Video Game: Sins of a Solar Empire
Sins of a Solar Empire
is an RT4X game, fusing both Real-Time Strategy
gameplay into one package. It was released on February 2008 to wide acclaim.
There are three factions in the game. There's the Trader Emergency Coalition, a semi-cohesive organization of human
worlds who have banded together to try to defend their worlds from aggression, using Kinetic Weapons
, heavy armor and Macross Missile Massacres
. There's the Advent, transhumans
who were exiled
by the traders' ancestors many years ago for tampering with Psychic Powers
, Crystal Spires and Togas
and Frickin' Laser Beams
, and are now back for Revenge
. And there's the Vasari, Scary Dogmatic Aliens
who once ruled a huge interstellar empire,
but whose worlds have been gradually swallowed by... something
. Every ship sent to investigate this menace has disappeared, except for one ship which returned with its crew driven mad
. The remnants of a Vasari colony, now surviving as nomadic Planet Looters
, have fled to this corner of the galaxy, leaving warning buoys behind them... and watching in dismay as those buoys wink out, one by one. All while the humans, who they initially thought would be easy targets, dragged them down into a Hopeless War
Sounds like an interesting potential plot, right?—Gray and Grey Morality
, possible Eldritch Abominations
, who knows what else. Unfortunately, the story basically ends there
. You can set up a multiplayer match vs. AI or a multiplayer match vs other people, but there's no single-player campaign. However, there is abundant backstory, very dedicated to showing that each of the 3 main races has committed sins of their own and are now paying for them (hence the title).
The game was designed from the ground up to be playable on a wide spectrum of hardware configurations, including ones most of its contemporaries would write off as "obsolete"; this didn't hurt sales by any means. It was also free of Copy Protection
, making headlines at a time when invasive, unnecessary DRM was turning people off Spore
. A pirated copy was essentially a fully-functional demo, allowing you to skirmish against AI but not to play over the Internet; you needed to buy
the game for that. Those who held pro-DRM attitudes predicted failure, but as of September 2008 Sins
had sold 500,000 copies, recouping its $1M development costs months before any of the $10 Expansion Packs
came out. (There's no hard data as to how and why this game managed to be financially successful, but you can guess what most tropers think. Having said that, Ironclad Games eventually switched to Steam
, and more pertinently Valve Anti-Cheat, as their distribution method.)
Speaking of expansion packs, there were two "micro-expansions" released: "Entrenchment" added new ships and starbases; "Diplomacy" added more diplomatic options, including a (theoretically) non-military win condition. A third was supposedly going to contain a single-player campaign... but quietly evaporated
before being Un-Cancelled
(without a campaign) in March 2011 as "Rebellion," a full-sized expansion in which players of each faction can choose loyalty or rebellion
, and gain access to new tech trees and ship classes in doing so. Rebellion
is a standalone expansion, with a discount for those who owned the original installment. Finally, for those who don't care to fork out more money, there is a robust and thriving Game Mod
scene, dedicated to doing anything from providing factions from pre-existing sci-fi franchises to graphical updates to full game overhauls to code optimization
so that the game doesn't crash as much. That's right, fans love their Sins
so much that they are voluntarily debugging it.
This game provides examples of:
- A Commander Is You:
- TEC Loyalist: A mixture of Economists, Industrial, Brute Force and Spammer. Their manufacturing ability is practically unsurpassed and coupled with their strong economy and the fact that the TEC have some of the least expensive frigates and cruisers of any faction, they can easily build massive fleets of extremely durable warships and overpower enemies with sheer numbers. Oh, the Loyalists also get their superweapon earlier then the other factions and have reduced construction costs for said superweapon. They also get a lot of defensive bonuses, their Ankylon Titan specializes in fleet support and are able to deploy two starbases around a planet.
- TEC Rebel: Like Loyalist forces a mixture of Economists, Industrial, Brute Force and Spammer while at the same time introducing elements of Guerrilla. They are capable of allying with the Pirates, using pirate warships and utilizing milita forces. They still retain much of the same economic and military characteristics of the TEC Loyalists, with the same cheap, tough warships. Their Ragnarov Titan also packs the absolute highest firepower of any ship in the game, being the super-offensive philosophical opposite to the super-defensive Loyalist Ankylon.
- Advent Loyalist: Mixture of Technical, Loyal and Researchers. They are capable of advancing through their Tech Tree very quickly and their ships excel in long range firepower but lack durability; their ships have powerful shields but very weak armor and hulls. They get access to culture early and are more proficient in its use. Their Coronata Titan is capable of mind-controlling entire planets.
- Advent Rebel: Same as the Loyalist but adds Spammer to the mix. They get a research ability that allows them to respawn destroyed frigates and cruisers. Their Eradica Titan packs a lot of firepower, is able to heal itself by cannibalizing other ships and when it does get killed, it will become invulnerable and continue wreaking havoc for two minutes before going down.
- Vasari Loyalist: Elitists, Rangers and Espionage. The Vasari tend to have fewer, but more expensive units that have extremely hardened hulls. Their ships tend to use Phase Missile technology, which have the possibility of completely bypassing the shields of enemy ships. The Vasari Loyalists can generate income with their capital ships and can set their Vorastra Titan as a mobile capital world. They can also completely drain planets of resources, leaving dead husks behind.
- Vasari Rebels: Also Elitists, Rangers and Espionage. They pack the same powerful but expensive ships as the Vasari Loyalists, and go even further with upgrading their Phase Missile technology. Instead of focusing completely on self-mobilization, they get a lot of abilities that allow them to support their allies more effectively as well as making for powerful offensive tools - such as their capability to add jump engines to their already-mobile Orkulus Starbases and effectively convert them into very powerful spaceships. Their Kultorask Titan is more of a fleet support ship than an all-out combat titan, but is still capable of heavy offensive power and is very hard to kill thanks to its abilities.
