Review | 6/19/2012 at 4:04 AM

Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion Co-Op Review

When Diplomacy Fails, You Can Always Rebel.

Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion is the stand alone expansion to the real time strategy behemoth that debuted in early 2008. Rebellion brings an immense amount of content to the award winning game and is the perfect starting point for new players in the Sins universe since it contains everything from the Sins universe up until this point. Veterans of the original Sins of a Solar Empire will embrace the enhanced visuals, balance updates, and tweaked AI and the expansion comes at a reduced price if you own the original. After two expansions and the Trinity Collection, Ironclad Games have taken their time to refine their deep space strategy game into, surprisingly, an even better experience. Rebellion comes in at a perfect time to inject some life back into Sins and jettison pilots new and old into one of the best strategy games of its time.

For those new to the series, Sins of a Solar Empire is a real time 4X strategy game. You control an empire to explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate across a galaxy, actually multiple galaxies in this case. Distilling this convoluted genre moniker down basically means that you are at war in space and must fight, negotiate, and convince your way in order to survive and control the nothingness of space. Think Starcraft, but slowed down so that normal people can see what is going on. It’s like watching paint dry, but really fun paint. The game is admittedly slow, but what Sins lacks in speed it makes up for in scope. Even at the smallest map size you are moving your fleet across dozens of planets and one game can last hours. Once you get into a game with multiple star systems, you’re looking at controlling an empire of significant magnitude across several days of gameplay. Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion retains this feeling and simply adds more to an already amazing game. If I had to use one word to describe a Sins game it would be absorbing.

New race factions, units, and research abilities make Rebellion the complete Sins package.

The theme of Rebellion comes from a universe that has been splintered after an eternal war. The three races: TEC, Advent, and Vasari have failed to find a diplomatic solution and this has resulted in separate Loyalist and Rebel factions of these races. The basic structures and units do not change between the two offshoots but the specialized units, research opportunities and strategies differ greatly for each of the six new ‘races’. For example, the human TEC loyalists adopt an isolationist doctrine that focuses on expanding slowly and keeping defenses up through turtling. The TEC Rebels on the other hand have become xenophobic and are very capable offensively, trying to eradicate everything that is different than them. The Advent and Vasari have similar variances between their Loyalist and Rebel factions as well. Although technically the races are not entirely new, the loyalist and rebel factions give another level of depth to the game. It is difficult to keep a strategy game balanced with the addition of a single race, so I was astonished when Rebellion was able to add this much variety to Sins.

The scope of Sins Rebellion dwarfs any other strategy game.

A staple to every expansion of a strategy game is new units. Rebellion offers several different tiers of new units that fill out each of the races with new tactical options. Beginning with the smallest addition are the speedy Corvette class ships. They are cheap and easy to produce, and they pack a big punch in a tight little package. The greatest skill that the Corvettes have is their ability to disable enemy ship systems, making them a decisive unit in any fleet. There are new capital ships unique to each race that will command them to new levels. Capital ships are the heroes of the empire and come packed with their own strengths, weaknesses, and abilities that you can choose as they level up. I tried each of the new capital ships and they were a great addition to my empires and forced me to play outside my comfort zone since they diverged from the original units. My favorite unit that Rebellion brings into the fray are the Titan-class Warships. Titans are a devastating unit that each faction can create through much research and funding. They are gigantic ships that take time to level up, but once they become hardened from battle they are near unstoppable. Each of the new units in Rebellion offered something different and I found myself continually trying to integrate them in my march from planet to planet. Thankfully the Titans are not an automatic win button, but do give you a great boost of confidence as you charge across the stars with a hulking death ship.  

Strategy games are fine when you play solo, but their strength comes from playing with friends. Sins of a Solar Empire stays true to this sentiment, and Rebellion does not do anything to ruin or enhance the co-op play. Up to 10 players can hop into a randomly generated map, meaning that a balanced co-operative game will have 5 friends versus 5 computer opponents. Ironclad refreshed the AI in Rebellion to be more dynamic and respond to player’s choices by changing up their strategies. Teams will have to rely on organization, diplomacy, and trust in order to ensure their empire’s survival. A game can be decided by a pivotal position in the galaxy where you will have to rely on one of your allies to hold while you jump star systems to make a decisive attack on an enemy’s weak spot. Communication is pivotal in Sins of a Solar Empire as one costly mistake could mean the eradication of one team mate. Sometimes you have to pick a hero and sacrifice yourself for the good of the team to gain a victory, but that is the price you pay in a cunning strategy game. The only trouble I had with the co-op was in trying to load a multiplayer game from a previous save, which resulted in some teammates not having the correct save file. However, if you can get four friends to agree to book a day to play Rebellion, it is one of the most rewarding co-op experiences you can have in a game. Space is big and lonely so just remember to bring some friends along so at least you have someone to talk to.

The Titan class warships bring a new level of devastation to the Sins Empire.

Sins of a Solar Empire was a stellar game that has high appeal for a limited audience. It takes a patient person with a tactical mind to command an empire at this level. Rebellion makes small additions and improves the game to give it that extra bit of polish that you didn’t realize was missing. With new victory conditions, races, units, and a graphical overhaul to the engine Rebellion is the ultimate Sins of a Solar Empire package. Fans of the series should immediately purchase the game, and those that are sitting on the fence should turn to Sins Rebellion if they are looking for a highly strategic, calculating RTS. The scope can be intimidating at first, so it is best played with some friends to work through the intricacies of the game. Just don’t expect a group of friends to play very often, since Rebellion is not a day is a weekend eater.