Sins of a Solar Empire Review (PC)

Deep strategy without an End Turn button.

by GameDaily Staff on Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Sins of a Solar Empire

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Even Supreme Commander, the first real-time strategy (RTS) game that let players zoom out to get a strategic view of an entire continent or planet, couldn't capture the incredible scope that Sins of a Solar Empire covers. In Sins, players gain a commanding view of entire galaxies. By combining elements of turn-based 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) strategy games like Civilization with real-time strategy features, Sins manages is a well-paced game that doesn't get buried under a ton of micromanagement. The concept might seem completely absurd to many, since traditional 4X games appeals mainly to people who spend hours micromanaging an empire and building economic and diplomatic relations with other faction. RTS gamers, on the other hand, rely on quickly building up their forces and heading straight in the fight. These two strategy types make very unlikely bedfellows, but Sins manages to make it work.

Getting into Sins for the first time is a little daunting, since it has all the complexities of a turn-based game happening in real-time. Players choose from three different factions that differ mainly in ship designs and the research trees. However, ship offerings across all three factions serve the same purpose and there's no custom design feature like that found in Galactic Civilization II. Intergalactic empiricism also has a ton of rules attached, like keeping in mind how many ships and structures the empire can support, only being able to build within a planet or asteroid's gravity well and ships being unable to jump across systems while inside the gravity well. Planet, asteroid fields and stars are connected through a network of jump pathways, which can be very intimidating early on, since it's difficult to get a sense of where to establish defensive borders, which planets are terminals and what areas are central hubs. Players must boldly go out and blindly explore. The network structure also makes it difficult to send reinforcements in from one part of the galaxy to another, since they need to jump from one system to another, making it hard to balance between establishing an economy and maintaining a fleet.

Sins of a Solar Empire

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Although all combat and ship movements happen in real-time, don't expect the same rushed pace. A game on a small galaxy with only two players can potentially go on for hours. However, the real-time combat has remarkable benefits, since skirmishes that involve giant fleets going at it can be shown in all its glory. Sins of a Solar Empire manages to pack in a ton of information in a way that's easy to understand and access. It also helps that the artificial intelligence is smart enough to defend itself against attackers, leaving us free to manage research, infrastructure or diplomacy without too much fear of being destroyed. The Empire Tree, which lists all colonized planets along with the fleets and structures orbiting them, keeps everything organized and makes it easy for players to jump from one area to another.

After players get over the initial hump of familiarizing themselves with the game's controls, Sins of a Solar Empire turns out to be a great, deep strategy game. There are a handful of different approaches to winning besides building up a gigantic fleet and mowing over everything that stands in the way. The economy, which also includes a dynamic black market, offers a great way to trade in excess resources for some quick cash. Players can also put bounties on opposing factions so that the indigenous space pirates will harass them instead of you. At the same time, the game also has one or two infuriating features, like the turtle-slow fleets that practically crawl out of a gravity wells to jump to another system, repeating the process until they reach their destination. Researching long-range jumping does little to alleviate the matter. There's also some difficulty in setting up defensive turrets for a system, since incoming ships usually don't jump within range of them, making it possible to bypass fortified buffer zones and head straight for key planets. We were also disappointed in the lack of espionage and sabotage options, which would provide significant benefits when setting up invasions.

Sins of a Solar Empire

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Sins of a Solar Empire can be a little slow in the beginning, but things quickly pick up as the empire expands and its economy grows. However, building up to a strong position requires a great deal of patience. This is a real-time game that definitely isn't for twitch reflex gamers. What Sins does extremely well is offer a unique game experience with a fantastic amount of detail, right down to the string of ship traffic flying around the planet's atmosphere. Sins makes an excellent first step toward a new kind of deep strategy gaming that doesn't need an "End Turn" button.

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Sins of a Solar Empire

Sins of a Solar Empire
  • GenreStrategy
  • Release Date08/01/2007
  • PublisherStardock
  • DeveloperIronclad Games
  • ESRBT - Teen