- All Your Base Are Belong to Us: The CPU players taunt you when they invade your planets. Especially painful if they have a large invasion fleet, and you either have a meager fleet (possibly as a result of a failed invasion of your own which cost you a lot of ships, or you're focusing on research instead of building a military force), are being besieged by another player/CPU in another planet, or the planet they invade is really far away from your own forces, and reinforcements will take a while to get to the besieged planet. However, the enemy will use the same taunts even if they're sending their fleet to its doom against your most heavily fortified planet.
- Alpha Strike: Bombers specialise in this, made all the more dangerous by the fact that their supposed counters can rarely destroy them before they reach their target (flak frigates are too slow to keep them in range, and the coding for fighters means they always "flyby" targets rather than chasing them, and neither can destroy bombers in a single pass). The best counters are Kol flak burst, Halcyon TK Push, or possibly phasing a vanguard of flak frigates into the gravity well before having the rest of your fleet follow.
- Anarchy Is Chaos: One planet attribute in Forbidden Worlds is "Anarchic Society" and is completely negative. Tax income, trade income, ship build speed, ship build cost, culture spread, and max allegiance all take negative hits.
- Apocalypse How: Class 2 constantly happens.
- Arbitrary Head Count Limit: Played straight for the most part. The exceptions are the Advent Rapture and TEC Corsev battlecruisers, which have special abilities that allow you to steal non-capital enemy ships. On large maps, the game can start to get a little choppy and slow if there's a large number of ships. On larger maps you can actually run into the max fleet limit quite early.
- Are We There Yet?: Upon selecting a just-constructed Advent Mothership: "All shall join the Unity, in time... Is it time?"
- Armor-Piercing Attack: Vasari phase missiles have a chance to bypass enemy shields and directly strike the hull, potentially destroying vessels without having to deplete their shields. This has caused balancing issues with the Advent (who favour shields over hull more than the other races). How to fix this is a common debate online, as the Obvious Rule Patch giving Advent a (relatively small) chance to block phase missiles in their own culture is generally considered inadequate.
- Artificial Stupidity:
- The AI in this game is not the brightest bulb in the fridge. Instead of sacrificing its fleet to protect its planets, it will happily sacrifice planets to protect its fleet, thus allowing you to attrition it to death. It rarely builds planet-damaging bombers; if you do, you will almost always out-DPS it. If it loses all its ship factories, it will not demolish old buildings to make new factories either. Developer updates have alleviated some problems (such as the highly-annoying practice of the AI jumping to your world just as you jump to theirs) but not all of them, and it's possible that the continued absence of a single-player campaign is largely due to the size of the overhauls that would be needed for the AI.
- Other strategic errors include poor planning when it comes to planet specializations, as they base them more on their distance from the front lines than exploiting local bonuses (e.g. to build rates). Superweapon targets are also random unless the shot is manually fired, often targeting strategically worthless planets or pirate bases that you might have been using as a major distraction in a system that you have no personal claim in.
- Tactically, the AI's use and timing of special abilities is generally poor (which makes Advent-playing AI weaker than it should be because of not using and synergising said abilities to their full potential). They also won't retreat capital ships until too late, resulting in otherwise avoidable losses. Targeting priority means combat ships waste time chasing trade and refinery ships instead of strategically important non-combat structures. Pirates only leave a system they have raided once every ship and structure is demolished, but none of their ships are equipped to detect Space Mines, which results in all the pirates twiddling their thumbs in the system until you kill them off (or if you're a TEC rebel allied with them, destroy all the mines).
- In-universe, Novalith cannon shots and other super weapons seems to be giant dumb bombs. Once launched, they won't self-destruct or change course if the existing civilization was wiped out (or colonised by YOUR people!) during the missile's painfully long travel time.
- Asteroid Miners:
- The colonies you can place on resource-rich asteroids are explicitly mining colonies, with a population and development cap to reflect it.
- This game plays the trope well past its logical extreme, with asteroids being the only source of metal and crystal. Planet mining is apparently a thing of the past.
- Astronomic Zoom: Rightfully a touted part of the game. Zooming between a close-up of a single bomber and assessing the position of your forces over different solar systems at a glance, is a press of a button away.
- Author Tract: A downplayed example with Forbidden Worlds planet bonuses. Certain types of societies give different bonuses/ disadvantages, but some are undoubtedly better than others. For example, Free Market Society gives positive bonuses for all planet attributes, while Anarchic Society does the opposite.
- The Battlestar: Many examples among each side's capital ships, from battleships with strikecraft capability to full carriers that - in the case of the TEC's Sova-class - even look like aircraft carriers.
- Beam Spam:
- The Advent's warships in general. The Halcyon Carrier capital ship carries up to 12 drone squadrons each containing 7 beam-armed bombers in addition to the 8 heavier beam cannons mounted on the ship itself. Add Aeria Drone Hosts and any Advent player fielding over 30 bomber squadrons can 'light up' a target with an Alpha Strike composed of hundreds of focused beams. Or if they choose to go with frigates, their Illuminator Vessels can deploy 3 heavy beam cannons each, one in front and one on either side, with tactics that involve charging forward into the middle of an enemy fleet and putting on an impressive and highly destructive light show.
- The Vasari, on the other hand, use Pulse Wave Cannons, which are generally used by Capital Ships. A variant of these beam cannons are used for bombarding planets.
- BFG: All superweapons can be considered as one of this. Except the Advent Deliverance Engine, which is essentially a Big Freaking Mind-Control Device. Also, the Marza Dreadnought's Siege Cannon.
