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Sins of a Solar Empire: Entrenchment - Additions
Sins of a Solar Empire has always been about massive, immersive combat and empire management in the cold expanses of space. The back stories of the three primary factions - TEC, Advent, and Vasari - have generally been minimized in favor of presenting three powerful, mostly unique factions to do battle across multiple star systems.
Sins of a Solar Empire: Entrenchment expands upon each faction's unique tendencies to further diversify the best strategies to employ while seeking dominance in space. The addition of the starbases is the primary vehicle for this diversification and in truth serves as the primary innovation in Entrenchment. There are a few added defensive structures and the tech tree has been slightly tweaked, but aside from that and the ability to lay minefields (which the AI uses a LOT) the starbases steal the show.
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Entrenchment Starbases - One for Each Faction
The TEC starbase is a robust box floating in space. It isn't pretty, but what it lacks in aesthetics it makes up for with survivability and force multiplication capabilities. The TEC starbase is a capable combat platform and can be upgraded to carry beam weapons and large squadrons of strike fighters. It is the hardiest of the starbases, and boasts an impressive hit point total when fully upgraded. Most importantly, the TEC starbase can carry shipbuilding, trading, and governmental modules that effectively transform it into a full blown colony in its own right.
The Advent starbase takes a different tact - in line with the Advent's aesthetic appeal and their dedication to the manipulation of matter via telepathic means the Advent Entrenchment starbase can be upgraded to provide both psychic weaponry and psychic control of meteors, comets, and other solid bodies floating in space. Heavily armed with beam weaponry, the Advent starbase looks quite a bit like Deep Space Nine and when upgraded to be able to manipulate meteors can simply eviscerate attacking fleets.
The Vasari starbase in Entrenchment is the most unique design. Alien in appearance and capable of being upgraded to hold colony pods in order to boost the fugitive Vasudan's population, the primary standout factor of the Vasari starbase is that it can move. Not quickly, but it can move. Where TEC and Advent starbases must be carefully placed to either intercept opposing ships passing through a system or to guard a planet itself, Vasari starbases can fly anywhere within the system of their construction.
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Sins of a Solar Empire: Entrenchment - Graphics and Sound
Sins of a Solar Empire is not a game designed to showcase audio or visual innovations, but its ability to deliver an immersive and oftentimes gorgeous gaming experience has made it the Homeworld of its time - an incredible space based strategy game that can heavily tax older processors. Fortunately, Sins runs very well at its highest graphics settings on even modest multi core systems. I run the game on an AMD quad core with each core at around 2.5 ghz, and a video card that is quite capable but doesn't require an external power source like many of the newer beasts. Considering the whole system cost about $600, I'd call it squarely mid-range. I only experience a framerate drop with Sins when the ship counts get up near the maximum and I zoom in to watch a battle close up.
Soundwise, Sins gets the job done. You won't benefit from surround sound while playing this game, but the music is a set of pleasing orchestral compositions and the sound effects are well done. My only complaint: the Vasari voiceover sounds like a truck pouring gravel.
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Entrenchment - Overall Impression
You won't find any major innovations or departures from the original Sins of a Solar Empire formula, but the Entrenchment expansion is an excellent upgrade to the original title that will let even the most jaded Sins gamer have a few hundred more hours enjoyment managing a far flung space empire. The starbase additions work very well, and although the addition of these defensive fortifications plus minefields and some added anti-fighter tweaks to the existing defensive structures for each faction could have slowed down the gameplay, the starbases fit perfectly into the existing Sins formula.
Effectively, Entrenchment provides a disincentive to rush too hard or too fast, lest your fleet rush right into a system that is dominated by a fortification more than capable of swatting aside smaller fleets. The starbases and overall defensive boost for each faction means that Sins games are longer and more varied than ever.