Sins of a Solar Empire Review for PC

On: PC
Sins of a Solar Empire screenshot
Sins of a Solar Empire screenshot

Maintaining a large fleet, however, is very costly, so you can't afford to neglect your economy. Planet upgrades can be bought, increasing the potential size of your colonies, and trading platforms can be built in orbit, enabling inter-planetary and even inter-faction trade, further boosting your income. There is even a fully-fledged black market on which you can buy or sell crystal and metal to either make up a supply shortfall in production, or make a profit on a surplus. Crystal and metal is mined from asteroids around the planets owned by your empire (this is where the 'eXpand' and 'eXploit' part comes in) and opposing factions will look enviously at your resources and demand some of them in exchange for better relations. Diplomacy, on the whole, is probably the least developed aspect of the game. It's a little disappointing that you can't give missions to the other factions, or ask for resources from an ally when you're in a tight spot in the single-player game. Perhaps this is a realisation by the developers that they couldn't make the game too complex... The huge maps can have hundreds of planets to conquer and anything between two and a dozen opposing factions. There's definitely a point where Sins reaches a critical management mass, and it can be a little too big for its own good.

Personally though, I love the sheer scale. Small maps with a handful of planets can be conquered in a few hours, but if you really want that space opera feel, you have to really invest a lot of time on the bigger maps, where the interplay between multiple factions allows you to scheme more effectively, siding with factions that allow you to assume the strongest strategic position in the long-term. Plenty of maps and scenarios have been provided by the developers, but the game's longevity has been extended even further by the ability to create custom maps. This allows you to set-up some genuinely massive games, which can take dozens of hours to resolve. Being able to create and conquer your own star cluster with hundreds of planets negates any real need for a campaign: having a scripted narrative or formal mission structure would take away a lot of the freedom that '4X' games benefit from.

You'll note that I haven't really talked about the combat yet. This is because despite the fact you're going to be doing a lot of it over the course of a game, I didn't really find it all that memorable; not for any lack of endeavour on the part of the developers, I should add. When you have the camera zoomed in on the action, combat can be quite spectacular, especially if two large fleets are involved. However, part of the problem with making a game on this scale is that control at the tactical level is much less important than seeing the big picture at the strategic level. Most battles will be won and lost according to the composition of the opposing fleets, rather than on tactical acumen, since the AI is pretty handy and will perform quite adequately without constant instruction. I mentioned interface niggles earlier: it's in combat where they really manifest themselves.

Sins of a Solar Empire screenshot

Taking up the left hand side of the screen is the empire information bar, which allows you to select planets and fleets. Since enemy ships are also shown on this bar, it's actually easier to give attack orders to your fleet using the icons shown on this bar than in the main playing area. This means that it's more effective for you to run battles from a zoomed-out, strategic view, rather than while you're zoomed in, using the cinematic mode to gorge on all the eye candy... So while the graphics are perfectly effective and atmospheric (if a little lacklustre), from a pure gameplay point of view, they could be considered completely superfluous. Not that this is a criticism which only applies to Sins: the same could equally be said of Haegemonia: Legions of Iron, another space-based game, which married a more traditional RTS campaign with large scale '4X' gameplay.

Indeed, Haegemonia is quite a good comparison to Sins of a Solar Empire. Both games share a lot of common points, but if there was one feature from Haegemonia that Sins should have stolen mercilessly, it's the planet browser. Once your empire spans greater than a dozen or so worlds, the empire information bar quickly becomes unwieldy, making it a little more cumbersome than it should be to conduct a quick overview of the worlds under your command. It's by no means a fatal flaw, especially on small maps, but can lead to you "forgetting" to upgrade worlds purely due to the sheer breadth of your domain, damaging your economy or even leaving worlds undefended and open to attack. Of course, this is a consequence of the game's ambitious scale, so is perhaps to be expected.

