Considering that Sins of a Solar Empire, the interesting attempt of Iron Clad Studios to create an RT4x was met with considerable success and sales to match, the producers decided to improve it with a series of micro-expansions. A micro-expansion (term which was invented with this occasion) is supposed to have less content than a regular add-on, but enough to avoid being considered a hefty patch. Being fairly priced (a third of what a normal expansion would cost) Entrenchment contains a series of changes and improvements meant to change the gameplay experience and, at least from this point of view, can be considered a success.
Ironclad carefully listened to the fan’s requests, who complained about the difficulties of fighting on more than one front at a time, as well as the inability to defend second-line colonies, and gave them just that. Entrenchments stands for fortifying, and so most new elements are defensive in nature, with new ships, base structures, and new statistics.
First of all, each faction we now has a new branch in the technology tree, dedicated exclusively to defensive aspects. Here you can, for instance, improve the turrets, making them more resilient and giving them extra attack options. One of the main complaints was about the uselessness of these turrets in the late game when faced upgraded enemy ships, which could easily bypass or destroy them if they so please.
Each turret can now receive an upgraded range, improved damage, as well as a secondary attack option, such as the laser gun for the TEC, or the ability to share shields with neighboring structures for the Advent turret. Furthermore, hangar bays are now equipped with anti-ship cannons, making their placement more tactical than before and increasing their overall usefulness.
On the new features list there are also minefields, with different types for each faction. The regular TEC mines explode when they detect nearby vessels, the Vasari ones will immobilize them, while the proud Advent mines won’t wait for enemy ships to come into range, and instead they’ll go on the offensive and follow them around. Mines can be placed anywhere in your own gravity well (aside from the Vasari ones, which can also be placed enemy territory) and can only be detected by scout ships, hence a new feature for these little and fragile vessels.
However, the biggest change in this micro-expansion takes the form of the starbases, available for research in the same defensive branch I mentioned earlier. These giants can be upgraded to fulfill a variety of roles, be they offensive, defensive or a combination of the two. Once built, they can be fitted with modules which can improve various aspects, such as shields and attack power, but can also be set to repair or build frigates, generate income or to better defend the star system it was built in.
An interesting option is the ability to build such a starbase inside the enemy’s gravity well, and once set up there, destroying it can prove a difficult task for the opponent. Assuming it’s not blasted to bits during construction or while its modules are being installed. Faction differences can be seen in starbases too, with the TEC being able to upgrade theirs to produce frigates and cruisers, while the Advent Transcencia can use a meteor shower to damage and confuse enemy ships. The Vasari Orkulus on the other hand can move inside the gravity well and can teleport a friendly ship from a distant system, if need be.
Considering the resilience and strength of the starbases, a new tactical approach is needed when considering the right place to build such a structure, as well as more micro-management to take one out. The cost involved is yet another issue. Not necessarily the starbase itself, but the cost of bringing it to full value by investing in its modules. Once built and brought up to speed however, ity will have a major impact on all combat taking place around it.