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Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion

Preview: Quashing the Rebellion in a Sinful Solar Empire

12:30 PM on 04.18.2012 // Daniel Starkey

Rebellion is a standalone expansion to the 2008 strategy game of the year, Sins of a Solar Empire. Elaborating upon the bare-bones story from the first title and subsequent DLC, adding two new classes of ships, three new factions, bumping up the quality of the textures, and adding more gameplay modes, win conditions, and planet types, Rebellion is basically a whole new game.

I was a huge fan of the original, and I've been in the second stage of the beta for the past week. At this point I can confidently say it's shaping up to be another really great entry in the real-time strategy genre. 

Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion (PC)
Developer: Ironclad
Publisher: Stardock
Release: June 12, 2012

Rebellion isn't easy to describe. The totality of its narrative is told in an opening cutscene as you start up the game, and the gameplay additions, while substantive, aren't easy to explore. The original game had three playable races, each with elegant distinctions. Rebellion splits each race into two factions, the 'Rebels' and the 'Loyalists,' giving the player a total six choices. Each represents a unique twist on the fundamentals of that sect. The Vasari, for example, are an alien coalition brought into human contact as they are fleeing an ancient and terrible power. As such, Vasari Loyalists are fiercely independent and have adopted scorched earth tactics, while Vasari Rebels have begun to recognize the potential benefits of cooperation and have huge bonuses to diplomacy when dealing with the two human groups.

Every playable faction comes with their own Titan -- a massive ship that embodies and enhances the playstyle of that sect. I will admit I had a lot of concerns about these new ships throwing off the balance of Sins because of how staggeringly powerful Ironclad said they were. I am pleased to see, however, that they fit in surprisingly well. Competent players can deploy the colossal vessels relatively quickly, and they have been given an integral role in a holistic strategy. These ships can make it really easy to push the boundaries of your territory and maintain fronts in mid-game.

Like starbases before them, Titans increase the speed of gameplay. By helping people conquer planets even faster, players are brought into conflict much earlier -- especially on larger maps. Titans can also be used for intimidation. Bring one in to a minor skirmish and you can quickly cause the opponent to retreat. Conversely, if you push your borders too far too fast, then you may find yourself on the business end of a massively powerful dreadnought.

The other new class of ship is the corvette. A small, quick ship that fills a much-need fast attack role without needing to bring in 'strikecraft' carriers. They are spectacular at harassing enemy positions, and have some special race-dependent abilities that can make it a lot easier to swarm more powerful vessels. You can use them at vital chokepoints to keep foes busy long enough to bring in your main forces, which helps reduce the need for expensive planetary defenses or keeping heavy cruisers or capital ships at every planet you control.

I've only had the opportunity to play through a full match as the Vasari Loyalists and the TEC rebels, but they both played smoothly and were pretty well-balanced. I can see the new factions being overwhelming for new players, but, to their credit, Ironclad gives a pretty good blurb explaining the basic idea and some of the unique powers and technologies you will have access to when you go to select your race.

Rebellion is still in beta, but if you're at all interested in 4X strategy games, or if you were a fan of the original Sins of a Solar Empire, then you should be watching for its release on June 12.

Daniel Starkey, PC Contributor
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