So the Entrenchment micro-expansion for Sins of a Solar Empire is officially released next week.
As a little bit of background, in August '08 Ironclad and Stardock announced the decision to release a series of three download only, micro-expansions instead of making fans wait longer for a full expansion. It has been hinted that once all have been released they may be rolled up into one boxed expansion for purchase, but this certainly isn't a promise yet. Entrenchment is the first of these, originally planned for November '08 but pushed back to February '09 to allow for comprehensive beta testing. The beta has been openly available to download since December '08, by "pre-ordering" the expansion, priced at $9.95, and Ironclad (generally beloved by the people since the release of Sins) have been keen to show their willingness to obtain and consider feedback during the extended beta.
For those of us sitting on our hands, eagerly awaiting the final release, what can we expect from Entrenchment?
The clue's in the name. Entrenchment expands the defensive options and, by and large, increases its strategic significance. Specifically, with starbases to consolidate power, more defensive structures, an enhanced tech tree and minefields. Improved logistics systems will make it harder to rush in and win without some kind of considered strategy. Ironclad have also been keen to fill in what they see as holes in the original game. For example, the introduction of minefields and resizing of gravity wells means that the nippy scout ships will retain their use beyond the early game. Their speed will now make them invaluable because it won't be as simple for larger ships to employ "hit and run" tactics, leave aside the fact that only scouts are able to detect enemy minefields.
Taking a brief glance beyond Entrenchment, the currently unnamed second micro-expansion will concentrate on expanding the diplomatic and other non-military angles of the game. Expect this expansion within a handful of months. No news yet on the third and final add-on.
Ironclad stated early on that they didn't want to fracture the Sins multiplayer community; they are handling this by only making expansion features available in multiplayer mode if all participating players have the expansion installed. Frustrating?
But then again, is there an alternative?
On the whole, it sounds like Entrenchment might be something to get pretty excited about, especially if balanced accurately, but whether it has been worth the wait for "just a micro-expansion" remains to be seen...