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Sins of a Solar Empire

                   
Sins of a Solar Empire
Sins of a Solar Empire cover.PNG
Developer(s) Ironclad Games
Publisher(s) Stardock
Distributor(s) Stardock, Kalypso Media (Europe)[1]
Engine Iron Engine
Version 1.193
Entrenchment: 1.053
Trinity: 1.34
Rebellion: 1.031
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows
Release date(s)
Genre(s) Real-time strategy
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer
Rating(s)
Media/distribution DVD, download
System requirements

See Development

Sins of a Solar Empire is a science fiction real-time strategy computer game developed by Ironclad Games and published by Stardock Entertainment for Microsoft Windows operating systems. Sins of a Solar Empire is a real-time strategy (RTS) game that incorporates some elements from 4X strategy games; promotional materials describe it as "RT4X."[2][3] The game was released on February 4, 2008, its first content expansion, titled Entrenchment, was released as a download on February 25, 2009, and its second content expansion, titled Diplomacy, was released as a download on February 9, 2010. A package combining the original game with the first two expansions was released at that time with the name Sins of a Solar Empire: Trinity.[4] A third expansion, stand-alone Rebellion, was released in June 2012.

Contents

  Gameplay

Sins of a Solar Empire is a space-bound game. The playing field is a 3D web of planets and other celestial objects in the orbital plane of one or more stars. It features a sandbox mode, allowing the player to choose different types of solar systems to unlock achievements. Players can conquer neighboring planets and explore distant star systems in a "massively scaled, fully 3D environment featuring entire galaxies, orbiting planets, clusters of asteroids, space dust and radiant stars." Notably, there is no single-player campaign mode, but games can be played against opponents offline and other players online. Ironclad Director Blair Fraser asserted that the game's "Iron engine" is specially designed with new technologies that allow it to handle very large differences in size, scale, and distance.[3]

  Resources and structures

Sins of a Solar Empire has three main resources to gather: Credits, Metal, and Crystal. Credits are the general currency used by the three races in the game, and are gained by completing missions, collecting bounties, creating a trade network, and taxing planets. Metal is the most common resource in the game, and is gathered by building extractors on asteroids; it is used to construct basic ships and structures. Crystal is the rarest resource, which can be mined from asteroids like Metal; it is used for advanced technology and building certain advanced ships. A Black Market feature allows players to convert unneeded Metal and Crystal into Credits or vice-versa. Selling or buying too much of either resource can cause market prices to rise and fall dramatically.

Certain more intangible resources include Supply Points and Capital Ship Crews. Supply Points are used up when ships are purchased, and cannot be accumulated, acting as a population cap for the player's fleet. They can be increased by researching increases in fleet logistic capacity, but this simultaneously lowers all resource income, as more resources are required to maintain larger fleets. Capital Ship Crews work like Supply Points and are needed to field capital ships (in addition to 50 fleet supply points); the number of Crews available determines how many capital ships the player can make. Thus (for example), a player in early game may be able to field no more than a small number of ships given the low Supply Point ceiling, and even fewer (as few as one) capital ships given the inherently low Capital Ship Crew ceiling; later once the player's economy has grown and new resources have become available, the player may perform Supply Point research and permanently reduce by a fraction the size of their economy in order to permanently raise the ceiling on the size of their fleet, as well as performing Capital Ship research in order to raise the ceiling on the number of capital ships their fleet can contain. Capital Ship Crew ceiling can be increased to a maximum of 16, thus giving the player the ability to construct a maximum of 16 capital ships. Supply Points ceiling can be increased to a maximum of 2000 points. If the fleet size option is on "large", then the maximum is 2,500. The only alternative ways for a player to increase their supply without increasing their fleet upkeep are: a late-game Vasari research topic (that provides a small percentage-based boost), the TEC's "supply pact" in Diplomacy, which mutually increases supply for both factions and also reduces fleet upkeep costs, and the vasari Loyalist's upgrade in Rebellion that gives them a flat bonus of 75 Fleet Supply for not being allied with factions other than Vasari Loyalists.

Players can construct planet-based improvements and orbital structures, the latter of which is divided into "logistical" and "tactical" structures.

Logistical structures interact with the economy in some way and include metal extractors and crystal extractors to mine metal and crystal resources respectively, making planets into resource producers; frigate factories for manufacturing frigates and cruisers; capital ship factories for constructing capital ships; trade ports for interplanetary trade to raise credits; refineries to boost crystal and metal production; broadcast or media centers to spread own cultural influence to enemy planets; as well as civilian and military research labs that are required for researching items in the tech tree and developing new technologies.

