The beta diary series for Stardock and Ironclad Games' 4X strategy title Sins of a Solar Empire has finally ended - sadly, of course - and we can't help but look back at what we've gone through so far.
The three of us - Enrico S., Charles D., and yours truly - decided to divvy up the reviews by gamer types: the casual, the hardcore strategist, and the techie. It yielded quite interesting results, to say the least. For one, we managed to find out that yes, it was possible for a casual gamer to enjoy a 4X game (all together now everyone: Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate) without having to bore themselves and resort to twiddling thumbs.
Granted, there were some issues in the game while we tested the Beta 3 build of Sins of a Solar Empire, but casual gamers who are interested enough in fiddling with a 4X game will never run out of ways to enjoy it. How? Aside from testing the game out of a sense of novelty, a casual gamer playing SoaSE for the first time will find it not so overwhelming as expected. After all, there's quite the plethora of tutorials available to aid the not-so-experienced player.
But personally, the most appealing thing so far was being able to freely roam across the small patch of universe, and eventually widen the scope of influence by jumping to neighboring planets and colonizing them.
Of course, attaining an above-average mastery of the game doesn't happen overnight, and those testing the 4X waters should be thankful for strategy nuts like Enrico for putting up guides, such as his handy article about putting together a good "strike package" for attacking opposing forces.
So what about these strike packages? Simply put, they are well-balanced ship combinations that are most useful in either decimating opposing forces or defending territories. It's simply useful for people like me, who don't know heads or tails about how to assemble a decent fleet.
However, even the most competent and functional cluster of ships may have a hard time keeping up with the obligatory evil alien race, the Vasari. Compared to the Trade Coalition, whose method of acquiring territories mostly involves accumulating vast amounts of wealth, the Vasari just goes around blowing stuff up. True, it is a more direct way of conquering planets, of course. But still, it's hard to outdo Charles and his penchant for spamming missile fleets.
And then we go on to the technical aspect of the diaries, which also lightly touch on Sins of a Solar Empire's game strategy - or more importantly, how the changes in the game altered the mechanics. Of course, going technical wouldn't be complete without delving into SOSE's minimum PC specifications.
One of the first few things that were noticed technical-wise was the game's AI being easy to defeat - too easy, in fact - to the point that the game was won without having to fire a single shot, only a few seconds after the map loaded.
However, the game is in beta phase after all, and several revisions were made as soon as Sins of a Solar Empire's Beta 4 phase was rolled out, including the addition of the Vasari Empire, whose uber-powerful weapons initially created some gameplay balancing issues.
Sins of a Solar Empire certainly started out sound technical-wise, but of course nothing can please everyone instantly. Other beta testers in SoaSE's official forums have asked for some improvements, as well as gameplay additions, which Charles fortunately had the foresight to enumerate in a wish list based on the most common beta tester requests posted in the forums.
The list included important and useful suggestions, such as graphical improvements, and even letting the ships move around frenetically while in combat, ala Star Wars. Hey, we'd love to see that too, so thumbs up to that suggestion.
So after playing the game for some time, both in single-player campaigns and in multiplayer combat, how do we feel about the game so far? I can certainly agree with Enrico when he said that the game is already well made in its early state, as he enumerated his expectations from Sins of a Solar Empire.
At the same time, however, we also agree that are also several things that need to be improved on in the game, most of them stated in Charles' compiled beta tester Sins of a Solar Empire wishlist.
More importantly, we experienced something that should already be inclusive of every game that comes our way: fun. Regardless whether you are a techie, an armchair strategist, or a casual gamer who just happened to wander into the realm of RTS and 4X, Stardock and Ironclad Games' Sins of a Solar Empire will never fail to deliver what's most important in each and every game.