Explore.. Expand.. Exploit.. Exterminate.. the staple of 4X is all found here in Iron Clad's Sins of a Solar Empire.
So during exams I decided I'd buy this RTS, cuz you know, who studies. This is one of the best I've played, with amazing scaling and an interface every RTS should learn from. The graphics are just insanely beautiful and you can zoom in and zoom out to crazy levels of detail so smoothly. You can play the large battles for months, with around 5 star systems, each with 20+ planets, you're in for a long haul. It also remains interesting.
The back story is that Trader Emergency Coalition (TEC) are the humans who have after many eternal conflict banded together to fight the other two races that have entered into their space. The first were the Vasari, a mysterious race running from some unknown terror which has chased them across galaxies. Their focus on technology is phasing and their weapons are missile-based aimed at by-passing shields. The second enemy to the TEC are the Advent; decendants of exiled humans from thousands of years ago hell-bent on revenge. Their exile was due to their belief in promoting psychic powers through any means necessary. So this bunch of predominantly female (cuz they're more psychic *shrugs*), drug and technology enhanced humans are back to unleash some psychic vengeance on the TEC. I love the chilling voices of the Advent ships, creepy. The Vasari are very strange.. for their strong and evil appearance of both themselves and their ships, having the back story of them running away from some mysterious enemy sounds kinda stupid.
So that sets the basis of the conflict and the different races. The game is predominantly focused on space combat, building giant capital ships with a few large cruisers backed up by many smaller frigates. As your capital ships gain levels they open up new abilities which can range from disabling other ships or making your frigates stronger. There are the other elements such as diplomacy, economy, spreading culture and sabotage, but at the end of the day all these are there to help you build a bigger more badass fleet. Nothing is more satisfying than starving your opponent of resources and then putting a large pirate bounty on their head, then as they rush to defend against the pirates you bomb the population of their homeworld.. well there is just rocking up with thousands of carriers and swarms of bombers take out everything in their path.
The ships to begin with are relatively the same across the races; the TEC being relatively cheaper whilst the Vasari are a little stronger, but they all have the same off-setting frigates: a planet colonising ship, a scout, an all around frigate, long range frigate, a planet bomber and a fighter squadron defense frigate. As you climb the tech tree though, new technology begin to separate out the races. The Advent have very specific cruisers with special abilities such as the Iconus Guardian which creates a shield to share damage taken by all friendly forces within or the Domina Subjugator which has the ability to disable a ship all together. The Vasari have research that allows ships to enter phase space and travel outside of phase lanes (each planet has a gravity well which slows ship movement, but each planet is connected by phase lanes which ships can jump into phase space to travel quicker), hence cutting down travel time and allowing Vasari ships to be anywhere pretty quickly.
It's a really deep game, well worth buying. Bonus is that there is no copyright protection, so you can pass it around your friends and lose 6 hours of your life on a small-medium sized game haha. An expansion is announced, but no details as to when or the content.