I just finished up my first game of Sins II and would like to post some feedback. First off, I'm beyond impressed with the quality that I've seen within this game and from Stardock in general. The original Sins was really advanced for its time, and the continuing updates also gave it an enduring legacy. This upgrade to the game goes beyond any expectations I might have had for a sequel. Taking advantage of multi-core processing to deliver such a fine-grained detailed system for space combat and empire building was a definite plus. Hats off to Stardock.
Additionally, I'd like to comment that this is one of the finest communities that I've ever been immersed in. I've observed a lot of gaming communities over the years, but seldom do I take a part. This is far and away one of the best. Always helpful, no toxicity, and constant debate over ideas are the hallmarks of a health and long lasting community. Hats off to the Sins II community.
For context, they way I typically play is with a capital ship at the center of every fleet with supporting ships as part of that fleet. The ship classes and number depend greatly on the fleet's purpose. For instance, a carrier strike force would be centered by a carrier capital with several supporting "escort" carriers. It would include some defense meat such as anti-fighter and anti-missile frigates, a few defensive repair cruisers. A small number of close-in ships such as standard frigates and heavy cruisers would round it out. The intent of this fleet would be quick deployment into a gravity well, followed by an overwhelming assault by strike craft. A retreat would be a possibility if the fleet is threatened.
Now to my feedback.
I noticed that there's some room to grow when it comes to fleet management. There is a lot of real estate in the fleet window where a player can rename a fleet and also scuttle it all at once.
Adding a small slider on this screen as a threat tolerance level. This goes from 0 to the max setting for fleet cap in the game. Setting this will tell your fleets at which point some of the more advanced fleet mechanics get activated. These will be described in more detail below.
As an option, in the event that an enemy force exceeds more than 200% of the fleet's threat tolerance, the fleet will automatically retreat to the nearest friendly gravity well. This would also mean the return of the retreat mechanic.
Bringing this back would be very helpful. Additionally, some options could be added to it by designating a retreat style.
Battle Group (-10% armor)
Normal means of retreat. Since this is available at the beginning of the game, it could be better summarized as the "Rout" retreat style. Phase jumps initiated individually.
Disciplined (No modifications)
The fleet calls upon its training to avoid an all-out rout. Phase jumps initiated individually.
Fighting (+5% speed, +5% weapon reload speed, +10% phase jump speed)
The fleet is trained in the art of withdrawal. In addition to avoiding a rout, rearguard actions are able to inflict additional damage on the pursuing enemy ships. Phase jumps initiated as a group or in small groups as they're ready.
Designation of a Flagship
The flagship would serve as both a rally point and center of maneuvers for the entire fleet. Some ships are built to be flagships and provide bonuses. All fleet doctrines and dispositions would center on this flagship. Additionally, the fleet would hold formation even in motion. This would mean moving in the same direction and turning together. The speed of this formation would be slower than any individual ship moving, but would be no slower than the slowest ship in the formation. Depending on the type of fleet doctrine, this could be modified. Additionally, the flagship would speak for the fleet, meaning that its voice lines would be used when selecting the fleet.
Being in a fleet would also confer benefits as outlined below. These would be unlocked through research.
Return of Fleet Disposition
While I'm not sure if these have simply not been added yet, I'd return these with the caveat that they'd be able to be researched rather than just be present from the start of the game. Note that the modifications for disposition will stack with those for fleet doctrines described below.
Battle Group (No modifications)
Normal fleet spacing
Tight (-5% speed)
Would cluster the ships in the fleet close together. This would make it easier to protect vulnerable ships under a flak umbrella, but would make it more vulnerable to Area-of-Effect abilities. It would also make the fleet slower.
Loose (+5% speed)
There is much more space between individual ships. Ships would be more vulnerable and have less access to support, but prevents Area-of-Effect weapons from causing too much damage. Additionally, the fleet can move faster. Also under this disposition, the default jump profile would be individual jumping instead of as a group.
In addition to dispositions, I'd add different fleet philosophies and doctrines to the game. Each would come with its own advantages and drawbacks, and using one to counter another could turn the tide of any battle.
Battle Group (no bonuses or penalties)
The normal fleet structure that currently exists in the game.
