Sins of a Solar Empire beta diary: Part One

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Sins of a Solar Empire - Image 1Welcome to the first of a series of Sins of a Solar Empire beta diaries. In this series of articles, we're going to tackle the game from the perspective of various types of gamers (the casual, the techie, and the hard-core strategy nuts) as a form of beta diary with our general impressions on the beta. In this particular post, we're going to check out how the casual gamer may possibly experience the game.

After checking out the slew of basic tutorials, this writer decided to check out one of the single-player games, the Random-Tiny mode.

Solar Empire's graphics are exceptionally crisp: when zoomed out, the space may seem as if it's a bit too empty for a galaxy, but once the camera is zoomed into a heavenly body, that's when players get to appreciate the details given to each planet, asteroid, and star that can be conquered.

Speaking of zooming, Solar Empire's zoom-to-cursor function is a bit intimidating at first: a few rolls on the mouse wheel easily sends the camera POV hurtling forward a few light years away. Thankfully the feature can be disabled at will, but in my case I managed to get used to it in a few minutes or so.

Admittedly, the first few seconds of gameplay were spent staring at the screen blankly, trying to figure out what to do next, strategy-wise. Cruise around in the universe first? Or improving the home planet's defenses? The answer is quite obvious.


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Banner - Image 1 


Sins of a Solar Empire - Image 1Welcome to the first of a series of Sins of a Solar Empire beta diaries. In this series of articles, we're going to tackle the game from the perspective of various types of gamers (the casual, the techie, and the hard-core strategy nuts) as a form of beta diary with our general impressions on the beta. In this particular post, we're going to check out how the casual gamer may possibly experience the game.

After checking out the slew of basic tutorials, this writer decided to check out one of the single-player games, the Random-Tiny mode.

Solar Empire's graphics are exceptionally crisp: when zoomed out, the space may seem as if it's a bit too empty for a galaxy, but once the camera is zoomed into a heavenly body, that's when players get to appreciate the details given to each planet, asteroid, and star that can be conquered.

Speaking of zooming, Solar Empire's zoom-to-cursor function is a bit intimidating at first: a few rolls on the mouse wheel easily sends the camera POV hurtling forward a few light years away. Thankfully the feature can be disabled at will, but in my case I managed to get used to it in a few minutes or so.

Admittedly, the first few seconds of gameplay were spent staring at the screen blankly, trying to figure out what to do next, strategy-wise. Cruise around in the universe first? Or improving the home planet's defenses? The answer is quite obvious.

So a considerable amount of minutes were spent amassing forces and fortifying defenses around the home planet. There are many things to be considered when building ships/cruisers/frigates and tactical structures: the resources (Metal, Crystal, Credits), and Planet Development. Not letting the many action icons intimidate me, I just went ahead and built my own mini-fleet.

One capital ship, one light factory, one Gauss defense platform, two frigates and three cruisers later, I decided to launch an expedition to other planets. Preparations for a phase jump (that's when ships slowly leave the planet's ring of gravity before "jumping" to another planet or asteroid) seemed to take forever, made even worse by the anticipation of exploring other planets.

Not surprisingly, our fleet encountered the new planet's local army. It's a fleet that matched the numbers of my own expedition fleet: about four cruisers, but surprisingly my mini-army didn't have any troubles decimating the enemy.

I couldn't help but feel that the battle was a bit on the easy side. Could it be a fluke, or was the game just a tad easy? Checking out the Sins of a Solar Empire official forums revealed that I'm not alone in thinking that way, with some of the posters wondering out loud: where's the AI? The possibility of getting an ego-boost was then crushed. And for a casual gamer, that means a lot.

But then again, considering that we're in beta after all, what we're seeing and experiencing could be far from what the game will be like once the retail version comes out.

I was in the middle of greedily setting up metal and crystal extractors and building structures on my newly-colonized planet (such a shame that Sins of a Solar Empire doesn't deal with in-planet politics, just between empires), when my home planet was suddenly besieged by raiders.

Panicking a bit, I zoomed-to-cursor towards home base, and found a couple of pirate ships checking out my home planet, throwing some pirate-talk as they go (ahr, mateys). My capital ship and two frigates took care of the pirate problem, and all was safe. Again, the battle was a tad easy for something in Normal mode.

I managed to conquer about one planet and two other asteroids before ended my first sitting with the game. It was pretty fun for the most part (other times were spent fidgeting in my seat as I impatiently waited for my fleet to complete the phase jumps, while enemy forces besieged my empire).

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After my first session with Solar Empire, I had to ask myself this question: will casual gamers grow to love Sins of a Solar Empire from the get-go? It's going to be a "yes" and "no": the in-depth gameplay that Solar Empire offers is nothing short of fantastic - expect some tricky politics involved between planetary empires (but as I earlier mentioned not within the same planet), and frantic action when dealing with more than one enemy empire in one game.

The complexity of the game may throw casual gamers and first-timers off, with some finding the length of the tutorial modes too tedious. However, the entire tutorial is divided into different categories, thus making the information overload easier to chew on.

Did I enjoy the game? I sure did, despite this being my first time trying my hand on a galactic-scale real-time 4X strategy game. It even piqued my interest in strategy titles, which is saying a lot coming from a casual gamer mindset. From the looks of things developers Ironclad Games and Stardock have in their hands a big winner, so to them: keep it up, guys!

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