Sins of a Solar Empire Updated Impressions - Galactic Conquest in Real Time

This remarkably original space strategy game will challenge you to carve out an interstellar empire using massive battle fleets.

The space strategy genre has long been dominated by turn-based games such as Master of Orion. After all, trying to conquer dozens of worlds and manage hundreds of ships in real time sounds like an impossible task. However, someone didn't tell that to Stardock and developer Ironclad Games. That's because their upcoming Sins of a Solar Empire looks like an elegant take on space strategy. Sins features real-time gameplay that ranges from gargantuan space battles to management of an interstellar empire. It's an ambitious design, and it's shaping up to be one of the strategy games to keep an eye on in 2008.

The real-time battles in Sins of a Solar Empire are cinematic.

Sins is a game of interstellar conquest featuring three different factions, though you can have up to 10 players, both human and computer-controlled, in a game. The scale of the game can vary from three planets, which is designed to last under an hour, to multiple star systems filled with a dozen planets each. That size of game "could take months," according to Stardock president Brad Wardell. Like many turn-based space strategy games, you start Sins with control of a single planet, and your goal is to explore space and expand by colonizing newly discovered worlds, exploiting the resources on those planets to build larger fleets, and using those fleets to exterminate your enemies. However, the difference is that this process happens in real time, so the game is constantly flowing.

There are two resources in the game, metal and crystal, and these can be mined from asteroids orbiting each planet. The game follows the Starcraft resource model in that there's a finite amount of material on each asteroid, but once the main store is exhausted, the asteroid still generates a small amount of resources for the rest of the game. Mining these resources is incredibly simple and part of the reason why a game the size of Sins is manageable. You can click on an appropriate harvester and then click on an asteroid, which is the traditional real-time strategy method of getting things done. Or, you can simply click on the button that says you want to harvest the material on that asteroid, and the game finds the closest harvester ship and takes care of all the details.

The elegance of Sins' interface is found on the left-hand side, where icons represent planets, fleets, and individual ships. If you arrive at a new planet, a planetary icon is added to the interface. The number of color-coded dots on the interface indicates the number of ships each faction has in orbit around every planet. You can expand the interface further to view in greater detail, and you can see the data on a fleet right down to the health and status of each ship. Giving orders is simple at that point. If you want, you can click on a ship icon and then click on a planet icon to give a movement order. Or you can click on a hostile ship icon to give an attack order. You can basically manage multiple battles and fleets with this interface.

Your fleets can consist of dozens, if not hundreds, of different classes of vessels. There are huge capital ships, smaller escorts, as well as fighter and bomber squadrons. What's cool about all this is that the game intelligently manages whatever battle groups you throw together, so you don't need to micromanage the battle. For instance, fighters and scouts will sweep ahead of the main group, while frigates and cruisers will array themselves next, followed finally by the capital ships. Think of a US Navy carrier battle group and how the carrier is at the center of an elaborate battle formation; that's similar to what the artificial intelligence does in Sins. You can jump in and micromanage at any time, or you can just zoom the camera in and watch the battle unfold.

Speaking of the camera, Sins features the same type of epic zoom out seen in games such as Supreme Commander. You can pull the camera in close on a single ship, right up to its skin, and then pull the camera back to an almost intergalactic scale, to the point that you can see multiple star systems on the screen.

You can manage huge fleets easily thanks to the game's elegant interface.

Travel between planets is done by phase jumping, which is sort of like warp speed in Star Trek. However, there are some things to keep in mind. First, ships have to travel outside the gravity well of a planet in order to jump; that prevents you from building ships at your shipyard and immediately warping them to a battle. It also prevents you from warping next to an enemy planet and bombing it; you have to arrive at the edge of its gravity well and fight your way past its defenses. The other thing about phase jumps is that jump drives take time to charge, which means that a ship is a sitting duck in the meantime. Keep that in mind if you're in a battle and have to retreat, because you'll likely take losses as your ships prepare to jump. Likewise, travel is restricted along the space lanes that connect planets. So if you're at Planet A and want to get to Planet C, you first have to go through Planet B. This is for gameplay purposes, given that the ability to go from one planet to any other in a solar system would make the game far too easy; all you'd have to do is aim for the enemy's homeworld and take it out.

