Sins of a Solar Empire

By Shamus Posted Friday Jan 11, 2008

Filed under: Game Reviews 25 comments

The marketing campaign for Sins of a Solar Empire has begun. I’m cheering for this game, even though I’m not really an RTS player. I enjoyed Warcraft II and Starcraft in the late 90’s, but since then the games have subdivided into countless sub-genre and grown in complexity. The focus has shifted away from from story-driven Player vs. PC gameplay, to high-speed PvP. That’s nice for some, but it’s just not for me. So the whole thing sort of left me behind.

Having said that, I might pick up SoaSE anyway. I’m a huge fan of Stardock, and their policy of releasing DRM-free games is something I like to support. Plus, the game seems to be a new angle on the RTS formula. At the very least I’ll check out the demo.


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25 thoughts on “Sins of a Solar Empire

  1. guy says:

    heh, i like the old style better too, to the point where i don’t actually do multiplayer. I’m just glad that it hasn’t reached the point of pure multiplayer RTSs quite yet.

  2. Phlux says:

    Has the “No DRM” thing been confirmed? I haven’t been keeping up on the development. Stardock is only publishing this title, not developing it. I assume it will not, since developers pretty universally dislike having DRM, and it’s usually a requirement of the publisher.

    I’m a big fan of their work also, though I wish that Brad Wardell would avoid the trappings of discussing Politics on his blog. He keeps his personal and professional blogs separate, but his name is on both and people know who he is. That kind of thing can only detract from your real work, no matter what your political alignment is.

    I’m not an RTS guy either, but I’ve had my eye on this one. I’m a sucker for anything set in space.

  3. Sharpie says:

    Looking forward to this, though I hope it is more than Homeworld and Galactic Civilizations II thrown in a blender.

    Even if it is though, it will be a good time.

  4. Jeff says:

    I’m not sure what games you’re talking about with the comment “The focus has shifted away from from story-driven Player vs. PC gameplay, to high-speed PvP.”

    I don’t play PvP, although my friends and I do co-op on skirmishes. We’re noncompetitive like that. However, I can’t think of many recent RTS titles where your statement is true. Going backwards, Supreme Commander had an excellent campaign (and I suspect terribly slow multiplay if I ever tried), Dawn of War and its expansions had decent campaigns, C&C3 had brilliant single player, and C&C Generals had pretty complex single player as well. Act of War had a really well written campaign, and Company of Heroes was also really good. Dragonshard was pretty good, although that could just be my D&D fanboyness showing.

    Then there’s the Medieval style territory conquer games, which tend to be low on story, but Dawn of War’s Dark Crusade managed to do the whole thing WITH a story, which is nice. Battle for Middle Earth is also a cross between pure 4x type conquering and story, and was also fun. Empire Earth was alright, although the lack of an actual story meant things got tedious. Rise of Nations was pretty good. Star Wars: Empire at War also was in this subgenre, but hey, Star Wars!

    Again, I primarily play single player, but the only game that strikes me as predominantly multiplayer is WC3, and even those campaigns were pretty good.

    I’m at a loss as to which games you consider having poor single player, Shamus.

  5. Shamus says:

    Jeff: Actually, I was basing my assumption on how the games are reviewed and marketed. They are always talking about online play, matchups, game balance, and so on. I just figured that this was the “important” part of the game.

    I haven’t played any new RTS games, so I don’t know first hand.

  6. Eltanin says:

    I think that you might be missing out Shamus. I mean, we’ve established that Game Reviewers don’t actually talk about the game’s actual strengths and weaknesses or they get fired. So it stands to reason that perhaps they overweight other aspects of the games for whatever nefarious (or virtuous?) reasons. Whoops, I’m mixing comment references.

    Anyway, I must say that Rise of Nations has been a standout for me. I played a lot of Age of Empires, and even more Age of Mythology, but RoN really hit a home run as far as I’m concerned. They focused a lot more on gameplay than pushing those polygons and I, for one, was grateful. Also, I found that most games were generally do-able in an evening. Unlike a Civ game which suffers/triumphs with the “Just…one…more..turn…” syndrome. At this point you can probably get RoN and it’s expansion at a nice bargain price. I’ll offer my strong endorsement that you go check it out.

  7. Richard says:

    I’m in the beta (haven’t played for a while though) and I would highly recommend Sins. It’s quite fun; it could use way more diplomacy / spy / non-military choices ala Galactic Civilizations (another Stardock release). Overall, I’m looking forward to your opinion. Now, preorder and play!

    I would also heavily recommend taking a look at Aquaria, by Bit Blot software. It’s an amazing exploration / Metroid style game, and I’m enjoying it immensely.

  8. Terrible says:

    At a glance, it looks like Homeworld. I like Homeworld.

  9. Jeff says:

    Funny, now that you mention it, I can’t recall ever consciously absorbing marketing information anymore. Perhaps that’s why I don’t have that impression. :P
    The last preview/review I may have read was Act of War, I think, which was (iirc) professionally written, and was promoted for having an established writer write the story.