- The Ragnarov Titan takes this Up to Eleven as nothing but a giant cannon with gun placements on the side and engines on the back of it.
- Boarding Party: One of the TEC Corsev Battlecruiser's abilities.
- Bottomless Magazines: TEC ships fire missiles and cannon shells, and some Vasari ships fire phase missiles, but they all have unlimited ammunition. The TEC justify this by the smooth background operation of their logistics and supply chain working to keep your forces supplied at all times, while the Vasari ships that use phase missiles probably just nano-manufacture them on-board.
- But Thou Must: Locking teams before the game begins more or less nullifies the impact of missions: you still get offered them, and still accrue ire when you ignore them, but teams are locked, forcing Teeth-Clenched Teamwork! There is still an incentive to keep on your allies' good sides though, because high Relationship Values grant access to "pacts", each of which improve both players' ships or economy in some way.
- Casual Danger Dialog: As mentioned above, the Advent who aren't furious are eerily calm, even under fire.
- Cherry Tapping: You get achievements for feats such as not using Capital ships, not researching any military tech, and not using strike craft.
- Cool Ship: Everything, in it's own way. Well... except maybe the refinery ships.
- The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard : Literally, there is an option to allow the AI to cheat by giving it extra money and resources.
- Combined Energy Attack: The Loyalist Advent Coronata Titan has this as an ability, called "Unity Mass". Every friendly ship in it's range adds 50 (plus 5-per-level) damage to it.
- Cosmetically Different Sides: A good example of how to use a Tech Tree and a myriad of subtle unit differences to avert this trope without introducing units with radically different functions.
- Converging Stream Weapon: The aforementioned Unity Mass, which fires two tributary beams before firing off the Wave Motion Spirit Bomb proper.
- Corrupt Bureaucrat: A game mechanic in the Forbidden Worlds DLC. The planet attribute Planetary Corruption reduces tax income by 2.0 (potentially into the negatives) and trade income by 20%.
- Crippling Overspecialization: The TEC and Advent anti-structure ships can't target other ships, including hulking behemoths like capital ships and titans.
- Slightly justified in that their shots are slow and unguided. It would be easy for any ship to dodge them, especially since they tend to fire at extreme ranges. This, of course, doesn't explain why they can still target Vasari Orkulus starbases, which are also able to move around, albeit more slowly than any ship.
- Cruelty is the only option: The standard way to take a planet by force is to kill off the entire local population so you can then colonize it with your own people. This does lead◊ to a bit of Fridge Logic...
- Death of a Thousand Cuts: The Entrenchment expansion introduced Starbases, extremely powerful (and expensive) fortifications that can be upgraded like capital ships. The best way to deal with them? Set your fighter and bomber wings on them; they're too small for the starbase to hit and come free with your capital ships and aboard carrier cruisers.
- This is also a favored tactic of the Advent who field more strike craft then the other factions. It's not uncommon for Advent capital ship fleets to consist almost entirely of carriers and support craft which can field dozens or even hundreds of bombers and fighters to lay waste to planetary defenses while the capital ships themselves remain safely out of the enemies reach.
- Death World: An explicitly-named planet attribute in Forbidden Worlds and is one of the few completely negative traits. The attribute lowers the max population, growth rate, tax income, and maximum allegiance.
- Deflector Shields: A very common technology in Sins; almost all combat vessels are equipped with shields, which regenerate constantly at a decent rate and can mitigate a large fraction of the damage a ship takes under focused fire (60% for Red Shirt frigates, all the way up to 75% for level 10 capital ships and titans). The only unshielded entities are strikecraft, pirate ships, and orbital structures (usuallynote ). Shields are the primary defense mechanism of the Advent, whose ships have powerful shielding but light armor. The TEC on the other hand have weak shields but heavy armor, while the Vasari are in-between. Pirates meanwhile try to make up for their complete lack of shields by covering their ships in gratuitously thick armor plating, but even with this they are more fragile than the equivalent ships of the three main factions and rely essentially on the Zerg Rush to be dangerous.
- Derelict Graveyard: The "Ship Graveyard" planet type in Stellar Phenomena. Despite containing several intact capital ships and a large space station, it's pretty much just a dead asteroid with a few metal mines.
- Earth-Shattering Kaboom:
- In Rebellion, the Vasari Loyalists can strip any planet they capture for resources, culminating in an explosion that irreversibly reduces the planet to a worthless dead asteroid.
- Also, while it doesn't blow it up, the TEC's Novalith cannon will heavily damage a planet (repeated hits will cause whoever owns it to lose said planet, unless they have a starbase in orbit with the remote government upgrade).
- The Shattered Moon planet type from Stellar Phenomena. Large chunks of it are still in orbit around the rest, rather beautifully
- Easy Evangelism: All sides can overthrow enemy planets this way via the "culture" mechanic. The Advent are the most adept at this (More Than Mind Control, a genuinely better society, or a mixture of the two - you decide), and can boost it with their Deliverance Engine superweapon. The TEC however are the most overt about it, with a research option that allows them to spawn small fleets of rebels over enemy worlds (all of the fighting is taking place in Trader space, so this is basically just arming La Résistance).
- Enemy Civil War: Can occur if you set two CPU players to be the same faction but on different teams, or if two or more players are using the same faction and fighting each other. The Rebellion expansion also features this happening canonically in all of the factions.
- Enemy Exchange Program: Several abilities can cause this, such as the TEC's Corsev Battlecruiser or the Advent automatically converting a few ships of a retreating fleet. The unit's response lines don't get changed a bit, which is excusable when it's the Advent Mind Raping enemy crews to their side, but less so when human boarding parties adopt the voices (and abilities) of the ship they captured.
