Sins of Solar Empire: Rebellion

It should begin at the beginning,  but you don't want to hear about my beginning. You don't want to hear how I steadily built up a multi-planetary enclave amidst a massive, eight player galactic war. You don't want to hear how I balanced my income while staving off pirate and enemy raids. You don't want to hear about how, after a monumental effort, I launched my first Titan-class warship. No. No doubt you would much prefer to hear of how I got my ass handed to me on a space-platter.

Sins of Solar Empire: Rebellion is an odd creature. It's a standalone expansion pack to a game released four years ago. Compared to other standalones, such as Shogun II's recent "Fall of the Samurai", it doesn't really add that much. Each of the three races (TEC, Advent and Vasari) get a new battleship, corvette and Titan each, as well as being subdivided into Loyalist and Rebel factions. Which side you take determines your Titan, as well as certain technologies, which can alter your playstyle pretty decidedly. If your a Sins fan, you'll know where you stand, and it's always nice to see some shiny new toys. It may be a little lacking in content compared to others, but it's still the Sins we know and love.

If you're new to the series, this is really the place to start. You get all the improvements the two previous expansions, Entrenchment and Diplomacy, added to the series, as well as all the shiny new things previously mentioned. It will also be a perfect introduction to just how excellent this series is.

You start with a single, Terran-analogue world, as well as a couple of scout ships to plot out the hyperspace jumps around your system. It seems odd to say, but these jumps are sometimes the coolest things about Sins. It's a joy to see a ship slip it's grav-anchor around your planet, maneuver to the edge of the planet's gravity well and power it's phase engines. Surrounded by a corona of light, the ship jumps to light speed before smashing to the well of its destination. Now imagine a fleet of over 100 ships do this in unison. I think you see my point.

As you expand outwards, you inevitably encounter hostility. Sins was always a gorgeous game, having a sweeping, epic feel to it, but with it's updated graphics engine, it looks better than ever. Battles are vast and magnificent to behold, especially in those closely fought matches where two equal fleets vie for dominance.

Though it might appear daunting at first, Sins is remarkably easy to get used to. The user interface is helpful and intuitive, and all aspects of the game can be scaled to fit the difficulty you desire. You can have a single, two-player system against the world's most passive AI, or a massive, tri-solar war against nine of the toughest AI opponents you'll ever play. And tough the AI can be. Not one to engage in hopeless fights, the computer will often raid a planet with impunity before jumping out-system the second your reinforcements arrive. This feature s frustrating only until you remember that that is exactly what you've been doing to them.

Sins has always been a game with a sense of scale, and this remains present here. With the scroll of your mouse's central wheel, you can instantly move from the grand system wide view, right down to a single fighter in an attack wing. One would expect this to be crippling to computer performance, but Sins takes it in its stride, and in Rebellion runs better than ever. While your ships fight it out, you must keep an eye on interplanetary choke points to fortify, asteroids to recolonise and pesky wormholes to defend should the enemy attempt to sneak into your territory.

Such was, sadly the fate that befell me. Just as my Advent forces, complete with 6 capital ships, innumerable escort frigates and cruisers and my Eradica Titan, were pushing towards the capital planet of the TEC Galan Rim Union, the Vasari Serak Warriors appeared in-system around my own capital, having jumped across the galaxy through a wormhole I had previously ingnored. I had no reinforcements to commit, no starbases, no planetary defences of any sort to call upon. It wouldn't have mattered. As the Vasari Titan laid a nuclear smackdown and my capitals population figures plummeted, I desperately tried to pull my main fleet out and make the 7-jump journey home, all I could think was: ''Damn. Why didn't I think of that?''

Because Sins is a game that will keep you on your toes. It is strategy in its grandest, most macroscale form, as deep or shallow as you want it to be. Eradicate your enemies, but keep an eye on those jump-lanes. You never know when an enemy might smash into an undefended system and catch you unawares. Let this not put off prospective new players. Rebellion is THE complete Sins of Solar Empire experience. If you haven't experienced the joy of vanquishing a fleet of 200 ships in blaze of laser glory, now is your chance. The galaxy beckons, gamers. Do the smart thing and experience it.