Welcome to Sins of a Solar Empire
Welcome to Sins of a Solar Empire, an RT4X game that combines the best elements from the turn-based strategy genre with its real-time cousin. You will become the ruler of one of three unique races and lead your people to victory over your competitors by any means necessary. As you expand to new worlds, you will gain access to vital resources and unique artifacts, construct shipyards to build mighty fleets, establish trade with neighbors, and assimilate rival cultures. Each of the races in Sins of a Solar Empire has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. Once you choose which side to fight for you‘ll only have the resources of your homeworld and your wits to help you start your new empire. Be wary, however, for danger lies at the end of every phase lane and it‘s not only your opponents who will seek your destruction.
Let’s remember how great Sins of a Solar Empire was
We’re publishing a range of articles from our extensive magazine archive. This article was originally published way back in PC Gamer UK February issue 2010, but Sins of a Solar Empire is still awesome.
Videogames have made certain fantasies their own. Grand or weird escapades of the imagination inaccessible to books or film. Conquering the galaxy is one such fantasy: taking on the enormity of space itself.
Gaming doesn’t get any more grandiose than this. The genre which has traditionally handled space conquest, the 4X (explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate, probably best exemplified by the Galactic Civilization games) has normally been a turn-based affair. Indeed, how else would you handle the enormous complexity of trade, fleet-combat, diplomacy, and galactic infrastructure construction? Well, you could do it the way Sins of a Solar Empire does: in real-time.
What madness is this? Can one human brain really handle all this in real-time? The answer is yes, but only just. The consequences of Ironclad’s decision to make a live-action 4X game are far-reaching. Rather than being able to sit back in the leathery depths of your Parker-Knoll recliner deskchair and consider the options before you, you’re now managing everything as it happens. You rush from one side of your empire to another, the tasks that await you spiralling upwards in an exponential ‘to do’ list as your influence expands.
The game doesn’t do much to reduce the scope of a normal 4X game: there are often dozens of planets, three major resources, and various factions on each scenario, including pirates. This means that games of Sins require many hours to play: a near impossibility for the multiplayer side of things, where a single session can span most of the day. Nevertheless there are brave gamers who will undertake it, and the rewards are huge.
Nor is Sins of a Solar Empire a campaign game. Instead you’re offered a series of sandboxes that you must make your own. These range from a single solar system which can be crushed in a few hours, right up to grand constellations of stars which will take you an age to encompass.
Your actions are layered. At the most basic you’re gathering resources: tax from planets and trade, metal and crystal from the asteroids. Then you’re exploring the tech tree by building a research infrastructure: civilian, military, and fleet. Of course, what ultimately matters to your enjoyment is the strategic depth that the game offers. The mixture of real-time processes with a game of this scope means that standard real-time tactics don’t always work, although they’ve been somewhat better facilitated by the most recent ‘micro expansion’, Entrenchment. I speak, of course, of turtling.
The best defence
While it was possible to build defence turrets and little fight-outposts in the original game, the reality was that when an enemy assault of any significance did make a beeline for your planets, the only way to stop them was to have a well-equipped defensive force of spaceships to hand. The achievement of Entrenchment is to expand this into an entire tech tree of defensive possibilities. Even if your fleet is small or underdeveloped, a good defensive strategy can allow you to ward off considerable enemy attacks. Useful if you’re more concerned with development than with conquest at that particular stage in the game.
Conquest, however, is where Sins of a Solar Empire takes us, and there are two aspects to that which make my strategy and tactics glands swell with delight. The first is the planetary siege. Few game events have the majesty of this, and few are as horrifying when you are the victim.
Your planets are bustling with activity, and you can see little craft whizzing about across the surface. When you spot an approaching siege fleet in space—you can see the particular siege ship icons, which are a stomach-churning sight when they appear en masse—you have to either pray your planetary defences hold, or get a fleet in their way. If neither of those things is an option then you will just have to watch your planet burn. That’s not just a bummer for the billions who are getting nuked from orbit, it also shuts down your space infrastructure, so your research, resources, trade and production will all be affected. Of course, when you’re doing it to an AI who has been vexing you for hours, it’s a delight.
The other magical aspect to space conquest is the capital ships: the centrepieces of the Sins of the Solar Empire fleet. Each of these is a named ship, that can be slowly upgraded over time. Seeing a maxed-out battleship commit to a fight is a glorious thing: “Shields up! Launch the fighters! Deploy the ion cannon!” Yeah, that’s the stuff. Best of all, they come in various flavours, meaning that you can opt for a variety of tactics from frontline laser-biff to more stand-off carrier tactics with groups of fighters launched to take on enemy ships.
Sins isn’t going to replace something like the turn-based Galactic Civilizations, because the constant-crisis pace of things won’t suit normal 4X tastes, but it is slowly becoming one of my favourite grand strategy games.
