The graphics in Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion look nice, but I find I spend most of my time playing the game at a bit of a distance from the ships, directing fleets, rather than admiring individual ships close up. Well, that is most of the time. On the rare occasion that my planets are all well-developed, research is ongoing and there’s no shipbuilding to attend to, I will sometimes zoom in and watch the enemy ship that is taking the brunt of my fleet’s attention, to watch it get blown up.
I really enjoyed Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion. It’s somewhere between orchestral and military, with a beat that pushes you forward and dramatic dark tones that feel like something from a Batman movie. Okay, granted that description doesn’t necessarily seem to indicate that it would work with the game, but it actually does.
The different alien races each have their own types of voices and every order you give and every update you receive is accompanied by a vocal acknowledgment or report, each with their own vocal style. All voicework for the Advent is all from the same voice; this haunting, other-worldy female voice. There are a variety of different voices for TEC communications, from pilots who are happy to serve, to hotheads who are impatiently awaiting orders that take them into battle. The Vasari voices, however, are extremely gravelly and abrasive; a little bit of playing as Vasari with my speakers on and my wife was suggesting I use headphones.
The idea in Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion is simple: build your forces and spread your influence in order to take control of the entire galaxy. There are other optional victory conditions, such as economic victory or research victory; you can add these if you’re stronger in those areas, or you can turn those off to avoid the game unexpectedly ending while you’re still trying to conquer the galaxy.
There are a lot of dependencies in the various development options in Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion. I would often find that I needed more of one currency to accomplish something, then would realize as I neared my goal, that I also had to increase my number of supportable ships or crew (or both) and had to spend resources on that and also wait for it to complete before I could actually purchase the thing I originally wanted. In particular, the Titan ships spring to mind. I have made attempts in different games to actually build one of these heavy-hitting warships, but I have never gotten one fully operational before the game ended, whether I lost or won.
Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion has no single-player Campaign Mode, but instead provides a wide variety of different maps to play, from Small, Medium or Large-sized maps, offering anything from a relatively quick one-on-one grab to control the galaxy to a large-scale multiplayer conquest of alliances, diplomacy and ultimately, superior firepower. If somehow you find the 53 preset Skirmish maps that ship with Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion to be lacking, you can use the included editor to create a map more to your liking. You can even share your maps with others.
There are several ways to play Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion. You can play alone against A.I. opponents, or multiplayer over LAN or the Internet, with all human players or a mixture of A.I. and other gamers. I’m not a hardcore multiplayer gamer, personally, but I did try it out and found that there were enough players to be able to start an 8 player game in a few minutes. Mind you, that might feel like a while, but after, say, five minutes of waiting to play, the game then lasted three or four hours.
I don’t make any claims of being an astounding strategist, but I have played a good number of strategy games in my time, from Civ games to Settlers and Rome: Total War and the like. I’ve found some more difficult than others, but I usually can find a way of playing that works for me, allowing me to win at least half the time.
With Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion, on the other hand, victory has proven to be quite elusive. I was completely unable to win a game until I stacked the deck quite a bit by playing a small-map game that allowed three players (Triad)… and putting one of the A.I. players on my team and disabling the chance of teams changing after the fact. Well, I also set my allied team to be more aggressive and skilled than our opponent. This may have been overkill, but the point is that there are settings to fiddle with and options to choose that will let you have a chance of winning until you have a better handle on the game.
If Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion is your first introduction to the series, as it was for me, you will definitely want to play through the various tutorials to get familiar with the gameplay and the interface. These tutorials will show you around the game a bit and let you “kick the tires,” but you’ll have to earn your victories, so you’ll want to play a few short games to get your bearings and try out some tactics and strategies – the larger the game, the longer small mistakes can accumulate and doom you. At least with short games, you can lose faster. And, you will lose. It’s part of the process of learning. You will need to fail and learn from your failures if you hope to build strong strategies that will help you win. My advice is to attempt to learn something from every game – win or lose – and don’t let the losses frustrate you too much.
There are a lot of things to keep watch over in Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion. You’ll need to work on building your armada, developing your planets, spreading your cultural influence, advancing your tech tree, exploring your planets for artifacts, spending ship experience on upgrades, sending out scout and emissary ships, placing bounties on your enemies heads to keep pirates busy, completing contract missions to collect money – or offering contracts to outsource your dirty work and build alliances… among other things. There’s more than enough to keep you busy and, if you’re not careful, you can easily wind up in over your head.
While you work on all of these things, you’ll have to juggle a few different currencies to accomplish your goals. There is gold, of course, which accounts for standard purchases, but you will also need to obtain crystal and metal in the appropriate quantities to build different items, from ships to planetary upgrades to tech tree research. Gold streams in from productive planets in your empire, but you’ll need to make sure you develop them enough to get their full economic potential. You can also perform contract missions (as mentioned above) in order to gain money and favor with another faction. Crystal and Metal are obtained by mining resources from owned planets and certain Tech Tree upgrades will help increase your return on these by making your operations more efficient. Finally, you can exchange resources between Gold, Crystal and Metal on the Black Market Exchange. Use the Market carefully, however, as the prices fluctuate over time and can crash, as well; good timing can get you a much better return on your investment.
When I played a multiplayer online game, everything played out nicely until the game was almost over (and the outcome was pretty obviously decided)… and the clock struck midnight. When midnight rolled around, the game started experiencing some lag and then froze and crashed. One of the other players made a comment that made it sound like midnight-onset lag is a recurring problem, so you may want to plan your multiplayer gameplay so that your games end before midnight. If it is a recurrent problem, the developers may address it in an upcoming patch.
Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion is one of those minutes-to-pick-up-years-to-master sort of games… except for that minutes-to-pick-up part. You’ll have to lose a few games before you start to get the hang of things. Once you get out of the tutorials, then the true beatings begin. If you like real-time strategy and you’re looking for a challenge, I highly recommend Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion.