Sins of a Solar Empire
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Sins of a Solar Empire is a science fiction real-time strategy computer game developed by Ironclad Games and published by Stardock Entertainment for Microsoft Windows operating systems. Sins is a real-time strategy (RTS) game that incorporates some elements from 4X strategy games; promotional materials describe it as "RT4X." The game was released on February 4, 2008, its first content expansion titled Entrenchment was released as a download on February 25, 2009, and its second content expansion titled Diplomacy was released as a download on February 9, 2010. A package that combines the original game with the two expansions was released at that time with the name Sins of a Solar Empire: Trinity.
Sins of a Solar Empire is a space-bound game. The playing field is a 3D web of planets and other celestial objects in the orbital plane of one or more stars. It features a sandbox mode, allowing the player to choose different types of solar systems to unlock achievements. Players can conquer neighboring planets and explore distant star systems in a "massively scaled, fully 3D environment featuring entire galaxies, orbiting planets, clusters of asteroids, space dust and radiant stars." Notably, there is no single-player campaign mode, but games can be played against opponents offline and other players online. Ironclad Director Blair Fraser asserted that the game's "Iron engine" is specially designed with new technologies that allow it to handle very large differences in size, scale, and distance.
Resources and structures
Sins of a Solar Empire has three main resources to gather: Credits, Metal, and Crystal. Credits are the general currency used by the three races in the game, and are gained by completing missions, collecting bounties, creating a trade network, and taxing planets. Metal is the most common resource in the game, and is gathered by building extractors on asteroids; it is used to construct basic ships and structures. Crystal is the rarest resource, which can be mined from asteroids like Metal; it is used for advanced technology and building certain advanced ships. A Black Market feature allows players to convert unneeded Metal and Crystal into Credits or vice-versa. Selling or buying too much of either resource can cause market prices to rise and fall dramatically.
Certain more intangible resources include Supply Points and Capital Ship Crews. Supply Points are used up when ships are purchased, and cannot be accumulated, acting as a population cap for the player's fleet. They can be increased by researching increases in fleet logistic capacity, but this simultaneously lowers all resource income, as more resources are required to maintain larger fleets. Capital Ship Crews work like Supply Points and are needed to field capital ships (in addition to 50 fleet supply points); the number of Crews available determines how many capital ships the player can make. Thus (for example), a player in early game may be able to field no more than a small number of ships given the low Supply Point ceiling, and even fewer (as few as one) capital ships given the inherently low Capital Ship Crew ceiling; later once the player's economy has grown and new resources have become available, the player may perform Supply Point research and permanently reduce by a fraction the size of their economy in order to permanently raise the ceiling on the size of their fleet, as well as performing Capital Ship research in order to raise the ceiling on the number of capital ships their fleet can contain. Capital Ship Crew ceiling can be increased to a maximum of 16, thus giving the player the ability to construct a maximum of 16 capital ships. Supply Points ceiling can be increased to a maximum of 2000 points.
Players can construct planet-based improvements and orbital structures, the latter of which is divided into "logistical" and "tactical" structures.
Logistical structures interact with the economy in some way and include metal extractors and crystal extractors to mine metal and crystal resources respectively, making planets into resource producers; frigate factories for manufacturing frigates and cruisers; capital ship factories for constructing capital ships; trade ports for interplanetary trade to raise credits; refineries to boost crystal and metal production; broadcast or media centers to spread own cultural influence to enemy planets; as well as civilian and military research labs that are required for researching items in the tech tree and developing new technologies.
Tactical structures are defense and support structures including weapon emplacements; hangars that can launch fighter and bomber strike craft; repair stations which consume their anti-matter reserves to repair friendly ships; and phase inhibitors which prevent enemy fleets from escaping the vicinity of the planet's gravity well. Each faction can also produce a long-range superweapon that can attack other planets. The TEC has the Novalith Cannon, which fires a supermassive nuclear weapon to inflict considerable damage directly on enemy planets. The Vasari have the Kostura Cannon, which fires an EMP burst warhead that disables and damages every enemy ship and structure in a planet's orbit as well as making a temporary phase stabilizer node there which allows you to jump your fleet directly to the attacked planet. The Advent have the Deliverance Engine, which spreads their cultural influence to the target and can provoke a planet-wide revolution. Each faction also boasts an additional special weapons which are race exclusive, the TEC have the Shield Generator which generates a shield to protect the planet around which it orbits; the Advent can construct the Antimatter Recharge which replenishes the anti-matter reserves of friendly ships; the advanced Vasari Empire have the Nano Weapon Jammer, which increases the cooldown time of enemy weapons, as well as the Phase Stabilizer which can enable ships to travel directly between two such structures.
