Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion Review

I am terrible at Sins of a Solar Empire. Just plain awful. The AI beats me over the head with a mallet and when I dabble in an online game it’s not long until my teammates realize, “Uh oh…we have a deadweight teammate.”

When I play a head to head game my opponent loves me.

This was the case with the 2008 original and it’s still the case today with the release of the stand-alone Rebellion expansion. Despite the fact that I’m not a novice real time strategy player, Sins brushes me aside like an annoying gnat.

But I love it.

I guess that makes me a Sins Sadist. Honestly, I don’t mind that I’m terrible; Sins remains a wonderful game despite my ineptness.

Rebellion, like the other expansions, keeps the core gameplay intact. This is still a real time strategy game of controlled chaos. Ships auto-fight so you don’t need to tell them to attack an enemy when in the same planetary system; in some ways it’s a hands off RTS that allows you to micromanage if you want to go that route by traditional clicking on an enemy or manually triggering a capital ship’s powers.

I still fall victim to wanting to watch the big fights – zooming in and taking in the beautiful effects as ships blast the snot out of each other. Of course when I do that there’s other stuff going on in the game that likely needs my attention and I end up getting punched in the face because of it. Like I said, I am not a good player. Still, it’s memorizing to zoom in and watch a huge battle in Sins of Solar Empire. There are times when it’s a beautiful game to simply watch.

It’s like a classic turn based 4X space strategy game if it moved at a measured real time pace. You build massive fleets, research powerful technologies, put on your diplomacy hat, and scoot around the system discovering new planets and colonizing them. Rebellion adds some important and in many ways game changing features, specifically to the end game conditions. You can now win via a “research victory” or via diplomatic means, or by conquering a specific planet (which is ludicrously hard to do). This is a huge deal as before it felt like a game of Sins always ended in a massive slog to see who proved victorious; now it has more of a Civ feel as you can try to avoid playing the galactic version of Genghis Khan. Not that you can play Sins as a pacifist – eventually battle is going to happen be it against another faction or against pirate raiders (which can devastate a player if they are not ready for them.)

The other additions to the game, well I’m simply not an adept enough player to truly appreciate them. More capital ships? Awesome! New ship types? Neat. The new races are basically rebel factions to old ones. There are clear differences with each race but some of the variations are more subtle in nature — you won’t find a robot race that can live without food, for example. The races differ here in the technology tree and the ships they can build, not to mention some basic abilities. But it’s not quite like GalCiv or Master of Orion in that the differences between the races are not as immediate. Like much of Sins, you’ll need to dig deeper to understand how it works.

I can’t forget the behemoth Titans. Being able to construct these floating attack fortresses is expensive but undeniably fun to unleash upon the galaxy. Every race can field a unique Titan and although it takes a long time to research and deploy, once one arrives it can change the momentum of a battle.

The fact that I keep playing, and losing, is a testament to the beauty of this game; I am slowly improving, learning how best to use each race, how to work the diplomatic and bounty angles and what to research and when.

Oh, I’m still losing…just not as spectacularly.

This one definitely deserves the No High Score High Score Award.

22 Responses to “Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion Review”

  1. David June 19, 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    How hard is the game to pick up for RTS and 4X dabblers?

    Titans remind me of the space-equivalent of Cro-Goths from Total Annihilation’s expansion pack, except even more tide-turning.

    • Bill Abner June 19, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

      Well, that’s me, basically. There is a learning curve, but it really is a brilliant piece of design.

    • Ty Kwon Doe June 19, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

      The game is difficult, to be sure, but the mechanics are pretty simple as far as 4x elements, at least compared to games like Civilization. I don’t think it would be difficult to pick up at all, I believe they’ve even improved the tutorials if you have problems.

      If you’re thinking about picking it up I recommend it, the game is fantastic =]

      By the way, you have no idea how thrilled I am that you referred to Total Annihilation, much less the Krogoth =D Seems all anyone remembers about that era of RTS was Starcraft =P

      • David June 19, 2012 at 3:39 pm #

        To this day, no strategy game has hooked me like TA. I’ve never been able to grok other games like I did that one. So much fun :)

  2. rhamorim June 19, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

    I like Sins a lot. And I’m also terrible at it. Which is why I tend to play with locked teams, allied with a capable AI, against a single AI (or in a 3 vs 2 setup, etc). That way, I can get into battles and everything, without too much pressure, and just take my time getting used to all the toys.

    Now, Sins can be a quite frantic RTS. Although battles take a while, and fleets can take a long time to get from one place to another, there’s always one more lab to build, one more technology to research, ships to queue, and defenses to plan. It takes quite a while to get used to juggling all those things at real time, which is why I suck at it. But I also like it a lot.

    That said, I wouldn’t say I love it, because I have been spoiled by Sword of the Stars and AI War, but I do like it quite a bit.

