Sins of a Solar Empire

By Shamus
on Jul 12, 2007
Filed under:
Game Reviews

I’m a big fan of Stardock. I loved Galactic Civilizations. I loved the sequel even more. Even aside from the quality of the games, I like how they do their thing: Their games have no anti-piracy hassle. They continue to update and enhance the core game for free for many months after release. I’m not taking about the usual bug-fixery, I’m talking about making the game deeper and more robust based on feedback from the user base.

Now I find out they have a new game in the works: Sins of a Solar Empire. I visited the page, read the synopsis, and thought Hey – Homeworld clone. That’s nice. I guess. But a closer look reveals this to be more than a remix of an earlier hit. It looks like they’re trying to take the Masters of Orion / Galactic Civilizations gameplay and… make it realtime? Really? You can do that? How does that work, exactly?

I guess we’ll find out. The game is in beta now. I’ll be watching this one.

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20121 comments. Blackjack!

From the Archives:

  1. Phlux says:

    Stardock is an awesome company. I also like their rationale behind not using the antipiracy so common in their industry. The purpose of antipiracy is to increase sales. But the people who pirate games aren’t going to buy the product anyway, so why hassle legitimate owners.

    As it turns out NOT having antipiracy gained them a lot of business. There are a lot of people who bought that game just because they knew it didn’t have any. It was a pretty common tale on their forums.

    It’s actual Ironclad games that is developing the product. Stardock is publishing for them. It looks pretty interesting though. I think I’ll probably pick it up when it comes out, despite the fact that I was pretty miserable at Homeworld and not very good at RTS games in general. I’m a sucker for anything set in space.

  2. Vegedus says:

    They actually have one anti-pirate mechanism in place: If you want the patches, you need a valid cd-key. As mentioned, the patches are rich in content, so some pirates that get hooked on the game might buy it just for that.

    But yeah, the guys at stardocks are just sympathetic. I also like how in touch with their community they are.

  3. Avatar says:

    Heh, I actually bought Gal Civ II at retail, except… I couldn’t for the life of me find the code in the box. Not in the manual, not in the CD case, not ON the CD… I can still play it, I mean, I just can’t validate it.

  4. Chilango2 says:

    For an old space based real time 4X game, you can look for Pax Imperia: Eminent Domain. I really enjoyed that game alot. It had less “character” than, say MOO2, with the races being more generic and no real fleshed out storyline, but what it did, it did well, it’s technological choices, will somewhat balnd in character, offered real tatical trade-offs, and there was a role for most ship classes in the game (except destroyers-the smallest warship class, in the late game phase). The ship builder was pretty simple to use yet robust. The AI was allright. I still have it, but its difficult to run on modern systems.

  5. Nilus says:

    The other nice thing about Stardock is they tie all your CD keys to one account. So once you setup your CD key in your account you never have to remember it. If you get a new pc, all you do is install Stardock central and reinstall the game you had.

    I also like there design philosophy of making games that can run on all sorts of systems, not just the newest and best. I can run it with everything all to the max on my home pc and it still runs well on my work laptop(which is good for when I travel)

  6. J says:

    Avatar: sounds like you need this guide to finding your CD key!

  7. Space Ace says:

    I, too, am watching SoSE. If you ask me, it sounds a lot like a science fiction, space version of the Total War games. Something I don’t mind at all, because I love that series.

  8. phraktyl says:

    I still remember playing the original GalCiv under OS/2. Great game.

    And ObjectDesktop for OS/2 was one of my few “must have” pieces of software.

  9. Brad Wardell, the boss there, is a gamer’s gamer. One of the reasons that Galactic Civilizations is so lauded among gamers is that the AI is superb, and at the highest difficulty rating puts up a hell of a fight without cheating. The game doesn’t give the AI any advantages, it’s just that the AI really is that good.

    If anyone is going to make this work, it’s him. He does this kind of thing at least as much for love as for money.

  10. Dave says:

    J… thanks for the link… and thanks to publishers that think of real people…

  11. Gothmog says:

    I’m (again) putting in my bid for Space Empires V- It’s even available as a demo on Steam now, I think!

    http://www.spaceempires5.com/

    I finished a game of Space Empires IV a few months ago- we played a turn a day for over 8 months. I didn’t win, sadly- In fact I spent the last 2 months of the game as a ‘protectorate’ of a larger empire. :(

    Still, it’s cool that SEV has that level of depth.

    Check it out if you want something meatier than GalCiv 2. :D

  12. Den Store Frelser says:

    Having tried both GalCiv 2 and SE 5, I see no reason to go with SE unless you really want proper combat.

