Heading into my demo with space 4X game Alliance of the Sacred Suns, it was easy to harbour preconceived notions. This particular niche – which often looks towards Masters of Orion 2 or Alpha Centauri as the poster child – has been a bit over-saturated in the past decade.
Endless games promising some variation of ‘Civilization in space’ have left me a bit wary. Also, with Iceberg Interactive’s Star Dynasties doing the ‘Crusader Kings in space’ thing already, I was cynical that the final of Hooded Horse’s trio of strategy games could offer me anything I hadn’t already seen. It turns out I was wrong (mostly).
Alliance of the Sacred Suns is a turn-based strategy game about managing an interstellar empire as the reigning emperor or empress. You play as a character, not an abstraction of a collective, and your character has various stats, the most important of which is your health. In this particular game you get one life – and one chance – to be the best ruler the galaxy has ever seen. Once your character dies, that’s it – game over.
In games like Crusader Kings, playing for the future (especially in terms of setting things up for your heir) is just as important as playing for the moment. In Alliance of the Sacred Suns there is no future, no heir to take up where you left off.
In each turn you have a number of action points, which represent your ability to focus on specific projects or actions. Most things cost AP to accomplish, although some trivial or mundane tasks can be done for free.
You’re also not the only ‘character’ in the universe – pretty much anything important requires you to talk to someone else. Your empire has several great houses, and you’ll need to work to keep the house heads friendly. Planets are controlled by governors, and if you want a planet to work on something specific you’ll have to ask the sitting governor to do it. The game is designed to be less micro-intensive than your typical 4X, and overall I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.
It’s still quite ‘indie’ though, in that it’s a small studio creating a passion project on a limited budget. It also doesn’t appear the developer is leaning into the unique qualities of AoSS as much as they could be – for example creating some kind of meta layer to create meaning between successive ‘runs’ of being ruler.
Still, one to watch out for. Alliance of the Sacred Suns is targeting a late 2021 release window.