because of nostalgia (Shining Force 2, Super Mario 2) or
because its gameplay has held up well to the ravages of
time (Alpha Centauri). Emperor of the Fading Suns falls
somewheres in the middle. It is one of the first 4x games I
ever played but while its setting and concept were appealing
its gameplay suffered from serious problems. In many ways
it is a flawed classic. A game to come back to, fall in love
with, then curse the damnable scum who messed it up. But
more on that in a second. First it might be helpful to have some idea what is Emperor of the Fading Suns actually is.
Background, Inspiration, & Lore
several severe flaws and some concepts undeveloped the game is laughably easy in single-player and easily exploitable in
multiplayer. Lackluster advertising for the game didn't help matters. That there is in 2015 an active Steam community
speaks to the gem that lies underneath the problems.
So what does the game bring to the table? For starters it has a rather convincing sci-fi dark age setting. The in-game
manual (which is written from the perspective of an Orthodox clergyman) paints a picture of decay. The fact that it is
easier throughout the early game to capture existing cities and high-tech units adds to the sense that your faction is
living in the shadow of a far grander past. That the Universal Church proscribes certain technologies (and will burn your
heretical labs if you research them) adds to the feeling. The opening cinematic sets the stage for how humanity ended up
in its unfortunate predicament:
proclaim a new emperor, instead elect a regent to serve a 10 year term. All the while more cities fall to rebel hordes and alien invaders push into the Empire. I've heard the setting compared to Dune and there are a couple alien factions that
resemble the Protoss and Zerg from Starcraft.
Let us start with the good. There is a lot of territory to fight over. This is a picture of the galaxy map:
different worlds of Human Space. Hidden settlements, research outposts, and safe houses for your nobles are all very
easy to carry out. This brings up an interesting point. The game isn't about exterminating your enemies (although that is
possible), its about becoming Emperor (after only mostly exterminating your enemies). Not that exterminating your
enemies is all that practical due to what is the first major complaint about the game; micromanagement.
Unit Management & Planet Sieges
Keeping track of your unit production and army stacks can become tiresome. On one hand, this is a major flaw. On the
other hand, it means that with a typical group of players none of the planets will operate at peak efficiency or be fully
garrisoned. This makes your individual units more important, economy raiding a feasible strategy, and makes complete
conquest far too difficult.
While there is the option to have food and resources shared across planets it is far more strategic to force each planet to
make due with what resources are actually located there. It also means that if an enemy gains control of the space
around your planet they can bombard your farms and try to starve you out. It also means that invading armies need to
bring food with them. Starvation can become a problem quickly (especially if plague breaks out) and it adds a layer of
strategy not often found in other games.
Unlike some other 4x games Emperor of the Fading Suns allows stacks of units to battle. This adds a layer of strategy as
there is nothing worse than meeting a fleet of bombers and having no anti-air. Another consideration is the need to
safeguard your nobles (whose death equals game over) and sceptres (which allow you to vote for the regent).
So who are these other factions the player faces off against? The player's main concern is the other four noble houses.
There are a few other A.I. factions as well. In no particular order they are...
The Hawkwood's design is based off of European history and style. Their starting planet is Delphi in
the Northern part of Human space. Delphi is a frozen wasteland with little land good for farming but
an abundance of gems.
The noble house of Li Halan is inspired by Asian culture. Based on the arid world of Kish this noble
house has easy access to oil and minerals but lacks in food production and exotica.
Essentially designed to be a covert ops/hedonism society with no real world parallel. Starting planet
is Severus, a jungle world with a large ocean. Minerals are painfully rare but oil is abundant.
Based heavily on a mixture of Spanish and Spartan influences. The Hazat starts on Aragon which is
fairly balanced resource-wise. Oil being a bit more difficult to find than other resources.
Influenced by Arab culture. Based on Istakhr, another temperate world. No specific resources are
deficient but the planet sits on the edge of Symbiot-occupied space. If they break through Al-Malik
will be hard-pressed to stop them.
the game and occasionally destroy your labs but otherwise is content to be left alone. The League has a presence on each
starting planet and you can buy and sell resources from them. However, when the League has amassed enough wealth it
will establish the Third Republic and declare war on all other factions.
The Symbiots are a Zerg-like race that occupies three planets in the North-West of Human space. While meant to be a
constant threat humanity needs to unite against problems with A.I. means their first invasion fleet is destroyed within the
first turn and they don't build another.
The Vau are the second alien race which is vaguely Protoss-like. Exceptionally powerful units but isolationist. Will buy any
planet maps you want to sell them. It is never developed on why the Vau want maps of planets in the Empire...
The diplomatic options in this game are actually
comparatively good. You can offer/demand up to
three separate things for each transaction. A PM
system is also included for the more intangible
agreements you might make.
Money, tech, votes in the Regent Election, and
command of a part of the Imperial Military can all
be traded among the nobles. The Church has a few
additional options. You can ask them to ban a
specific technology, excommunicate your enemies,
or agree to sign the Holy Writ.
The League and Vau don't have a fleshed out
diplomacy option which is a shame.
Every 10 years an election is held to determine the new Regent. Each house has 5 votes represented by a special sceptre
unit (which can be stolen). Votes may be promised ahead of the election for various favours. Once elected, the Regent
must assign the three high offices of the Empire (they may take one): The Imperial Fleet Commander, The Imperial Eye,
and the Stigmata Garrison Commander.
even occurs. The Stigmata Commander has a large army but little use for it since the Symbiots don't function properly.
Graphics & Sound
game or two and wait for the day a worthy successor appears.
Check it out if you want.