- Ethereal Choir: Due to the Advent's churchy nature, most of their "nothing's going on" music has this. It sounds quite nice.
- Faction Calculus: Varies over the length of the game. Advent starts out Subversive and their light frigates, corvettes and drone strikecraft are built to be fast and cheap but individually weak, but as technology progresses their fleets become increasingly Powerhouse, built around larger more expensive units acting in a synergistic unison with each other and with their faction's strong cultural influence. The TEC start out Balanced, with their ships being middle-of-the-road, but their technological power doesn't advance to quite the heights of the other factions while their economy grows faster and further than the others, causing them to end up with large fleets of fairly mundane, easily replaceable ships that act as a Subversive force. Vasari meanwhile start out Powerhouse with expensive but individually strong vessels, and they gain the ability to deploy their high-quality ships in greater numbers and deploy them to where they need to be faster than anyone else, causing them to become more or less Balanced.
- Fake Longevity: Quite a few of the Achievements require you to deliberately stretch a match out in order to attain them. Particularly bad offenders are the destroy 1000 Pirates in a single game, destroy 2500 strikecraft in a single game, finding all the artefacts in a single game, or researching all of a tech tree in a single game.
- Feudal Future: One of the planet attributes in Forbidden World is this. In effect, it reduces tax income, culture spread speed, and ship build speed, but also decreases ship cost and increases resources mined.
- 4X: As evidenced by the "RT4X" moniker. The base game lacked much in the way of civil development for your solar empire, as well as a staple of the 4X genre: non-military win conditions.
- In Diplomacy they added Diplomatic victories. Oddly enough, this doesn't change much. Sure, you can gain diplomacy points and win that way, but the main way you get those points? Finish missions that have you destroy enemy ships and structures, inevitably leading to war. So yeah... There's always the research victory.
- Fragile Speedster: Corvettes in Rebellion, which sacrifice the hull and shield points of normal frigates for speed and evasion, and carry a versatile arsenal of light weapons and a minimal crew. Somewhat subverted by strikecraft - although they are even faster and have no shields and few hull points individually, most weapons and abilities can't target them at all, and their carriers or hangars will keep rebuilding them for free using their antimatter reserves whenever they do get destroyed. Strikecraft act more as proxy weapons systems for carriers and hangars than as autonomous ships.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: The TEC recruitment poster in the Rebellion intro contains the rather amusing line "Bring a friend - earn higher starting rank"
- Frickin' Laser Beams: Vanilla laser weapons are fired in pulses, taking a few seconds to get to the target. Inverted with "beam" weapons, which are sustained-fire plasma/laser weapons that hit instantly.
- There is a mod that replaces standard TEC pulse lasers with thin red beams that pulse. This changes nothing in the gameplay (although, the mod may reduce your fighter/bomber count gained in expansions), but makes it look and sound more realistic (less like a Star Wars blaster and more like pulsing hum). The mod only affects TEC lasers, though. The Advent ones still travel to target.
- Fun with Acronyms: The final Phase Missile upgrade technology on the Vasari tech tree is called NME Warheads.
- Game Mod: See here and  for starters.
- Gang Up on the Human: Largely averted, but can be invoked should you make teams, and both CPU players on either side of the player happen to be on the same team. And then decide to attack you at the same time. Can be painful unless you have a strong fleet, strong defenses, or a good ally.
- Glass Cannon: The long-range frigates (Javelis LRM, Kanrak Assailant and Illuminator Vessel). Lower speed and defensive stats, but more offense and quite a bit more range too. Multiplayer tactics prior to Entrenchment used to revolve around Zerg Rushing these frigates and then going to town; later balancing would make them less dominant while still being useful. There are also the Siege Frigates and Anti-Structure Cruisers. The former of which uses heavy weaponry to bombard planets from orbit, and the latter of which trash orbital structures with specialized weapons. Both classes are lightly armored and are virtually helpless when attacked. Rebellion adds in Corvettes, which pack a surprising amount of generalist firepower that can take on all sorts of targets, but are fragile and tend to suffer significant attrition in pitched battles. Finally, in the realm of capital ships, the carrier capitals (Vasari's Skirantra, TEC's Sova and Advent's Halcyon) pack the greatest firepower of all capital ships by a large margin when combining their own weapons with those of their squadrons, but are the most fragile, and are generally kept in the back lines in large fleet battles.
- Hard-Coded Hostility: The pirates (who are For the Evulz) and the planetary militias (who are lore-wise Trader colonies but will still resist the TEC - presumably they don't want to be forcibly annexed and/or conscripted into the war effort) are hostile to every faction. The pirates are especially notable; even if they are hired by you to attack someone else, they'll still engage your forces if they encounter them en route to the target.
- The TEC Rebels get a research development that ends this hostility.
- Healing Factor: All ships repair their hulls and regenerate their shields slowly, all the time both in and out of combat. Vasari have some specific abilities which allow their ships to quickly self heal, such as Reintegration on their Enforcers and Skirmishers, and the Power Surge of the Kortul Devastator capital ship. TEC have some too, including the Kol Battleship's Finest Hour and Ankylon Titan's Furious Defense. Apart from that, dedicated repair structures and various capital ship or cruiser based healing abilities are available to all factions.