Tactical structures are defense and support structures including weapon emplacements; hangars that can launch fighter and bomber strike craft; repair stations which consume their anti-matter reserves to repair friendly ships; and phase inhibitors which prevent enemy fleets from escaping the vicinity of the planet's gravity well. Each faction can also produce a long-range superweapon that can attack other planets. The TEC has the Novalith Cannon, which fires a supermassive nuclear weapon to inflict considerable damage directly on enemy planets. The Vasari have the Kostura Cannon, which fires an EMP burst warhead that disables and damages every enemy ship and structure in a planet's orbit as well as making a temporary phase stabilizer node there which allows you to jump your fleet directly to the attacked planet. The Advent have the Deliverance Engine, which spreads their cultural influence to the target and can provoke a planet-wide revolution. Each faction also boasts additional special weapons which are race exclusive. The TEC have the Shield Generator which generates a shield to protect the planet around which it orbits; the Advent can construct the Antimatter Recharge which replenishes the anti-matter reserves of friendly ships; the advanced Vasari Empire have the Nano Weapon Jammer, which increases the cooldown time of enemy weapons, as well as the Phase Stabilizer which can enable ships to travel directly between two such structures.

Planetary development research (as opposed to orbital structures) are of six types which include infrastructure development, which increases population (and taxability) of planets; emergency facilities, which improve the survivability of populations in order to assist in staving off destruction from bombardment; and exploration, which surveys and maps planets, providing access to hidden planetary features which can have negative or positive effects on the planet (for instance, the discovery of rare resources on a planet during exploration may improve revenues from all trade conducted within the gravity well, or the discovery of pirate hideouts on a planet may harm all trade revenues), and perhaps most importantly, exploration may serve to reveal advanced technologies left by bygone civilizations; any planet can be made the capital planet of the player's empire by the change capital upgrade.

  Entrenchment and starbases

As the name implies, the Entrenchment micro-expansion adds new defensive options. Defensive weapon platforms and strikecraft hangars gain researchable special abilities, and all factions can now deploy proximity-detonated space mines. TEC consider them tactical structures, the Vasari use a minelayer cruiser, while the Advent deploy them via a new strikecraft type. The most notable aspect is the addition of starbase - mammoth defensive structures one of which can be deployed in any gravity well (even the enemy's; and up to four in a star's) and upgraded with up to 8 modules to increase their functionality.

  Celestial objects and anomalies

There are four types of colony-supporting planets and two types of asteroids. Terran-type planets are the most suitable for life and can support the largest total population, and also possess balanced Metal and Crystal resources. Desert-type planets support a smaller population than Terran planets but will usually have more Crystal and Metal in the area and always have an impressive number of Logistic slots. Ice planets have the third largest population of all the types and an abundance in Crystal, but no Metal. Volcanic planets are the opposite of ice planets, and have the smallest population support and no Crystal, but an abundance of Metal. Of the asteroids, normal asteroids have a randomized amount of metal and crystal asteroids, and support only a small number of tactical and logistic slots. Dead asteroids have no resources and can only support the construction of tactical structures. Rebellion also introduces dwarf planets, that house slightly more population than asteroids. The player can interact directly with planets in several ways, such as creating trading routes, by forcefully raining destruction from orbit or by spreading "culture" via propaganda platforms, which may cause the planet to revolt in the player's favor. Also, there are pirate bases, that are abnormally durable asteroids which have no resources but provide a boost to tax income.

There are seven different spatial anomalies (more commonly known as uncolonizable objects) found in the game which serve as obstacles and hazards to all players. Asteroid belts and fields are small packets of freely floating debris that does not damage ships but reduces accuracy of weapon fire. Gas giants release pockets of unstable gases which can explode as a ship is destroyed and also cause damage. Stars boost ship antimatter production and are the only locations for interstellar jumps, but have large gravity wells that are slow to traverse. Space junk does not affect ships directly. Wormholes link between each other in a system, and once the necessary technology has been researched, they can be utilized for travel. Magnetic clouds disable the abilities of ships. Lastly, plasma storms deny launch of strikecraft. All but stars and magnetic storms can be the location of neutral extractors - invulnerable, and with a higher income and refinery quota than those found in colonizable gravity wells, they need to be captured - by TEC and Advent colony frigates or the Vasari scout frigate.

Neutral forces (known as militias) guard and may even own colonizable planets not occupied at the start by any of the players. Their forces are an assortment of TEC frigates, cruisers and defensive structures, they do not venture outside the gravity well, and attack anything owned by non-militia forces. Pairs of pirate ships sometimes similarly "guard" uncolonizable gravity wells.

  Diplomacy and bounty

The diplomacy options of the original game allow players to forge and break alliances and place bounties on their enemies or allies (depending on the game setting) without anybody knowing who placed it. Players can trade resources, establish trade routes between empires, manipulate the commodities market to hinder enemies by utilizing supply and demand, and issue optional "missions" to allies.[3]

Some planets are "guarded" by pirates, who will attack anyone that ventures near; this is especially true for the aptly-named Pirate Base planets, which are settled by pirates and are heavily fortified. In the game's start-up screen, players can also choose to enable "Pirate Raids". This mechanic allows players to anonymously place "bounty" on other players, with the goal of inducing the pirates to attack that player. The more bounty is placed on another player, then the larger the attacking fleet will be if the pirates choose to attack that player;[3] pirate raids also gain strength over time, and to deal with them, the player has to find all the pirate bases, which are the spawn points for raids in their respective star system, and wipe them out. Pirate forces are, with one exception, TEC frigates, cruisers and orbital defense platforms (and the only exception still bears similarity to Trader ships), but they are all unshielded, often have their armament switched to autocannons, and are heavily customised with spikes and stylized holographic "Jolly Rogers". Rebellion also has voiced responses for pirate units (now often found in service of TEC Rebels), and they are similar to Age of Sail pirate stereotypes in jargon and accent ("Look sharp yea space rats!", "Ahoy there, cap'n!", etc.).