Assault (+5% damage, +5% speed, -5% armor)
Would group all of the heavy assault ships in front of the flagship in a stacked line one thick. The flagship and support ships would bring up the second line. Finally, anti-fighter and artillery ships would make up the third line in the rear. This would allow for strong frontal assaults such as hitting starbases or taking on concentrated ships.
Rearguard (+10% speed, -5% armor, -5% ship damage)
This Doctrine would be used for a fleet preparing to depart a battle. It would also consist of three lines similar to the Assault Doctrine. Instead, however, the order is reversed. Artillery ships in front, the flagship and support ships in the second line, and heavy assault ships in the rear line. The difference between this and the Assault doctrine is that the anti-fighter ships would form a fourth line between the flagship and rearguard This would give the rearguard cover. Another purpose of this doctrine would be for fighter and bomber attacks, ensuring that the fleet itself can stay out of range of any enemy counterstrike.
Pursuit (+20% speed, -10% armor)
The fleet forms a compact column whose main purpose is speed. Instead of battle lines, The flagship forms up in the center, with the heaviest ships on either flank extending forward and back. The lighter ships such as frigates and corvettes make up the outer columns on either side. While it will permit faster fleet movement, this doctrine makes a fleet more vulnerable to counterattack
Defense (-10% speed, +5% armor)
Also called the Turtle Doctrine, this is a formation designed for slow and deliberate movement or to absorb a heavy attack. The ships are formed in a multi-layered ring around the flagship. Support and artillery ships sit in the innermost ring, anti-fighter ships in the middle ring, and assault and heavily armored ships on the outer ring. It's designed to give maximum support and anti-fighter coverage while exposing the heaviest ships to the brunt of any directional assault.
Escort (+5% speed, +5% armor, +10% PDC damage and speed, -10% damage all other weapons)
Similar to Defense, the Escort doctrine is designed to protect a single ship from damage as much as possible. In the case of this formation, the "escorted" vessel is the fleet's flagship. The escort ships will form a single ring around the flagship, with extra weight given to the rear of the formation. A good use of this formation would be the protection of Envoys in neutral gravity wells.
Siege (-20% movement speed, +10% armor, +5% missile range)
This Doctrine is a hybrid of the Assault and Defense Doctrines. The fleet forms a semi-circle around the flagship, with the flat direction facing front. In the battle line, all artillery ships are placed in a tight multi-tiered line. This facilitates forward bombardment of hard targets. The rest of the ships are arranged in a semi-circle around the flagship otherwise identical to Defense Doctrine: support ships in the inner ring, anti-fighter ships in the center ring, and heavy attack ships in the outer ring. This allows the artillery to do its job while minimizing the chances of being dislodged by a counterattack.
Advanced Tactical (AT) (Corvettes +10% speed, Anti-fighter frigates +10% firing rate, all other ships +5% armor)
This Doctrine is a combined-arms configuration. The front line in this case is a wedge formation, with alternating heavy cruisers and assault frigates. The flagship and support ships form the core, with the anti-fighter ships on outside of this. Artillery ships bring up the rear. In this configuration, though, corvette class ships from a ring around the core, rather than make up part of the armored spearhead. Whenever a threat is detected, the corvettes are able to move with a greater speed to act as skirmishers. They return regularly when they sustain enough damage to be repaired by the support ships, and return to the fray. Stacks with bonuses and penalties from Assault Doctrine.
In order to switch doctrines, a fleet must meet the following criteria without any research completed:
- All ships must be in the same gravity well
- The fleet must come to a full stop
- No member of the fleet can be under attack
Switching doctrines is something that is not easily done. Doing this operation in a friendly gravity well can be accomplished 50% faster.
Strike Craft Management
To me, strike craft feel a little too powerful. Not many ships can directly counter them, and they can stay out indefinitely. This section is meant to address some of those issues while providing a more natural feel for them.
The first and foremost change will be the fact that they will lose effectiveness the longer they're deployed. Whenever any strike craft is first launched, it will begin to lose combat effectiveness after a given delay. their damage and HP will begin to decay down to about 20% of each. This encourages players to dock them when not in use. They'll recover at about the same rate.
