Your Galaxy and You
A game of Sins of a Solar Empire can feature many planets in a solar system with distances spanning millions of miles. In larger games, players may encounter more than 100 planets across six or more solar systems with distances spanning many light years. Solar systems are comprised of a single star surrounded by many planets, planetoids, or anomalies. Each of these objects generates a spherical gravity well around themselves, the size of which is determined by their mass and density.
Ships are affected by gravity wells in several ways: vessels travelling towards the center of a gravity will move faster while those moving away are slower; gravity wells also impact a ship‘s ability to Phase Jump. With such vast distances in play, it would literally take hours for ships to travel from one world to the next using sub-light speeds. The races in Sins of a Solar Empire work around this dilemma by using Phase Space. As a ship reaches the edge of an object‘s gravity well, they will power-up their phase jump engines and punch a temporary hole into Phase Space.
Through Phase Space, trips that would have literally taken hours of game-time to traverse occur in just seconds. There are some limitations with travelling through Phase Space, however. Not all worlds are directly reachable from one another; those that are are indicated by faint lines connecting the objects in a solar system called phase lanes. Phase lanes indicate the corridors of space through which a ship can enter Phase Space. This is important, as it means that you can create bottlenecks to protect your empire from invaders. Another limitation is that once a ship has entered Phase Space, it cannot be interacted with. You must wait for the vessel to reach its destination before issuing it new orders. Lastly, ships entering Phase Space are vulnerable to attack while they power-up their jump engines.
The Empire Tree
One of the most powerful tools in the game is the Empire Tree – a collapsible tree that resides along the left-edge of the screen. The Empire Tree lists the planets, structures, and ships in the galaxy that you have selected or that you have attached through pinning. The Empire Tree gives you direct control over the whole of your territory using an intelligent selection and display system.
At the top of the window are three buttons: Pin, Search and Stack. When you select an object, its hierarchy will appear in the Empire Tree until you select something else or deselect it. If you‘d like to keep an object in the Empire Tree, select it and click the Pin button. The Search button allows you to quickly display and select certain planets, ships and control groups by simply clicking on the appropriate button or icon. As you hover over each button with your cursor, an InfoCard will appear displaying more details for that item. Stacking combines all ships of the same type into a single icon, instead of displaying each vessel individually.
To make the most of the Empire Tree, in particular after selecting units using the Search button, you can move through the sub-selected item in the tree using tab and control-tab. This allows you to operate on each object without losing your overall selection, and is very useful during combat situations. Every object in that appears in the Empire Tree can be interacted with in the same way you would in the main gameplay view. You can even instruct one of your groups to attack an enemy.
Camera Controls and Zooming
With a galaxy at your fingertips, it‘s critical to be able to view what‘s happening quickly and easily. Sins of a Solar Empire‘s camera and zoom options are what help to make this possible. Using the mouse wheel, you can zoom out to a view of the entire galaxy or zoom in to the smallest fighter. There are two primary camera modes: Zoom-to-Cursor and Standard.
Zoom to Cursor (default): This is an intelligent mode where the camera will zoom to where your mouse cursor is located on the screen. If your cursor is over a particular object, the camera will center upon it while you zoom in or out.
Standard: In this mode, the camera will zoom in or out on the center of the screen. You can also lock onto specific objects with this mode by double-clicking on them. Both camera modes are useful and some players may want to switch quickly between them. This can be done by pressing the “m” hotkey.
By holding down the right-mouse button and moving the mouse, you can swivel the camera 360 degrees. If you‘re locked onto an object at the time, the camera will swing around it. Even more ways to control the camera can be found in the key bindings section in the Options menu.
Located on the lower left of the gameplay screen are the Report Dialogs. This is where you‘ll get information on the latest happenings around your empire – everything from offers of alliance, to construction projects being completed, to raids against one of your worlds. As a new report comes in, an image will appear in its respective button to give you a quick heads-up on what type of news it is. By clicking on an alert, a dialog box will appear that displays a history of the last several reports you‘ve received in that category. You can move forward through the list of reports by left-clicking on the button, or move backward in the list by right-clicking. If you hit the space bar, the camera will automatically jump to where the highlighted report originated.