- Herd Hitting Attack: Lots of them! The TEC have their Marza Dreadnought which starts off with a slow area-effect damage-over-time ability called Radiation Bomb, and at high levels acquires the mighty Missile Barrage, which deals huge damage to every enemy unit in a large area around the Marza. The TEC Kol Battleship meanwhile has a specialized area-effect attack called Flak Burst for dealing with swarms of strikecraft. The Advent have Malice on their Progenitor Mothership, which causes any attack that hits any enemy within its effect to hit every other enemy within its effect, and also have a specialized anti-strikecraft area attack, the Halcyon Carrier's Telekinetic Push. The Vasari have the Volatile Nanites ability of high-level Kortul Devastators which causes everything it hits to take increased damage and explode like a small bomb on death, creating a chain effect. The TEC and Advent starbases are capable of dealing massive area-effect damage to anything near them using Safety Override Protocol or Meteor Swarm respectively. And finally, ALL Titans except for the Advent Loyalist Coronata can deal area-effect damage: The TEC Loyalist Ankylon with its Disruption Matrix, the TEC Rebel Ragnarov with Explosive Shot and Scattershot, the Advent Rebel Eradica with Chastic Burst, the Vasari Loyalist Vorastra with Desperation and The Maw, and finally the Vasari Rebel Kultorask with its combo attack of Nano Leech, Gravity Pulse and Dissever.
- Hero Unit: Capital ships. Titans even more so.
- Hired Guns: TEC Rebels can eventually hire mercenaries with the Broadcast centers, which spawns a small fleet of pirate ships to the planet. Extremely useful if you need a few defenders there in a pinch, or for some fodder to cause a distraction while your main fleet attacks somewhere else.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: TEC Rebels can eventually acquire the "Truce Amongst Rogues" upgrade, which makes all pirates or planet militia friendly permanently. The upsides are great, but the coding prevent you from attacking any militia or pirates, which sounds trouble if you have allies. The militia will attack friendly trading vessels, cutting into both of your profits, and if a large pirate fleet is attacking an ally while yours is the only one close enough to respond, you can't lift a finger to save your friend's planet.
- Being hit by a super weapon you fired on a hostile planet that you just claimed.
- Hold the Line: Defensive structures such as turrets are basically just speed bumps for an invasion fleet. But a fully upgraded defensive starbase can hold its own against most forces. It can decimate smaller fleets, and against larger ones, will usually put a large dent in their forces, even if you don't send a relief force to assist it. It can sometimes be a good idea to plant one in a wormhole system (preferably on both ends), so that it can delay potential invaders and bog them down for your forces.
- Hyperspace Lanes: You can only travel from one planet to certain nearby planets in any given jump unless you have phase stabilizers. However, interstellar phase jumps can be done from one star to any other star, or between the mouths of a wormhole.
- It's Up to You: As usual. What's particularly jarring about this, though, is that your opponents tend to do pretty well, whereas your allies are saddled with a clear case of Artificial Stupidity. The end result is Fake Difficulty: you'll win, but it'll take a long time as you march through every enemy's territory one planet at a time—or sometimes less, when you're forced to double back.
- Later game patches have mostly fixed this. Allies now have been known to defeat enemies by themselves with minimal assistance. Massing up a large supply of Novalith cannons helps.
- Just One More Turn: Ohhh you better believe it.
- Lampshade Hanging: The descriptions for the Unrealistic Black Holes mention how unlikely it is for the black hole to not have absorbed the planets orbiting them a long time ago, and is still able to function mostly how a regular star would.
- La Résistance:
- Every neutral planet starts out with a small fleet of varying strength. Lore-wise, they're Trader citizens whos planets have been largely wiped out, and those ships are all they have to defend what's left.
- The TEC's "Insurgency" upgrade, which periodically spawns an assorted collection of TEC ships on enemy planets. Useful for automatically wiping out defeated enemy remnants or disrupting enemies who haven't invested in defending planets deep in their own territory.
- Lightning Bruiser: Late game Vasari fleets. Their ships have a nasty combination of damage, shields, and hull armor that makes engaging them in a straight fight nearly impossible if both sides are closely matched. With phase stabilizers and a Kostura Cannon their entire fleet can show up anywhere on most maps in one jump making them nearly impossible to set up hardened defenses against or sneak attack.
- Large Ham: Planet-bomber Capital Ships seem particularly susceptible:-
- Vulkoras Desolator: MY POWER IS UNMATCHED!!
- Marza Dreadnought: THIS is how SPACE JUNK is BORN!
- Antorak Marauder: Let terror RAIN!
- Pirates and some Titans and corvettes in Rebellion
- Ragnarov Titan: I put the 'LAUGHTER' in 'SLAUGHTER'!
- Limit Break: The Finest Hour ability for TEC Kol Battleship. The ship lights up, the crew cheers like soccer fans, and the ship can perform its anti-matter based abilities and repair its hull more quickly.
- Macross Missile Massacre: The Marza Dreadnaught's Missile Barrage, the Vulkoras Desolator's Phase Missile Swarm.
- The TEC's Javelis LRM Frigates or the Vasari Kanrak Assailants, whenever there are more than one of them in one place at any given time (which is pretty much always). Or whenever you have swarms of TEC or Vasari bombers around, which also both use missiles.
- In Entrenchment the TEC are granted the Ogrov Torpedo Cruiser- the bulk of which is storage space for GIANT torpedoes that can only target buildings. The explosion each of these makes is comparable to the size of the torpedoes. Think an ICBM silo with rocket engines at the back.
- Mad Scientist: The Hoshiko Robotics Cruiser voice certainly sounds like one.
- Magikarp Power: The Kol Battleship isn't that strong fresh out of the drydock, despite the glowing description in lore. It has poor antimatter reserves, unflattering damage and can be beaten by most other capital ships in a duel. With enough levels and antimatter upgrades, though, it becomes able to use its abilities much more freely, dramatically improving its power, and Finest Hour can turn a fight around.
- Magic Tool: Everything in the game is built with what appears to be an oversized blowtorch.
- The Vasari constructors use a kind of nano-spray instead of the blowtorch.
