|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Ironclad||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Stardock||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 4, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 - Multiple Online||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
It's not much of a stretch to imagine how much fun a turn-based strategy game can be if it could be played in real time. Of course that would defeat the function of the turn-based system. But what if a game were able to combine real-time strategy with the feel of turn-based combat? The result is Sins of a Solar Empire, an amalgam of real-time strategy and an empire building economic sim. It does get deep, but it starts out easily enough to get players of virtually any skill level hooked.
Although the game does have a single-player mode, there is no campaign. It's more free style. It's possible to get your kicks with this game and never have to deal with another human player. But that would be foolish since Sins of a Solar Empire literally comes alive in the multiplayer components. There are two different multiplayer modes. One will throw you into head-to-head challenges that will typically last an hour or so. The other component is similar to a massive online multiplayer mode that could last months.
With new content being offered by the developers on an ongoing basis, the replay value has huge potential. As you will notice on the developer's site, they listen to the players' gripes and groans, and seem intent on refining the game with patches and new downloadable content. As you can well imagine, it's not easy creating a hybrid game like this from scratch since there is no template to compare it to. There are some bugs with the game such as latency and faulty pathfinding, but patches are available for download that will address most of these problems. Forget trying to learn the shortcut keys, they just don't feel right and they aren't that important. The game moves slow enough to give you plenty of time to make decisions. You can call up the Empire tree, which is an interface that will appear on the side of the screen. It gives you access to virtually everything that you need to control. It's easier than returning to the main interface to make adjustments. Focus your efforts on using it, and you'll be well rewarded.
There is plenty of back history, but it's not very deep. Not that it needs to be as sometimes too much of that kind of info just bogs the game down with too much detail. Suffice to say there are three factions, and they aren't old drinking buddies. There is the Trader Emergency Coalition (TEC), a race of humans that are intent on using their incredible powers for peace and commerce. A race of aggressive aliens known as the Vasari are fierce, fast, and furious. They are looking to reclaim their hold of the galaxy by force. A somewhat mutated race of humans, the Advent is bent on revenge against the TEC. They have assimilated mysticism and technology into their evolutionary process and have become a new specie.
You can play as any of these three factions. Each have their own particular strengths and weaknesses, but they are very well balanced. Having chatted to some players that have been with the game since day one, they were unable to convince me that any one faction is secretly more powerful. Everyone seems to have his or her favorite, but that's personal taste. You can play as the aggressor with powerful weapons and space ships reminiscent of the Empire from Star Wars. Or play a more cerebral and peaceful game as you attempt to control the galaxy through commerce and good relations.
Conquering and controlling the galaxy is your ultimate objective whether you play as part of a faction or as an entire faction in a head-to-head match with one other player. You will begin with a planet and ultimately exploit it as a source of revenue, as well as a base from which to build your arsenal and launch your missions. Planets are a good source of resources, as are asteroids. These resources will give you the means to build more ships and acquire more weapons, and ultimately more planets. Planets can also be colonized, which will generate revenue for you in the form of taxes. Exploring the galaxy, you will discover new planets that you can exploit. Manufacturing plants erected on these planets will help build your fleet, which is a requirement for exploring, defending, and attacking.