Planetary development research (as opposed to orbital structures) are of six types which include infrastructure development, which increases population (and taxability) of planets; emergency facilities, which improve the survivability of populations in order to assist in staving off destruction from bombardment; and exploration, which surveys and maps planets, providing access to hidden planetary features which can have negative or positive effects on the planet (for instance, the discovery of rare resources on a planet during exploration may improve revenues from all trade conducted within the gravity well, or the discovery of pirate hideouts on a planet may harm all trade revenues), and perhaps most importantly, exploration may serve to reveal advanced technologies left by bygone civilizations; any planet can be made the capital planet of the player's empire by the change capital upgrade.
Celestial objects and anomalies
There are four types of colony-supporting planets and two types of asteroids. Terran-type planets are the most suitable for life and can support the largest total population, and also possess balanced Metal and Crystal resources. Desert-type planets support a smaller population than Terran planets but will usually have more Crystal and Metal in the area and always have an impressive number of Logistic slots. Ice planets have the third largest population of all the types and an abundance in Crystal, but no Metal. Volcanic planets are the opposite of ice planets, and have the smallest population support and no Crystal, but an abundance of Metal. Of the asteroids, normal asteroids have a randomized amount of metal and crystal asteroids, and support only a small number of tactical and logistic slots. Dead asteroids have no resources and can only support the construction of tactical structures. The player can interact directly with planets in several ways, such as creating trading routes, by forcefully raining destruction from orbit or by spreading "culture" via propaganda platforms, which may cause the planet to revolt in the player's favor.
There are eight different spatial anomalies found in the game which serve as obstacles and hazards to all players. Asteroid belts are small lines of uninhabitable asteroids that cover the middle of a gravity well; the asteroids rarely hit ships but can severely damage them if they do. Gas giants release pockets of unstable gases which can explode and also cause damage. Solar storms are areas where all ships lose antimatter, which reduces the abilities ships can use. Stars boost ship antimatter production, but have large gravity wells that are slow to traverse. Space junk can be harvested for resources by ship-deployed extractors. Electron clouds negate the abilities of ships. Wormholes link between each other in a system, and once the necessary technology has been researched, they can be utilized for travel. Lastly, plasma storms are similar to solar storms, except that strike-craft can't be used in them or they are instantly destroyed but they can be devastating in several occasions.
Diplomacy and bounty
The diplomacy options of the game allow players to forge and break alliances and place bounties on their enemies or allies (depending on the game setting) without anybody knowing who placed it. Players can trade resources, establish trade routes between nations, manipulate the commodities market to hinder enemies by utilizing supply and demand, and issue optional "missions" to allies.
Some planets are inhabited by pirates, who will attack anyone that ventures near. During the game's start-up phase, players can also choose to enable "Pirate Raids" this mechanic allows players to place "bounty" on other players, with the goal of inducing the pirates to attack that player. The more bounty is placed on another player, then the larger the attacking fleet will be if the pirates choose to attack that player. Pirate ships are entirely TEC vessels, most likely stolen from a certain faction. The ships are unshielded, but their numbers and strengthened hulls more than make up for the shields. The ships are almost all frigates and cruisers, though they only possess one kind of the latter.
Tech tree and artifacts
Each faction has two (three in Entrenchment, four in Diplomacy) technology trees divided between military and civic improvements. These two trees in turn branch off into three race-specific categories. The Military tree contains upgrades to armor, shields, and weapons and unlocks units and defensive structures. The Civic tree contains upgrades to resource gathering and unlocks civic buildings, radar, planetary upgrades, diplomacy upgrades, and terraforming. In Entrenchment, several elements of both trees, as well as some new bits such as starbase-related technology, have been merged into the Defense tree. In Diplomacy, the diplomatic elements from the Civic tree, as well as new technology that focuses on upgrading the race's Envoy ship (a diplomatic vessel) and giving other bonuses surrounding diplomacy, for example reduced penalties for being different races and higher mission rewards, have been merged into the Diplomacy tree.
There are many different hidden artifacts that can be found by exploring colonized planets. There are a total of nine (twelve in Entrenchment) artifacts, each giving the owner a unique and powerful bonus. When an artifact is discovered, all other players are notified of its location but not its type.
There are five main categories of ships in the game: strike craft, frigates, cruisers, capital ships and non-combat ships.