SINS OF A SOLAR EMPIRE: REBELLION REVIEW
Too ruggedly professional to die, 2008 sleeper hit Sins of a Solar Empire has returned. Titled Rebellion, this third expansion comes in a new, expandalone format, and adds just about everything except actual rebellion. Silly developers!
Sins has aged well, partly because its only competitor, Sword of the Stars II, flopped harder than a snake slipping off a diving board, but also because its appeal is still intact. As you develop your empire, swinging from planet to planet, tumbling down the tech tree, stringing together fleets and levelling up your capital ships, the game simply gives you a bit too much to think about.
It’s uncanny. As a beginner, you’ll have your hands (and head) full developing trade routes and continuing the electric push of your culture across the solar system, perhaps with one eye on your prize fleet, making sure it’s still winning some 20-minute pitched battle. But experts will be kept just as busy micromanaging the powers on individual ships, perhaps leaping home to oversee the construction of a Maginot Line-like array of turrets, before snapping up the diplomacy menu to offer a job, a ceasefire, a demand, then back to the fight.Sins’ sweet spot is that it always threatens to overwhelm, but rarely does. This isn’t the riptide real-time strategy of StarCraft II. It’s more sedate than that. But the game simply has so much going on, its every element rewarding not just attention but obsession, that you’re able to sink into it like a hot bath. Want to fling armadas around as if they were plastic toys? You’ll have a great time. Want to orchestrate your fleets like an interplanetary Rommel? You’ll see the rewards instantly.
Which brings us to what Rebellion adds. Perhaps most notably, it still doesn’t add a singleplayer campaign, leaving you to fool around either online or in the excellently robust skirmish mode. Which is fine. There’s also a whole new suite of tutorials, which prepare you for everything – except how to deal with this much content.
Sins’ three relatively asymmetrical races have been further rent into Rebel and Loyalist variants, each of which holds a new teasing selection of powerful abilities and a unique Titan. We’ll get to those. Loyalist TEC, for example, are a turtle’s dream, with one tech that increases experience gained fighting in their own space and another that lowers the cost of the horrible Novalith Cannon (which lets them slam-dunk nukes into distant gravity wells). Meanwhile, the nomadic Vasari Loyalists gain the power to summon NPC vagabonds and devour planets like so many Mars Bars.There are new corvettes and capital ships for each faction, too, but the Titans are the stars of the show. Monstrously expensive and perfectly suited to a long-form game like Sins, it’s likely the fiercest fighting these behemoths will see will be attacks by wary players on their sprawling dockyard before they’re completed.
As with everything else in the game, however, they strike a thoughtful balance. Completing a Titan is by no means a ‘win’ button, but the automated report that another player has finished one still instils a gentle dread.
Outside of the lack of a singleplayer campaign, about the only criticism that could be levelled at Rebellion is that it’s not much of a looker anymore. But you know what? When you jump some 50 ships on top of an enemy fleet, announcing your presence in a flutter of missiles and hot burps of laser fire, you just can’t tear your eyes away.
Sins of a Solar Empire®: Rebellion Ultimate Edition
While many were hopeful that diplomacy would finally end the war, differing opinions on what should be done, along with the depleted power of the controlling factions, has led to a splintering of the groups involved.
The loyalist members of the Trader Emergency Coalition adopt a policy of isolation, focusing on enhanced defenses to ride out the rest of the war. Those who rebel against the coalition take on a purely militant view, coming to the opinion that the only way to bring peace is by ultimately crushing all who oppose them – especially xenos.
For the first time in their history, the war creates a schism in the Advent Unity. The loyalists seek to continue their policy of revenge against the Traders, and to assimilate all others to the Unity’s influence. However, others amongst the Advent suspect that a corrupting influence from within has diverted the Unity from its proper destiny.
The divide created in the Vasari Empire is less pronounced, but just as severe to their people. With the Vasari now practically frantic to move on to new space, the loyalist faction abandons cooperation and decides to take the resources they need by any means necessary. Having accepted the need to work together, the rebel faction feels that their best chance for survival is to work with the other races and bring them along to flee the approaching enemy.
Take the battle for galactic supremacy to its ultimate level in Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion – a standalone RT4X game that combines the tactics of real-time strategy with the depth of the 4X genre (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate).
- New Factions Decide whether to play as a Loyalist or Rebel – each unlocks new technologies, ships and play styles for each race.
- New Titan Class Warships: Mighty titans enter the fray of the war to tip the scales of power. Each faction may field their own unique titan, drawing upon unique strengths and abilities on the battlefield.
- New and Updated Capital Ships: A new capital ship joins the fleet for each race to offer even more tactical options. Additionally, all existing capital ships have been upgraded to four levels for their abilities, allowing players to focus their ships along specific strengths.