Ever since I was a kid and I watched my first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, I’ve always dreamed of a strategy game with large scale space combat. I got excited in 1999 when I heard about Alpha Centauri, but Civilization in space wasn’t what I was looking for. I wanted hundreds – nay, thousands of ships going head to head. Intergalactic warfare, baby. That’s what I wanted.
So the years went by and games came and went but nothing really came close to my vision and hopes were dashed again and again. Then in 2008 Sins of a Solar Empire came out of no where and after I decided to ignore the worst computer game name ever I found myself intrigued by the hype. RTS? Check. Space? Check. Thousands of ships? Check! Online multiplayer? Yes! I was happily on board and looking forward to finally having my dreams fulfilled.
Alas, disappointment soon reared its ugly head. As I described in a forum post back in 2008, the game had some nagging flaws that seemed silly to me. Things that could easily have been changed to improve the game. Some were mere polish, but others were more serious. Since that post there have been two expansions, quite a few updates and most recently the Rebellion Beta. Only one of those original issues has been resolved, and it’s been replaced by many others in Rebellion.
Over the years the game has been beefed up with a diplomatic system, more researchable items, starbases and the new Titan capital ships, but none of these things have resolved the fatal flaws in the game. It’s still hampered by a myriad of programming decisions that just don’t make sense, and these aren’t merely bugs in the Rebellion Beta; they are issues that have been present for years.
Chief among the problems is the arcane Iron Engine that powers the game itself. It doesn’t support Direct X 10 or 11, nor does it allow multi-threading, so it will only utilize one of your CPUs. This is no problem in the early game, but once the unit counts begin to rise you will see things slow down. Even on the fastest rigs players have reported lag in large scale battles and when the best part of the game is the large scale battles, that’s a serious issue.
Rebellion brings split factions to the table – loyalists and rebels – but this doesn’t add much to the game. It’s basically the same units with a few minor differences and different Titans. One side is more offensive, one is more defensive. It feels like an afterthought, and why anyone would choose a defensive faction in a game where you can only win by attacking is beyond me.
The graphics are supposed to be improved, but I don’t see much difference. Maybe if you zoom all the way in and carefully inspect the ships you could pick out some higher resolution textures, but no one actually plays the game that way. I’d take multi-threading over higher resolution textures any day.
I won’t bother you with the numerous smaller issues that hold Rebellion back. Instead I’ll sum it up by saying that it’s just the same old Sins with a few new ships and the same old problems. Stay away and hope that someone comes along and gets RTS in space right.