The slick blend of genres and the sheer size of the game make it hard to give an unreserved recommendation: Sins of a Solar Empire will not be everyone's cup of tea. However, if you've been hooked to titles like Galactic Civilizations, experiencing '4X' strategy in a real-time environment may be a revelation for you. Likewise, if you got a kick out of Supreme Commander, but wanted to have freedom to explore the fictional setting, rather than play through a fixed campaign, then you're going to find a lot to like here. Ultimately, whether you're going to enjoy Sins of a Solar Empire will depend on whether you prefer deep, slow-burning strategy to the fast-paced thrills of a tactical RTS. With its mix-and-match gameplay, Sins is certainly a title out of the ordinary, but very much an acquired taste. However, a bit like with Guinness, once you've acquired the habit, it's a tough one to break.

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Rohan's Avatar
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Rohan

Spoken like a true pro-g and a videogamer! ! ! ! !

Hey Ian u still havent told me is there any forum in which u can chat with the reviewers??

Also i spent quite a more time with the game and now i am starting to see the real beauty of the game ..........after u've gained a good threshold on the game ,done thr logistical upgrades and other things and have three capital ships it gets more than interesting and u start paying attention to the gameplay and forget the grafics( and most of the time i preferred to zoom out and give orders in 2d mode which is great )
Yup this game is great but requires a little bit time spending on the part of the user

U've got me converted I'ain ! ! ! ! !
Posted 13:47 on 05 July 2008
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Iain_McC@ Wow...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wow...
I have never ever seen a critic defend his score or rail against a commenter so much before. This was my absolutely first time visiting www.videogamer.com and I'm coming away with the perception that your site and its critics are sophomoric. DON'T FREAK OUT Iain!!! I won't see your response since I'm not coming back lol I do expect that you will justify why you are the one most commenting in the comments section compared to the regular Joe... I mean you have paragraph upon paragraph about how your criticism didn't deserve the guy's response... Who cares? What are you in high school? Seriously...

Heh. I'm going to ignore your rather pathetic attempt at a flame...
D- Must try harder.

Clearly, you have no idea that critical feedback is actually highly valuable for a writer. In all honesty, I don't give a monkey's scrotum if you agree with my opinion on the game or not. If you don't agree with what I think, I'm sure you can find reviews out there that do fall in line with your opinion. No-one's forcing you to read what I said. However, I felt Rohan's criticisms deserved a response because, a) he made the effort to give me some feedback and b) he raised a few interesting points I felt were worth replying to.

As for "Who cares?" You cared enough to try to flame me, so don't get on your high horse... it's missing a couple of legs.
Posted 23:01 on 04 July 2008
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Rohan

Wow!!!!!!! Ur so thick!!!!!!!!!!
He takes the initiative to respond .And ur calling him high school guy??
And we arent having a war here.More like a polite discussion about the game.And this is the bloody best site i've seen on net.They write so very interesting reviews!!
Posted 22:24 on 04 July 2008
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Wow...

I have never ever seen a critic defend his score or rail against a commenter so much before. This was my absolutely first time visiting www.videogamer.com and I'm coming away with the perception that your site and its critics are sophomoric. DON'T FREAK OUT Iain!!! I won't see your response since I'm not coming back lol I do expect that you will justify why you are the one most commenting in the comments section compared to the regular Joe... I mean you have paragraph upon paragraph about how your criticism didn't deserve the guy's response... Who cares? What are you in high school? Seriously...
Posted 04:15 on 03 July 2008
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Anonymous

Hey can i chat with u in any forum ????????????
Posted 13:49 on 02 July 2008
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Anonymous

.....k .
Posted 13:32 on 02 July 2008
Iain_McC's Avatar

Iain_McC@ Rohan

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rohan
Now u will again think im comparing it to other titles "dawn of war" CoH .But why shudn't i??

Because that would be like comparing an apple with a grape. Sure, they're both fruit, and they may both be green (or red, for that matter) and spheroid, but they're different species and they've got different flavours.

