Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion Review

by on 7th Jul 2012

It has been years since last I brushed up on my Sins of a Solar Empire skills. Two expansions have since been added to Ironclad's real-time strategy game published by Stardock. Entrenchment brought starbases, huge upgradeable defensive structures to help defend your turf. Diplomacy brought… take a guess. Not that diplomacy was non-existent before, but it was a bit scarce and pointless. And then there was Trinity to bind the two with the base game into a convenient package.

Now finally comes Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion (Rebellion), which is not an expansion. It holds Trinity, adds new content and is a stand-alone game.


Rebellions… Funny things, them. They do happen. Sometimes the rebellions work out well for the rebellious, sometimes for the loyalists. In rare cases both sides continue to coexist, even cooperate. But it does happen. In the case of Sins, all three factions – Humans, Advent and Vasari – had just such a rare case of rebellion. Voila, six factions where three had been. Frankly, it seems a bit of a cheap trick to double the number of factions with minimum input, but at least they bring some personalized goods. Each of them.

The new

Based on the added lore of the rebellions in question, each faction comes with its traits, likes and dislikes. As one can expect, a rebelled faction wants the opposite of what the original is set to accomplish. Each faction has some specific research to make their style of play somewhat different. Also it comes with a ship or two. From where I left off in the previous peeks at the game, new capital ships were added, but Rebellion adds faction-specific corvette and titan ships.

Corvettes are specialized craft that you'll want to mix with the crowd. Their abilities blend nicely with those of others.  Frankly you won't notice them much as their size doesn't stand out. That of titans does. If I described capital ships as ships with superpowers, titans are superships with superpowers. They level up like capital ships, except that they jump two levels at a time.

The good side of the titans is that you don't need to carefully pick their superpowers. Their antimatter supply is huge. It is unlikely that they would run out of it as fast as capital ships do – which is why I urge you to pick as few antimatter consuming abilities as possible with those. A titan has next to no limits, so take'em all if you want to.

The bad side is that you only get one titan at any one moment, so most of your war effort will revolve around that one gem after it is built. Still, one cannot afford to be present in one place only. I usually ended up fielding two big fleets; one that holds a titan with escorting capitals plus change and one with capital ships plus change. Additionally one or two (depending on map size) fleets with frigates, cruisers and corvettes for fast response forces come very handy.

You will need to watch over your titan though, it can get destroyed. No only by other titans, starbases can be a tough nut to crack, too! First one I ran into was a pushover. Two capital ships ate the starbase with little problem so I began to question their worth. Next one I ran into was a fully upgraded base with additional defence and support structures. First instinct; go for the starbase, the rest will fall like dominos. After the entire titan's support fleet was destroyed and its own health cut down to half, I had to admit this blind date was not working out as planned. Retreat, rethink, rebuild, return.

What I personally see as the biggest addition to the game is linked to a single faction; Vasari Loyalist. Through research they can transform their capital ships into flying laboratories and their planets into dead asteroids and huge amounts of resources and money, turning the whole faction into what it always should have been – a nomadic grasshopper fleet, a moving menace that leaves nothing behind. They are fleeing after all. This makes all the difference, really. A faction that can sever the roots and fly, how about that?! Admittedly keeping a planet or two is advisable. There is no research to turn your titan or capital ships into a production powerhouse…

The old

With the sole exception of Vasari Loyalists, Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion plays more or less the same as the original Sins of a Solar Empire. New toys, new superpowers, new looks, old gameplay. Despite all the additions that came to be from where I left off I had no trouble jumping in, playing the tutorials seemed unnecessary. All other factions are played in mostly the same way, differently named research topics and art styles make no significant impact. I'm not sure why Rebellion was released as a stand-alone game, barring the need to unify the versions of the game for multiplayer.

Research doesn't give much strategic satisfaction; it mostly remains a thing you'll queue up when you find the time and extra resources. In multiplayer the order of research is much more important with players breathing down your neck constantly but frankly that bothers me somewhat, which is why I remain primarily single-player oriented.

It may just be that I just haven't found the time to be all nice to others, but diplomacy still seems to have little to offer to me. Slider, showing me how we all feel about each other always turned into hate-o-meter and war was the only option left as I failed to meet the demands of others. There were a lot of demands, far too many for me to take extra care about and far too early in our relationships for me to find worthy of fulfilment.

What I'm missing the most in Sins is creation of life. The only sign of extraterrestrial life are Vasari, the only alien species, and a notion that they are fleeing from something. The rest is all about us boring monk… Humans. Where is other space life, other races flying around or just being rooted to a planet or sixteen? Live things and beings, not directly of the two races in question, would make space much more vibrant than all trade ships combined.

The worthy

Before you get the idea that the new game has no added value; gameplay was good before and it is better now. Stars look more beautiful than ever and taking a moment to watch a titan with an escorting fleet go past one (remember to turn the cinematic mode on!) is more than worth its weight in megabytes. Ehm, that may have come out all wrong. Just read it as a positive thing, as was intended! A meeting of two titans and their fleets at a star is… you'll have to try that out yourself, really you will.

Battles can still take minutes to resolve and are a spectacular show, making Rebellion stand out from the RTS crowd. They are accompanied by nice ambient music which becomes somewhat repetitive. The same cannot be said of the games you'll be playing. Rebellion is a sand box game – each game is different. Some may yearn for a story driven campaign, but I am perfectly happy with strategy being different every time.

You can set the pace of the game to almost match the slowness expected from turn based games and enjoy without the need to click constantly. An empire tree on the left side helps you a great deal with finding what you hold most dear. In my case, those were fleets. If I left planets to be automatically pinned the clutter was just too much. What can I say, I'm fond of big maps.

Planets are a nice blend of not too time consuming upgrades and structures with significant impact. Planets for instance are a drain to your empire until you upgrade their civilian infrastructure. Remember this, lest you will find out the expensive way.

Closing comments

Playing Rebellion gave me a lot of "I miss this and that" moments. But I need to admit that playing the game as a real-time strategy should be played, meaning not using pause to think about each step along the way, already gave me very little extra time to enjoy the visuals. Perhaps if I was a fast clicker (I'm not) I could manage a feature more, but then Rebellion would sink into the clickfest crowd. There are already plenty of games in that soup.

Rebellion's years old roots don't show. It looks great and it has evolved enough so that nobody can call it stagnation. If you're looking for a game that will demand extreme levels of thought and headache-causing pondering, perhaps you will want to look into turn based gaming. Rebellion will cover everything else.

Special thanks to Thorondor for his help with the review

Reviewer's Verdict: 8/10


Recommended Reading

Sins of a Solar Empire Review

Space Voyager had his first encounter with Sins years ago. Check out his original review from 2008 for more on the Sins universe!

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Add Comment Comments

8 Jul 2012 - 10:23pm
Yeah, thanks for the review. Think I'll finally install it and play.
8 Jul 2012 - 12:57am
Good review, quite how I see the game as well. Especially fun to play in multiplayer.
Space Voyager\
7 Jul 2012 - 3:41pm
Space Voyager
Naturally, I had help from the best!
7 Jul 2012 - 3:38pm
Who could have told - even planet devourers look beautiful in your journeys.


Very nice review, SV! :cool:


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Game Card

Sins of a Solar Empire Box
Developer: Ironclad Games
Publisher: Stardock Systems


His Royal Hugeness dwarfs capital shipsHeated battleJump, jump, jump!!!Cramped gravity wellVery nice artifact foundAdvent titanDiplomacy as usualStripped to the Strategy CoreHello Mrs Station. I'm Titan.Clash of the titansTime to move to another planetAsteroid being reduced into resourcesGoing locust, down in AcapulcoA big map