Review

Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion Review (PC)

When I last looked at Sins of Solar Empire: Rebellion, I may have perhaps spent a bit too much time bemoaning the franchises lost potential. Whilst I stand by all that I said, the same won’t be happening here. Having spent time with the final review build of the game, it’s clear though that some of my initial (on-topic) thoughts were right on the mark: this is the ultimate version of Sins of a Solar Empire, this is a very good 4X space strategy game, even on its own, and it’s going to be a real shame to see Ironclad moving on.

Of course, the problem with recently previewing a game so late in the development cycle is that almost immediately you find yourself repeating what’s already been said so apologies if it seems like you’ve heard this all before (because you probably have). The core gameplay of Sins of Solar Empire has always been relatively simple on the outset, but something that gradual expands to get more and more complex. You start off with one planet, and from there you need to scout out other planets, colonise them, build infrastructure (all the buildable buildings are space based), create fleets and defend your territory against all invaders... usually by attacking first. You have ‘Civilian’ and ‘Military’ tech trees (although subsequent expansions have divided that up further, such as offense and defence, civilian and diplomacy, etc...), and you can also conduct diplomacy with other races and neutral pirates (set bounty, trade agreements, alliances and so forth). The more you expand and the more ‘frontiers’ you create, the more complicated things get. Thank god for the pause button.

As always, the cinematic mode makes the action that much more engaging

As stated elsewhere, Rebellion represents the biggest overhaul and improvement to the game. On top of the usual fare of new ships, new techs, new options etc... Ironclad have divided each individual faction into two sub-factions, each that represent a certain racial theme allowed for in the backstory. The Vasari Rebels want to work more with other races whilst the loyalists want to exploit them even more, The Advent is split between revenge against the TEC, and routing out what it perceives as corruption from within, and even the TEC themselves are split between isolation and aggression. What this means in gameplay terms is that, in addition to the race specific techs and units, you also get techs associated with each faction. Each faction also gets access to their own unique class of Titan – the new class in the game (there’s also a new frigate/small ship, plus a new capital ship for each race).

The evolution of Sins of Solar Empire as a game is accumulative rather than iterative. On their own, the previous ‘micro’ expansions did little to change the main gameplay, only enhance it, and in some ways the same is true for Rebellion. True, it’s the biggest expansion to date and does the most to enhance and improve on the game, but the comparison between the original game and Rebellion is greater than the comparison between, say, the Trinity edition and Rebellion. In a way, this means that this is the best version for newcomers to jump in – all of the improvements and enhances are all there from the get go, without the need for patching or even the need to own the previous games because it’s stand-alone. It’s the best use of a stand-alone expansion we've seen to date.

Starbases remain a powerful defensive tool, where they are placed

You may wonder why I haven’t mentioned the multiplayer yet – to be honest there’s no need. It’s the part of the game that’s changed the least overall, because it doesn’t really need to. You just play a match like you normally would locally, except open it up to other players across the internet, much like any Paradox internal title actually, just without the reliance so much on direct IP connections. Interestingly enough, when we spoke to one of the Ironclad leads when we were previewing the game he mentioned that their data suggested a lot of people didn’t bother with multiplayer anyway.

A thought must still be spared for the things that you know are not going to be addressed now, at least, not until they decided whether or not to make a Sins of a Solar Empire 2. The lore or the ‘story’ part of the game is what I’m thinking of, especially (just what the hell are the Vasari running from?). The torch now passes well to newcomers like Endless Space and Gemini Wars, so hopefully they’ll be able to carry the genre forward. A wonderful last hurrah though, as expansions go. With the new ships and tech, the internal divisions along with everything else, there’s hundreds more hours of fun to eek out of this game.

Top Game Moment: There’s really only one thing that matters in this game: Total Victory.

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Comments

By lichlord (SI Core) on Jun 12, 2012
lichlord
im getting this after my exams game is fun loads of mods and MP can be fun if their are friendly peeps around and we agree to a no rush situation
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jun 12, 2012
herodotus
I'm teetering, as some reviews basically list the improvements over the previous construct (base game with expansions) as being somewhat important only to the hardcore, and while Ironclad claim to have overhauled the graphics engine one reviewer has stated that it basically looks the same:

"Outside of the lack of a singleplayer campaign, about the only criticism that could be levelled at Rebellion is that it’s not much of a looker anymore." - PCGamer.