  10. guy says:

    I’ve noticed the increased marketing focus on multiplayer. they don’t even seem to bother to mention the campaigns, but a number of modern campaigns are quite good, although they’ve shrunk somewhat. plus, they are easier. and the old ones weren’t DIAS gameplay making them hard. modern campaigns have some of that.

  11. Binks says:

    I’ve been playing the beta for this game since it came out and I highly recommend it. It’s a ton of fun to play, the only RTS that gives that ‘one more turn’ feel that I’ve played where you start a game, then suddenly realize you’ve been playing for 2 hours :P.

    Lots of fun, and Stardock is a great company (like Valve, only without the DRM and the arrogance)

  12. Richard says:

    Multiplayer campaigns seem to have some games relegate the single player as being “just the tutorial for the multiplayer”.

  13. Jeff says:

    Oooh, I almost forgot, World in Conflict! That was one sweet single player campaign.

  14. Phlux says:

    I hope it’s not TOO much like homeworld. I loved that game, and it’s one of my biggest gaming regrets that I was never able to finish it. The game was punishingly hard (for me) and the pace is fine the first run through the game, but I find it mind numbing for replays. Once I know the strategy to beat a level I hate having to go through the tedious mining process.

    Without fail I have quit playing every single time when I get to the level where you have to fly through the asteroid belts to avoid deadly radiation. It’s always at that point that I realize I do not have to submit myself to that punishment.

    It’s too bad, because it’s an amazing sci-fi story. I’ve had to be content with reading the plot synopsis on Wikipedia.

  15. Miral says:

    I’ve kinda got mixed feelings about Stardock. I’m a fan of their no-DRM policy too, but the last time I looked at their catalog I couldn’t see anything that I particularly wanted to buy either. (I have played a bit of classic C&C and Warcraft, but I’m not really into RTSes.)

  16. David V.S. says:

    My wife and I enjoy playing a couple RTS games together, teamed up against computer opponents.

    We began with Age of Empires II (with the expansion). It is pretty and simple. Its main flaw is that all teams can build the same ultimate siege weapon (the trebuchet) and wherever the trebuchets are determines where the most important battle is happening. All non-rush games turn into the same plot line: protect the trebuchets while you slowly wipe out the enemy base from the near edge to the far edge.

    That same game was slightly modified into Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds Saga. The addition of air units and jedi units probably destroyed the unparalled game balance AoEII had for intense player-versus-player play, but made playing against the computer much more interesting without adding too much complexity.

    Now we are playing Battle for Middle Earth (the first one). Like AoEII it is very simple to play, and has a weak end game when playing against the computer. In this case you accumulate “points” over time through overall military success which can be eventually spent to trigger enormously powerful special events (either using the Army of the Dead if you are Gondor or Rohon, or using a balrog if you are Isengard or Mordor) which allow you to finish the game quickly. However, this game as a great innovation for making play interesting throughout the middle of the game. You can only construct buildings on certain predetermined map locations so the mid-game involves trying to establish and defend one or more “forward bases” in a manner that feels like fighting over a strategically important area of terrain.

    AoEII remains a standard for finely honed PvP RTS play. The other two are not notable for that but are definitely recommendable for people who want to play team up with family members against computer opponents. By adjusting the number and difficulty of opponents, and initial map positions, you can produce a fun game whether your team members are your adult spouse, young children, or both.

  17. DrHeinous says:

    I’ve loved Stardock’s GalCiv games. Frankly, I’d be wild for Homeworld/GalCiv thrown in a blender. My main complaint about GalCiv was the lack of combat options (I’d have died for something Master of Orion like…)

  18. Jeff says:

    David said, “teamed up against computer opponents.

    This is more or less exactly how my group of friends play, heh. I guess we’re not very competative.

  19. guy says:

    i also play vs the computer exclusivly.

  20. Chris Arndt says:

    I just hate it when I am planning an awesome strategy and then I get swarmed by stupid quick-acting army builders

  21. Robel says:

    What about Warcraft III? It *was* much better than Warcraft II and I don`t mean graphics or interface, I mean storywise.

  22. Jeff says:

    I had no major gripe with WC3, but the over reliance on heroes in any skirmish meant I never played it after the campaigns. That gameplay annoy me to no end… I want armies, dammit, not micromanaging one hero who eventually can wipe out armies. If you ignore that aspect you end up helpless against one high level hero. BAH.

  23. Tola says:


    Warcraft 3 is STILL mostly about armies. NO hero can truly ‘wipe out armies alone’. They’re important, certainly, but they’re not as dangerous as you think. Especially as they’re a big target simply BECAUSE of what they are.

  24. Jeff says:

    The problem is that the only way to counter said high leveled heroes is by having your own high leveled heroes.

    This is similiar to most ‘uber’ units in games like Dawn of War or Supreme Commander. They are strong, and will cause unparalleled destruction. However, in the two games I mentioned, they can all be countered with your normal troops. WC3 heroes, they’re “countered” by getting your army slaughtered.

    In otherwords, you have to play the RPG-lite while playing the RTS, or you’re horribly disadvantaged.

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