The pride of my fleet lies shattered; hulks of molten metal floating through space. I took down the enemy capital ships, and annhilated their frigates in droves. Looming defiant and resolute, is the cruel eyeball shaped Vasari battle station, grinning at the destruction it had wraught.
My fleet was vast, well balanced, and technologically superior to anything my enemy had previously fielded. I’d won all the skirmishes prior to this moment, triumphing over their inferior ships. This was a mopping up operation. The final push. It was my downfall. In my arrogance, I’d failed to recon the enemy sector with scouts; now equipped with mine detecting equipment. Bugger. My fleet warped in and immediately found itself surrounded in a world of hurt; navigating the Vasari minefield was ebbing away at the whole fleet’s health, while their ships moved in for the kill. My ships fought on regardless; they were still superior. Surely they could fight their way through the enemy fleet? Then it would simply be a matter of my ships moving in and taking out the opposing Starbase that was positioning to join its comrades (Vasari starbases can move within a gravity well.) Apparently not. The Starbase erupted in a mass of missiles and pulsing weapons, lancing through my ranks. I’d taken on the enemy fleet and won, but at this time they were just too battered and bruised to keep up the fight. Vainly I tried to withdraw the vestiges of my frigate forces, and the last of my Capitals, the flagship; first and last in the fight. The Vasari had mockingly put up phase disruptors. My frigates were cut down. The First and Last was on its last legs, returning to my system a shell of its former glory.
The dynamic of Sins of a Solar Empire has changed. On one hand, you can now move your fleets with greater ease in the knowledge Starbases can hold the line. In this respect I’ve found games to be slightly shorter. In others, a competant defender can annhilate a fleet on the offense. It’s a thrilling new dimension. All for only $9.95. The cost:content ratio is perfect. You get a whole new tech tree, including new units (anti-structure in role), defensive enhancements such as missile abilites for your gauss turrets or flak turrets for hanger bays. But best of all are the new minefields and the newly dominating starbases which are central to the expansion.
They’re an absolute joy to use. They’re expensive to set up, but utterly worth it. You can customise them in a multitude of ways; equipping them with improved lazers and boom-pod launchers, trade ports, and even letting you shift frigate and cruiser construction to them. This alone dramatically changes strategy; you deploying them in formerly desolate gravity wells allows for even greater control of choke points. The end result means you are free to let your fleet act more offensively, making infact, for a more dynamic game. It’s less about one side defending, another attacking, and more about both the turtler and the aggressive player having the tools to expand more rapidly.
If you didn’t like SoaSE in the first place, don’t buy this expecting it will fundamentally alter what the game is about; that is, building big fleets and whacking them against the enemy fleets in the right places. Unless you really wanted star bases. Then you should buy it. It is however utterly essential for anyone who liked the original game. The tactical and strategic opportunties it opens up are manifold, and a joy to use. At $9.95 it’s reasonable enough to give a try. I can fully recommend the distribution service as well. Impulse may not have the same community functionality as Steam (at least, I don’t feel it is as comprehensive.) But it’s DRM free, and does the job magnificently. You just create an account, and pay using your method of choice – I use Pay Pal. Then you just download via their lighting speed service, Impulse, and then you can play the game without ever going into it again outside of updating it.
Sins of a Solar Empire is on the defensive. Not only does Entrenchment add a slew of themed enhancements to the game, but it’s affirming SoaSE as a brand name, and concreting a distribution model. PC Gaming is in need of guardians of innovation, and Entrenchment is manning the front line. It is above and beyond the paid DLC model of choice. Developers take note. Gamers fire up Pay Pal.
Why two ratings? Well if you’re a Sins fan already, this is a headshot. You must own this. Everyone else, it’s a hit; you’ll want to be trying Sins first of course; no point spending $10 more than you have to if you don’t like it.
* 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
* 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)
If you’ve got Sins then you’ll know what to expect on the tech side of things. For reference, I’m on an AMD 6000×2, 3 gb of DDR2 memory with and ATI 4870 512mb version. No real slow downs besides during the very late game when it can get a little sticky, but nothing too bad. I’ve had no crashes, and no other real problems.
As I suggested in the review, Impulse is quick, simple, and unintrusive to use. Don’t have any qualms about buying via it.
Stardock Software, perhaps most famous to the PC Gamer for publishing Sins of a Solar Empire and developing/publishing Galactic Civilisations is expanding, opening up a new games development studio. This really couldn’t come at a better time. With numerous developers jumping ship to the console crew, it’s great to see a quintessentially PC development outfit on the up, especially during the gloom of recession, providing 50 developers with a new place to go – given the number who’ve lost their jobs lately, such as the thousand or so from EA, they shouldn’t have a problem finding anyone.
The team is set to work on an “as-yet-unannounced RPG title”, which could be a breath of fresh air given the current diversity and ambition Stardock have shown with their current development and publishing history. Given Stardock’s emphasis on putting the customer first, the continued success of their publishing and development houses should hopefully demonstrate to other companies that their business model is a viable and profitable one, and one I truly hope they adopt.
Their current line-up is also expanding, with the new Sins of a Solar Empire expansion, Entrenchment set for release on February 11th, and if you can’t wait, pre-ordering gives you access to the beta via Impulse, Stardock’s highly rated, DRM light distribution platform (think Steam minus some of the restrictions – more on this in a day or two.) They’re also releasing the excellent looking Demigod, which you can again pre-order for Beta access.
Stardock is easily rising to the ranks of the PC gaming elite. Their refreshing attitude to business has paid off, and their expansion is set to put them on a path to continued greatness. They’re fast becoming one of the most important development and publishing outfits in the industry, and I cannot wait to see what they come up with next.
Expect a review of Ironclad/Stardock’s Sins of a Solar Empire mini-expansion within the next week or so.
Stardock’s Brad Wardell has spoken to Gamasutra (via videogaming247) and has revealed that his company plan on releasing a title in the first quarter of every year for the next five, or maybe even six years.
The Stardock CEO told Gamasutra:
“What we try to do is we want to release a title every first quarter of every year. For as far out as our schedule goes — that’s five or six years — there’s a game coming out.”
Which is a very good thing for us as Stardock are known for being very PC focused. Planned for release in February 2009 is Gas Powered Games hybrid RPG/RTS Demigod. Coming in February 2010 is Elemental: War of Magic the next game from the development team behind the Galactic Civilizations games.