I wonder if it is better to hold off and see what comes of "Endless Space" as the other contender, "Gemini Wars" flopped badly. I know $30 ($40 without owning any previous versions) isn't a tall asking price these days, it's still quite a bit for what is essentially still an Expansion.

Then again, the Mods that will be forthcoming (particulalrly the "Star Wars" and "Star Trek" total conversions) will create whole new experiences.
What to do, what to do. Aw hell, I'll go see for myself. "Hi Stardock, here is my wallet...."
By JustCommunication (SI Core) on Jun 13, 2012
JustCommunication
Well, the graphics are the best they've ever been I think. Now, compared to other games it's still not that great, but it's not exactly an eye-sore or anything, you know?

The core engine hasn't really changed, they've just tried to add in more effects etc... new models maybe...

But yeah, it does basically look the same, much like it basically plays the same.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jun 14, 2012
herodotus
Well I've spent several hours with it now, and after putting in a couple of hundred with the original I have to say it's like starting all over again. That's a good thing. I can see myself approaching the game in a very different way this time around, and while there is much debate raging on the forums regarding Balance, this really only applies to MP and I don't play that.
Re-playing the Tutorials after 4 years is something I strongly advise anyone who has been away from the series to run through, as the subtle additions and changes will quickly become apparent. It will probably change many a gamer's previous strategy as well...I know it will with me.
The visuals look great, there's no denying it and with 50+ ships meeting and equal force in a planetary system it's probably good they are not too taxing. Hopefully though when there is a true sequel to the game, it will utilise DX11 effects.
Aside from one minor bug in the interface (clicking on "Cinematic On" and "Zoom to Cursor" locks them and cannot be switched back without manually doing so from the Menu) it's looking good.
The price point is questionable though if you own "Trinity". $30 is a tall order, so if you own both expansions to the base game I'd strongly advise holding off for a better deal down the line. The CE looks interesting, and will be coming at a discounted price for those who've already bought the game - how much of a discount remains to be seen.

One last thing, and it might affect purchase by some gamers. ""Rebellion" requires Steamworks to run, and while it may be bought from GameStop/Impulse and elsewhere you will simply be directed to Steam (or given their HTML with the latter). If you don't like Steam, then hard luck.
By Kres (SI Elite) on Jun 14, 2012
Kres
This will be bought for the weekend! This or the next one. In any case, getting this. I found previous SoSE a bit dull after some time. Had some replay value, but I had very little incentive to finish the map. I'm glad this one is good and enhanced. Might be just what I needed.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jun 14, 2012
herodotus
Re-start with Tutorials, Kres and I think you'll find yourself falling for this one all over again with a fresh approach. I remember getting jaded with the original quite quickly and once you've amassed a few big fleets (with Pirates turned OFF, as you should do with all your early games) then it was just a planet grind to the end. It feels like a fresh new game, unless you have "Trinity" and have spent a lot of time with the two micro-expansions (I only have "Entrenchment" and spent no time with it).

Then there are the Mods to look forward to.:)
Hope your Paradox-Built PC doesn't crash on you....guffaw!
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jun 14, 2012
SirRoderick
And with The recommendation of Tywin Lannister, I'm going to do the same thing I think. I had pretty much the exact same ewperience with the original, so lets have a go at it then.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jun 14, 2012
herodotus
Each Faction is now made up of two sub-factions and whereas the original put many a hardcore 4X gamer off (and smothered many more new to the genre) as it was "combat-heavy", Diplomacy has been better tweaked, new Tech options added so there are several ways to complete the end game, which before was sadly lacking. "Entrenchment" basically made turtling more appealing with the almost indestructible Starbases and minefields, but the former are now countered by Titans and the new Capital ships and Corvettes all Factions have really make a difference. On higher difficulties, the updated AI becomes more apparent, as well.