Sins of a Solar Empire: Diplomacy, as the name implies, expands upon this mechanic. The relations system is now more visible. Players can now give missions to each other, as opposed to the original's NPC-only mission issueing, and can reject missions for a smaller relations penalty. Diplomatic envoy cruisers can be used to further improve relations, and the researchable pacts can significantly strengthen both sides of the alliance. It also sees a noticeable increase in pirates' strength, and their bases are now outfitted with mines and TEC-issue repair platforms and strikecraft hangars.

  Tech tree and artifacts

Each faction has two (three in Entrenchment, four in Diplomacy) technology trees divided between military and civic improvements. These two trees in turn branch off into three race-specific categories. The Military tree contains upgrades to armor, shields, and weapons and unlocks units and defensive structures. The Civic tree contains upgrades to resource gathering and unlocks civic buildings, PSIDAR (Phase Signature IDentification And Ranging) or its equivalents, planetary upgrades, diplomacy upgrades, and terraforming. In Entrenchment, several elements of both trees, as well as new bits such as starbase-related technology, have been merged into the Defense tree. In Diplomacy, the diplomatic element from the Civic tree, as well as new technology that focuses on upgrading the race's Envoy ship (a diplomatic vessel) and giving other bonuses surrounding diplomacy, for example reduced penalties for being different races and higher mission rewards, have been merged into the Diplomacy tree.

There are many different hidden artifacts that can be found by exploring colonized planets. There are a total of nine (twelve in Entrenchment) artifacts, each giving the owner a unique and powerful bonus. When an artifact is discovered, all other players are notified of its location but not its type.[3]

  Units

There are five main categories of ships in the game: strike craft, frigates, cruisers, capital ships and non-combat ships.

The strike craft is the smallest ship in the game, similar in behaviour and appearance to the stereotypical "starfighter". They can only be controlled in squadrons and are built in hangars, carriers and capital ships for no fee, with the casualties automatically replaced. There are two types of strike craft: fighters, which come in squadrons of four-nine crafts, and bombers in squads of three-seven. Fighters are primarily for fending off enemy fighters, bombers and lightly armored ships, while the objective of the bomber is to attack heavily armored enemy ships and structures. Each race is capable of producing strike craft, though not all races are equally powerful in this field.

Frigates are the smallest warship that the player can build individually and represent the bulk of most fleets; there is a reconnaissance vessel, a front line combat frigate, a long range attacker, an anti-strikecraft defense ship, a siege craft and a colony ship for each faction with subtle differences. Reconnaissance ships scout the solar systems for colonizable planets, provide advance warnings for incoming enemy fleets and can be upgraded to carry out other activities. Front line frigates form the mainstay combatants of fleets, and gain abilities to interfere with support ships' abilities. Long-range frigates eliminate swarms of front line frigates. Defense ships provide protection against strike craft, while siege crafts bomb planets. Colony ships are used to colonize new planets, and capture neutral resource extractors.

Cruisers are specialized ships and mostly play a support role in fleets. Carriers are unarmed but deploy 2-3 squadrons of strikecraft; offensive support cruisers improve attack of friendly ships and diminish those of enemies; defensive support cruisers increase survivability of friendly vessels and decrease those of enemies; and the heavy cruisers are powerful close-range combatants. Cruisers are in many ways treated as larger, more expensive frigates, e.g. produced in Frigate Factories.

Capital ships are high-value vessels and the cornerstones of fleets, and they have the ability to accumulate experience and "level up" in combat. A capital ship can also be made to “level up” by training the crew of that particular vessel, although this requires spending of credits and is not possible beyond Level 3, or, with the "Basic Crew Training" upgrade available to all races, Level 4. An increase in a capital ship's level gives it improvements in its offensive and defensive systems and unlocks special abilities. It periodically adds more strike craft slots for the capital ship. All capital ships carry strike craft, though in different numbers: long range attackers (dreadnoughts) gain their only squad at Level 5 of 10, while a Level 10 Halcyon-class carrier has up to 12. There are five (six with Rebellion) general classes of capital ships, all available from start: battleships, carriers, colony ships, long range attack ships, and two classes of support vessels. The player's first capital ship is free. Others require a large amount of resources to build, equal for all classes, and all occupy 50 Fleet Supply and 1 Capital Ship Crew. When a capital ship is in the gravity well of a planet it slows or even stops the spread of enemy culture going to that planet. Each unit has its own abilities that can be passive or active and can affect its fleet or the enemy fleet; initially a capital ship has no special abilities, but with each level the player can unlock or upgrade one of three abilities, and a highly powerful fourth is unlocked at Level 6. Before Rebellion, standard abilities had 3 upgrade levels, and the ultimate ability could not be upgraded; as a result, a Level 10 ship would have all of them unlocked; the expansion allows a fourth upgrade for each of the standard abilities and an upgrade for the "ultimate" abilities, without increasing the level cap.[3]

