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Sins of a Solar Empire

Score: 96%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Stardock Entertainment
Developer: Ironclad Games
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 10
Genre: Real-Time Strategy


Graphics & Sound:

It's hard in space for a macro manager. So the tune may not win me a Grammy, but Sins of a Solar Empire should be winning some of its own awards. If you didn't guess from the above or from my preview of the game, I really enjoyed it. There is some loose talk going around about how PC gaming is dying and that console gaming is going to be the saving grace of the gaming universe. I hold games like this as a shining example of the power of PC gaming over casual consoling. By sheer power of input ability alone, PC games hold a serious advantage. Without being "dumbed down," strategy games like RTS's thrive on PC. Just like FPS's, the RTS genre belongs on PC no matter how appealing consoles currently may be.

If the sheer scale of the universe itself isn't beautiful enough for you, then the work that went into the ship's scale should be impressive. Everything from how each individual class of ship looks and moves has been obviously toiled over. The scenery is as intriguing as actually being present, staring at an alien universe from God's perspective.

If you think your music is impressive enough to put it on its own CD, then you had better come with your A game. So does the music hold up enough to warrant calling it a bonus? Well, I would give it a 5, Simon Cowell, it had a great beat but you can't dance to it. All joking aside, it was intriguing. I listened through the CD all of the way at least twice. As far as gaming music goes, there are other games that have more of my musical taste, but it was interesting.


Gameplay:

Sins of a Solar Empire is a macro manager's dream. I am a fan of competent training material. Nothing bothers me more in big games than learning through attrition. Right off the bat when I opened up my deluxe edition box, I was greeted with a nice, thick manual that is packed full of material. Let me preface this just a little. Thick is not always good. Complete, concise information is good. I do believe you should never HAVE to use a manual to play the game, but I am not a fan of guessing how things work through hours of trial and error, specifically when the concept is a small side note to the big picture of the game. So off of the soap box and into the world that is this vast, rich game. You are commonly welcomed with the initial storyline of the game through an opening cut scene, and then it is down to business.

The menu system isn't sexy by any means. It is streamlined and done in a very classic menu format that is widely recognized and easy to use. You have your Single Player Game, Multiplayer Game, Online and Options Menu. The Single Player Mode starts off with four tutorials right in front of you. No need to go digging for them. These tutorials do their job in getting all of the ideas of the game in front of you. They don't play around or make you guess, as well they are not overly lengthy and mundane. Also in the Single Player Menu, you have the ability to change some of your appearance. You can also revisit your epic battles by watching your game again to analyze and strategize. The clincher for me is the Map Maker which included both the Single Player and Multiplayer games to make unique experiences of your own design.

The actual gameplay is extremely detailed. The classic 4X's are readily at work as you spread across the universe and take, ask, trade, or mine whatever you need. Build Civilian and Military research facilities that will aid in the research and implementations of new technologies necessary for galactic conquest. This may seem commonplace the way I have written it here, but it is in no way that simplistic. A huge and diverse tree or network of available research options lay before you, some of which intertwine and cross over. It is not a simple, linear process to build each unit. There is a balance you must strike and sacrifice between diplomatic endeavors, military need and civilian necessity to achieve victory. Build ship facilities that will manufacture the vast number of ships you will need to travel and rule the galaxy, and protect each step of your expansion not only from the known enemy threat of "the other player", but of piracy and diplomatic alliances.

There is so much more to this game than its beautiful surface. To bring its treasures from the deep would take volumes. This is a beautiful, gritty, simply complex and chaotically ordered game. It moves very fast so even moments of what may feel like slow moving battle are perfectly alive in preparation, exploration and contemplation.


Difficulty:

Sins of a Solar Empire is not a hold your hand and give you a pacifier type of game. It is a rich, dynamic RTS in every sense of the word. There is a ton of strategy to examine. It is not a particularly forgiving game either. This is why I am so enamored by it. It gives you everything you need to know to be successful. It presents all of the information in an efficient, clear manner. Then it has the audacity to make you work for your victory and not just sit back and watch the game play itself. I feel like this is the most player-involved RTS I have ever associated with. The games are not played out in convenient, twenty minute waves where you can take a break and just chill out. It is a big galaxy and the race is on. The battles are as elegant to watch as they are difficult to prepare for every contingency of vehicle type that will come after you. Prepare well.

Game Mechanics:

I didn't just like Sins of a Solar Empire. I appreciated it on many levels. For one, as I have mentioned, it isn't predictably timed out with a straight line feel where you mass up and overwhelm each step of the mission and go about the story. There is a ton of player responsibility and not a ton of automation. You couldn't just breeze through any of the levels; you had to work for every battle. The sheer number of options alone made this game accessible to all levels of play and players. Again, this is an RTS and implies that you have some familiarity with the style of the game. If there were one critique, it only is that the entry level was maybe a little too high for an inexperienced first time player. I only mention this because it does have a limiting factor to bringing new players into the game. Talking out of the other side of my mouth, that may have been why I enjoyed it so much is that it didn't lean on hand-holding. Whichever way you want it, this is an exemplary game.

It looked great. It sounded good. What is left for me to say? I think my score says it all. Note my track record as I do not take my scoring lightly. This is especially true when it come to games I feel have gone above and beyond the call of duty as it were. This is a game that deserves all of its accolades and set as one of the examples of a game to beat.


-WUMPUSJAGGER, GameVortex Communications
AKA Bryon Lloyd

Minimum System Requirements:



Minimum Requirements: Windows XP SP2 / Windows Vista, 1.8 GHz Single-Core Processor, 512 MB RAM (1 GB for Windows Vista), 128 MB DirectX 9 3D Video Card (Radeon 9600 / GeForce FX 6600 and above), DirectX 9.0c Compatible Sound Card, DVD-ROM Drive, 3 GB Hard Drive Space, Keyboard and Mouse, DirectX 9.0c

Recommended Requirements: 2.2 GHz Dual- or Quad-Core Processor, 1 GB RAM (2 GB for Windows Vista), 256 MB DirectX 9 3D Video Card, (Radeon X1600 / GeForce 7600 and above)

 

Test System:



Dell XPS DXP061, XP Pro, Intel Core Quad, 2GB Ram, Gforce 8800GTX

Windows Bus Driver Nintendo DS Bratz Super Babyz

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated