by Davneet Minhas
reviewed on PC
Revisiting a Classic
When Stardock released Sins of a Solar Empire two years ago, the game's large-scale blend of real-time strategy and turn-based strategy elements garnered multiple PC game awards. But its slow pace and predictable AI soured the game for me a bit.
After taking the time to establish a sustainable economy and large fleet, while fending off constant hit-and-runs from AI opponents, I could methodically destroy enemy fleets and planets. At least until the AI players allied with each other. Such scenarios were either very frustrating when they crushed me or very rewarding when they didn't.
Diplomacy, the recently released micro-expansion for Sins allays many of the qualms I had with the original by providing features fitting to its title. The biggest and most encompassing addition is a new way to win campaigns: Diplomatic Victory. Theoretically, achieving a diplomatic victory is straightforward: make everyone love you. Practically, doing so is complicated.
Every player in a campaign has a diplomatic score, which represents how he or she or it feels about you. That diplomatic score results from a large number of detailed variables, including adjacent territory, military actions, resource trading, and fleet strength. Some variables are out of your control, such as racial inclination. The Advent do not like the TEC – and diplomatic inclination – and some AI players just don't like you from the beginning.
To make those players like you, the Sins expansion offers a new research tree aptly titled Diplomacy for the TEC, Understanding for the Advent, and Manipulation for the Vasari. The new win condition may be Diplomacy's largest addition to Sins, but the new technology tree is its most important.
The first researchable technology, and your initial foray into relationship building, is a new cruiser which can be sent into other systems to increase relations with and generate income from AI or human players, thereby creating new opportunities with allies. You can also research general relationship bonuses that automatically improve Diplomacy points with other factions.
In the original Sins, AI players could offer you missions, but you had no way of offering missions back. With Diplomacy, assuming you have the required research upgrade, you can pay an AI player with an amount dependent on your Diplomacy points to attack an opposing player's specific planet. It is a great way to keep AI players vulnerable and to prevent them from ganging up on you.
A new level of interaction with AI and human opponents.