What is the best thing in life? The love of a good women? The smile of a child?
A few of those who read my original review of Sins Of A Solar Empire (Sins for short) have commented that they are still on the fence regarding this game’s greatness.
Some have pointed to the dream of Homeworld III, which is wishful thinking really and at least a year off, others have said that the depth of Sins does not extend to the actual engagements themselves and claim that the stronger force (numerically speaking) will always win:
That is not true at all!
I am going to review Sins Multiplayer by recounting a game I played against my friends Jim and Kiero over broadband from our homes. I hope this will settle once and for all the question of this game’s depth in all aspects of combat and the huge amount of fun to be had in, what must be, this year’s best game so far.
It all started with a large map game played over 3 star systems and a total of 8 players. 3 Mediums, 2 hards and the 3 of us.
The team roster
The placement of the teams is random like everything else in the galaxy generation and this means that no two games will be the same. All we decided was that we humans would start the game as allies and fight off the others. Once the map was loaded and the first fledgling scout craft had scanned the planets it became immediately apparent that Jim and Kiero were in one star system and I was in another surrounded by the two hards.
I knew that I was in big trouble. The AI in Sins is lethal on hard and more than likely this was going to end in my death. There was only one thing for it; flipping a mental coin, I went begging to one of the hards and made friends. This meant giving them resources whenever they asked, gifting them intelligence and attacking whatever dumb target they had in mind for me to help them to victory in this map. I bid my time and did as they asked as we three humans tried to stay afloat. I knew that the AI was using me as a buffer from its enemies, but I also knew that I couldn’t yet battle both hards alone. I invested in trade and spent my cash on upgrading my fleet.
One of the cool things about multiplayer Sins is that you can save the game at any time and come back to it.
Over the next few days the lads and I managed to survive by hook or by crook. We spread our wealth and helped out those who needed it the most. It was a real team effort. Eventually we got to the point where Jim and Kiero had their solar system sown up and I was just putting paid to the final few homeworlds of my AI “friends” who had decided to break our truce. I easily engineered that, it was simple; I just stopped doing the missions and sure enough the greens got annoyed at me and canceled the alliance… just as my fleet jumped into their homeworld.
The Greens don’t live to regret our alliance.
It was at this point that I became nervous. You see I had yet to dominate my solar system and Jim and Kiero had killed all opposition in theirs.
I am Red and Jim and Kiero are the two shades of blue.
Both are expert RTS players and we have all crossed swords in many games over the years. I know that Jim is the absolute turtle. He loves to build up a massive fleet/army/force and attack late-on in the game. Kiero on the other hand is sneaky. He doesn’t hesitate to throw a curve ball your way and rattle the front door as his force charges through the rear. My fear was pushed over the top and into action when they announced that they were coming over to my solar system to, “give me a hand”.
Yeah, you can help me out by showing yourselves out lads.
It was just a matter of time. Suddenly this ‘help’ became, “Perhaps we can take a few of these remaining green planets, heh heh”
Over my dead body matey. They moved their massive forces towards a green planet not knowing what they had forced me to do. I waited until they were in battle against the remaining AI forces, then I clicked to end the alliance between us all. My gambit worked; they were both so involved and over confident neither of them heard the warning message. I ordered my fleet to the same planet…
The trap is set.
Jim’s fleet was the stronger of the two so I approached him first.
Jim’s fleet is huge.
When you end an alliance in Sins there is a countdown of 1 minute 30 before you can start shooting. This is in the game to prevent exactly what I was about to do but Jim didn’t know that the count down had only a few seconds left to run…
I saw that he was distracted attacking the greens and his fleet was facing the other way. In Sins most capital ships fire their main weapon forwards only. Thus catching a fleet from the rear is the best way to attack.
I close on Jim’s fleet and open fire.
By the time he realised I had already started firing…
His fleet went down hard. No capitals escaped alive. He cried foul and Kiero was alerted. He jumped his fleet in behind mine determined to repeat the tactic I had just used on Jim; by destroying my capitals before I could turn them around. It was a good move on his part because Kiero loves the JLM missile frigate. This lightly armoured gunboat fires upgradable missiles for long range devastation on a target and he had tons of them. With the time needed to turn and distance between us the JLMs could rain down missiles on my capital ships and strip all their shields completely before I could even open fire in return. This tactic had served him very well before and I was apparently now helpless, with my back fully exposed to his righteous revenge on behalf of Jim.
I could feel his confidence. Good because one of my Akan capitals had upgraded itself to level 5 and therefore I had this:
Before he approached I pressed the button. The Armistice power stops all ships in a local area from firing for one minute.
Armistice in effect.
One Minute with which I could turn my fleet around and charge him, closing the gap so that his lightly armoured JLMs would be face to face with my heavy Kodiaks that excel at close range.
My swarm of Kodiaks close the gap.
One minute to order my Dunov support capital to recharge my highest level combat capital’s shields. One minute to swarm over his capitals so that he was surrounded and unable to bring their main weapons to bear on my entire fleet at once.
One minute, in which I could win.
Kiero’s capital ships go down.
All of them.
Without his capitals Kiero’s forces were doomed but he ordered them to fight to the last man, rightly thinking that he had to hold me back enough to develop more ships and bring the battle to me again. However during that minute of Armistice I had also used our previous relationship to find out his main productive worlds and nuke them from afar using my hyper Noalith canons, which were in orbit around two of my planets. And I had also ordered and built another 5 capital ships of my own.
They both called it a day.
This game was won by my race but they will be back again I am sure. Jim is a master of using the Scrin in CNC3 and I have yet to beat Kiero at AOE II at all. All of us love RTS’ and online multiplayer especially. We all say that Sins offers not only strategic depth, for which it is justifiably famous, but also tactical depth.
This is the depth needed to lift the game to the level of a multiplayer masterpiece.
I hope this little story has excited you a little to sample the delights to be found in this game!
The multiplayer score from us is a clean 9 out of 10.