When you marry the talents of Ironclad and Stardock together, you expect something to be produced that leaves your jaw on the floor. I remember when I first looked at Stardockís Galciv II: The Dread Lords, one of the finest forays into 4X style games on the face of the planet, a game that had such stellar after sales support and content that it was worth every hour sunk into playing the game.
So imagine that I was very interested to see the birth of a new star to an interesting genre, no longer turn based, but 4x the tactical Real Time Strategy 4X game: Sins of a Solar Empire landed on my desk and was quickly installed, patched and given hours and hours of play, in fact it was given over two weeks of play at least with two long LAN sessions, one of them lasting over five hours.
Iíll open this whole review with my biggest concern for some of you, if youíre looking for a story type game, this isnít it. Sins of a Solar Empire, in a way, commits a cardinal sin of design, lack of single player story but manages to avoid being crucified because the mix of strategy, gameplay and features are truly excellent. This game proves that you can make an engaging title without having to spend thousands on writing an engaging story, a gripping script and having cgi cut-scenes in a game.
Of course that doesnít mean that developers should stop doing the whole thing, because unless youíre me or someone like me, youíre going to be somewhat ticked after parting with your hard earned cash to find youíve got a game thatís built purely for multiplayer online and LAN play offline. Sins supports team based gaming perfectly and is sure to provide hours of tactical strategy for the determined player. It can take a serious while to get into, once youíre there though, the learning curve isnít all that steep and thereís a couple of tricks you can employ to give yourself a decent head start before the trouble comes knocking at your door.
4X gameplay means that you have to obey the four rules of that genre.
Sins has a number of excellent set maps, a random map creation tool built into the game and tools freely downloadable from the net where you can make your own maps in a matter of minutes. The Sins modding community is thriving and the game should appeal to those people who desire to make content for such titles, since virtually every aspect can be altered and there are already some awesome mods for it.
You can play offline as a single player skirmish, online or over the LAN. With human players or AI, or a mix of both.
Setting up a game couldnít be simpler; you can alter numerous parameters in terms of the time it takes you to research, gain funds and so on. Make up your teams, selecting from TEC, Vasari or Advent, the three factions battling for control of the galaxy. I wonít bore you with the who or the what of these three races, but suffice it to say they are all very different in terms of visual style, research and play style. I have a fondness for the TEC at the moment, and no, not just because they have the giant planet bombardment gun: the Novalith Cannon, but because the TEC remind me of the Earth forces from Babylon 5.