I posted this on Gamespot's players reviews and I thought I'd share it with the Sins community as well, for those of you who have time to read and maybe are on the fence with the game - enjoy (sorry it is a little wordy!).
At first I was kind of surprised there were still no official reviews on here or on GameRankings for this game because I wanted to see the critics take on it. Not that it would change my opinion because I already know the ups and downs and ins and outs of this 4X RTSish space opera, but just to see if it can somehow do well beyond a core audience and become more mainstream. I quickly realized that the reason NO PUBLICATION or online sites has reviewed this yet is because; 1) They are still playing it - engrossed so intensely in the deep gameplay experience that they have barely scratched the surface to give it a proper review. 2) Have played enough to give it a quick, but just review, but are struggling right now with the right words to describe it. Or 3) didn't even have this one on their radar or know it exists (which I doubt the last one if they are any kind of game publication or decent online site - do your homework!)
So in lieu of waiting for an industry critic to express their opinion of Sins, I thought I'd jump on quickly to give you my 2 cents worth (or a penny for your thoughts depending on how you look at it).
Sins of a Solar Empire (which I will henceforth refer to as Sins) is not going to be everyone's cup of tea. It is certainly a hybrid of gaming genres and mixes some of the better elements of 4X games (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate) with other great aspects of an RTS (real time strategy). If you are expecting tedious, micro-manageable, multi-level turn-based game then you may be a little disappointed (i.e. Master of Orion or Galactic Civ). But on the flip side, if you are expecting an all out RTS Zerg of space mayhem, a la Starcraft, then you may find yourself quickly getting bored. For the most part, Sins takes the best of both of these genres and mixes them up but what makes them work, imo, is that they do it so seamlessly with a very intuitive interface and easy to understand gameplay elements. Its one of the few games that truly lives up to the saying, "Easy to play but difficult to master."
Does Sins fall short in some areas? Of course, what game doesn't??? Not having a single player campaign could turn some people off. Dealing with some questionable AI at times (either clueless or way to difficult) can sometimes be annoying. Because of that there are constant balancing issues (i.e. instead of improving the AI in its truest sense you just dumb down some stats or frequencies). And from what I've seen on the boards, but haven't experienced myself, there are some multiplayer and MODding technical issues.
At times its almost as if the developer, Ironclad, put too much into this game. So much that after a long public beta period we are still seeing many balancing updates because they just couldn't get it all. That's not really a knock, I'd expect that from any developer worthy of my hard earned money, but somewhere in the back of my mind I wonder if those smart guys at Ironclad have bitten off more than they can chew - I hope so! In a good way, I hope this game eXplodes! I hope the community comes alive like it already appears to be with map (galaxy) making and MODding user contributions. I hope Ironclad and Stardock have to hire more people to create a downloadable campaign and support it and continue being as active with the community and standing behind their product as they are today. (Side note: They also made a very simple and useful galaxy builder tool called Galaxy Forge so the custom options are endless!)
Maybe its just that this game really is right up my alley, so of course I'm a little biased in saying its probably the best space strategy game I've ever played. For me, I will enjoy this one right up there with the likes of Masters of Orion, Starcraft, and Total Annihilation - all of them different but awesome in their own right. That's how Sins is for me, different, but awesome in its own right.
In the days when many of us are anticipating the release of a new hybrid of genres (Civ, RTS, 4X, customizability) and the delightful space exploration in S.P.O.R.E, its refreshing to see a game come out of left field (for some) and actually deliver the goods without stringing the community along for 4+ years in relative silence. Hats off to Ironclad for pulling it off and finally having a developer/publisher team that are real gamers and understand what makes a game great and how to support the community playing it.