Non-combat ships are unarmed and unarmored, therefore making them prime targets for enemies, particularly pirate fleets. Non-combat vessels are basically the workers of the empire. They include construction ships, which build orbiting structures around a planet, and, in Rebellion, tear down enemy structures; trade ships, which travel to and from trade ports of different planets to raise credit; and refinery ships which travel between refineries and extractors to boost resource stockpiling. All of them are spawned for free; save for construction ships, they are not player-controllable, whereas construction ships are incapable of interplanetary travel.

  In expansions

Entrenchment adds dedicated anti-structure cruisers and starbase constructor cruisers (both helpless at anything but their task) for TEC and Advent and a minelayer cruiser for the Vasari.

Diplomacy adds an Envoy Cruiser for each race, which can boost relations and provide benefits for other empires. As one can expect, they are unarmed, and their Diplomatic Immunity ability only lasts for 30 seconds.

Rebellion introduces Corvettes and Titans, in addition to the aforementioned new capital ship class. Both Corvettes and Titans are specific for the six new factions.

Corvettes are smaller than regular frigates, faster but weaker, and have multiple weapon systems, including an anti-strikecraft weapon. Like frigates, they take up resources and Fleet Supply, are produced from the Frigate Factory and can perform phase jumps. While almost identical between Rebel and Loyalist factions, each of the factions' models has a chance to cripple different aspects of the target ships, e.g. TEC Loyalist corvettes damage enemy engines.

Titans, by contrast, are massive war machines - so massive they send a visible shockwave as they exit phase space, and all players are informed when one is finished. Only one can be built at a time and requires 2 Capital Ship Crews, 150 Fleet Supply and roughly thrice the cost of a standard capital ship, in addition to four research topics and a dedicated massive shipyard that occupies Tactical Slots, weakening the planet's defenses. They level up like capital ships, and they possess 3 standard abilities and one "ultimate" ability, multiple all-around weapon systems and carry some strikecraft, but gain two upgrade points per level, have passive stats upgrades in addition to ability upgrades, can not be trained for money, can attack multiple targets per weapon bank, and even carry embedded anti-strikecraft weaponry; they also retain the destroyed Titan's level if rebuilt.

  Multiplayer

Players can engage in the online multiplayer mode in Sins of a Solar Empire against either a single opponent or as part of a team through the game's Ironclad Online system or by setting up a LAN game. Players can set up 5v5 matches where two captains draft the other eight players, often resulting in balanced teams and intense, competitive games. Although the game will not automatically download custom maps made with the Galaxy Forge mode, players can manually choose to download maps as needed.

  Races

  Trader Emergency Coalition (TEC)

The Trader Emergency Coalition's history extends back 1,000 years, when economically driven settlers banded together and established the Trade Order. Driven by a common code of economic, moral, and behavioral principles, the Order began to aggressively expand into the rest of human space, becoming a formidable industrial and commercial force. Aside from the core principles of the Order, each member world was able to maintain its own interests and culture. During this formative period, an expedition discovered a remote colony with scientific and social practices that were considered evil, and against the Trade Order's code. As punishment, the colony's people were forcibly removed from their world and exiled beyond Trader space.[5]

Over the following millennium, the Trade Order prospered and humanity entered a new golden age. Warfare was forgotten, with disputes settled in courts and starships devoted entirely to trade. After nearly a thousand years of peace, the Vasari Empire arrived and brought the defenseless Trade Order to its knees within months. After the fall of its ruling Aluxite dynasty, the Trade Order suspended its agenda and reorganized itself into the Trader Emergency Coalition, which harnessed the collective resources of the Trader worlds for military production to fend off the Vasari. A decade into the war, the colony that the Trade Order had exiled centuries ago returned as the Advent, a society of powerful psychics with advanced technology. Seeking revenge for the crime against their ancestors, the Advent opened a second front, leaving the TEC with two enemies to fight and an uncertain future.[5]

The TEC utilize heavily armored units and excel in attrition warfare. Their primary armament is a mixture of chemical-powered autocannons and classical sci-fi pulse lasers (that fire coherent red bolts that travel slower than cannon shells), supplemented by large swarms of guided missiles for long-ranged combat, Gauss guns (incorrectly termed "Gauss Rail Guns") as heavy artillery, and occasional continuous "Beam" weapons for closer ranges; they also liberally use nuclear weaponry for orbital bombardment of colonies, including "salted" warheads. They prefer to colonize Terran (Earth-like) planets which have high population limits, and can research population bonuses for colonies on these planets. Due to their past focus on trade and resource gathering, the TEC is able to produce ships and structures cheaper and faster in their tech tree, and can receive discounts on the black market. The TEC's late game research, Pervasive Economy and Foreign Sabotage, gives the faction income from all enemy expenditures and stalls enemy empires' production on planets affected by TEC propaganda. They also have the ability to cause rebel insurgency strikes on enemy empires when appropriate research has been conducted, as the war is fought in former Trader space.