The strike craft is the smallest ship in the game. They can only be controlled in squads and are built in small squads in hangars, carriers and capital ships for no fee. There are two types of strike craft, fighters which come in squadrons of four-nine crafts and bombers in squads of three-seven. Fighters are primarily for fighting off enemy fighters, bombers and lightly armored ships, while the objective of the bomber is to attack heavily armored enemy ships and structures. Each race is capable of producing strike craft, though not all races are equally powerful in this field.
Frigates are the smallest warship that the player can build individually and represent the bulk of most fleets; they are generally reconnaissance vessels, front line combatants, long range attackers, defense ships, siege craft and colony ships. Reconnaissance ships scout the solar systems for colonizable planets, provide advance warnings for incoming enemy fleets and can be upgraded to carry out other activities. Front line and long range frigates form the mainstay combatants of fleets. Defense ships provide protection against strike craft, while siege crafts bomb planets. Colony ships are used to colonize new planets.
Cruisers are specialized ships and mostly play a support role in fleets. Carriers transport strike craft in their hangars; offensive support cruisers improve attack of friendly ships and diminish those of enemies; defensive support cruisers uprate survivability of friendly vessels and decrease those of enemies; plus each race also has a fourth class of powerful heavy combat cruisers.
Capital ships have the ability to accumulate experience and "level up" in combat. A capital ship can also be made to “level up” by training the crew of that particular vessel, this requires spending of credits. An increase in a capital ship's level gives it improvements in its offensive and defensive systems and unlocks special abilities. It periodically adds more strike craft slots for the capital ship. All capital ships carry strike craft, though in different numbers: long range attackers (dreadnoughts) gain their only squad at Level 5 of 10, while a Level 10 Halcyon-class carrier has 11. There are five general classes of capital ships, all available from start: battleships, carriers, colony ships, long range attack ships, and support vessel. The player's first capital ship is free. Others require a large amount of resources to build, equal for all classes. When a capital ship is in the gravity well of a planet it slows or even stops the spread of enemy culture going to that planet. Each unit has its own abilities that can be passive or active and can affect its fleet or the enemy fleet.
Non-combat ships are unarmed and unarmored, therefore making them prime targets for enemies, particularly pirate fleets. Non-combat vessels are basically the workers of the empire. They include construction ships, which build orbiting structures around a planet; trade ships, these travel to and from trade ports of different planets to raise credit; and refinery ships which travel between refineries and extractors to boost resource stockpiling. All of them are spawned for free.
Players can engage in the online multiplayer mode in Sins of a Solar Empire against either a single opponent or as part of a team through the game's Ironclad Online system or by setting up a LAN game. Players can set up 5v5 matches where two captains draft the other eight players, often resulting in balanced teams and intense, competitive games. Although the game will not automatically download custom maps made with the Galaxy Forge mode, players can manually choose to download maps as needed.
>Trader Emergency Coalition (TEC)
The Trader Emergency Coalition's history extends back 1,000 years, when economically driven settlers banded together and established the Trade Order. Driven by a strict code of economic, moral, and behavioral principles, the Order began to aggressively expand into the rest of human space, becoming a formidable industrial and commercial force. Aside from the core principles of the Order, each member world was able to maintain its own interests and culture. During this formative period, an expedition discovered a remote colony with scientific and social practices that were considered evil, and against the Trade Order's code. As punishment, the colony's people were forcibly removed from their world and exiled beyond Trader space.
Over the following millennium, the Trade Order prospered and humanity entered a new golden age. Warfare was forgotten, with disputes settled in courts and starships devoted entirely to trade. After nearly a thousand years of peace, the Vasari Empire arrived and brought the defenseless Trade Order to its knees within months. After the fall of its ruling Aluxite dynasty, the Trade Order suspended its agenda and reorganized itself into the Trader Emergency Coalition, which harnessed the collective resources of the Trader worlds for military production to fend off the Vasari. A decade into the war, the colony that the Trade Order had exiled centuries ago returned as the Advent, a society of powerful psychics with advanced technology. Seeking revenge for the crime against their ancestors, the Advent opened a second front, leaving the TEC with two enemies to fight an uncertain future.