This is "SoaSE" as comlpete as it can be (without a SP Campaign which it begs for, rich as the Lore is), but there will be some tweaking through patches to keep the 'fans' (or whingers, as some call them) happy.
The new visuals won't immediatly be noticeable, but there is new shadowing on ships and they themselves have better textures. Added to the the new weapon and warping effects it lokks pretty darn good.
Don't think you'll be sorry, guys as this is as close to being the best a space-based RTS can be at the moment (unless of course by some miracle "Homeworld 3" is announced....sigh).
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jun 16, 2012
SirRoderick
Alright, I splurged on it....and the next thing I knew I'd played a 3,5 hour game without even noticing. This really has gotten more engaging!
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jun 16, 2012
herodotus
It'll suck you in as it has me, Roderick far more than the original did and I spent many hours on that one. There is just so much in this package I'm still sorting through only the tip of the iceberg. Next I think I'll play a game where protecting your Titan is the endgame objective, if those pesky Pirates don't get too greedy and double deal me. See what the Vesari Loyalists can do with their whole levelling planets strategy...bugger the diplomacy:)
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jun 16, 2012
SirRoderick
I tried the Vesary loyalists on for size, you can play a normal game just fine, but that option to just abandon planets altogether and turn into a migrant fleet was pretty powerful. I had everything I needed without giving the enemy a target that wouldn't fight back. You just need a lot of capital ships for it to work though.

I ended up living on the shredded planets of my enemies, which I conquered with my fleet of Capital ships. Just warped in with my titan, about eight capital ships and a few support vessels . Killed everything, colonised the planet, tore it apart for resources and moved on. The only stationary resources I still had were a handful of phase stabilisers and my capital planet, pumping out ships constantly.

I like this faction!
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jun 16, 2012
herodotus
I'm hoping you're enjoying the game, old friend (old Grandpa Lannister would have to go far North if he'd failed in his recommndation:p). I was very dubious myself before plunging in but am happy I did. Can only imagine what Mods will further enhance the experience, let alone what Ironclad themselves will add in future patches.
Even subtle changes as with the battles themselves are great. Before, every fleet just lined up in Napoleonic fashion and battered each other, with fighters and bombers darting around. Now Corvettes race in and out of the lines doing hit-and-runs and it's a marvelous siight to behold. Titan taking on a Stabase - majestic and very satisfying.
When the blood cools, might try for a Diplomatic victory but that could be some time yet:)

Ps. Just finished watching Season 2 of "GoT" - I'm hooked, damn your eyes! Next, the books:)
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jun 16, 2012
herodotus
Hence your name, Chosen. You ARE the Chosen One:)
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jun 16, 2012
SirRoderick
I have to say, I like the Vasari...but I'm still a TEC man. I cannot say no to that no-nonsense approach of our rugged Human race. Get in, fire a few thousand tons of ordonance at the enemy and set up a souvenir stand for the tourists :P
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jun 16, 2012
herodotus
I started a TEC man, but the Vesari ships are just so sexy. One day, old man we might have to have a MP showdown.
By Kres (SI Elite) on Jun 17, 2012
Kres
Bought. 30 EUR damn! Gonna download and give it a go.
By lichlord (SI Core) on Jun 17, 2012
lichlord
im ussually a Vasari guy started playing with pirates on have to say the game feels diffrent from diplomacy resource rates also feel diffrent i get less then i used to the Factions are nice and they have each their own uniqueness added theirs one to aim for coop/peace and other aimed for warfare its hard but after i can get some starbases running at my borders i can push on with a good feeling of not gettint yanked from the back the titans are awesome dangerous ships to cross with i found that countering these you need a heck of firepower if its low lvl you can take it down easy like on mid upgraded starbase but when its lvled up oh my... then the fun only begins :P
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jun 17, 2012
herodotus
You're right Lich, Titans really come into their own once they've levelled. Then they are a fleet unto themselves. Expensive to build, but worth their weight in Gold and Crystal.
Hope you enjoy yourself, Kres (30 Euros is a fair whack - I paid USD $29). I am enjoying this far more than I did the original when it came out, and I was well into it. Just so much more to do now, and the endgame is not just a tiresome grind.

I see on ModDB there is already advanced progress made on the "Sins of a Galactic Empire" Total Conversion for "Rebellion, if you're into "Star Wars". The previous versions have been brilliant. There is also early work beig done with an info page on a "Stargate Universe" Total Conversion if you're interested:
http://www.moddb.com/mods/sgu-mod

