Homeworld meets civilisation in Sins of a Solar Empire, an unbelievably deep real-time strategy game that goes where no other in the genre has dared to go before.
With World War II strategy games a tired lot and ancient Rome tapped, Sins of a Solar Empire embarks on a different course. Beyond its stellar setting lies a unique game that ventures to the fringes of real-time strategy. The risk of failure runs high when exploring new territory, yet Sins of a Solar Empire succeeds in discovering an innovative breed of strategic gameplay that is unfathomably deep and fun.
Huge is the best way to describe Sins of a Solar Empire. From its dramatic back story and enormous maps to the sheer wealth of strategic options and depth of play, the game goes big on everything. The visual scale is the first thing that catches your eye, as Sins of a Solar Empire boasts an unprecedented zoom that enables you to seamlessly zoom in from full galactic view down to the outer atmosphere of a planet. What's even better is that you don't need a monster machine - the game runs smoothly on mid-range PCs.
Sins of a Solar Empire plays much like a real-time variation of Sid Meier's civilisation set in space. You lead one of three factions - Trader Emergency Coalition (humans), the Advent, and Vasari - in an epic battle for galactic supremacy. As such, your ultimate objective lies in dominating a map by colonizing every planet within it. Colonisation requires a mix of battling enemy forces both alien and pirate, spreading culture, and raising infrastructure to expand your population. All of this occurs in real time, although the pacing is rather slow. It's a deliberate style of gameplay that encourages pouring over potential strategies vs bum-rushing enemies.
Without a campaign to speak of, the intriguing premise sadly has nowhere to really go. The lack of a story-driven campaign is without question Sins of a Solar Empire's greatest shortcoming. Instead of working through a slate of related missions, you can only play a series of individual scenarios. At least these maps can be used for multiplayer matches too. In fact, you're able to save multiplayer rounds and come back to them later.
Sins of a Solar Empire easily takes the crown as the most intricate, in-depth real-time strategy game to date. Total control is granted over resource management, unit creation, formations, tech research, and more. In fact, there's so much detail that the game ends up managing much of the minutia for you. Sophisticated AI handles units on a tactical level, micro-managing them during battles so you can focus on overall strategy. At any time you can control individual units or groups, but the AI is competent enough to handle it without intervention.
There's so much going on during a game that keeping track of it all can be daunting even with much of the AI managing things. A highly innovative empire sidebar addresses this very problem, placing icons for all of your units and planets on the left half of the screen. From this you can play the entire game, selecting units, issuing orders, and even developing infrastructure. Sins of a Solar Empire is nothing short of brilliant and future strategy games should take note.
So much depth and innovation makes Sins of a Solar Empire a joy to play, yet it's also quite involved. Games last no less than an hour from start to finish, while most take a few hours at least. This prevents Sins of a Solar Empire from being a casual play, but if you're able to invest the time it's well worth it.