- Mana Burn: Every faction has a capital ship which does this - the TEC have the Dunov Battlecruiser with its area-effect EMP Charge, the Advent have the Radiance Battleship with its ability-silencing Detonate Antimatter, and the Vasari have the Kortul Devastator with its passive Disruptive Strikes. These abilities tend to be particularly good for nullifying most of the antimatter-based high-power abilities of Titans.
- Mega-Maw Maneuver: The Vasari Loyalists' Vorastra Titan gains an ability at level 6, aptly called The Maw, which allows it to suck in and swallow entire fleets of enemy frigates and cruisers, instantly destroying them and giving resources to the Vasari. It doesn't matter how much shields or hull you have, if you're in anything lighter than a capital ship and in range when The Maw is activated, you're going to be Eaten Alive. That said, it is a rather short-ranged ability, and the Titan is normally slow... until it Micro-Phase Jumps right up to a fleet and eats it.
- No Biochemical Barriers: Averted; planets and atmospheres of different types have different defense and population thresholds.
- More Dakka: The TEC's Marza Dreadnought takes this trope and runs with it. Then throws it out the window. Then sets it on fire. It's armed with missiles, pulse lasers, rocket pods and autocannons firing incendiary ammunition. And it can be upgraded further with a Siege Gun to attack entire planets. And nukes.
- The Marza is particularly egregious because it came out of the gate with a high-tier ability to launch a barrage of missiles whose count scaled with the number of enemies in range. It also was able to put out more damage than almost any frigate could take, allowing it to annihilate whole fleets in one hail of destruction, or at least close to it.
- The whole niche of Dreadnoughts is in fact planet bombing, although they can be a horrific capital ship to face in any case. The Siege Gun "upgrade" for Marza is basically a massive chain-gun the ship is built around on that fires slugs roughly the size of a small spaceship towards a planet.. Sigh.. For Massive Damage.
- The Titans run on this trope and can destroy whole fleets by themselves. All of them except for the the Advent Loyalists' Coronata, possess area-effect abilities that can annihilate entire fleets of sub-capital ships, and they all also possess lots of straight-up firepower on top of that. The TEC Rebels' Ragnarov is perhaps the most extreme example - it's a massive gun, with more guns attached to it, and it takes everything exemplified by the Marza and turns it Up to Eleven.
- Nuke 'em: The TEC, and the Marza Dreadnought in particular. The Novalith Cannon takes this trope and runs with it, as one-yes, ONE!-can completely sterilize any planet with only two shots. (Except if the target planet is shielded.)
- And if you build more than one, your opponent (or you, if they flip it around) is basically screwed.
- The Entrenchment expansion allowed you to build starbases in orbit around your planets and give them off-world government upgrades, allowing you to maintain control of the planet despite Novalith bombardment. It's still quite expensive though, and the threat of a Novalith can give the TEC player an economic edge.
- Old-School Dogfight: Sort of averted. Vasari and TEC have guided missiles, but TEC fighters only use autocannons, while all Advent weaponry is beam based. Advent fighter and bomber craft are however specifically stated to be drones, so they don't really count under this trope.
- One Game for the Price of Two: The game shipped with Skirmish mode being the only functionality, with three "micro-expansions" promised. One added options for system defenses; the second more Diplomatic options, bringing a little more 4X flavor in; and the third has been expanded into a full-fledged stand-alone.
- Not so with the Trinity pack, which is the main game and the "Entrenchment" and "Diplomacy" and is reasonably priced.
- "Rebellion" is a standalone expansion, and if you own the original, you can get it at a discount.
- Orbital Bombardment: Standard way of destroying and capturing enemy planets. The TEC can even take it all the way to interplanetary and interstellar bombardment with their Novalith Cannon.
- Padded Sumo Gameplay: "Shield Mitigation" allows ships to ignore 15% of incoming damage, becoming more effective as damage is taken. and is present on on all ships which possess shield systems (even when the shields are down, where it acts as a Reinforce Field on the ship's armour instead). It broadens tactics by limiting the utility of focus-firing on single targets, but also slows down battles. Disabling mitigation in the pre-match setup significantly increases the speed of combat, although people should be aware that doing so slightly disadvantages Advent players (as one of their racial perks is higher maximum shield mitigation).
- The Plague: A game mechanic in Forbidden Worlds, with the "Virulent Plague" planet attribute that reduces maximum population by 20 and slows population growth.
- Planet Eater: The Jarassul Evacuator (once it reaches level 6) and the Vasari Loyalist faction in general.
- Playing Both Sides:
- Possible normally, by hiring different sides to attack the other while exploiting their distraction for your own gain.
- This borders into cheating, but if you're playing single player and reload a save, you can swap places with an AI character, then sabotage their operations or direct them to raise relations with your true faction.
- Point Defenseless: Strikecraft (fighters and bombers) are tiny, very fast free-to-build ships that are deployed into battle by capital ships, titans, specialized carrier cruisers, orbital hangars and starbases. They cannot be targeted by most weapons or abilities; the only things that can attack them are other fighters and flak frigates, and a few antimatter-powered capital ship special abilities (the TEC Kol Battleship's Flak Burst and Advent Halcyon Carrier's Telekinetic Push). Starbases in particular are exceptionally defenseless against strikecraft without fleet support, as they have nothing that can attack the strikecraft directly, and they either don't move at all (Advent, TEC starbases) or they move too slowly to effectively engage the carriers (Vasari). Starbases also tend to not house many or any fighter wings of their own as they would have to sacrifice a lot of direct firepower upgrades in order to field a small number of squadrons. Titans in Rebellion though avert this to a degree - they do have turrets that can target strikecraft, and all of them can house their own fighter wings, but, of course, they still need fleet support to fend off serious bomber assaults. Rebellion also added the Corvette class ships, which can target strikecraft with their secondary weapon pods and can be used to take out enemy bombers in a pinch if fighters aren't available.
