Sins of a Solar Empire 2 developer Ironclad Games and publisher Stardock Entertainment have confirmed that the 4X RTS will launch in early access via the Epic Games Store (opens in new tab) on October 27. We already had a pretty good idea of the date, since Epic included it on the store page last month, but now we know what it will actually contain.
Good news: You'll be able to muck around with all of the "core systems", letting you see how the celestial mechanics, diplomacy, warfare and all that good stuff works, Ironclad co-owner Blair Fraser told me.
"If you remove a single piece of it, other parts just don't work," he says. "So we've got to put it all in, but just restrict the content, enough so that the systems operate but not to give away everything."
One of the big changes that you'll be able to see in action is the dynamism of the galaxy. It's always in motion, with planets orbiting stars and moons orbiting planets. This means you really need to keep an eye on celestial mechanics when planning long trips. If you're in a rush to get your fleet to a planet that's about to be attacked and another planet intersects with your route, you're going to be waylaid.
Along with the celestial mechanics, you'll be able to see how the ship combat system has evolved. The headline attraction here is turrets. These turrets are all individually simulated, spinning around and trying to find targets. Each missile is also a simulated projectile that your turrets will need to shoot down—thankfully that's handled automatically. Positioning is incredibly important, then, and you'll be able to use your beefier ships like a wall, protecting the glass cannon artillery at the back.
You can read more about these things in our exclusive Sins 2 preview from last month. In a follow-up chat, Fraser went into more detail about diplomacy and the other ways you can interact with the galaxy beyond blowing stuff up, calling these features "one of the most important and largest changes to Sins". You can do a lot to both work with and undermine your rivals, and expand your influence without being overtly aggressive.
If a rival has claimed a planet you had your heart set on, for instance, you might try to make a deal, exchanging it for resources that they need. They can then make a counter-offer, throwing more demands into the mix. If they give you the world, you don't want them stealing it a few minutes later, so maybe you make a temporary treaty. Ceasefires now have a set time where you can't break them, but after everyone's free to be jerk again.
You can also develop relationships with neutral factions, opening up new avenues for trade. If you see a rival doing the same, you can compete with them, setting up your own deals or outbidding them in auctions where you can win resources, bonuses or, in the case of pirate factions, pirate raid abilities that you can save up and deploy at will.
The bounty system has also been expanded. You can now place bounties on specific planets, and every AI and human player will be notified, though they won't know you're the source of the bounty. This allows you to quietly set up a killing blow while you're pretending to be your rival's friend, and when you're no longer locked into the treaty, you can start using pirate raids and bounties to make your conquest of their worlds even easier, as well as attacking their trade lanes to break their economy.
"So it's not just diplomacy," said Fraser. "It's how can I screw these other people over in ways that are more indirect and with less pew pew involved. These are the kinds of things that I've always found more interesting."
Exotic resources will also inspire more conflict. They're finite and necessary for things like special research projects, titan production and the construction of starbases. You can find them in derelicts and on planets, typically closer to stars, making these locations major flashpoints where there's a lot of competition. What's handy is you can tell your scouts to look for specific resources, along with neutral factions and whatever else you're keen to discover.
It's worth noting that the trading system is unique to the TEC faction, since mercantile ventures are what they're all about. You'll only be able to play as the TEC when the early access version launches, but if you miss the Advent and Vasari, don't worry, you'll still be able to play as them eventually. You'll also need to wait until next year for multiplayer shenanigans, since this build is going to focus on singleplayer.
The original game launched nearly 15 years ago, and while it received expansions and DLC right up until a few years ago, I've been eager for a sequel for a long time. The proof will be in the pudding, but from what Ironclad and Stardock have revealed so far, there are plenty of reasons to be excited for the early access launch later this month.