The main problem with Sins of a Solar Empire is that, as a player, I’ve found myself doing the same thing since its release back in 2008. The same techs should be researched first, the same buildings should be built in the same places etc… despite being a sandbox game, Sins doesn’t exactly allow for a hell of a lot of deviation, and the lack of a single-player or even differing game’ modes’ doesn’t exactly help this. The Entrenchment and Diplomacy expansions, whilst adding interesting additions and nick-nacks, again didn’t really alter gameplay in any way that was truly fundamental, and it’s hard not to think the same of Rebellion.
Granted, this is the biggest expansion to date, so much so that it’s an official stand-alone product, and having played through the recent beta for a good while I have to give some credit to Ironclad - this is the first expansion where I’ve really felt that this was a new(ish) experience, although that’s as much to do with the culmination of four years’ worth of content then the content specific to this expansion. It’s a shame really that seems to be the last outing for Sins of a Solar Empire, as this would have made a lovely precursor to a true sequel. For a while at least… with Ironclad focusing on Sins of a Dark Age, ‘Sins 2’ probably won’t be for a long while.
Yeah, this fight isn’t going to last long…
But let’s run down what Rebellion itself really has to offer: Really the main ‘thing’ where this title goes one step further is the addition of new sub-factions. Each of the three races is now split into ‘Loyalist’ and ‘Rebel’ factions, with their own unique theme and motivation, as well as additional exclusive techs (in addition to the shared racial techs) to help set them apart from their counterpart. Each faction gets their own version of the new Titan-class megaship, so whilst that technically means there’s two classes of Titan’s per race, you only ever get access to one depending on your faction. Whilst we’re on the subject of ships, each race gets an additional Capital-class ship that servers an extra unique role (for example, the new TEC capital is another support ship that can also capture other ships), plus a ‘Corvette’ ship which is lobbed in with the rest of the smaller frigate classes. Think of it as a cheaper, faster and stronger combination of several frigates, but with fairly weak armour.
So, as we said, some more impressive changes, although it’s probably the tech and UI improvements they’ve made that really makes this a ‘stand-alone’ product – new renders and high-res textures make this fairly good-looking, it has to be said. Again, since this is all back-end stuff it kind of just fuels the perception that not a lot has really changed, even though it has. They’ve also missed a trick as since 2008 they’ve not added new planet types, or other stellar objects, which would go a lot further to changing the dynamic of a typical game than simply adding more options on the player end.
The Titans gain levels like regular capital ship, but the points are spent on improvements much like StarBases
Apologies if it seems I’m doing a lot of griping about what could have been – despite what’s previously been said this is still a fun and interesting Space 4x game, and the new options really do open things up more. Having played through several games there’s enough diversity here to make matches just a little bit more interesting. The new victory options do the most to alter the dynamic of a match, for example giving you a ‘Flagship’ that you need to defend otherwise you lose, or making it so that if you lose your capital you lose, and so on. The only downside we’ve seen so far is that the AI (depending on the chosen ‘style’) doesn’t seem to be that good at adapting to the specific conditions. On one map we managed to waltz right up to an enemy capital through some lightly defended back door systems, and found the place devoid of anything but token defences.
Is Rebellion something to look forward too? Of course it is. Fans who already own the original game *should* in theory get this expansion cheaper (which removes the niggle I have over the £24.99 price tag), and newcomers gain the benefit of four years’ worth of development and access to a pretty fun RTS game. It’s just a shame that it took four years to get to this point, with incremental improvements that under most other studios could probably have been done in half the time, and now the stars are being abandoned for a more down-to-earth outing… with nothing but the upcoming Legends of Pegasus and Gemini Wars to look forward to (we still don’t talk about SOTS2), it’s a shame Ironclad are pulling out. Still, in many ways Rebellion is looking to be the ultimate expression of what this game is all about, and there’s still plenty more hours upon hours of fun to be had here. Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion is due out on June 12th, 2012 through major digital and retail outlets.
Most Anticipated Feature: Will someone just tell me what the hell the Vasari are running from?