|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Ironclad||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Stardock||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 4, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 - Multiple Online||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Planets can be taken by force. That means that you're going to need a fleet of spaceships. A variety of ships can be amassed including motherships, frigates, transports, fighters, bombers, cargo, and capital ships. Various ships need to be deployed around each of your planets for defense. Each planet has a gravity well that acts as a protective barrier which precludes enemy ships from direct attacks.
Fleets can also be transported to other planets for the purpose of attacking. This can be a relatively slow process, so jump lanes have been introduced to streamline things. It's not an instant warp, as the path must be followed in a linear process. Once you arrive at your destination, you can opt to enter into battle automatically or manually. The CPU tallies your relative strength and positioning, and plays the battle out accordingly, similar to that of a turn-based battle. If you're severely overwhelmed by enemy forces, manually controlling the battle won't help you at all. It only feels as though you have the ability to do something.
So convincing is the A.I. that you will be hard pressed to differentiate between a real player. Not only does the enemy put up a good fight, but the other races that you interact with form dynamic relationships with you. If you piss them off, you're going to get burned down the line. On the other hand, if you help them out, either by assisting them in battle or giving them technologies, you can count on them to repay the debt, often without prompting. But unpredictability is also a part of human nature and the A.I. can form an alliance with another race and turn on you when you least expect it. It's all part of the game.
Space pirates are a non-playable race, but that doesn't mean they won't play you. These pirates will attack you randomly and can really do some damage to your fleet as well as your finances. The black market plays a large role for revenue sourcing. Surplus resources and commodities can be turned into cash which can be used to replenish the coffers from the pirate attacks, or used to pay for the bounty that you put on the other factions. This will cause the pirates to attack them instead, hopefully weakening them for an attack from you.
Even the smaller galaxies are huge, or maybe it just seems that way as it takes your fleet a long time to cross it. The planets are large and filled with detail. You are able to zoom in to the planet's surface to keep an eye on your colony and its industries. There isn't a lot of excess micromanagement, but it's nice to be able to focus on something specific and be allowed to tweak it. The menus and interface are relatively easy to use, although I suggest getting used to the Empire tree interface. It's collapsible, so interference with the graphics is minimal. The ships are well detailed and highlight each of the race's distinct attributes. The voiceovers may be a little trite, but the sound effects are realistic and powerful. The music is ambient and conveys a sense of majestic boundlessness.
Combining elements from different genres is a risky proposition, but Ironclad has managed to create a truly unique hybrid with Sins of a Solar Empire. It may leave purists of either genre confused, but it will undoubtedly cultivate a following of its own.
CCC Senior Writer