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At times, units felt a bit sluggish and unresponsive as we waited for our fleets to change targets or set them off on a new course. Yet at the same time, your individual ships automatically form up in flight formations with fighters and bombers taking point while cruisers bombard the enemy with their heavy weapons from the rear.
After getting used to controlling your units, you'll find that the slight delay in movement speed and reaction time allows you to focus on the bigger picture so your mouse movements and clicking are less about doling out knee-jerk twitch commands to individual units and more about the strategic placement of large groups of them.
But that's not to say that the game is perfect as is. This is still a beta, and at times, we found that using the mouse wheel to zoom in and out didn't always work right. Sometimes the camera pulled to the side, and zoomed in and out jerkily when we tried using the mouse wheel to adjust our view.
Above: Even with a ton of units on the screen, the beta ran silky smooth on our modest rig
As a RTS/4X hybrid, Sins also loses some of the depth you'd expect from your average 4X and it's pacing isn't as fast as an RTS. In fact, even a game on a small map could last several hours. While the mainstream audience may not have the patience for an epic online match that lasts an entire evening, we think Sins will be particularly appealing to those looking for something different from the traditional isometric C&C/StarCraft gameplay that's been recycled to death.
Considering that Sins of a Solar Empire's isn't scheduled to release until February 2008, we're pretty impressed with how well the game plays in its current beta build. If your interest is piqued, publisher, Stardock is allowing anyone who pre-orders the game into the beta where you can sample both single player and multiplayer.
In the meantime, click on the Images tab above for the latest screenshots. Stardock is promising hundreds of on-screen ships at the same time, so check out some ship-on-ship action that features more fighters, bombers, and cruisers than Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, and every other space sci-fi series ever created combined.