Sins of a Solar Empire Entrenchment First Look

The three great powers of the galaxy dig in for the ultimate space strategy showdown in this expansion.

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Entrenchment. It's a strange title for the first expansion to Sins of a Solar Empire, one of the most free-flowing and open strategy games in recent years. The innovative and seamless blend of real-time strategy with "4X" empire building--what developer Iron Clad games has dubbed "RT4X"--led to one of the highest-rated strategy games of the year. So to dig in, hunker down, or entrench, seems contrary to the sprawling nature of Sins. But as we saw in our recent first look at the first of three reported Sins expansions, the military and defensive-themed Entrenchment also looks like a lot of fun.

The wars among the Trader Emergency Coalition, the alien Vasari, and the human splinter faction known as the Advent continue to rage in Entrenchment. But as the years have passed, the multiple battle fronts have stabilized, forcing each faction to dig in. Technology has also advanced, and Entrenchment will introduce a new superunit, the star base, which Iron Clad says will radically alter Sins strategy and gameplay.

That's no moon. That's a giant star base.
That's no moon. That's a giant star base.

Each of the three faction's star bases will be very expensive, far and away the most costly unit in the game. To put it into perspective, a star base will cost roughly the same as five capital ships, the most expensive unit in the original Sins, and Iron Clad estimates you won't even have enough resources for such a unit until mid-to-late into a game. But it's worth the wait. Once constructed, a star base can be placed anywhere on the map, including the previously inaccessible gravity wells of stars. A star base will allow you to attack and defend at two key points on the map. Once constructed, your fleet will be available to make key offensive attacks, while the base can manufacture frigates, as well as defend your own planetary systems with its formative attack power and range. Star bases are massive in size--a typical fighter is about 10 meters long, while a base is more than 1,000 meters long. They are not invincible, but eliminating an enemy star base would be extremely costly, requiring several capital ships and super weapons.

A problem with Sins, notes Iron Clad, is that once you took your massive fleet on the offensive, this would allow a weaker enemy to circumvent your fleet and attack a poorly defended homeworld. It was very difficult to wage wars on multiple fronts, so the star base will allow you to move the battle lines in your favor. Should you choose to go on the offensive with a star base, you could, for example, construct it in an enemy's gravity wells. All of your enemy's resources would be devoted to destroying your star base, and you would be free to mobilize your fleet.

Like capital ships, star bases will be upgradeable and able to level up. However, you will have to pick the specialization of your upgrades among military, manufacturing, and trading, so you'll have to choose your deployment location and specializations wisely.

To balance out the incredible defensive advantages of a star base, Iron Clad has added several new offensive superweapon units. The TEC, for example, has access to the Ogrov Torpedo Cruiser that is designed to be a giant missile silo in space. It fires a pair of slow-moving nuclear missiles that cause immense damage to enemy structures. The Ogrov has tremendous range, so one strategy is to take out defense turrets from distance, forcing the enemy to engage outside the protection of its turrets. Of course, you have your fleet waiting to pick off these foolhardy frigates.

Even with star bases and fleets, it can be difficult to defend some of your remote planets. Each faction will have access to powerful minefields that are undetectable to most ship types. Only scouts will be able to detect these highly dangerous explosive fields, so be careful to perform proper reconnaissance before ordering an attack. A single mine is capable of putting a big dent in your prized capital ships.

There are a number of other additions as well, including new artifacts and new upgrades to existing units, all with the goal of further balancing the gameplay. The Gauss defense turrets that became obsolete in the endgame of the original Sins are now upgradable with an armor-piercing laser and missile launchers. Ship hangers can also be upgraded with flak cannons to ward off enemy fighters.

The Ogrov Torpedo Cruiser is a missile silo in space.
The Ogrov Torpedo Cruiser is a missile silo in space.

Entrenchment is the first of three planned expansions that will be released in rapid succession and focus on the various elements of gameplay. As Entrenchment brings back a sense of battle lines and defensive play, the second expansion will focus more on nonmilitary aspects of Sins, such as diplomacy. That as-of-yet unnamed expansion will most likely be released in the next two to three months, with the third expansion to follow shortly thereafter.

Entrenchment is set to be released for $10 on November 18 on publisher Stardock's Impulse digital delivery service. Because it is an expansion, you will need the original Sins of a Solar Empire to play it. But if you're any kind of a fan of space strategy, that's a game you already owe it to yourself to play. While we only got a look at the TEC in action, we'll have more on the Vasari and Advent factions in the coming weeks.

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