Oh wait, it really does just feel like labor.
In space… you can’t actually dig trenches.
[image1]Some of you may be familiar with Sins of a Solar Empire. You may also be aware that I liked it a great deal [That's an 'A-'... from Geoff, peoples. ~Ed.] This is still basically the case – Sins of a Solar Empire remains a solid title with some strong tactical foundations, good visuals, and variety of content. In terms of what is brought to the table, though, Entrenchment is mostly a disappointment.
One of the classic complaints some folks have about Sins of a Solar Empire – not my complaint, so much – is that there are few effective defensive tools you can rely upon to secure a system. The collection of defensive emplacements that you could load into a system, while an excellent aide to a defending fleet, can not deter a concerted attack on its own.
This is one of the elements of Sins that I appreciated: To play the game well, you needed to engage in a regular push-and-pull of advance and retreat, constantly looking for weaknesses in your opponent’s posture. It was not a turtling-friendly game. Entrenchment re-jiggers that significantly.
Fresh to Sins with the Entrenchment micro-expansion are starbases, one for each faction. Although each varies in the particulars, all are similar in basic intent: create an extremely resilient, powerful defensive tool. And all of them do this… a little too well. Each starbase, when upgraded sufficiently, become near-insurmountable defensive structures, pouring lasers and missiles far across the gravity wells of the planets they orbit. So tough are these starbases that full fleets can be ground down by one.
The result is a game that feels much less dynamic. With the ability to place a couple starbases at a chokepoint in the jump pathways, it becomes fairly easy to convert the game into a classic turtle-fest. The most ingenious tactic you can muster is baiting your opponent, and few rise to the occasion. It makes the game… dull.
[image2]Worse, since the release of Entrenchment, Sins has been much less stable for me. Since starbases require maneuvering much larger fleets about, many battles run the risk of bogging down or crashing hardware now – a problem that rarely arose due to the original's distributed, dynamic warfare. I’ve encountered plenty of crashes now, and my rig is not an anemic pup that stutters its way through Half-Life 2.
The other additions to the game include more defensively focused research options to turn many of the tactical platforms into effective support mechanisms for starbases and defensive fleets. I suspect that without the extremism of starbases, these would be welcome changes – as is, though, they simply exacerbate the problem.
Hopefully, the next expansion will bring some changes to the table that round out the game a little more, and strike a new balance. I’m tired of stalemates.