise in it. I was immediately enamoured with the Allayi when I saw them. Their design is astounding, a bizarre mix of creatures that somehow form a unique and convincing race. Some of them have bull like features with flattened noses and hoofed feet. Bat like ears sprout from their horned heads and broken butterfly wings float magically around their bodies. In summer seasons they sport a striking white and orange colour scheme but in the winter season they change to black and blue.
It’s not only aesthetically that they change though, winter also impacts their personality and combat abilities. The Allayi live in tune with the planet and change with its seasons. They gain combat boosts in the winter but also suffer diplomatic costs. I can safely say that they are one of the best looking factions in the game and their strong identity will surely be a pull for many players.
There are only a few extra options for the Allayi when it comes to Altar options but they gain a massive boost by being able to get Pearls by searching ruins. This allows them to stockpile Pearls prior to the first winter, thus gaining a head start on building the Altar of Auriga. The Allayi will typically collect a lot more Pearls throughout the course of the game but they will also spend a lot more too. Pearl created armour and accessory upgrades are very strong and I found myself rushing them early and sticking with them over similar resource items made with Titanium and Glassteel.
There is one particular use of Pearls that is essential to the Allayi though and that is the creation of one of their unique units, the Skyfin. Holy moly, the Skyfin is quite possibly my favourite unit in the game now. It looks like a majestic stingray soaring the skies and functions as a superb scout unit. Its movement speed of 8 allows it to traverse huge distances in search of Pearls, which you will need to do not only to offset the cost of creating the unit but to also keep a footing in the game. Pearls are critical to succeeding with the Allayi and if you feel yourself falling behind it’s usually due to a lack of Pearls. However, they also have other weaknesses to balance them out.
The Allayi do not like to expand and grow in population. As a result you find yourself suffering greater disapproval penalties for expansion as well as slower growth rates in your cities. As someone who favours expansion I found myself in a strange unfamiliar place, watching empires grow around me while I sat quietly with one or two cities.
Another struggle with the Allayi is that you really need to tap into their hidden depth in order to succeed. Under the surface advantages like moral boosts and seasonal changes to your units impact a lot more than you might think, making them quite a tricky faction to succeed with if you only skim the surface. Another minor disadvantage I found with them was that due to the need of keeping your Pearl stock up, you will have more troop movements to manage than you normally might with other factions. No big deal in a single player game but for multiplayer it was certainly an annoyance for my fellow player who had to wait for me to move all my units around collecting Pearls. In a game with turn timers that could prove more troublesome.
As a whole the new faction does feel balanced, neither being too weak nor too powerful. But this expansion is great not only because of the Allayi but for the new options it gives players during the normally boring and frustrating winter season. I feel like I could play without the stealth and espionage options the previous expansion brought us but I would be more reluctant to play without the Pearls of Auriga and the benefits of the Altar. Though some might argue that the frozen wastes provide a needed lull in gameplay that brings a quiet spell to bring balance to the busy summer seasons. While before you could praise an icy blizzard that staves off an enemy attack, now you may have to prepare for the onslaught of the Allayi. Personally I welcome them with open arms. Bow down to your beautiful butterfly bull stingray masters. Bow down.
9 shiny pearls out of 10