Reviews: Sins Of A Solar Empire

False Advertising... IN SPACE!

Sins markets itself as a mix of Real-Time Strategy and 4X gameplay. That's a flat-out lie. Though there are shades of 4X gameplay in the form of culture, trade, a tech tree, and the necessity of settling, fortifying and upgrading planets, most of these are accomplished with the push of a button, and require much less thinking than (say) Rise Of Nations did while accomplishing the same thing. There's also no non-violent win condition, extremely limited diplomacy (it's practically off-limits unless you're the AI) and basically no way of controlling the citizens of your solar empire. And none of these mechanics interact: culture, citizens, diplomacy and trade are all discrete departments that have nothing to do with each other; your fleet (or rather the enemy's fleet) is the only thing that can touch them. The game is pretty darn shallow at times.

So what's left? A really fun game. It may not be what it claims to, but that doesn't mean it isn't entertaining in its own right.

The addition of upkeep (related to a planet's distance from your capitol) mean you can't just ignore your planets. In fact, there are penalties for just grabbing a planet and moving on without upgrading. The Chutes-And-Ladders-style "Phase Lane" system means you have to be aware of what's on your borders at all times; an enemy fleet could come out of anywhere. The ability to bid on mercenaries, in the form of rogue Pirates, doesn't add much complexity, but it's still a clever addition; you can pay them to keep the enemy occupied at the front him while you sneak in through a back route. (Of course, he can do the same to you.) While each faction's ships are quite similar, that just makes it easier to adapt. And the game looks gorgeous. High-end computer or not, Sins will run smoothly and look great while doing it.

Sins of a Solar Empire is not the revolutionary game the gaming press would have you believe. Star Craft and Civilization are both more fun, because of their higher level of complexity. But as casual RTS goes, you could certainly do worse. It will draw you in and, though you won't be particularly challenged, you will enjoy yourself. A lot. And, when video games get to the bottom line, isn't that what matters?