As you progress through the game, you'll not only get larger fleets, but you'll also improve your ships through technological research and unit upgrades. Ships can gain experience levels, and you earn points that you can use to improve certain aspects of the ship, such as its shields. Alternately, you can have the computer manage all of that and automatically upgrade ships for you. The technology tree has three branches. Military technologies improve your ships, civilian technologies improve your planets, and artifact technology lets you take advantage of ancient alien artifacts found on other worlds. They're an incentive for players to quickly explore the galaxy.

We're impressed with how Sins is shaping up, in that it brings some new thinking to the genre, along with a cool premise and beautiful visuals. Even better, the potential for the mod community is there. Wardell has said that beta testers have already managed to create mods based on popular science-fiction franchises. Work continues to progress on Sins of a Solar Empire, and it is scheduled to ship around February of next year.

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Discussion

85 comments
Nomar321
Nomar321

So, the RECOMMENDED REQUIREMENTS ARE: * 2.2 GHz Dual- or Quad-Core Processor * 1 GB RAM / 2 GB for Vista * 256 MB DirectX 9 3D Video Card (Radeon X1600 / GeForce 7600 and above) Thanks to Jedi597 for telling me where to find them.

chutup
chutup

daaamn I hope my old comp can run this, it looks like an absolute masterpiece

Nomar321
Nomar321

What are the specs for this game? I can't seem to find them either here or at the game's website. Could anyone who's bought it help me (and all other potential buyers) out?

Nomar321
Nomar321

This seemingly amazing game made its way to the center of my "game" radar as quickly as CityLife did a few years back. It sounds amazing; could this finally be the perfect combination of elegant yet complex strategy and awesome "in-your-face" action? I sincerely hope so!

Soundwave079
Soundwave079

Wow, this looks awesome...for some what reason I hesitated to get this game today, by the looks of it...it looks better than Galactic Civilizations. Gotta get this game soon. Thanx for the info gamespot

killangrathor31
killangrathor31

well this just sealed the deal on that new computer i was lookin at

alcari
alcari

Sins is definatly different from other games out there. I'd compare to battles to those of SupCom, but the fleet management and strategy are more that of Imperium Galactica. It will be a bit like Homeworld, but where Homeworld was more about the micromanagement, Sins is more about the grand strategy, although you can, and probably should, micro, it's not as important as having your fleet in the right place with the right ships. I personally like the scale of everything. It can take 10 minutes to get somewhere in another solar system, so you need to plan ahead for what you do. For Centuryslayer and others. Requirements here: http://www.gamesforwindows.com/en-US/Games/Pages/sinsofasolarempire.aspx

centuryslayer
centuryslayer

If my cpu can handle this game, I´m so picking it up! :D

leecy1
leecy1

The 4X genre has been relatively quiet for many years with only a small handful of good games over the past 7 years or so. The seminal masterpiece remains Masters of Orion 2 way back in the mid 90's. There had since been a small trickle of notable titles: Galactic Civilizations series, Imperium Galactica 2, Space Empires series but they are few and far between. These year however, genre fans should be in for a real treat with at least 3 titles all coming in Q1 2008 (namely Sins of Solar Empire, Space Force: Captains, and Lost Empire: Immortals). Let's sincerely hope that each lives up to our expectations.

evilzin
evilzin

looks like it will be cool and the gp video that is out right now makes it look like one of the best rts games ever and the video is on low resalotion graphics to now my only consern is do i need to get i new computer or not but other then that this acualy looks like an rts where u cant get bord of playing the same maps over and over and over again cant wait

riddlelyn
riddlelyn

I would hardly call the singleplayer mode a "skirmish mode". It's more like a dynamic or emergeant campaign in the same vein of the epic 4X games (which is how its upposed to be). I also don't think it was primarily made for multiplayer - I've had an incrediable amount of fun playing singleplayer since beta and i hardly play multiplayer because my connection is bad.

