Nowadays, we’re never really at loss for choice regarding space-themed strategy games. However, two specific titles usually come to mind when you mention Space 4X Strategy: Endless Space 2 and Stellaris.
Knowing about the complexity of 4X games, the question arises: Is Endless Space 2 easier than Stellaris? Which one of these two games is easier to get into? So today, let us dig deeper into this issue and see the differences (and similarities) between these games in terms of several different aspects.
But before that, let’s get into the background of both these games first.
Released by Amplitude Studios, Endless Space 2 puts you as one of twelve different space-faring civilizations, each with its unique backstory and accompanying traits. The game came out in May of 2017 and thus far has gone through three major updates and at least 7 different DLCs.
On the opposing camp, we have Stellaris. One of Paradox Entertainment’s biggest releases, already there have been 15 expansions (what Paradox calls updates) and 9 smaller DLCs since the game was first released in May 2016.
While both of these games are space-themed grand strategy by genre, they do have apparent differences, which we will check out in detail below.
Accessibility and Learning Curve
In trying to answer whether or not Endless Space 2 is more accessible than Stellaris, the first aspect that we should look into should be in terms of accessibility and the learning curve. For this, I would say personally that Endless Space 2 felt a bit overwhelming to me initially compared to Stellaris. While this might run counter to what you might have read elsewhere, this is what I experienced.
While it took me a few hours to make enough sense of what was going on in Stellaris, the same few hours weren’t enough for me to feel that I was doing something meaningful in Endless Space 2.
That said, in Stellaris, during those few initial hours, I never could shake off the feeling I was barely scratching the surface of what can be done with the game’s deep mechanics. Compare that to Endless Space 2, where I felt that the extra hours needed for me to make sense of the fundamentals did progressively help me understand more advanced aspects of the game.
In short, I can say that while Stellaris felt like it was initially more accessible and had a lower learning curve, the sheer depth of the game ended up slowing understanding instead as you went further into the game.
So yes, Stellaris might be easier to start with, but Endless Space 2 was more structured, introducing its advanced mechanics in a more accessible way.
While both Endless Space 2 and Stellaris are 4x Strategy Games set in space and share many similar concepts, Stellaris initially feels much more fluid than Endless Space 2.
This probably has to do with the fact that Stellaris is actually “real-time” 4X with the option to pause. Compare this to how Endless Space 2 is a more traditional “turn-based” 4X. This might sound like a very subtle difference, but it does influence how smooth the gameplay feels, even if only superficially. This directly ties to how the gameplay feels “easier” with Stellaris.
This, however, is complicated by the fact that the gameplay in Stellaris is extremely open-ended. Every different Stellaris game feels like an open sandbox, with vague objectives and victory conditions that are more determined by you rather than chosen for you.
Endless Space 2 games come with a more streamlined approach in terms of objectives, setting clear goals for you depending on which faction you picked. This focus helps you to have something to aim for, which ends up making a round of Endless Space 2 feel a bit less drawn out.
The tech tree as well is more streamlined in Endless Space 2. Unlike Stellaris’s more random and vast tech tree, Endless Space 2 handles tech in such a way that each discovery feels less like a stepping stone to more advanced things. Instead, the tech you research in Endless Space 2 has more of an impact on gameplay as you move forward.
In terms of gameplay, while Stellaris starts out feeling easier to play, Endless Space 2’s streamlined objective system does help make it easier to finish.
Endless Space 2 and Stellaris both provide deep customization options, but here is where Endless Space 2’s deep focus on its factions ends up being detrimental.
In Stellaris, the provided factions feel more like demonstrations of what can be achieved rather than being substantial. However, the game shines when you start personalizing a faction of your own. You can go much deeper in faction customization in Stellaris than you ever can with Endless Space 2.
With Endless Space 2, each faction feels unique and entirely different from one another. So much so that creating a faction of your own ends up feeling like tweaking one of the provided factions to your taste rather than creating something completely new.
However, this advantage towards Stellaris is flipped when designing your warships. While Stellaris wins in the sheer number of components involved, customizing your ships feels like it makes more of a difference in Endless Space 2.
Considering all of the above, we can say that it’s easier to customize factions in Stellaris while ship customization feels better with Endless Space 2.
While Combat can be considered a subset of gameplay, both Endless Space 2 and Stellaris feature enough of it that it merits a section of its own. In terms of fleet-level combat, Endless Space 2 has a slight edge over Stellaris, with tactical options that are made available to you to tip the scales if you so wish. In Stellaris, combat is more a question of numerical and technological superiority.
From a strategic point of view, however, the war calculations in Stellaris make a lot more logical sense and feel less arbitrary. Furthermore, on this larger scale, you have many more options available in Stellaris compared to Endless Space 2.
But where diplomacy is concerned, the AI in Endless Space 2 is much more intuitive when it comes to settling conflicts without resorting to war. The addition of minor races helps make expanding your influence through diplomacy mean a lot more than just raising the sheer size of your war machine.
Storyline and Lore
While gameplay remains the primary determiner of how easy a game is, storyline and lore are equally important in keeping you invested in the long run. As for this, Endless Space 2 feels easier to get lost in, with profound lore behind each of the factions providing you with ample motivation to continue.
On the other hand, Stellaris is all about you tailoring your own story and lore as you go. While this might be preferable to those who feel more like role-playing, it does require more effort on your part to stay invested in the game.
All of which works out to Endless Space 2 having the edge for ease of investment into the existing storyline and lore, compared to Stellaris.
Content and DLC
If you consider sheer numbers, Stellaris feels like the superior one here, with more updates and DLCs available than Endless Space 2. But do consider that without these updates and DLCs, Stellaris comes much sparser out of the box than Endless Space 2.
Most players of Stellaris feel that purchasing every Expansion and DLC is almost mandatory to appreciate the game entirely.
Contrast this to Endless Space 2, in which the base game is good enough already content-wise that the updates and DLCs genuinely feel more like additions to the base game, rather than needed parts to an incomplete game.
As such, it would probably be easier to be satisfied with the content available for Endless Space 2 than it will be with Stellaris unless you’re planning to get every expansion and DLC available for both games (and Endless Space 2, with less total additional content available, still works out to be better value here compared to Stellaris).
As a side note, there is also modding, which both games support. There is not much difference between the ease to modify and finding new third-party content for both games so let’s consider that part a draw for both games.
With all the above covered, we again consider the question: “Is Endless Space 2 easier than Stellaris?” It should be pretty clear by this point that each game has its strength and weaknesses, and it’s more a question of what specific brand of 4X strategy is right for you and fits your needs more.
If deep customization and roleplaying combined with a quick learning curve are what you’re looking for, you’re probably better off with Stellaris. But if more streamlined gameplay with more apparent objectives and more profound lore is what you seek, then Endless Space 2 might be the “easier” option for you.