by: M.S. Smith
; edited by: Michael Hartman
; updated: 4/17/2012
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Sins of a Solar Empire was, in this reviewer's opinion, the best strategy game of 2008. It has been two years, however, and during those two years Ironclad has released two expansion packs. These are now bundled into a packaged called Trinity. How does Sins of a Solar Empire play today?
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Sins of a Solar Strategy Game
Sins of a Solar Empire: Trinity is the result of Ironclad's efforts since the original game, Sins of a Solar Empire, was released. It includes both expansion packs, Entrenchment and Diplomacy, both of which made significant changes to the way the game changes. Sins was originally released in early 2008, making it a two year old game. So, the question is obvious - is Sins still as great of an experience as it was two years ago, or has it aged poorly?
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Gameplay - Mechanics
Sins of a Solar Empire is a 4X real time strategy game. Players explore, expand, exploit and exterminate, but do so all in real time. The game achieves this through a very slow pace which allows players the time to think about their strategy in depth. If you're a twitch game, Sins of a Solar Empire is exactly the opposite of what you're looking for. Those who prefer to relax and think about the big picture, however, owe it to themselves to play Sins. All the familiar 4X mechanics, like research and colonization and production are present and are somewhat different for each of the game's three races.
That isn't to say that Sins doesn't have a tactical element, however. Many of the ships in Sins have special powers which, if managed correctly, can alter the course of battles. The pinnacle of this is the capital ship, a very tough unit with multiple powers which can be used in battle. Some are straight-forward damage dealers while others repair allies or debuff foes. The micro-management isn't too finicky, but it is enough to keep battles from turning into a numbers game.
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Sins of a Solar Empire: Trinity Edition PC Review - Gameplay - Single Player
Although the game's name, Sins of a Solar Empire, seems to allude to a grand story the game is actually lacking a campaign mode entirely. Single player simply consists of a skirmish mode against AI players. At first glance, this may seem to be a problem, but I think Sins made the right decision in this regards and continues to be right in their commitment against it. By deciding not to do a campaign, the developers have been able to focus all of their attention on the gameplay mechanics, the AI and the maps.
The AI is particularly important, and is one area where Sins has made continued strides over the years. The game's original AI was aggressive but predictable. The new AI is quite a bit more dynamic, but remains aggressive as well. The normal difficult is enough to give newer players a very stiff challenge, and hard lives up to its name. There is an even higher difficulty level for true pros. Playing against the AI on any difficultly is entertaining, and the Diplomacy expansion added an interesting dynamic in which players have to earn favor with other factions in order to use treaties which give special bonuses and to give AI players "missions" which are essentially bribes encouraging the AI to attack certain targets.
Maps are also diverse in both size and layout, which gives the game a significant amount of longevity. The map makers at Ironclad are clever, and the maps are designed in ways which promote different styles of play. Some favor turtles, while others favor sneak attacks or quick confrontations. This selection of maps is another example of why deciding against a campaign was good decision.
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Gameplay - Multi Player
Sins of a Solar Empire was built with multi-player in mind. The skirmish setup screens for multi-player are essentially the same as with single-player. Both co-op comp stomps and head-to-head team matches are very popular. On the whole, however, new players will probably be a little disappointing by Sin's multi-player if they go it alone. Sins has no match-making system - it isn't really optimized for small, one-on-one games anyway - and many of the players online a very experienced. The sheer length of the game is also a problem. Random players don't feel bad about quitting, and will often do so two hours into a game.
If you can find some friends to play with, however, Sins is an awesome multi-player experience. Because it is a large scale game there is a lot of benefit to teamwork. For example, one player might sit back and try to tech up to a game-ending weapon while the other two players go purely offensive in order to buy time. The multi-player seems very stable, with few players being disconnected because of sync issues. Also, you can save games and come back to them later, a feature which isn't very useful when playing with strangers but is a godsend when playing with friends.
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Graphics and Sound
Sins of a Solar Empire is a pretty nice game to look at, but not because of the amount of polygons on screen. In fact, most of your time in Sins will be spent zoomed far, far out, at which points ships and starbases are represented by simple 2D icons. The style of the game is very clean and consistent, however, giving the game a unique look. If you do zoom in you'll find that the game's artists did a good job with detailing the relatively low-polygon models and that each race in the game has a unique visual style.
Sound in the game is fairly middle of the road. The soundtrack can be pretty annoying at times, and the sounds of combat are the basic pew-pew. The game does communicate some important notices through sound, so it is important to have your speakers turned on.
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Sins of a Solar Empire is, on the whole, an incredible game. The only real weakness of the game is the fact that the game mechanics make this a poor game to player in multi-player against strangers. That's disappointing because it means you can't really play a multi-player game any time you want. You have to coordinate with friends, set up a time, etc. Of course, the benefit of this is that you'll be playing with friends, and Sins is a hell of a good time when you do so.
The expansions add a lot of value to this already great game. Trinity is selling for only $40 bucks, which means (if you deduct the costs of the expansions) you're receiving the original game for only $10. This is a great deal no matter how you look at it. Sins of a Solar Empire is a game with a lot of replay value, and gamers looking for an epic strategy game which isn't overly complex (Hearts of Iron 3, I'm looking at you). Unless you're a twitch gamer easily bored by slow pacing, Sins of a Solar Empire: Trinity is a must-have.