    BTW, Bill, what about Endless Space? Did you get to play it? It’s a pretty great game for those Master of Orion fans like myself, and a proper 4X that’s pretty cool already, despite still being in beta.

    • Bill Abner June 19, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

      I have ES on my desktop. The shortcut is getting pissy with me as I haven’t played it yet.

      Today is MRI #2 day which also means Valium so I doubt tonight is the night.

    • McKay June 19, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

      I haven’t played ES since D3 came out, so they’ve added a few races since I last played, but it’s been awesome so far. Plan to go back to it when my interest in D3 wanes for a bit.

  3. Nelly June 19, 2012 at 3:26 pm #

    Sins Masochist, Sadist would be you inflicting pain on it…

    Anyway, I love SoaSE – great game – but I get totally kicked about (even on the easy settings) if I’m not totally concentrating…

    • Bill Abner June 20, 2012 at 7:55 am #

      Ok, ok, yes, this is true.

      I just liked the alliteration.

  4. Rindis June 19, 2012 at 3:54 pm #

    Geez… you and Scott Tortorice over at GameSquad need to go have a love-in. ^_^

    Not to say that Sins is a bad game… quite the contrary. But it is a game I cannot love. As I said elsewhere recently, as a 4X game, Sins is an excellent RTS. Which is really the point of the game, but constantly getting interrupted for ‘emergencies’ elsewhere (which may be anything from an invading fleet to a scout hugging the edge of the hyper-limit) doesn’t really make for a game I want to play for long.

    One thing that’s been occupying my mind about it recently is all the close-up beauty screenshots. Without them, I wouldn’t know the game can zoom in that close. And knowing that it can… I never do. It’s pretty enough, but never am I in the middle of the game when I think, ‘I wonder what that looks like’. Instead, I’m looking at the icons, watching what’s going on, and thinking about what I have to micro-manage next. So… what am I missing here? Why do people bother to zoom in so far?

  5. bob fett June 19, 2012 at 3:58 pm #

    In fairness to the game you don’t need to micromange after you learn the intracacies of the UI

    • Rindis June 19, 2012 at 5:38 pm #

      How not? You have to manage the placement of all the defenses (at each planet). You have to manage all the production (in each facility). You have to manage the battles if you want anything as intelligent as ‘concentrate fire on one target’. You have to check the capital ships to see if they’ve leveled up and have a new ability pick.

      What am I missing here?

      • Dren June 20, 2012 at 6:30 am #

        Auto placement is your friend here, just turn it on and you stop having to place each structure individually. And Capital ships inform you when they’ve levelled.

        Personally I just have ship production at a couple of planets, so I don’t have to look all over for my ships, but I do play as Vasari, so that might be more difficult for other races.

        As for the battles, I usually only focus their fire as long as the enemy has Capital ships, but that might be personal preference.

        • Bob Fett June 20, 2012 at 8:15 am #

          You can automate a lot of stuff like that. Not just placement.

        • Rindis June 20, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

          I seem to miss the Capital ship announcements at least half the time.

          More damage done to one ship = sooner ship blows up and stops doing damage. Now if only the unit AI understood that….

          Can’t say I remember anything about being able to automate defenses. Of course, that leaves the question of how good is it, and how bad is it at sucking down resources when you don’t want it to?

          Of course, what I’m more interested in hearing about is actually the zooming in bit. :P

          • Bill Abner June 20, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

            ‘Why do people bother to zoom in so far?’

            It’s purty :)

  6. garion333 June 19, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

    Oooh, another High Score Award. How many is that now?

  7. Dren June 20, 2012 at 6:31 am #

    Between this and Gods and Kings, I doubt my pc will be running anything else for this summer.

    • Scott June 20, 2012 at 6:56 am #

      Don’t forget Endless Space now! Its half finished and already a time sink!

  8. Laythe_AD June 20, 2012 at 8:09 am #

    I love Sins. Rebellion doesn’t add -huge- amounts of content, mind. A corvette for each race, a capital ship for each race, a titan for each sub-race. There are some neat game changers, mind. The altered Vasari loyalist tree turns them into a race that absorbs a planets resources and moves on, leaving it a husk, their Titan becoming their Home Planet.

  9. Autistic Angel June 20, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

    One concept I’ve found helpful to learn about Sins is to keep your resources spread across as many different active projects as you can possibly afford.

    Try to avoid queuing lots of stuff in any one field. Instead of ordering this factory to build fifty new frigates, place an order for five and then devote the next two minutes to spending the remainder on research projects in different trees, a new repair bay on your front line, and a planetary upgrade to increase your income. Each of those things will progress simultaneously, and by the time the factory finishes those five ships, you’ll have cash enough for another batch.

    Resources are almost always rolling in faster than they can be spent on any one idea. Practice spinning as many different plates as possible!

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