It’s in a box…
I am quite happy to try my hand at any strategy videogame. However, for some reason, when that strategy goes into space and is described as 4X, my eyes glaze over. I am not sure why, but these type of strategy games just don’t gel with me, and so I usually avoid them where possible. When the newly packaged Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion – New Frontiers Edition fell onto my desk, I must admit to breaking into a sweat.
I have never tried Ironclad Games’ Sins of a Solar Empire before, although I have heard that it is the definitive sci-fi 4X strategy game. I am also aware that the game has been around for ages in various guises and has a huge following. This latest incarnation of the game includes the full Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion game along with the Forbidden Worlds DLC to offer the player what is suggested to be “the ultimate Sins experience”. Well, it would have to be, wouldn’t it…
At its most simple, playing Sins of a Solar Empire involves creating fleets of ships while researching technologies, managing resources on the various captured planets and using either diplomacy or warfare to deal with the other players, either AI or real. The battles are real time and largely involve the removal of planetary defenses before capturing a planet, or the defense of a planet against an invading force. At its most simple, it is easy to understand, albeit with many plates spinning at once.
The reality is just not that simple though and this is most evident with the wide range of tutorials that are available to the new player before they begin a proper game. Here, the player will learn the basics of controlling their game along with what everything is and the difference between the mighty Capital Ship and any of the other, smaller ships that will be under the players command. They will also learn what all of the markers on the screen mean and the different functions of the UI, which itself is confusing.
Then there is the management side of everything, something which again is explained at great length. The tutorials are extensive to say the least, but they do a great job of preparing the player for what is to come. Obviously, these are all optional, but for someone new to the game I would suggest they are compulsory because, even with the great tutorials, Sins has a steep learning curve for newcomers.
Sins of a Solar Empire will have players jumping between moving their fleet to mining asteroids, to managing colonies and researching tech, all under the threat of battle breaking out at any time. It is multi-tasking at its finest, in space.
Adding flavour to the game, there are three main factions, each of which are split into two sub-factions for the player to choose from. They each have their own stories to tell, their own look and style, and their own technologies to develop, making them quite different to play with. Players will generally find it best to try them all out until they find one that “clicks” with them. This adds a certain amount of replayability to a game that is already both massive and begging to be played for hours on end.
This is at least partly due to the lack of a single player campaign. This ensures that each game is different, whichever faction the player takes and whether it be against the suitably competent AI or another real life player. It has to be noted for newcomers that the community is smaller than I would have expected, making it not always easy to play against real players. But reality would suggest playing against the AI for quite a while if the player were to stand a chance against an experienced player anyway.
Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion is widely considered to be the best version of Ironclad’s game so far, but in this New Frontiers Edition, players are also treated to the Forbidden Worlds DLC, which brings with it new planet types, research subjects, planet bonuses and a new planet specialization system in which the player can dedicate a planet to either social or industrial output.
The problem with this particular edition of Sins of a Solar Empire, aside from the fact that it is a mammoth undertaking for a newcomer, is that this is a game for the fans, and fans will likely get the least from this new bundle. They will already own the full game, and the DLC can be picked up for only £3.99 on Steam. That being said, at retail they will also get a poster and the soundtrack, so maybe that is enough to sway them. But maybe the New Frontiers Edition is designed to bring new players into the game, or players who have turned their back on Sins since the game first arrived on the scene back in 2008. If this is the case, new players certainly get a lot for their money, with the New Frontiers Edition costing only £24.99. But there is so much to learn that new players may never get to enjoy the massive amount of content.
Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion is an incredibly deep and complex 4X strategy game that is quite possibly the best in its genre. But it is that depth and complexity that will likely put off new players. However, if they have the fortitude, Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion – New Frontiers Edition is undoubtedly the best place for a newcomer to start. For veteran players, this edition will hold nothing of interest though.