Vasot
Vasot

I just find out that the game will have---- ---1) Multiplayer --and ---2) Skirmish mode (with a random generator if you want to play single player against the AI ) IT WILL NOT HAVE ANY SINGLE PLAYER CAMPAIGN... :( The game is made mainly for Multiplayer purposes :( I was expecting a deep SCI-FI story with objectives :( Unfortunately It will be similar to Unreal Tournament but in a RTS enviroment :( This game will not be like Homeworld :(

ennheinsoo
ennheinsoo

It sounds good, but I really have only one problem. I hate games that have small planets :( Let them be big background images or what ever, don't let them be small tiny apples in the void. please, do not let them! Anyone else has a problem with it?

richardzzz777
richardzzz777

I can not get on to the sins of a solar empire website

WINTER_elite
WINTER_elite

Sins of a solar empire is gonna be friggin awesome! Its gonna be like homeworld 2 mixed with the balance of a great futuristic rpg game and with extremely unique races! I cant wait for this game - loved the huge capital ship battles in homeworld 2 and always thought they needed more variety and some sort of level up/developement/mod system - cheers to iron clad for taking on the challenge!

Tentaculat
Tentaculat

Really looking forward to this game. The fact it won't be a strategy game with no strategy and just hotkey smashing like Starcraft, just makes it better. It also has one of the coolest names on a game, ever.

ShatterStar77
ShatterStar77

WOW...I cant wait to handle the hundreds of ships in my fleet. and the notion that they move like a carrier battle group just sold it for me, lol.

marco0798
marco0798

this game is Homeworld in RTS style and im loving how its shaping up hopefully we wont be dissapointed. The battle scenes look like something out of Babylon 5 looks great.

Jazzism
Jazzism

Seems like an interesting game, My favourite of this type of space strategy was the old Spacebucks from Sierra. I wish more than anything someone would come out with like this.

GHEmpire
GHEmpire

lol hmm this game is very interesting- like EVE mushed in with Homeworld and Supreme Commander. I look forward to playing this :P

marcocat
marcocat

This is not innovation, before this game "Homeworld" was the real innovation, it was a great game. Anyway I'm looking forward to this game.

nikomas
nikomas

I have to say that this is going to be cool to play i mean i loved supreme commanders zoom levels and new thinking. this seems like the same thing in space i hope they manege to get it done

markevens
markevens

I don't have regular internet access at home and so this will have to take the place of EVE.

Ol_skool_Gamer
Ol_skool_Gamer

This is innovation. Now I'm very curious about the result...

Yakuz-A
Yakuz-A

I just hope they have a decent diplomacy model/interface for the game too.

Unforgiven2870
Unforgiven2870

Alot of people that are working on this game.Are the same people who helped make Homeworld and Homeworld 2.

aringarosa101
aringarosa101

i'm more excited about the whole idea of having to manage your economy, and general well-being of you empire, WHILE controlling all of the frenetic combat associated with controlling a massive empire.

MrPurple2
MrPurple2

I've always loved the idea of massive ship battles (sea or space). And when I saw some of these screenshots I almost vomited in joy.

Apsalus
Apsalus

I hope they incorporate the turn-based option as well. (I'm an old skool playa).

redbeef88
redbeef88

Doctor Sjet better be on one of those ships

theoneraul
theoneraul

great game:D there is not coming a good story, cuz there isnt gonna be a campaign

shrody
shrody

I can't wait for this one, it so reminds me of homeworld which was a long time fav of mine

leop4rd
leop4rd

it does look a lot like homeworld, i hope they have a good computer voice :D it'd be good if it was as good as homeworld one with the massive lazers firing everywhere and the dog fights i hope they have a good story too

kweeky
kweeky

Stardock, producing stellar games such as Sins whilst giving the middle finger to invasive copy protection, it just makes you proud that such a genuine producer exists admist such souless titans as EA Games and Vivendi.

Kenny007
Kenny007

This sounds like the next Hegemonia. Even the interface sounds familliar. I'm excited though. It's been too long since the Homeworld series and Hegemonia.

rizlaq
rizlaq

i see, the youtube videos look much better already..

Utildai
Utildai

Yea, I have to agree, this seems very Homeworldish. Should be fun though. :)

Galzakian
Galzakian

sounds really promising, can't wait for more!

joeythemachine
joeythemachine

Looks like Star Wars: Empire at War, without the land battles.

maxim57
maxim57

Wow, sounds like this so cold Gamespot 'expert' has never played Homeworld. What a chumpette!

KratosAurion7
KratosAurion7

I'm looking forward to those "could take months," games. Imagine a game that you would play with 9 of your friends and takes all winter to finish? Thats a pretty good reason to stay home IMO.

digitalheadbutt
digitalheadbutt

Homeworld and Homeworld 2 had many of the interface features of Sins: Sins seems to have deeper gameplay though. I can't wait to check it out whenever it finally hits.