Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion by developer Ironclad Games has been around for a long time. Four years in fact. And like any aging franchise, Sins was in need of some new paint. Enter the Rebellion expansion, which acts both as a stand-alone purchase and an expansion to the original Sins of a Solar Empire.
- Absolutely massive scale battles and maps.
- Deep micro-management and focus on tactical deployment.
- Options for diplomacy and the placement of bounties means a variety of viable playstyles.
- Bland presentation and complex controls won't win over any new fans for non-RTS players.
- Being both an expansion and stand-alone game, the game feels caught in the middle of both categories.
Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion Review:
Why Rebellion is both an expansion and a stand-alone experience isn't quite clear; the game isn't too large for an expansion, and it's certainly not as big as a full-fledged sequel - though to the uninitiated it is intimidatingly massive and its long-form gameplay can be frustratingly slow. In the end, this game appeals to Sins fans and the hardcore RTS crowd and little else. Still, there is most certainly entertainment to be found.
The Cold, Unforgiving Void of Space
Either fortunately or unfortunately depending on your perspective, Sins of a Solar Empire is not something one simply slips into comfortably or without a bit of preparation. It's a thinking person's RTS, much like its predecessors. And since Rebellion can be played by itself as well as in conjunction with earlier expansions, it might not be clear where you should start. The game can be quite intimidating to the uninitiated, as there's just so much content and so many options present. Thankfully it helps along newcomers to the expansive RTS genre with plenty of tips and tutorials.
The only downside to this is that presentation-wise, the game is pretty bare bones, and if you've forgotten what an icon on your dash stands for, you might end up fumbling for your planet's resources and instead open up the graphics menu. If this were just an expansion that'd be fine, as Sins players already know what to expect. As a potential stand-alone title though, it stands to lose some players by having the plainest of visual designs and intimidating amount of menus to navigate.
If you're not familiar with the Sins of a Solar Empire games, it will help to know – and I cannot stress this enough – that the game is not a quick skirmisher. While it's certainly possible to amass an army, build up your tech trees and conquer the galaxy through brute force, you're not truly getting your money's worth if you pursue this most simple of routes. Less of a StarCraft and more of a Civilization set in space, Sins of a Solar Empire allows players to not only engage in combat, but also diplomacy and the setting of bounties as well. With an extensive multiplayer community, you can also feel free to forge negotiations and informal trade agreements.
Still, that's all old hat. Such features have been present since the original Sins of a Solar Empire. What's new is what should tempt those unfamiliar with the Sins universe.
Clash Of The Titans
One of the new features to be brought in with the Rebellion are Titans, massive constructions of space doom that can be such an instant-win button on a match that the game announces their presence to all participants at the start and end of their construction. These behemoths are tempting and tasty weapons to have in your arsenal, practically as powerful as a personal Death Star.
Also re-vamping all sides of the conflict, Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion effectively doubles the number of factions by introducing Loyalists and Rebels to each of the three Sins factions: the Trader Emergency Coalition, Advent, and Vasari. Sadly, the entire introduction of these new factions and plot surrounding them takes place in one opening cutscene. Rebellion does not add a single-player campaign, which is truly unfortunate as there is great potential here.
What's nice is that although each race already plays quite differently from each other and has for the past four years, introducing Loyalists and Rebels further breaks down each faction's strengths and weaknesses. Both Loyalist and Rebel factions have been designed with a strong theme in mind, which is great considering most RTS games have stuck with the three-faction formula since what seems like the dawn of time.
The TEC Loyalists for example are turtles to the extreme, forcing competitors to come knocking on their hardened, heavily-armed doorstep. The Vasari Loyalists are the exact opposite, akin to space vampires that bleed a planet dry for its resources and move on, without the need for permanent settlements. You'll get plenty of time to play with the new factions as well, since some maps contain more than 80 planets, and even the smallest map with 7 planets took more than an hour to finish. And that was me getting my space butt handed to me on a platter.
Now that's not truly a bad thing. No one criticizes Civilization for being an expansive, time-consuming process, and Rebellion shouldn't be judged on this aspect alone either. If you like long-form gameplay there's plenty to love, but if you're tempted to steamroll the enemy because hey, it's starships with lasers and missiles, think again. This isn't that kind of game.
Space, Space, Gotta Go To Space
Without a single-player campaign to provide incentive or ease new players in and an overwhelming UI presentation, the only true appeal for Rebellion is with established fans and the hardcore RTS crowd. If you're aching for a single-player version of EVE Online or the slow, methodical gameplay of the Civilization games set against a sci-fi background, Sins of a Solar Empire may just be for you.
But you already knew that, four years ago, and therein lies the only true problem with an otherwise enjoyable game.
Though there's nothing truly wrong or bad about the game, the fact that Rebellion does nothing to change the status quo and precedent set by the original Sins of a Solar Empire and its expansions is Rebellion's biggest flaw. The system is getting a bit long in the tooth after four years and Rebellion isn't quite a large enough revamp to breathe new life into the game unless you've been following it since the original Sins of a Solar Empire.
Though the introduction of Loyalists and Rebels that splinter off the original three factions into six certainly adds new and interesting gameplay and the Titans are impressive, they're nothing so enticing as to make someone who isn't already a Sins fan pick up this expandalone game. But, if you already count yourself among that crowd, your fleets standing at the ready to jump into hyperspace, Rebellion is a perfectly satisfying way to quell your hunger pains for a long-form, hardcore RTS.