- Portal Network: The Vasari can build one of these, allowing ships to jump from one gate another within the same solar system instead of picking their way along the standard phase-space routes.
- Power Glows: Whenever a capital ship or titan levels up. Also, many units do this when activating special abilities.
- Psychic Radar: Foreshadowing and Acute Premonitions, upgrades in the Advent's research tree, allow them to extend the range at which they can detect hostile fleets whose destination is the player's territory as their psychics increase their own range.
- Resurrective Immortality: The Advent Motherships had shades of this since the beginning (via Body Backup Drive) with their Resurrection ability, but in Rebellion the Advent Rebels have fully harnessed the ability (possibly as a result of them "purifying" their section of the Unity of its revenge obsession and returning it to its "true purpose") and can research technology which allows them to randomly resurrect both their own ships and enemy ships as they die to augment their fleet.
- RPG Elements: Capital ships and Titans gain Experience Points which can be used to purchase upgrades.
- Rule of Cool: When the Kol Battleship activates its Finest Hour ability, the crew just roars and the ship is engulfed in a nimbus of white light.
- Salt the Earth: Korsov Siege Frigates with their "High Yield Warheads" ability cause severely slowed population growth. The Novalith Cannon superweapon has a similar effect, but it's part-and-parcel rather than researched/toggle-passive. Great for harassment, but when you're the one putting down stakes, a bit annoying.
- Serial Escalation: Happens with every expansion, except possibly Diplomacy.
- Settling the Frontier: As with most 4X games, you must race to establish new colonies before others beat you to it. The worlds you're capturing aren't uninhabited though - they have existing Trader populations which are hostile to every one of the playable factions (even the TEC, as they don't want to give up their planetary sovereignty) and tend to have small defense forces trying to prevent you from colonizing them. They're also always willing to bombard their own planets with nukes from Krosov Siege Frigates in case you do set up a colony. The TEC Rebels though can research a truce with the neutral planets, though, that causes their forces to ally with you and allows you to freely colonize their worlds. But otherwise their defenses are typically used as an easy way to gain experience for your first capital ship early on.
- Single-Biome Planet:
- Averted with Terran planets, which are extremely Earth-like and presumably have the geographic range that we do.
- Played straight with every other type. In the vanilla game there's volcanic, desert, and ice, and the latter two contain slight aversions due to possible having visible oceans. The Forbidden Worlds DLC adds the classic Oceanic and Jungle planets, along with Barren and Ferrous planets.
- So Last Season: Happens with every expansion, some things that used to be prominent in the earlier iteration of the game fade into niche uses or uselessness. Titans in particular can render entire fleets of standard frigates and cruisers near-obsolete once they're deployed, given their powerful area-effect abilities, with the only exceptions being corvettes, which are not affected by Titan abilities but can still be targeted by normal weaponry, and carrier cruisers, which can stay far away and attack with their strikecraft. Hence Rebellion fleets tend to be centered around Titans and large numbers of carrier cruisers primarily deploying bombers, escorted by capital ships and small numbers of support cruisers and flak. Heavy cruisers in particular are much less powerful in the expanded game then they were in the original.
- Space Is Noisy: It's actually optional. You can reduce the volume of sound effects to zero separately to the other sound options (like music).
- Space Is an Ocean: Complete with noise, ships (some of which look like ocean vessels) with bridges and distinct upper/lower sides, naval ranks, small maneuverable fighters/bombers (some of which look like aircraft), trade routes, and...
- Space Pirates: Present in almost all maps, presumably thriving due to the chaos of the war. You can pay bounty to get them to attack whichever other players you want (just make sure you pay attention: the AI loves to counter-bid at the last second). They favour ships with Spikes of Villainy and holographic pirate flags, and (possibly by Rule of Funny) talk with stereotypical pirate dialects when messaging the player.
- They grow more powerful over time and were buffed considerably in Diplomacy, turning them into borderline Demonic Spiders - however you can build up a fleet big enough to wipe them out, or use Novalith Cannons. In the expansions, you also have the ability to make them inactive, which makes them just stay at their base instead of taking bounties.
- In Rebellion, the TEC rebels can form a peace treaty with them; since they will then attack only other Empires it basically makes them a powerful ally, especially if you do it early. Later research lets them hire pirate fleets as mercenaries.
- Standard Sci-Fi Fleet: Each faction has 2 Frigates (a scout and a combat ship), a Cruiser, a Light Carrier, a Missile Boat, a Colony Ship and 2 Science Vessels (one supportive/defensive, one disruptive/offensive). Troopships are supplanted by planetary bombardment frigates, and the Advent have a Beam Spammy Space Gun in place of their Missile Boat. Also, in terms of Capital Ships, each faction has a Battleship, a Battlecruiser, a Carrier, a Worldship (capital ship capable of colonizing) and a Banner Ship. Technically, any capital ship can be considered a Battlestar after gaining a strikecraft squad, and all Vasari capitals can be considered to be Worldships. The strikecraft themselves include an Interceptor and a Bomber. Rebellion adds Corvettes that are smaller than Frigates as well as super-sized Titans. The Titans in general are even larger and deadlier Battleships/Battlecruisers, and the Vasari titans are again, Worldships, while the TEC Rebel titan is one gigantic mobile Space Gun.
- Standard Starship Scuffle: Enforced/justified, since everything's at "brown water" distances-in orbit above a planet/star, which makes Space Fighters and sublight munitions controlled by non-FTL sensors viable strategies rather than pipe dreams.
