A huge vast expanse called space; A huge vast army that you call your own; A huge vast amount of time that others might call a waste! But don’t listen to them, sit back and watch your weekend disappear in the blink of an eye!
If you have the time, say about five, you might want to give this game ago! Five minutes? I meant hours! This game is huge, so huge I am talking if this game had a cousin, twice removed, his name would be Supreme Commander!
I think it’s all about perspective, and reminds me of that poem in Fallout 2 that goes something a little like:
When the stars threw down their spears, And watered heaven with their tears, Did he smile his work to see? Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
From the poem, THE TYGER, By William Blake, if you're wondering!
And perspective is something this game is not short on. In fact the first mission, normally the easy one, designed to ease you into the controls takes a good 2 hours to complete. And that’s space for you! Imagine the television show “Star Trek”, and how they are able to travel vast distances in such a small amount of time. This game only quantifies that vast is really, really big!
So how do you get to distant solar systems, by phase jumping! In theory this is a great way to explain the distance problem. In practice, this is an awful way to play this game. The problem lies in the fact it becomes a bit of a chess game with checkers thrown in.
A big map, can have 100+ solar systems, all linked in a vast network. Also, if you are going to play this game, it should be as a multiplayer, but more on that later. The problem lies in the checker like movement of this game. I can have all my forces at the outer edge of my empire. But the enemy can still weave its way through my territory and all the way back to the home planet. If that wasn’t problematic enough, in single player mode the AI really exploits this.
It constantly attacks places you have just conquered or the previous one. This means that you have to move your forces, in what seems like an uphill struggle. There is no reprieve as you shuffle your forces, with what seems like insurmountable forces. Hey, like the next gamer I like the challenge, but this challenge soon wears thin.
Then there are the fighters, squadrons, and frigates. Or to be more specific, that any unit on the field is just as effective as each other. After playing for a while you notice that fighters and bombers have the same damaging effect on any ship. There just doesn’t seem to be any specific units. While this isn’t a huge problem, it just seems odd that bombers aren’t more effective than they should be. After a while, you understand this, and will only produce ships of a certain type, leaving all the others because there is little point.
Two other features of this game are the research screen and the black market screen. These are not new, of course the former advances the abilities of your empire. The latter is where you can buy, or sell, resources when you require them. Both had their own negative points, but aren’t really something to dwell on. The tech tree is confusing, and at times it doesn’t give you a clear linear path to the next advancement. While this isn’t a problem, you may require a few games under your belt before you understand it. The Black Market screen, in single player, is solely dependent on you. There seems to be no other traders on the black market, so if you buy, then the price goes up, if you sell it goes down.
This game is not a single player! This game was designed as a multiplayer game, and then it seems that they slapped something together as an afterthought. Even the story seems like something that isn’t to important. This is very evident from the way the game starts. You are presented with the game as if it was a skirmish scenario. You can pick and choose which levels you want to play, so there is no motivation to progress.
More than likely single players of this game will play a couple of levels to practice; from then on it will be LAN parties and Friends. As a result the story suffers for this reason, so don't expect one. The only worry I have, is that without the single player aspect, people may be less inclined to progress. And if they are less likely to progress, they will be less likely to play the multiplayer game.
That aside, this game will be only for the purely determined gamers of this genre. I don’t see it catching on, as people will not spend the time needed as they are too busy. Plus I just don’t believe that anyone can sit down and still come out healthy at the other end. But I bet that would be one fantastic battle! I even found it a bit of a struggle to play through some of the levels in this game. Also I have to admit that I skipped most of the small to medium scenario maps, going right to the large ones.
So Space and Time, all of a sudden this is sounding more and more like Star Trek. In my mind I can already hear Kirk/Picard spouting the famous split infinitive narration. But is it all bad?
No, because there are some really simple things, making this a great title. Firstly the control system, adapted well for this game. Much like Supreme Commander you are able to zoom completely out of the map. But has an even better rotational control, which means that battles look fantastic, especially when you can have a starry horizon in the background, which makes for a stellar wallpaper! (Apologies for the Pun!)
Then there is the fact that you don’t require the high specs for Supreme Commander. That been said, to power this game, you'll still require a good mid range computer. A quick glance at the readme file produces some alarming technical faults. It heavily suggests that you update all drivers and usual tips to increase performance. Plus some new ones, I’ve not seen before, but you won’t have discovered these until you have bought the game. What is even more concerning is the known Issues section.
Known Issues ------------ * If you're using Windows Vista, you MUST have speakers or headphones plugged in or the game will crash. * Folding@Home will cause the game to crash. Please exit the Folding application before playing. * If you have a USB Missile Launcher, please detach it before playing the game or it will crash the game.
Folding at home, even the ironing will cause a crash? And what’s this about a USB Missile Launcher? Which makes you wonder what else could crash the game? Thankfully I had no troubles with this title at all. But still, reading this raised one, possibly two, eyebrows. Especially when high street stores have a no return policy, mainly due to not knowing your PC’s specifications!
Even still I prefer Supreme Commander, as the games pace is more constant. While this game always has something going on, it can drag a little. So if your computer previously said, “Supreme Commander, haha, not a chance in hell!” this runner up, is worth a try. The next thing you need to do is sort out a friend to play with, some cables and a router. Which isn’t asking much, when you compare it to the fun you can have. Just remember to take breaks, for example living your life, eating, sleeping, and breathing!
Specifications taken from the Readme File To play Sins of a Solar Empire your PC will need to meet at least the following minimum requirements: Windows® XP SP2 / Windows Vista™ 1.8 GHz Single-Core Processor 512 MB RAM (1 GB for Windows Vista™) 128 MB 3D Video Card (Radeon 9600 / GeForce FX 6600 and above) DirectX 9.0c Compatible Sound Card DVD-ROM Drive (for the retail version) 3 GB Hard Drive Space Keyboard and Mouse (with a mouse wheel) DirectX 9.0c Note: GeForce 4 MX video cards are not supported.
To get the most from your play experience, we recommend you have: 2.2 GHz Dual- or Quad-Core Processor 1 GB RAM (2 GB for Windows Vista™) 256 MB 3D Video Card (Radeon X1600 / GeForce 7600 and above)