  Advent

The Advent were originally a pseudo-religious race of humans who sought spiritual release and escape on the frontier of human space during the great interstellar wars that preceded the rise of the Trade Order. Over time, their culture evolved a socially liberal, highly laissez-faire attitude towards the use of biological enhancers such as synthetic neurochemicals and "cerebral integration technologies" as means toward self-actualization, resulting in a burgeoning collective mentality calling itself the "Unity". When their society was discovered by the market analysis teams of the nascent Trade Order, their collectivist practices were branded as perverse, "sinful", and the "deviants" were exiled from Trader space. Over centuries of exile in far-flung regions of the galaxy, now calling themselves "the Advent", they continued to plumb the depths of biological mutability and post-humanity, developing powerful "PsiTech" tools, which enabled them through unknown means a measure of psychic manipulation over local physical phenomena, as well as other technologies far surpassing anything the Trade Order had conceived of. A millennium after their betrayal, they have returned to visit vengeance on the Traders and bring humanity together under the peace of the Unity.[5]

The Advent favour cheap, lightly armored ships, preferring the elegance and sophistication of advanced shield systems over clumsy metal armor; in stark contrast to the TEC's bubble-like shields, Advent shields fit tightly to their ship's hulls. Their weapons are almost exclusively based upon directed energy, save for planetary bombardment kinetic rods; pulse lasers, continuous beams and plasma weapons are prominent on every warship, and most units have PsiTech abilities which allow the crew or some uniquely modified members of the crew to exert limited control over local phenomena, for instance in manipulating the crews of other ships or planets. Their units are very sleek and aesthetic, featuring artistically-minded spirals and organic shapes, unlike the utilitarian, ad hoc designs favored by the TEC. The Advent prefer Desert planets such as the one they were exiled to, and can research population bonuses for those worlds. Being evangelistic, they can research culture-spreading buildings, in their case Temples of Communion, before either of the other two races, and can spread culture more effectively than the others. Advent fleets, being cheap, tend to maintain large numbers of craft, but rather than treating their units as expendable, Advent prefer to use a variety of highly specialized vessels which function well in conjunctive use, and many Advent ships are designed to improve the performance of nearby allies, such as by improving shield strength (via rerouting some of the damage to friendly ships into a support cruiser's own, unusually powerful shield), reducing weapon cool-down times, or stealing antimatter from enemy ships and distributing it to allies to power their own special abilities. They are also experts in the use of extremely large numbers of strike craft, using semi-autonomous drones controlled by Anima, a set of advent whose mental powers are far greater than the normal advent population.

  Vasari

The Vasari are the only truly alien race in the game. The Vasari Empire was once the strongest in the galaxy, formed by peacefully assimilating primitive races and brutally crushing more advanced ones, turning the populations of both into "valued citizens." 10,000 years before the events of the game, the Vasari began to lose contact with their central worlds. Believing the cause to be rebellion and sabotage, a contingent of the Vasari Dark Fleet was deployed to restore order, but was never heard from again. More worlds went dark, even their ancient Vasari homeworld. In their desperation, the entire Dark Fleet was sent on a blind assault on whatever was consuming the Empire's core planets. Only a single, heavily damaged warship emerged, discovered by a small Vasari colony on the Empire's edge.[5]

Finding the ship's crew had been driven mad with fear, the colony decided to evacuate to a star system outside of the Empire, leaving a warning beacon behind. When contact with that beacon was lost, the colony fled, never to see Vasari space again. For the next 10,000 years, the Vasari refugee fleet traveled from system to system, stopping only to rebuild their population and gather resources; the beacons they have left behind have continued to fall silent. Now, the Vasari are engaged in a war with the Trader Emergency Coalition over the resources of the human systems, and as their mysterious enemy relentlessly pursues them, the Vasari find themselves running out of time.[5]

The Vasari have fewer, more expensive units that have extremely hardened hulls and some of the hardest hitting weapons in the Sins universe. They prefer to settle Volcanic worlds, as they readily resort to genetic modification of entire populations to allow, among other things, living in hot, sulphur-rich atmospheres. Their ships utilize more advanced technology, an example being Phase Missiles, their preferred weapon system present on most of their capital ships, which can perform tiny phase jumps right past enemy shields. Another masterpiece is the Phase Stabilizer Node, which allows Vasari ships to travel directly between any two Nodes in one phase jump in the same solar system, eliminating the need for time-consuming sublight voyages required to enter and exit a celestial object's gravity well during transit involving multiple jumps. This unique construct allows the Vasari to link occupied worlds and bases together and quickly move forces between locations to defend against attack or attack a nearby system. In general, they have outmatched humanity (and, apparently, even the Advent) in nanotechnology, upon which most of their abilities are based, and control of phase space.

