Game Review: Sins of a Solar Empire

Chris Raub

Sins of a Solar Empire is an RTS, real-time strategy game, developed by Ironclad Games and published by Stardock Entertainment on Feb. 2, 2008 for PC. It follows the events of the Trader Emergency Coalition, which has been attacked by fellow humans and an unknown alien race. The game doesn’t have a single player campaign; instead opting for a sandbox mode where you can fight computer players and unlock achievements. There is also a multiplayer option where you can go online to find other players or a LAN option.

With the game being advertised on its massive scale and attention to detail at the minor levels, I was impressed with the look and feel of the game. It is definitely good at the ship level; I could see the engine trails from the ships as they flew from planet to planet. The background of the universes doesn’t clutter the screen and gives a realistic view of the night sky. The sound was nice, not incredible, but not poor either. A downside: since Sins is done at the galactic scale, most of the time you view everything as little icons on your screen. So much for the details of the game: as you try to grasp the big picture, Sins reduces the graphics for no lag in the game play.

Every game attempts to be different and Ironclad Games manages to pull it off with Sins of a Solar Empire. The game has the feel of Risk in space. However, Sins does not do well with ship to ship fighting, the AI handles most of the targeting leaving you with a spectacular view but very little control. Trying to control the flow of battle is pointless; most of the time the AI targets the weakest units or the units already damaged more effectively then a human could. If anything, Sins of a Solar Empire is a resource management game trying to work out what to do to expand.

Sins of a Solar Empire is under the category of 4X games where the player controls an empire and tries to “eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate”.  Most of these games are turn based, but since Sins  of a Solar Empire is an RTS, the game play is slow at best. For multiplayer this is doubly so, but Ironclad Games has the useful option to save the multiplayer games to be started at a later time. This means that a single Sins game can go on for days.

I promise you one thing, however: Sins of a Solar Empire isn’t boring; diplomacy, bribes, and pirates spice up the game play with action and moving alliances. For an RTS, Sins of a Solar Empire does very well; everything you do, or mess up on, effects the outcome of the game. If you expand too fast, your production is slowed. If you don’t expand fast enough, you lag behind everyone else.  As a final warning: this game is not for people who want instant gratification from their games, Sins of a Solar Empire is not fast or filled with action. If I could give it an age group I would put Sins of a Solar Empire in the 40+ group for folks who can’t react as fast as younger people can.

Pick it up in a store near you!