Quote:
a single scenario lasts more than entire dawn of war campaign but it is more due to the fact that the ships move at a snail's pace even when u increase game's speed to max

Not entirely true. The scale of the theatre of operations is much larger and you have more to manage. Again, this is due to the 4X roots of the game and is a balancing mechanic, particularly in large scale games. You have to weigh up the risks and rewards of transferring fleets between star systems for offense and defense. This is where the "strategy" part comes in, as if you make a wrong decision and send all your ships off into another system just as another faction launches a counterstrike, you're going to pay for it. With a (misnamed) RTS game (where the action takes place on a small, tactical level, rather than a strategic, logistical level) these decisions are quickly correctable. When you play at a larger scale where tactics are replaced by strategy and logistics (as in Sins), wrong calls should be punished in this way by not allowing you to correct them within five minutes.

Quote:
This game has been released in a time when there is no shortage of hardware power. Nor a shortage of storage space to store effects.

True, but nonetheless irrelevant, I'm afraid. When you're designing a 4X game (whether it's turn-based or real-time) the balancing of the game mechanics is the crucial factor. Hugely better graphics would not make it that much of a better game, and the developer has to weigh up the cost of developing the graphics engine against honing the balance of the game. Smaller developers, such as Ironclad, can't throw mega-bucks at the graphics budget in the same way that someone like Blizzard or EA can, so I believe that they made the right decision, because Sins is as well-balanced as any RTS/4X game I've played. And the relatively lowly minimum specifications for the game undoubtedly have quite a bit to do with why the game has sold faster than hot cakes in North America. Not everyone buys a new PC every two years, so having a game that doesn't need the very latest graphics card is clearly a good selling point. Heck, just look at the minimum specs for World of Warcraft. It might not look as good as Crysis, but it's sold over 9 million copies... not everyone wants top of the range graphics, and arguably, they're not even necessary for a great game experience, if you get the rest of the design right.
Posted 22:59 on 01 July 2008
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Rohan

..............and a change from the traditional would be welcome indeed
Posted 16:22 on 01 July 2008
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Rohan

Well true i ashamed at mi stupidity .I meant the score not the review .Sorry .typing error

But the weak points of the game are exactly the things that made me angry .The game has such a great concept And i know that that scale is gigantic with large fleets of ships Battling each other . But the whole exitement is puctured when u actually see them fighting each other .How great coud it hav been if effects like those of say world in conflict's tactical strikes were put in .Now u will again think im comparing it to other titles "dawn of war" CoH .But why shudn't i??

When they've already got such a great concept why not make it even more appealing to both people who like to control *administration* of galaxies and those who love destroying one .

Yes ur true a single scenario lasts more than entire dawn of war campaign but it is more due to the fact that the ships move at a snail's pace even when u increase game's speed to max .I did say this game shud me given less marks ,but not bcauz its bad , its positively good .But its dissapointing . This game has been released in a time when there is no shortage of hardware power .Nor a shortage of storage space to store effects.

There is something such as defining a genre .This game does it greatly .But it falls short of redifining it.
Posted 15:54 on 01 July 2008
Iain_McC's Avatar

Iain_McC

Oh, I'm not offended - more confused that you started your post "I do not agree at all" and then immediately talked about the very things I criticised the game for in the review... You are, of course, perfectly entitled to your opinion as to the score I gave, but to have your comment's opening gambit as "I do not agree at all" when you look at the entirety of what we both wrote you find that we in fact agree on a lot of the weak points the game has, which strikes me as a bit counter-intuitive or bizarre...

As for the score itself - it's a question of how you judge the game. Games such as Sins of a Solar Empire, which combine traditional genres, such real-time strategy and '4X' strategy (more commonly associated with turn-based games), do pose a reviewer with a real problem. Do you judge such a game alongside RTS games such as Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War, or 4X games like Galactic Civilisations?

For me, Sins plays much more like Galactic Civilisations than Dawn of War. A single Sins map can take longer to play than an entire Dawn of War campaign, so I think it's a little unfair to expect Sins to offer the same kind of graphical or adrenal thrills. The game is clearly aimed at a player more inclined to play less for the moment and more for the longer-term goal. And if you're a megalomaniac like I am, the graphics are much less important with regards to your enjoyment of the game compared to the amount of depth and control you have over the game in the management model.