The great thing with these TC's is that you can turn each one on and off at will in the game's Main Menu.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jun 17, 2012
SirRoderick
I'm definitely keeping an eye out for good mods, no doubt about it.
By lichlord (SI Core) on Jun 17, 2012
lichlord
also the new techs are great vasari starbases able to phase jump makes a great assault base and the TEC twin bases makes a hardcore defence with mines allong youl need the titan XD

anyways i love star wars hardcore fan of it with the new rebellion faction split i hope they will add the clone wars era factions too if not a other faction on itself
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jun 17, 2012
herodotus
Well they added another Faction (forget the name) with their last release for "Entrenchment" and "Trinity" and the CIS and Empire were playable. There was also the Old and the New Republics so I'm guessing that yes there will be The Clone Wars era. Look forward to my Venator Class Star Destroyer going to-to-to with the "Malevolence".
@Chosen_One
There is a new feature coming to SI that may just be help out with that.....
By Kres (SI Elite) on Jun 20, 2012
Kres
Ok so bought it and played it. Dunno guys, I still get the dull feeling after a while. As soon as I see that I may win, I'd stop playing. Could just be a problem with me. Though so far I didn't won one match lol. But playing it on very hard. But I presume that the feeling would still be there. In case I see I'm winning, I'd surely stop. Heh

And yeah Herod, was supposed to be published couple of days ago. So we are nearly done :)
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jun 20, 2012
herodotus
That's good news about the new feature, Kres. It will be popular.
As for "Rebellion", try the VC where you have a Titan that you must protect...I hear it's pretty good. The AI is also supposed to be very good on the Hard setting, but I haven't tried that yet myself. Wait for the Mods if you're still getting no joy, especially the Total Conversions. Incredible just how much they change the game, apart from the obvious.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jun 20, 2012
SirRoderick
The Hard setting is pretty good actually. No blatant cheating that I can tell and it definitely keeps the pressure up. I was fighting for every lightyear of territory ^^
By Kres (SI Elite) on Jun 20, 2012
Kres
Yeah "Hard" setting. Did you win any of those?
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jun 20, 2012
SirRoderick
I did actually, yesterday I did one with 4 players on a medium sized map. All hard CPUs, won by the skin of my teeth. My main fleet was constantly recovering from fending off invasions as I'm pretty sure two of my opponents spawned as aggressors. (I keep behaviours on random). That Novalith cannon was the deciding factor in the end.

Oh and if you want a more manageable game, try putting all the Hard CPUs to non-combat focused behaviousr. It helps.
By Kres (SI Elite) on Jun 20, 2012
Kres
I mostly played with locked teams. 2v2v2 or so. No no, I enjoy when it is more difficult. A greater challenge that I've yet to punch through. :) and also like team based play. Can be CPU oh well
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jun 20, 2012
SirRoderick
I only ever play FFA actually ^^

I like to have alliances from during the game itself, which they actually do in this game.
By Kres (SI Elite) on Jun 20, 2012
Kres
Unfair! Damn :)

Was planning on doing locked FFA next. Making and breaking alliances, pirates, just annoyance x)
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jun 20, 2012
SirRoderick
And I actually get rid of pirates...I find them more annoying than anything else really.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jun 20, 2012
herodotus
Hmm, must set up up a 2v2 and 4v4 later today, test out the alliances (it's 2am and I don't think my dim wits would match the AI on Unfair). Bloody Pirates are a nuisance for me, and while I can sometimes get them to side with me, for a hefty sum they mostly just trash anything less than a medium sized fleet with a few Capitals. Mostly turn them off, until I get more comfortable with the game again.
Just finishing watching an old Sci-Fi classic "Screamers" with Peter Weller, then might have a look at "Red Planet" again since it's been a few years. Damn these sleepless nights, and I'm not even in Seattle:(

Just noticed the first "Rebellion" mod go up on SI as well, which appears to have originated from ModDB:
http://www.strategyinformer.com/pc/sinsofasolarempirerebellion/mod/44318.html

