It’s been noted elsewhere that I have a bit of a knack for picking out video games that my sister will enjoy. Honestly, it’s not that hard; she likes games that star remorseless murderers with firm butts. Fyre tries to reciprocate, bless her flame-wreathed little soul, and that’s how I came to own a copy of Sins of a Solar Empire, which is the most infuriating game I’ve played in probably the last five years.

I should have loved this game. I cannot front: I find the design appealing, the graphics are handsome, and the course of play is stimulating. There’s a lot that Sins gets just right, which makes it a damned shame that the few problems it has are total bunny-boilers for me.

The most egregious problem isn’t with the design of the game, really. Sins is a large-scale space-themed 4X game. A single match on a big map with lots of planets can take upwards of 20 hours to complete. The developer pushed out mandatory patches on what seems to be a weekly schedule, and every patch invalidates all save files from previous versions of the game. The upshot of this is that you would need to play Sins as your 9-5 job in order to ever actually finish a game of it before your save file got nuked by a patch. I take another stab at Sins probably once every three months or so, which means there’s basically no long-term play chances for me, and I’m just not capable of enjoying the really huge scale that it’s capable of.

Second, the game is hard. Like, hard as hell. Don’t go thinking “L2P, strat noob LOL!” I know from strategy; I can at least finish a game of Civilization. “Easy” in Civilization means you can get the hang of the game, experiment with new strategies, or just goof off and have some fun. “Easy” in Sins means your empire will be rapidly and repeatedly raped in the ass with a dildo shaped like a marauding fleet of space frigates. It’s terrifying to me that there are three or four difficulties harder than “Easy”. What’s “Normal” like? Does the computer literally punch you in the face while you try to play the game?

It feels about the way you'd imagine
It feels about the way you'd imagine

Finally, Sins has one of the weirdest team mechanics I’ve ever encountered. At the start of play, you can assign various players to teams, and those on the same team are not forged into an indestructible alliance but rather have a maxed-out diplomatic friendship. However, it’s then the responsibility of the player to maintain these fragile, fragile friendships in order to actually keep their team together. I don’t think I’ve ever played another game where I had to continually maintain my own team status with a constant stream of money, materials, and the murder of my teammates’ enemies. Making it even worse, the various AI teammates don’t bother with this at all, so I always end up with one teammate asking me to go to war with the other one because their relations have broken down, which means I’m going to wind up losing one or the other (or probably both) from the team. Most brutally, even if you kill everyone who isn’t on your team, the game doesn’t end. That’s right: there can be only one, Highlander. Having wiped out the bad guys and made the star system safe for democracy, you and your allies settle down for a brief, friendly arms race followed by an orgy of double-dealing, behind-the-back handshake alliances, and general treachery and war crimes.

Little did Rusty know that Bonzer's fleet was just minutes from raining hot electric death on his vulnerable border planets
Little did Rusty know that Bonzer's fleet was just minutes from raining hot electric death on his vulnerable border planets

I would really, really like to like this game, but I’m starting to think I’m just not hardcore enough for it. I don’t think I have the time to spend mastering it or subsequently playing it through to completion, and I think I may actually lack the stomach for the “keep your enemies closer” style of diplomacy it offers. Maybe if there was a story or a campaign to work towards – there isn’t, just a collection of scenarios to play – I’d feel more compelled to work at it, but as it is I felt like Sins was beating me up for trying to play and just doesn’t offer enough in return.


2 thoughts on “Sinful”

  1. I am a big SINS fan and will gladly do some MP to show you the ropes if you’d like =)

    I play one step above ‘normal’ now. Sometimes I’ll start with an alliance, other times I’ll just let 3 go against me. Building a proper defense is key to surviving. If you spread yourself too thin you’re sure to fail quickly. The AI tends to do this though in my experience so I don’t worry about losing planets because I’ll just take them and earn XP for my capital ships =)

    Also creating defensive funnels is helpful. If the enemy has to jump through 3 heavily defended zones before getting to your HQ you’re pretty good. Especially once you are able to build warp jammers. Hanger defenses and Beam platforms are especially useful. Sinking research points into both of these is incredibly beneficial.

    Regarding ‘teams’. Its not really a team, its more of an alliance. And an alliance requires maintenance to continue being such. If you help out the members of your alliance they in turn will help you.

    The scenarios are quite fun though. I am mainly playing medium sized which take me between 6-8 hours to completely destroy the other 3 players.

  2. Oh, Yes I do destroy my alliance members once I’ve destroyed the other teams, and rarely do I care about my alliance members opinions and will gladly let them hate me, because they will come crawling back.

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