From left-to-right the four types of reports are:
Planet Reports: These will tell you when a new planet has been discovered by one of your ships, when one of your worlds has completed a important project and more.
Production Reports: These reports inform you when new ships are completed by one of your shipyards, plus when structures and research are finished.
Diplomacy Reports: Should another player have a treaty to offer, it will be logged in this report.
Threat Reports: When a new item appears here, be warned! It‘s an indication that one of your ships or planets is under attack - or worse.
Quick Stats Display
You can find out vital information about your currently selected object from these three windows. For ships or structures, current hit points, shield points (if applicable) and antimatter store (if applicable) are listed. On planets the display shows the world‘s current health, tax income rate, and culture rate. By default the Quick Stats displays your Empire, Military and Economy rankings. Scuttle / Abandon Planet At the bottom of the center selection window is the Scuttle button. This allows you to destroy any ship or structure that you own, or to abandon a planet. Should you wish to abort the countdown, just hit the Scuttle button again. Scuttled ships and structures will gain you back some resources.
If you don‘t want to place structures around your planets yourself, you can have the AI do it for you by enabling Auto-Placement. When enabled, the AI will place the structures you tell it to build using its best judgment.
Pinging and Ally Requests
There are two methods of pings in Sins of a Solar Empire and both will work in single-player and multiplayer games. A standard ping, issued by clicking the "Ping" button, creates a temporary visual marker around the selected object that‘s visible to your allies. In single-player games, your computer-controlled allies will make their best judgment call as to what you intend for them to do with your request. Smart pings give you greater control and can double as a method for requesting A.I. allies to perform certain tasks.
To issue a smart ping, first select another faction’s planet; you‘ll see three buttons appear in the Action Grid:
Set Ally Attack Target – requests your allies to attack the pinged target.
Cancel Ally Order – tells your ally to ignore your last request.
Set Ally Defense Target – requests that your ally send ships to defend the target.
The Action Grid appears in the lower-right corner of the gameplay area and is where the most used game controls appear. The buttons on the Action Grid will vary depending on whether you have a planet or ship selected. For planets the grid displays:
Planet Development – Gives you access to the upgrades needed to turn your planet from a simple colony into a beacon of power.
Logistics Structures – From this you can construct new factories, mines, research facilities and more in orbit above your world.
Tactical Structures – A wise ruler knows to protect his planets and this tab gives you the ability to do just that with weapons platforms, repair bays and more.
Ship Construction – On the lower bar of the Action Grid you can access your various ship construction options. Some vessels require special factories and research before they can be constructed.
Rally Point – With this button you can set a rally point for all the ships built at this planet. Rally points can be placed in any gravity well or even attached to specific fleets. Planet development, logistics and tactical structures will be explored later in the manual in greater detail.
Attack Stance – By left-clicking this button you can order your ships to attack a specific target or area. Right-clicking toggles auto-attack on and off.
Stop – Cancels all the orders that have been given to the selected vessel or structure.
Move – Left-clicking this button allows you to move the selected ship to the desired location by left-clicking again on your destination. Right-clicking this button toggles group movement on and off. With group movement on, your ships will attempt to phase jump as a group and not individually.
Squadron Management – For those ships or structures which are able to support squadrons you‘ll be able to click on this button to order the construction of fighter or bomber squads.
Ability Management – Capital ships and Titans can be upgraded with unique abilities when they gain levels; while you can purchase up to eight upgrades for your starbases based on your technology research.
Fleet Cohesion – This controls how far ships can move from their fleet leader. Tight is a very short distance (stay as close as possible), Standard is a moderate distance, and Loose is relatively far.
Engagement Range – This is the range that ships use to determine whether they can attack or use special abilities on a target.
Leave Fleet - Remove the ship from the fleet it’s currently joined to.
Create Fleet – This creates a fleet from the ships you currently have selected. Whichever vessel you have sub-selected within your group becomes the fleet‘s leader. The other ships in the fleet will rally around the leader and attempt to act as a single, cohesive unit based on the orders you give it. By default, most ships will automatically attempt to join a fleet if one exists in the gravity well when they enter it.
Retreat – When clicked, the selected forces will retreat to the closest, safest planet possible, avoiding enemy territory if they can. Note that it may not always be possible for your forces to retreat to a safe planet. Retreating forces ignore jump as group orders.