As a pure RTS, I agree that Sins isn't going to rival Dawn of War or Company of Heroes, but you have to make an allowance in the scoring of the game, because Sins isn't even *trying* to be a direct competitor to these games. I have tried to make this clear in the text, that if you try to play Sins as you would play a traditional RTS you're going to have a hard time, and also that the core of the game isn't in the graphics or even the combat, but the sense that you're running a vast interplanetary empire singlehandedly. I even begin my closing paragraph of the review saying that it's hard to give a recommendation without reservations - acknowledging that some people won't grok the game simply because you can't easily pigeonhole it with other titles...

I don't get offended by a difference of opinion, but I do get annoyed if it seems that people simply look at a score and not the justifications given for it. Still, I guess we reviewers are here to be disagreed with. I should be used to it by now! ;-)
Posted 17:42 on 30 June 2008
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IRohanIgame

hEY sorry if i offended u ian , i think videogamer.com is the best review site on the net and u all write very cool reviews and the site interface and presentation is too good .

i apologise if that comment angered u.i ws in a fit of anger when i wrote it back then bcoz i was expecting much more from thegame after reading ur review .Game is massive yes but i was expecting better much better grafics from the game and better gameplay

I apologise again if mi comment caused u any discomfort.I only wwrote the comment b cauz i rely on videogamer.com very heavily when buying a game
b cauz i think ur's is the best site on net.But i was expecting way more from a game u gave 8/10 .sorry
Posted 19:27 on 28 June 2008
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Anonymous

....k i will try ................i know advent hhav laser weaponz and i read the review but it doesnt look good at all ............i mean when the laser hits a ship they cud hav demonstrated some chunk of the ship flying away but the battles look so dull........and talking about diversity in upgrades it doesnt really matter how many tech trees they throw at us if the gameplay is not up to the scratch nobody will like it
Posted 16:32 on 28 June 2008
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Rick

Great review, really feel lie I know what I'm in for (I'm looking for something fo the magic i found in homeworld btw....finger crossed)
Posted 22:15 on 20 June 2008
Iain_McC's Avatar

Iain_McC

Sorry, but did you even read the review at all? I *said* that I didn't find the combat particularly compelling or the graphics anything more than functionally effective.

The combat and graphics have very little to do with the score I awarded. I enjoyed the scale, the depth of the research and management models, the balance between the three factions and the inclusion of a map editor - the graphics and combat are the weakest aspects of the game, which is both reflected in the review text and the graphics score.

When it comes to 4X style gameplay, graphical fidelity is (in my opinion) the least important aspect of the game. It never has been a genre that features spectacular graphics, simply because graphics alone cannot make a 4X game compelling. If that's what you wanted or expected, I think the problem is more with your expectations than with any problem inherent within the game.

Oh, and by the way, the Advent *do* use laser weapons and some of their psionic capital ship powers are graphically pretty funky. Try playing with them. Or you could try the other 4X-RTS hybrid I mentioned in the text: Haegemonia: Legions of Iron. It's rather old now, but it's still pretty lovely, both graphically and in terms of gameplay.
Posted 14:59 on 17 June 2008
IRohanIgame's Avatar

IRohanIgame

I do not agree even one bit.Ok the scale is massive but gameplay is disgusting.Fight between skirmishers and other wahtever ships should have been a sight to behold , while all they've managed to make it look is disgustingly naive.They should be firing high tech lasers with some cool effects while it actually looks like firing small rounds of smg.It doesnt even make any grafical impact upon hitting .After playing it through hours and hours and tring to find something to hold me to this game i will give it no more than 6.5/10
Posted 08:22 on 17 June 2008

Game Stats

Sins of a Solar Empire
8
Out of 10
Sins of a Solar Empire
  • A fine blend of '4X' and RTS gameplay
  • Massive scale
  • Can build custom maps and scenarios
  • The GUI could be a little friendlier
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 06/06/2008
Platform: PC
Developer: Ironclad Games
Publisher: Kalypso Media
Genre: Real-time strategy
Rating: PEGI 7+
Site Rank: 11,584 230
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