The TEC utilize heavily armored units and focus on ballistic weapons such as missiles and gauss guns. Energy weapons are uncommon, though some ships field pulse lasers. They prefer to colonize Terran or Earth-like planets which have high population limits, and can research population bonuses for colonies on these planets. Due to their past focus on trade and resource gathering, the TEC is able to produce ships and structures cheaper and faster in their tech tree. The TEC's late game research, Pervasive Economy and Foreign Sabotage, gives the faction income from all enemy expenditures and drastically decreases enemy empires' ship production rates. They also have the ability to initiate rebel insurgency strikes on enemy empires when appropriate research has been conducted.
The Advent were originally a pseudo-religious sect of humans who sought spiritual release and escape on the frontier of human space during the great interstellar wars that preceded the rise of the Trade Order. Over time, their culture evolved a socially liberal, highly laissez-faire attitude towards the use of biological enhancers such as synthetic neurochemicals and "cerebral integration technologies" as means toward self-actualization, resulting in a burgeoning collective mentality calling itself the "Unity". When their society was discovered by the market analysis teams of the nascent Trade Order, their collectivist practices were branded as perverse deviations, and the sect was exiled from Trader space. Over centuries of exile in far-flung regions of the galaxy, the sect continued to plumb the depths of biological mutability and post-humanity, developing powerful "PsiTech" tools, which enabled through unknown means a measure of psychic manipulation over local physical phenomena, as well as other technologies far surpassing anything the Trade Order had conceived of. A millennium after their betrayal, they have returned as the "Advent" to visit vengeance on the Traders and bring humanity together under the peace of the Unity.
The Advent favor cheap, lightly armored ships, preferring the elegance and sophistication of advanced force field systems over clumsy metal armor. Their weapons are exclusively based upon directed energy; lasers and plasma weapons are prominent on every warship, and certain units have PsiTech abilities which allow the crew or some uniquely modified members of the crew to exert limited control over local phenomena, for instance in manipulating the crews of other ships or planets. Their units are very sleek and aesthetic, featuring artistically-minded spirals and organic shapes, unlike the more utilitarian designs favored by the TEC. The Advent prefer Desert planets such as the one they were exiled from, and can research population bonuses for those worlds. Being evangelistic, they can research culture-spreading buildings, in this case Temples of Communion, before either of the other two races, and can spread culture more effectively than the others. Advent fleets, being cheap, tend to maintain large numbers of craft, but rather than treating their units as expendable, Advent prefer to use a variety of highly specialized vessels which function well in conjunctive use, and many Advent ships are designed to improve the performance of nearby allies, such as by improving shield strength, reducing weapon cooldown times, or stealing antimatter from enemy ships and distributing it to allies to power their own special abilities. They are also experts in the use of extremely large numbers of strike craft, using semi-autonomous drones controlled by so-called Anima.
The Vasari are the only alien race in the game. The Vasari Empire was once the strongest in the galaxy, formed by peacefully assimilating primitive races and brutally crushing more advanced ones, turning the populations of both into "valued citizens." 10,000 years before the events of the game, the Vasari began to lose contact with their central worlds. Believing the cause to be rebellion and sabotage, a contingent of the Vasari Dark Fleet was deployed to restore order, but was never heard from again. More worlds went dark, even their ancient Vasari homeworld. In their desperation, the entire Dark Fleet was sent on a blind assault on whatever was assaulting the Empire's core planets. Only a single, heavily damaged warship emerged, discovered by a small Vasari colony on the Empire's edge.
Finding the ship's crew had been driven mad with fear, the colony decided to evacuate to a star system outside of the Empire, leaving a warning beacon behind. When contact with that beacon was lost, the colony fled, never to see Vasari space again. For the next 10,000 years, the Vasari refugee fleet traveled from system to system, stopping only to rebuild their population and gather resources; the beacons they have left behind have continued to fall silent. Now, the Vasari are engaged in a war with the Trader Emergency Coalition over the resources of the human systems, and as their mysterious enemy relentlessly pursues them, the Vasari find themselves running out of time.
The Vasari have fewer, more expensive units that have extremely hardened hulls and some of the hardest hitting weapons in the Sins universe. They prefer to settle Volcanic worlds. Their ships utilize more advanced technology, an example being Phase Missiles, their preferred weapon system present on all capital ships, which can perform phase jumps clean "through" enemy shields. Another masterpiece is the Phase Stabilizing Node, which allows Vasari ships to travel directly between any two Nodes in one phase jump, eliminating the need for time-consuming sublight voyages required to enter and exit a celestial object's gravity well during transit involving multiple jumps. This unique construct allows the Vasari to link occupied worlds and bases together and quickly move forces between locations. In general, they have outmatched humanity in nanotechnology and control of phase space.
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