Sins of a Solar Empire: First Impressions

Sins of a Solar Empire came out this week. While I am a casual gamer and thus don’t typically buy new games right when they come out, there are a few reasons I picked this one up. First, it’s from Stardock, developers of the Galactic Civilization games (which I’m a big fan of). Stardock is also one of those neat companies that doesn’t treat its customers like criminals and makes it easy to download and play the games (no annoying DRM or CD copy protection come with the game). Given my feelings on DRM, it’s nice to find decent games to support, and Stardock’s user-friendly approach has earned them a free pass in my book. So I’ll buy anything even remotely interesting that they put out. Anyway, I bought the game and installed it this morning, so here are some initial thoughts and first impressions on the game:

  • The one annoyance with purchasing the game online was that I actually went for a subscription and then I had a little trouble finding the game in Stardock Central (which is their distribution software). Still not sure what happened there, but when I logged into the website, I could spend my tokens there, and then the game showed up in Stardock Central and I was on my way. Anyway, it looks like Stardock has been working on a replacement for Stardock Central called Impulse, and it looks neat. It’s supposed to be released within a few weeks, so perhaps I should have waited. Anyway, this is was only a minor speedbump on my way to downloading and installing the game (which took about 20 minutes total – not bad considering the size of the game).
  • Sins mixes some elements from Turn-Based 4X Strategy games like GalCiv II with Real-Time Strategy games like Starcraft and Command & Conquer. While I’ve played both types of strategy games (real-time and turn-based), I’m not really an expert, but it seems like an interesting concept and I look forward to exploring the gameplay a little more than I have.
  • Again, I’m a casual gamer, so it will probably take me a little longer get up to speed with the game’s mechanics. It does seem to have a steeper learning curve than the GalCiv games. Still, after playing for a little while, I think I’ve got a handle on the basics of gameplay and all the various stats and controls. The HUD is packed with lots of info, though I haven’t played enough to say whether or not it’s completely successful (but it’s not a disaster either, so that’s a definite plus). One of the things Stardock games are cool about is automating the tedius aspects of the game (for example, in GalCiv, you can designate “Governers” who automatically act to update the improvements of a planet… that way, you don’t have to manually do so). I haven’t played enough to find many of these features, and given that this game is now a RTS, I’ve already found myself surprised by events on other planets and frantically switching back and forth between them. But I’m still trying to figure out the lay of the land (er, lay of the starsystem? Whatever.)
  • The look and feel of the game is relatively consistent with GalCiv II, and it looks great. Naturally, there are lots of differences, and the game overall has better graphics (as you’d expect), but you can tell it’s coming from a similar lineage. Everything I’ve read about the game says it’s been developed by a gaming company called Ironclad and distributed by Stardock, but a lot of the features bear a resemblance to Stardock’s games, so I’m not sure what the deal is with that. But hey, it looks good.

    A Frigate

  • The game seems to be doing really well, despite having just come out and there being almost no “reviews” in the common publications. As they note: “After years of being told that PC gamers are really just console gamers but with different game controllers (mouse and keyboard) and that in-depth strategy was dying, we now have some conclusive evidence that no, that serious strategy games are alive and kicking. … People are buying this game sight unseen despite relatively little coverage, PC gamers so much want a real time strategy game that has 4X depth that they are going out, en masse to find out more about this game and buying it. “

Again, I haven’t gotten too far in the game, and am still trying to get my bearings, but it’s been a lot of fun and I’m really enjoying it. Hopefully, I’ll be able to put together a game example like I did for GalCiv II.