  Rebellion

The newest expansion replaces these three races with six factions by breaking up each into a Loyalist and a Rebel faction and adding different researchable upgrades for each. Rebels and Loyalists inherit the basic tech trees and units of their respective races, and a massive relations penalty toward each other.

  TEC Loyalists

Having fought the Vasari for almost three decades and the Advent for almost two, the majority of the TEC have adopted an isolationist approach and believe the way to victory lies in further improvement of their defensive capability. TEC Loyalists can make their structures tougher, their starbases cheaper and build an extra starbase per gravity well; their Novalith superweapons are cheaper and available earlier; they also can research a multitude of topics to improve the firepower and defences of their forces in friendly territory and ship production rates and tax income of invaded planets, and even their Titan resembles a spacebourne fortress.

  TEC Rebels

Some of the former Traders are not satisfied with the isolationist approach, and instead have a revanchist mentality, wishing to apply the TEC's newly acquired but vast military arsenal to a complete and utter extermination of their enemies; it is quite telling that their Titan mostly consists of a forward-firing, extremely long-ranged railgun. TEC Rebels have across-the-board upgrades for their weaponry and have excellent relations with the less scrupulous elements of the galactic society: they can broker a permanent peace treaty with planetary militias protecting unowned worlds, rebels spawned by TEC's late-game Insurgency upgrade, and pirates, rendering them immune to these backstabbing methods; they also plunder bombarded worlds and can recruit both pirate mercenaries and liberated resistance movements to join their ranks.

  Vasari Loyalists

As the unknown enemy draws nearer, the Vasari Loyalists prepare to flee the warzone - but not before they acquire the resources they so desperately need. With some research, they are able to migrate without settled planets in-game: they deploy taxable populations and laboratories onboard their capital ships, their Titan can double as their capital, they can strip the planets down to Dead Asteroids as rather than abandon them, quickly acquiring a lot of resources, and use phase stabilisers (deployable by their Titan) to spawn reinforcements all the way up to capital ships - whereas pre-Rebellion Vasari and Vasari Rebels could only call in small squadrons of frigates. They also have upgraded their non-phase missile weaponry.

  Vasari Rebels

Having fought the Traders and the Advent for decades, some Vasari plan to unite these potent factions and have them join ranks in fleeing and possibly even fighting the mysterious threat. As such, they have a multitude of pro-alliance research topics, while developing their phase space technologies to a new degree, allowing allies to use their phase stabiliser network, their already mobile starbases to jump to different gravity wells (but harshly enforcing a limit of one starbase per gravity well) and massively slow down incoming hostile forces by upgrading their Phase Jump Inhibitor; they also have defensive upgrades made possible by interspecies cooperation.

  Advent Loyalists

Their agenda has not changed. They still want the TEC wiped out, and now employ even more powerful mind control technologies: their Titan can instantly brainwash an entire planet, and their owned planets can spread culture without any structures.

  Advent Rebels

Sensing that the Unity is corrupted from within, these outcasts fight against the Advent, and try to find peace with the TEC and Vasari. The "purified" Unity is capable of permanently resurrecting fallen Advent frigates and even create temporary clones of killed enemy forces, and the Rebels can readily sacrifice an entire planet's population in order to cause damage to enemies in the nearby gravity wells.

  Development

System requirements
Minimum Recommended
Windows
Operating system Windows 7 / Windows Vista / Windows XP Service Pack 3
CPU 1.8 GHz (single core) 2.2 GHz Dual- or Quad-Core Processor
Memory 512 MB (Windows XP) 1 GB (Windows Vista) 1GB (Windows XP) 2GB (Windows Vista)
Hard drive space 3  GB of free space
Graphics hardware 128 MB DirectX 9 3D Video Card (Radeon 9600 / GeForce 6600 and above) 256 MB DirectX 9 3D Video Card (Radeon X1600 / GeForce 7600 and above)
Sound hardware 100% DirectX 9.0c compliant card
Network Internet connection required for multiplayer

Sins of a Solar Empire, like Stardock's Galactic Civilizations II: Dread Lords before it, comes without any form of copy protection, but a product key registered to an Impulse account is required for updates and multiplayer. The game had a budget below one million dollars.[6]

  Game engine

Sins of a Solar Empire offers new size and scale technologies that deliver convincingly large stars and planets next to comparably small orbital structures, starships and tiny fighters. The game features bump mapping on planets and ships, specular lighting, dynamic fractal generation for stars and clouds, and bloom.[7]

  Customization

Sins of a Solar Empire includes various features, among them a map editor that allows generating maps for both single and multiplayer use by setting their general properties. Matches can also be recorded and watched, and the game supports custom modifications. Ironclad Games maintains a collection of user-created works of all three kinds. The developer has also released the editor used to create the game's scenarios and a set of the development tools. Through the use of this editor, the player can dictate the number of solar systems in their game, the number of planets orbiting each solar systems, and various other options. Lastly, the game keeps track of a variety of "achievements," some of which are triggered by ordinary gameplay actions (winning as a specific race, collecting enough resources), or by winning with voluntary restrictions (not building capital ships, frigates, cruisers, or strike craft).

