AMPLITUDE Studios has started 2019 strong with a string of surprise expansion releases. At this point, I would argue that Endless Legend is easily worthy of a top five position amongst its 4X strategy brethren. Its newest (and final) expansion, Symbiosis, lends itself well to helping the core game stand amongst industry giants, literally. Unless you have a giant phobia of skyscraper sized insectoids, in which case maybe you should sit this one out.
Candidly, Symbiosis is an amalgamation of fixing everything I dislike about single city civilizations and what I wish the Guardians from prior expansions were. Which is to say, just because the newest playable race doesn’t dance to my preferred rhythm doesn’t mean you should pass up this expansion. If you enjoy being a war-monger, having exploration be a core part of your overall strategy, or like the simplicity of only having to build something once, then the Mykara are going to be your jam.
The Mykara are all about evolution and assimilation, entirely through conquest. They cannot settle into new regions, instead opting to build Fungal Blooms on top of ruins, temples, extractors, pacified minor faction villages, you name it. Likewise, they don’t obtain new cities through conquest, instead turning them into fungal ghost towns that eventually yield a certain amount of their previous FIDSI total (Food, Industry, Science, Dust, and Influence) and special bonus traits for the Mykara, depending on what race previously owned that city. For example, conquering Vaulters gives a bonus to science output and some winter immunity. The Broken Lords give an increased Dust output and Health Regeneration based on how many villages you have pacified.
Meanwhile, your capital city begins to blossom from all these external resources. Production pre-planning becomes critical given you cannot produce or build anywhere else. Luckily, Fungal Blooms are built with Food, completely independent of your Production Queue. As a result, the Mykara benefit immensely from early exploration of nearby resources and ruins, given they do not need to “own” the region in order to build Fungal Blooms. In the early game, most enemy civilizations will reach out saying they don’t wish to upset you by destroying your blooms. Later, you can expect minor and major enemies to actively try to sabotage your resource income, especially if you have built far away from a defensible location. Good thing for the Mykara, anywhere can be a defensible location.
You see, Fungal Blooms built on top of Ruins turn into fast-travel locations exclusively for the Mykara. It becomes very easy to focus on Food Output and exponentially build up a vast network of locations, effectively making Auriga your own personal subway system. All the while, you are most likely the first to visit numerous regions across the globe given your exploration focus, exploiting their various rewards and resources before other empires can claim them. It’s a huge win-win scenario, and it makes conquest significantly more feasible for a single-city civilization. Again, the only downside being you only truly have one city, so progression is going to feel extremely linear until you start being able to afford multiple standing armies. Not to mention, you shouldn’t recklessly leave your dominated cities undefended! As long as you are smart about staying on top of watching your regions borders (unlike me), you can “grow” to your heart’s content.
Apart from the Mykara, Symbiosis also introduces us to the Urkan. These massive insectoid beasts will appear randomly around the map, completely taking control of neutral regions of land. Players can choose to either appease the Urkan with bribes, slowly winning them over to their side, or defeating them in battle and enslaving them to their cause. It is worth noting that Urkans are extremely strong, especially against early-game armies. Unlike Guardians, who roam as solitary units and suffer increasingly from a single action economy, the Urkan store numerous lice armies inside of them. These high-attack minions will jut out of the Urkan’s massive orifices and defend their tremendous masters whenever needed. They may even run rampant and attack undefended locations if left to their own devices for too long.
In addition, the real reason why the Urkan fascinate me is because of their resource bonuses and dedicated tech tree! Urkan, when domesticated, can sit within neighboring neutral lands and effectively extract the resources for your empire remotely. In addition, at the cost of giving up Luxury Resources, you can upgrade your Urkan to give massive percentage bonuses to your various city outputs. We’re talking a flat 20% increase to all Dust income and 50 Approval rating at the same time, just for existing next door, as an example. Likewise, you can settle an Urkan right at your enemy neighbor’s border, making that region temporarily yours, which means you can retrofit your armies to your newest available technologies right as you’re about to lay the smackdown. Each Urkan is unique from its brothers, offering specific bonuses to offensive and defensive playstyles, which means different civilizations and players may focus on capturing different Urkans first.
Should you manage to domestic all three Urkan, you can unlock Coordinated Tremors. At that point, honestly things just become silly, as you can watch three giant Kaiju bugs rein chaos from anywhere within an opponent’s territory. City sieges become laughably easy, which blends well with the Mykara’s pursuits of dominance by force. Notably, the Mykara do have race-unique researches that allow them to better benefit from Urkan domestication, like the ability to garrison friendly units inside of Urkans. Did I mention that like the Mykara, Urkans can burrow to any visible location as long as it is unowned by any empire? Guardians, eat your heart out.
Overall, Symbiosis does a good job of taking a pre-existing 4X strategy trope, the single-city civilization, and spicing it up with unique mechanics. Offering fast travel as soon as you have Fungal Blooms built atop ruins makes the Mykara into terrifying shocktroopers, while also making exploration around the globe meaningful and more rewarding towards your overall strategy. Meanwhile the Urkan are equal parts massive world-smashing insects and extremely potent bonus generators. I’m excited to play with them via other civilizations, and see just how well I can incorporate them into my strategies going forward. It's not my personal favorite expansion, it ends Endless Legends' legacy on a high note, and helps shore up the game to truly offer a wide array of win conditions and play-styles.