    In GalCiv, weapons, defenses and combat are all just numbers. An epix haxxor lazor is just one more point of laser damage per unit placed on a ship than the normal lazor. Two ships of the same type mean two times the hitpoints and lazor/cannon/missile attack and defense. Battles are fought instantly, and without any input from the player. There is no multiplayer, but the AI is probably just as good as they claim. I just can’t enjoy a game where combat is so boring. Also, researching higher levels of buildings too quickly mean that you destroy any chances you might have had of gaining a lot of whatever you were researching, as the cost increases a lot and there’s no way (that I found while playing) to build the older buildings. You could get stuck with four research centers and no way to build the new versions unless you spend your entire budget on the hurry function. Due to the shitty combat, researching weapons is boring as you just get bigger numbers per unit placed on a ship.

    SE would be meatier, if they hadn’t forgotten to put meat on all the bones that poke out everywhere. In SE, you can control your ships individually or as fleets, you can change their scripts so that they automatically flee when (one or more of) certain criteria are met. You can attack a superior force, destroy the colony/transport/construction ships they’re guarding, and then run off again. That’s something you won’t be doing in GalCiv. Your ships can also be used for tons of different roles in combat, ranging from normal shoot-and-be-shot ships to carriers to ships loaded with nothing but shields and engines for absorbing enemy fire and ramming enemy ships. Research is mostly level based, meaning you get one or more items on completing level 1, and get better versions of those items as you research further. The manual shows what levels will get you new items.

    I tried both games, and found that neither one was really satisfying my need for 4X gaming. The combat in GalCiv means it’s out of the question, and the bugs and general feeling of playing something home-made that’s not quite finished yet stopped me from purchasing SE. Also, the AI is so poor that you’ll have to find someone else to play against unless you really like random requests for very random diplomatic relations. The computer players simply pick options at random and send to you, normally adding at least one thing that would cripple you.

    This turned out a bit longer than I expected it to. Sorry about that. In short: If combat is boring to you anyway, and you’re not going to play with or against anyone, go for GalCiv. If you can’t live without proper combat but CAN live without enemy AI, try SE.

  13. The real time element is probably similar to how Paradox Games handles things in Europa Univeralis, Heart of Iron, Crusader Kings, Victoria. Basically you pause the game give a lot of order and then resume.

  14. Will Gore says:

    You aren’t the only one awaiting this title with interest. I really like GalCiv II, though I never played I. I do hope they do a good job.

  15. Noumenon says:

    Also, researching higher levels of buildings too quickly mean that you destroy any chances you might have had of gaining a lot of whatever you were researching, as the cost increases a lot and there’s no way (that I found while playing) to build the older buildings.

    They finally came out with a patch that let you build the older buildings.

    The computer players simply pick options at random and send to you, normally adding at least one thing that would cripple you.

    This is fixed too, not sure if it’s from a patch or the Balance Mod (a must download — SEV is not a finished game without it).

    In SE, you can control your ships individually or as fleets, you can change their scripts so that they automatically flee when (one or more of) certain criteria are met.

    The thing about SE is, they have all these detailed strategies you can set, like “attack until the enemy’s engines are gone,” but after much wrangling with a particular one, you’ll be forced to conclude it just doesn’t work — was never implemented in the programming. And of course the computer doesn’t know anything about the “proper combat” — doesn’t try to capture ships, doesn’t use drones. Sure multiplayer would help, but it’s barely even included with the game — if not for the fan site, http://www.pbw.cc, nobody would be able to find a game or keep it running.

    I am having a whole lot of fun with Space Empires right now anyway. Can’t really explain it.

    GalCiv II turned out to have more copy protection than other games as so much of their content comes in their amazingly feature-rich patches, which you have to have a Stardock account to download.

  16. Elethiomel says:

    If you like 4X space games, I heartily recommend Sword of the Stars and its expansion Born of Blood. You can find more information on both at http://www.swordofthestars.com/ .

    Disclaimer: I like this game and it supports multiplayer. Hence, I would like more people to buy it so that it will be easier to find games. ;)

  17. Carl Cravens says:

    Curse you, Shamus. I don’t have time for video games, and the 4X space sims are some of the most interesting to me… but I generally avoid them due to time.

    Something you said about it made me go check out GalCiv1, and I found it was only $20 for the whole deal (base+expansion), _and_ there were many ways to win the game without just pounding all the other empires into dust.

    I stayed up way too late last night.

    I just wish it’d come with a full-featured tutorial, instead of just dropping me into the game. Having to actually read the manual to figure out how to play a game is so 1990’s.

  18. Noumenon says:

    Yay Carl! GalCiv I is a much better game than GCII or SE5. It’s practically perfect in every way.

  19. Paul says:

    Stardock is a standup company. How many software game publishers do you know that would, months and months after game release, still come out with patches to tweak and improve the game experience.

    As Steven said above, Brad is a gamer’s gamer and it shows. With very few exceptions, RTS is not my cup of tea, but I am willing to give Suns a try.

  20. Lo'oris says:

    “I also like there design philosophy of making games that can run on all sorts of systems”

    Actually, i have a Mac.

    Ok, with that said, I really love this philosophy. As far as I’ve read, they behave just as I would, and that’s VERY remarkable!

  21. newplayer says:

    help…..i have the game sins of solar empire but no product key……..What shoul i do.????….

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