  Expansions

Ironclad made two micro-expansions, both of which were available on Ironclad's website and Stardock's digital service Impulse. After both micro-expansions were released, Stardock released a final retail version with both micro-expansions included. To prevent fracturing the multiplayer community the features of the expansion packs are only available if both players have the expansions installed. If not, the features are disabled for that game.[8]

  Entrenchment

On August 29, 2008 IronClad and Stardock announced Entrenchment.[8] The expansion includes new weapon upgrades and defense platforms, including modular starbases.[8][9] Originally scheduled for November 18, 2008, it was released on February 25, 2009.[10]

  Diplomacy

On August 26, 2009, the second micro-expansion was announced. Diplomacy expands the diplomacy side of the game,[11] allowing players more control over who they are at war with; and making diplomatic victory possible as well as offering incentives for peace and cooperation including everything from increased resource rates to more firepower .[12] The opponent AI, pacing and number of game scenarios are also improved. It was released on February 9, 2010 and is available for download on Impulse. The Sins of a Solar Empire: Trinity combination package was also released on the same day.[4]

  Rebellion

On March 1, 2011, the third expansion, and first stand-alone expansion was announced. Rebellion adds new Loyal and Rebellious factions to each race, a new capital ship for each race, new super-capital ships, the Titans, and the fighter-frigate intermediates, the Corvettes, as well as new research topics for each Rebel/Loyalist faction. Rebellion also includes a new graphical engine. Exactly one year from the announcement, the beta was made available for pre-order customers without prior warning. Rebellion uses Steam to download and install updates. Rebellion was released on June 12, 2012.[13]

  Reception

 Reception
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 87.8% (45 reviews)[14]
Metacritic 87% (52 reviews)[15]
Review scores
Publication Score
Edge 8/10[16]
Game Informer 9/10[17]
GameSpot 9/10[18]
GameSpy 4.5/5[19]
GamesRadar 9/10[20]
IGN 8.9/10[21]
PC Gamer UK 84%[22]

Sins of a Solar Empire has met with generally positive reviews and received several awards. The game holds an aggregate score of 87.8% based on 45 reviews at GameRankings,[14] and an aggregate score of 87% based on 52 reviews at Metacritic.[15] It was named Game Informer's "PC Game of the Month," and was awarded a 9/10 review.[17] The U.K. edition of PC Gamer awarded the game a rating of 84%.[22] GameSpot awarded the game a 9/10, as well as an Editor's Choice award.[18] GameSpy awarded the game a 4.5/5, as well as an Editor's Choice award.[19] IGN awarded the game an 8.9/10, as well as an Editor's Choice award and giving it the PC game of the year award.[21]

Much praise for the game has been directed towards the game's clever blend of RTS and 4X gameplay, the seamless zoom function, and the user-friendly Empire Tree and UI. That the game was designed to play efficiently on older as well as newer PCs has garnered considerable praise. Kane Ikin from Alchemy SBS Radio in his review said "Sins of a Solar Empire is a game for a thinking person, it's like a really satisfying game of chess and it is not for the impatient"[23] Criticism has been focused on the lack of a single-player campaign, sporadic game crashes when played online, and the potentially lengthy game-play times. Following the 1.03 patch, with increased game speeds, this problem has been slightly improved, although games with six or more players can sometimes still take four hours or more.[24]

The game was awarded the title "Best Strategy Game of the Year 2008" by X-Play and GameTrailers,[25] and the title "Best PC Game of the Year" by IGN.[26]

  Sales

As of September 2008, Stardock's CEO, Brad Wardell, has stated that the game has sold over 500,000 units, with 100,000 of those being download sales, on a budget of less than $1,000,000.[6] It sold 200,000 copies in its first month of release alone.[27]

On November 16, 2011 Sins of a Solar Empire: Trinity was made available for purchase on Steam.