- Stone Wall: The TEC Loyalists' Ankylon Titan, which has far inferior offensive capabilities to the Titans of the other factions, traded off for being incredibly tough and packed with defensive support abilities. Similarly the Advent's Iconus Guardian support cruiser is this; they can push back enemy ships and create a telepathic barrier to their movement, or project their powerful shields around friendly ships and absorb fire for them. Finally, flak/anti-fighter frigates are also this in a sense; they have no focused firepower and only provide area defense against strikecraft and corvettes, while being surprisingly tough for their cost.
- Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors: Sins has always featured a complex rock-paper-scissors, although it has shifted over the course of expansions. A rough and ready summary can be found here◊.
- Factional differences and special abilities make the web even more complicated - for example capital ships can tailor their abilities to counter all kinds of things. TEC Arcovas (scouts - normally ineffective against structures) upgraded with Timed Explosives can be used to slip past enemy lines and blow up high value assets quite efficiently. Meanwhile, the Advent's Illuminator Vessel (long range frigate), isn't anywhere near as vulnerable as the TEC and Vasari equivalents against corvettes, and can match or even defeat the corvettes thanks to its superior armor and shielding and its multiple beam cannons - the tradeoff being its inability to focus all its firepower on a single target like the other LRMs can, and having a shorter range.
- Taking You with Me: TEC starbases can be upgraded with the "Safety Override Protocol" function. It causes the base to self-destruct, causing immense damage to an invading fleet. Useful when you're in danger of losing the base anyway.
- Teleport Spam: Some Vasari ships are capable of phase-jumping short distances within a gravity well - namely their Stilakus Subverters, which can phase jump into an enemy fleet and disable it, and their Loyalist titan, which can phase jump into an enemy fleet and eat it.
- Turns Red: The Advent Rebels' Eradica Titan once it gets its ultimate ability will turn invincible and glow angelically for a few minutes when destroyed and gets almost unlimited supply of antimatter before dying when the timer runs out. Even before it's destroyed, it will get stronger and stronger the more you damage it
- 2-D Space: Space looks very three-dimensional, with ships weaving over and under each other, but for gameplay purposes it is essentially flat - also, ships grouped into fleets usually adopt some sort of "wall" or "sphere" formation, but they still all orientate the same way. However, it is nice that the ships sometimes realize that they don't have to go around stars or planets, and will readily fly over them to get to their target.
- Unrealistic Black Hole: Black Holes are a type of star in the stellar phenomena DLC, and despite being unrealistic, they're still death-traps for other reasons. On the good side, you're never at risk of being pulled into one. However, they have a permanent phase jump inhibitor effect, so if you're engaged with the enemy, it's often a win-or-die scenario. Additionally, there's a constant DoT effect, making it hazardous to keep smaller ships stationed there, and trade and refinery ships don't acknowledge it so they often randomly explode mid-journey.
- Variable Player Goals: Finally supported in Rebellion.
- Military Victory: Conquer the galaxy by exterminating (the majority of) all enemy forces.
- Capital Victory: Simply knock out their capitals.
- Diplomatic Victory: As mentioned, this mostly involves pleasing some opponents by beating up on others, so it's more of being a Villain with Good Publicity than actual peacemaking. Hey—everyone who's still alive thinks you're awesome!
- Research Victory: Once you research ## number of standard topics, a special (and super-expensive) topic comes up that, when researched, causes victory.
- Occupation Victory: A planet exists somewhere, guarded by Vasari mobs. Occupy it for ## minutes to win instantly.
- Flagship Victory: If enabled, each player gets a "Flagship," which cannot be rebuilt. Destroy everybody else's to win.
- Visible Invisibility: All the Space Mines have this, which despite being phased out, invulnerable, and can't be targeted by most ships, are helpfully marked on your screen so you can spot and avoid them (the computers don't). Only scout frigates can expose the mines, which then allows every other ship to blow them up.
- Wave Motion Gun: The Advent Radiance Battleship's Cleansing Brilliance, and Advent Loyalist Coronata Titan's Unity Mass.
- Weaksauce Weakness: Necessary for some of the more powerful entities in the game to be balanced. For example, starbases possess no weapons capable of hitting strikecraft, and titans' otherwise-very-powerful abilities are unable to hit corvettes.
- We ARE Struggling Together:
- Whenever opposing players are of the same race and ideology (mostly Rule of Fun, but possibly justified by increased fracturing of the three sides over the course of the series).
- TEC get access to an "Insurrection" ability, which periodically spawns rebellious TEC ships on random enemy planets. However, those rebels have Hard-Coded Hostility, and so are hostile even to the faction that armed them and sent them to attack! Just like in Real Life, funding terrorist groups is risky business...
- The TEC Rebels get a useful ability that subverts this; "Truce Among Rogues" allies the player with all neutral factions.
- We Have Reserves: Can be deliberately invoked in two situations. One where your planet is being invaded, and you crank out as many ships as possible to delay them, or if you split your forces up, and hold back a portion of your fleet to use as a reserve force should another part of your empire be attacked while your main force is attacking, or in case your main fleet needs help.
- Worker Unit: Constructors, colony ships, trade ships, refinery ships...
- X Meets Y: Gamespot says this game is Galactic Civilizations meets Homeworld. PC Gamer says that it's Supreme Commander IN SPACE!
- You Require More Vespene Gas: Or rather, Credits (gold), and then Metal and Crystal (lumber). Ships require more Metal than Crystal, but almost everything else is vice versa, and Crystal is the rarest resource. Fortunately there is an Exchange where you can buy and sell resources. (The AI never uses it.)
- Zerg Rush: Light combat frigates and corvettes are built for this.