Something I've also noticed is that strike craft, particularly bombers, have a difficult time selecting the most valid targets. As part of this modification, I'd change the targeting priority as follows, from greatest to least.
- Capital Carrier
- Cruiser Carrier
- Repair Facility
- Repair Cruiser
- Gravity Well Hangar
- Phase Jump Inhibitor
- Missile Cruiser
- Capital Support
- Capital Mother ship
- Stationary Defenses
- Heavy Cruisers
Another setting, telling bombers in general what to target, might be useful. There could be the following categories that would rearrange the order as described above.
- Capital Ships
- Repair Facilities
- Strike Craft Bases
- Close Range Assault Craft
In addition to fleet doctrines, strike craft will have their own doctrines that can be applied. Unlike fleet doctrines, application of strike craft doctrine is instantaneous.
This is the default doctrine. Strike craft are launched manually and masse.
Stand-By (+5% speed)
All strike craft are docked by default, but are launched automatically if the fleet capacity of hostile ships in the gravity well exceeds the threat tolerance setting. They will be automatically docked if either the fleet leaves the gravity well or if the threat is eliminated. They can also be manually docked before that, and will not relaunch unless the threat once again exceeds the tolerance setting.
Sortie (-10% reload time)
This doctrine is similar to Stand-By, but all strike craft are launched immediately. After the predetermined time, the craft will begin to lose combat effectiveness at random times. Once that happens, they'll return to the carrier for a short recovery and relaunch. This keeps a large number of strike craft in the air for the longest time. However, keeping this doctrine on for too long will cause strike craft to launch in a less effective combat readiness. Only by switching off this doctrine for some time will the craft recover.
Combat Air Patrol (CAP) (+10% speed)
Using this doctrine, 1/4 or a ship's strike craft are in the air at any given time. Once decay hits the deployed craft, they will rotate with other craft on their respective carrier. In the event that a number of ships that exceeds the fleet's threat tolerance arrives, all strike craft will be launched to meet the threat.
Wave (+10% damage fighters, +15% damage bombers)
This is a more advanced type of assault doctrine. Once a threat is detected as mentioned in the previous sections, fighters will launch first. Once the number of enemy anti-fighter ships and strike craft has been thinned out, bombers will launch and attack hard targets such as Capital ships, structures, and cruisers.
There will be a new set of research trees to research all of the above dispositions and doctrines. At first, only Battle Group levels will be available. Each race, though, will get a set of new research technologies. Here's an example for the TEC factions:
- Close Quarters Positioning (Military I) - Unlock Tight Disposition
- Signals Encryption (Military II) - Unlock Loose Disposition
- Short Ranged Gunnery (Military II) - Unlock Assault Doctrine
- Weapon Coordination Systems (Military II) - Unlock Defensive Doctrine
- Tactical Planning (Military II) - Unlock Kite Doctrine
- Fleet Maneuvers (Military III) - Increases fleet reconfiguration speed by 30%
- Rapid Response Initiative (Military III) - Unlock Pursuit Doctrine
- Long Range Targeting (Military III) - Unlock Bombardment Doctrine
- Combined Strike Force (Military IV) - Unlock Advanced Tactical Doctrine
- Evasive Maneuvers (Military IV) - Enables switching doctrines while under attack
- War Games (Military IV) - Allows fleet reconfiguration while on the move
- Basic Training (Military II) - Unlocks "Disciplined" Retreat Style
- Tactical Withdrawal (Military III) - Unlocks "Fighting" Retreat Style
- Flight Academy (Military II) - Unlocks Assault Strike Craft Doctrine
- Heavy Stimulants (Military III) - Allows strike craft to stay deployed 30% longer before combat effectiveness starts to drop
- Night Flight Training (Military II) - Unlocks Stand-By Strike Craft Doctrine
- Pilot Rotation (Military III) - Unlocks CAP Strike Craft Doctrine
- Veteran Instructors (Military IV) - When using CAP or Assault Doctrine, strike craft gain +10% to damage in the first few minutes after launch
Well, that's my two cents. Hopefully this gives some ideas on ways to make the game better.