There are presently 4 Mods on ModDB, only the one uploaded to SI completed though:
http://www.moddb.com/games/sins-of-a-solar-empire-rebellion/mods
By JustCommunication (SI Core) on Jun 20, 2012
JustCommunication
That's the oddest thing about Sins of a Solar Empire - the mod community behind hasn't really done much. There's a couple of big mods finished, but a lot are still in the works. Unless I've missed something, modders just haven't really done much with the game.
By JustCommunication (SI Core) on Jun 20, 2012
JustCommunication
I imagine most of the Rebellion mods will be completed mods for previous versions, just updated.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jun 20, 2012
herodotus
There were quite a few smaller Mods for the original "Sins" and Maps, but the interest focused on Total Conversions after that so yes JC the number is pretty small. However, unlike a lot of other other games where Mods are many all of these are quality. Some will be upgrades of existing Mods, some will be enhancements of the new additions to "Rebellion". Niche game, niche modding community.
By Kres (SI Elite) on Jun 21, 2012
Kres
So played FFA on hard and things were going all alright. 56 planets, 1 star (btw a little bit funny astronomical inconsistency; stone age astronomy). I played as Advent and in the end 3 races left. I had 40% of the "star system", 10% another race, and Vasari had 50%. Now I had a strong fleet and kept trying to destroy Vasari fleet but they were able to overpower my high level capital ships with half the smaller fleet. We both had a titan, but I had much more capital ships and more cruisers. Seems totally unbalanced. Seemed like whatever I throw at them, couldn't do a thing. Not sure if it's because of their fighter/bomber support cause they had decent sum of those. But I built anti fighter cruisers to counter that. But was all in vain. So I could only give up :p
By Kres (SI Elite) on Jun 21, 2012
Kres
Well could've dried them out a bit by retreating 2 planets away and slowing them down with starbases, then attacking them. And well, doing a different setup of the forces. But just felt unreal. We had same full tech level.

Though at that point, with their force, I don't think that starbases did enough damage. And they would retreat if I came with my force.
By Kres (SI Elite) on Jun 21, 2012
Kres
Yes it seems that carriers are good. Advent don't have any super weapon... Kind of like playing with them. I'll try TEC today. Don't like Vasari for their "perks". They're all mostly not what I would go for.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jun 21, 2012
herodotus
Ah Kres, snap! Been there myself. Always remember the very first strategy that this title promoted in Developer Diaries. Create two large fleets, one obviously yourt main fleet or primary. When you encounter a larger or equivalent fleet (through the sending out of scouts) send in your secondary fleet to a planet nearby or to the system itself where the enemy is. Once they become engaged send in your primary to the system you want to take if it is else where, or to hit the rear of this already engaged enemy via a different route. Just have to hope they don't have the same strategy in mind.
The only complaints of imbalance that I've read of concern the Vesari being weaker in some aspects, so I don't know about the Advent (and rarely play them). Avent has good anti-ship strucural corvette I believe - I'd be boosting my fleet with 4 of those, add two carriers, bulk up with missile cruisers and level up your Titan. Short of meeting those pesky pirates, should be able to take down anything. Secobdary fleet: a few Capitol ships, four corvettes, 20 cruisers and a mix of frigates.
Usually have three fleets going myself. My primary, secondary (going in from either side of the map) and a firefighter fleet to rush around the rear putting out spot fires where the enemny might try a probing attack.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jun 21, 2012
SirRoderick
Two fleets generally. The main one concentrating most of the capitals/titan firepower with plenty of cruisers and some support ships, the secondary fleet is mainly frigate-based with a few cruisers and a single capital.

Oh and I'm pretty sure the Advent have a super-gun, it causes a spike of culture I think.
By lichlord (SI Core) on Jun 22, 2012
lichlord
yeah Advent supremacy is in cultural expansion which have its perks ships fighting in it gets more Antimatter /s and a tech to grant vision on planets with their culture so they aren't easily ambushed in a trap at all the secondary strength is their Fighter/bomber drone animas do no underestimate it they can get a horde of those easily since even their starbases already start with 2 of em en all cap ships will have at least 2 squads too so if a advent advesary is in the game make those damn fighter hunters and make them in hordes lol
By Kres (SI Elite) on Jun 23, 2012
Kres
Yeah though those don't really feel like super weapons hehe. Didn't even try to build them. Going to do another round. And spam carriers.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jun 23, 2012
herodotus
It's noted in my diary as is "Endless Space" which has been likened by many to "Civilisation" in space, but by beta testers with long histories of playing these games as closer to "Masters of Orion". Exciting times for those who enjoy space-based stretegy, while still longing for "Homeworld 3".
"Legends of Pegasus" actually reminds me more of "Haegmonia: Legions of Iron", and even "Nexus: The Jupiter Incident" so far (not a bad thing at all). It will be interesting see to more of it.
Thanks for the link, Chosen.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jun 23, 2012
herodotus
Ps. Kalypso stole their UI and in-game menus from SI:)
By Impaler (SI Newbie) on Aug 12, 2012
Impaler
Let me know when u gonna play some MP, and I'll join :-)