  References

  1. ^ Bishop, Stuart (April 21, 2008). "Sins of a Solar Empire hitting UK retail". Computer and Video Games. http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=187268. Retrieved 2009-02-02. 
  2. ^ "Sins of a Solar Empire: Gameplay". Stardock. http://www.sinsofasolarempire.com/gameplay.aspx. Retrieved 2009-06-13. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Butts, Steve (2007-07-25). "Sins of a Solar Empire Interview". IGN. http://pc.ign.com/articles/807/807956p1.html. Retrieved 2009-06-13. 
  4. ^ a b "Sins of a Solar Empire: Trinity". Stardock. http://forums.sinsofasolarempire.com/371186. Retrieved 2010-03-13. 
  5. ^ a b c d e "Sins of a Solar Empire: Lore". Stardock. http://www.sinsofasolarempire.com/lore.aspx. Retrieved 2009-06-13. 
  6. ^ a b Alexander, Leigh; Remo, Chris (2008-09-04). "Wardell: Sins Of A Solar Empire Hits Low System Reqs-Aided 500,000 Units". Gamasutra. http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=20026. Retrieved 2008-09-04. 
  7. ^ "Sins of a Solar Empire: Features". Stardock. http://www.sinsofasolarempire.com/features.aspx. Retrieved 2009-06-13. 
  8. ^ a b c "Sins of a Solar Empire: Entrenchment Announced!". IronClad. August 29, 2008. http://forums.sinsofasolarempire.com/?aid=322509. Retrieved 2008-08-29. 
  9. ^ "Sins of a Solar Empire: Entrenchment Preview". GameSpy. September 11, 2008. p. 2. http://pc.gamespy.com/pc/sins-of-a-solar-empire-expansion-box/909539p1.html. Retrieved 2008-09-15. 
  10. ^ "Sins of a Solar Empire: Entrenchment store". StarDock. https://store.stardock.com/product.aspx?productid=ESD-TGN-W302&theme=impulse. Retrieved 2009-01-18. 
  11. ^ Matt Peckham, New Sins of a Solar Empire Expansion Revealed, PC World: Game On
  12. ^ John Callaham (2010-02-04). "Interview: Stardock's head talks about Sins of a Solar Empire: Diplomacy". Big Download. AOL Games. http://news.bigdownload.com/2010/02/04/interview-stardocks-head-talks-about-sins-of-a-solar-empire-d/. Retrieved 2010-02-04. 
  13. ^ http://uk.pc.gamespy.com/pc/sins-of-a-solar-empire-rebellion/1222440p1.html
  14. ^ a b "Sins of a Solar Empire reviews at GameRankings". GameRankings. http://www.gamerankings.com/pc/935993-sins-of-a-solar-empire/index.html. Retrieved 2009-06-13. 
  15. ^ a b "Sins of a Solar Empire Review". Metacritic. http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/pc/sinsofasolarempire?q=sins%20of%20a%20solar%20empire. Retrieved 2009-06-13. 
  16. ^ Edge staff (April 2008). "Sins of a Solar Empire Review". Edge (187): 94. 
  17. ^ a b Biessener, Adam. "Sins of a Solar Empire review at Game Informer". Game Informer. Archived from the original on 2009-07-26. http://web.archive.org/web/20080302003851/http://www.gameinformer.com/NR/exeres/0960FD63-C329-405E-BFAB-87C2CC85E9A0.htm. Retrieved 2009-06-13. 
  18. ^ a b Ocampo, Jason (February 13, 2008). "Sins of a Solar Empire Review". GameSpot. http://www.gamespot.com/pc/strategy/sinsofasolarempire/review.html. Retrieved 2009-06-07. 
  19. ^ a b Rausch, Allen (February 8, 2008). "Sins of a Solar Empire Review - GameSpy". GameSpy. http://pc.gamespy.com/pc/sins-of-a-solar-empire/850906p1.html. Retrieved 2009-06-07. 
  20. ^ Stapleton, Dan. "Sins of a Solar Empire Review - GamesRadar". GamesRadar. http://www.gamesradar.com/pc/sins-of-a-solar-empire/review/sins-of-a-solar-empire/a-2008020818615328052/g-20061212172317464060. Retrieved 2009-06-07. 
  21. ^ a b Butts, Steve (2008-02-15). "Sins of a Solar Empire Review". IGN. http://pc.ign.com/articles/852/852735p1.html. Retrieved 2009-06-13. 
  22. ^ a b Francis, Tom (2008-03-21). "PC Review: Sins of a Solar Empire". PC Gamer UK. http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=185244. Retrieved 2009-06-13. 
  23. ^ "Alchemy Game Review : Sins of a Solar Empire". SBS Radio. http://www21.sbs.com.au/alchemy/index.php?pg=ct&ct=3&sc=7&id=610. Retrieved 2009-06-13. 
  24. ^ "Sins of a Solar Empire," PC Gamer 173 (April 2008): 60
  25. ^ "GameTrailers Game of the Year Awards 2008, Real-Time Strategy Games". GameTrailers. 2008-12-22. http://www.gametrailers.com/player/43832.html. Retrieved 2009-06-13. 
  26. ^ "PC Game of the Year 2008: Sins of a Solar Empire". IGN. http://bestof.ign.com/2008/pc/22.html. Retrieved 2009-06-13. 
  27. ^ Cyril Kowaliski (2008-03-20). "Indie publisher: Piracy isn't to blame for bad PC game sales". The Tech Report. http://www.techreport.com/discussions.x/14383. Retrieved 2008-03-21. 

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