We’ve been pulling on the same pair of jeans for twenty five-odd years when it comes to space empire builders. The comfortable fit of a SimTex stonewash is time-tested, and its reliable density drags all and sundry towards the event horizon. As such, you wouldn’t be alone in feeling a wee twig of ennui towards the galactic overlord genre. The outliers are few, but one new tantalising project is tilting at trading the star lane traipse for something different. A little more, ahem, stately. [Dave, take note. This is how we use the word “stately”. -ed.]
Alliance of the Sacred Suns is looking to crib the best parts of Crusader Kings and long-foundered feudal majesty of Emperor of the Fading Suns; massaging them into a game where being Palpatine means leaving the grunt work to the grunts. Developer KatHawk Games hopes to do justice to the concept of ruling a kingdom whose girth is measured in light years.
Tilting at simulating the power politics and space-cum-soap opera of a great galactic empire, Alliance of the Sacred Suns is served with jostling houses and interstellar intrigue. The nod to Holistic Suns’ Fading Suns is no mere phrase, with Alliance drawing on its mix of medieval conniving and Victorian imperialism to paint a picture of an empire operating as a collective of independent organisms, rather than an amoebic monolith.
These houses are the sprockets of empire, their patriarchs and matriarchs sporting their own traits, specialties and diplomatic considerations. Where in the past pretenders to the galactic throne would shuffle workers or queue up constructions, Alliance of the Sacred Suns emphasises projects and coordinators. Big picture stuff. In any number of roles, the house heads can be cajoled into funding and carrying out these imperial decrees. Their individual power grows with each assignment, as do their aspirations and the flow-on effects of gaining favour in the imperial court.
But don’t take my word for it. Behold, reassuring USPs from the horse’s mouth.
- Top – level management – you have Action Points that are finite and vary from turn to turn. You can do anything, but you can’t do everything
- You are the Emperor – you are a character in a game that has hundreds that you will interact with. If you die, or are deposed, the game is over
- Multiple layers of strategy – from a traditional 4X-type (exploring and scanning new systems, colonizing planets, establishing outposts, building militaries and trade) upwards to developing your Great House and managing the other Houses that all have specialties that you can only take advantage of if you are on friendly terms with them, to discovering and reaching out to other breakaway human civilizations, to your ultimate goal of uniting the Celestial Empire against a final attack by humanities’ oldest enemy, the Xyl
- Dynamic character relationship model – you can affect your relationships with Actions that you can take against characters, from giving a speech to challenging them to having them executed. Of course, they have relationships with others in the game too, so consider the knock-on effects of anything you do…
- Great and Minor Houses – Houses limit what you can do as Emperor. Houses own territory, armies, etc. and if you piss them off, they may even try to usurp the Empire. Build alliances to allow characters with special talents and traditions to develop the Empire the way you want. For example, if you want a strong economy, you need good miners to ensure your factories run at full capacity, so you’ll want House Ilioaia (who has a strong mining tradition) on your side so you can appoint their members as viceroys of high-mineral planets… and so on.
- Don’t micromanage, create a Project! Unlike traditional 4X games, you don’t make build queues, you create Projects to get things done, from colonizing a planet to throwing a celebration to upgrading a logistical region. You must assign an Adminstrator who gains power and influence from this post, and determines how smoothly your project will go! Assigning characters to Projects is a great way for them to earn power and influence… but take care that they do not gain too much, especially if they are of a House that hates you…
For the cost of an extravagant strudel, the above can be purchased in pre-alpha state right now. It’s still very bare-boned, with a lot of features currently missing. However, if you’re wanting to get in on the ground floor of a very different, very deep type of space strategy, this might fit the bill.