Emperor of the Fading Suns!

I have just realized that I picked up a copy of this for cheap at a game store some time ago and never actually got around to playing it. I booted it up and installed the latest patch. Whoo, it seems really complicated! Now, I love me some turn based strategy, but I just wanted to know before I jump in whether it’s worth my time or not. Is anybody here familiar with this game? Likes, dislikes? How’s the AI? I am sorry to bother you guys instead of just learning myself, but I have been very busy lately. If anybody knows anything about the game, I’d sure like to hear it. War stories are more than welcome too!

Mark L

It was a great game with a few fatal flaws. Oodles of atmosphere and promise that was let down by a brain-dead AI. It really only works well via PBEM. There were a few mods created which tried to fix some of the many problem in the game, like Nova: http://website.lineone.net/~rwein/nova/home.htm
or others here:

It kills me that noone has picked up this licence for another attempt.
Oh, and it has a good soundtrack too.

The AI is pretty bad, the game even patched is broken (e.g. things like the Guild, the Church, and stealth units don’t work right). It’s also extremely micromanagement intensive, as you can afford way too many units.

I loved this game, but it’s flaws were heartbreaking. :cry:

There are a couple of good Mods which greatly improve the game (mostly by reducing the number of units you can afford, and making the lowest tech units no longer the most resource efficient). Also, the AI isn’t so bad if you avoid taking advantage of it’s flaws (e.g. it doesn’t defend it’s capitol).

IMHO it’s still worth playing provided you get one of the mods, which says alot about how cool the theme is. I would greatly love to see this setting done right! Or even just finished and play tested, which I don’t think EFS ever was.

Also check out http://www.holistic-design.com for the latest patch. They released one, by popular demand, several years after the game’s release. Supposedly it fixes some of the major problems with the AI like building for example. It’s true the AI isn’t great but there’s enough meat to the game you might not really notice until you’ve played a couple campaigns through. Just figuring out how things work and exploring the systems is a pretty cool adventure in itself. But it’s also true that longevity really lays in the multiplayer mode once you’ve sorted out the AI’s glaring weaknesses fairly well.

Thanks, everybody. You mentioned multiplayer, is that worth learning it for? I’ve been knee deep in Space Empires 4 Gold, something I am considering making a whole separate post about. I wonder if the new patch for EFS makes a difference…just from my glance at the game it seemed so full of style and content- two words that go great together in any game, but most particularly TBS, which is my genre of choice.

Mark L

Like others have said, it was a game that had a lot of potential, but had some pretty big built in flaws. I actually played a couple of games PBEM with some friends and friends-of-friends and it helped avoid some of the AI problems, but after a while we were pretty sure that there was cheating going on, and although I never looked into it I think that it was pretty easy for a PBEM player to cheat. So don’t play with cheaters :)

Single player had problems with bad AI, including a problem after the game had been played for many turns in which the AI would lock up the turn because it couldn’t finish issuing orders (or something along those lines). That may be what the Holistic patch addresses.

I’d be all for a EFS 2, if they could follow through on the concepts they laid out in the first one and actually deliver, it would be an awesome game.

Wasn’t there some kind of EFS space combat game in the works? What was the name of that project? Is that still in development or did it fade into vaporware?


Noble Armada. Seems to have vaporized. I don’t see it listed on Holistic’s website or Matrix’s.

I looooooooooved Emperor of the Fading Suns. I don’t remember it being particularly buggy, but there’s definitely some rose colored glasses happening here.

Yes, Noble Armada has officially vaporized (finally, after a long time hovering on the verge of oblivion). Apparently, the guy programming it for Holistic simply decided he didn’t want to work on it anymore.


Dumb question – what is so special about the license? What does EFS have that, say, GalCiv doesn’t?

I haven’t played GalCiv but I think two things really made EFS distinct for me. One was the focus on planetary maps as battlegrounds. You really had the sense there were boots on the ground on worlds, wargame style, and that tactics mattered as much as strategy.

The other was the ambience of the setting. Space Opera Gothic ala Dune. Nobles, religious fanatics, banned sciences, lost caches of ancient weaponry, exotic troop types. The thing that really brought it out were the different levels of political and diplomatic manipulation going on all in a setting loosely based on a spacegoing feudal Empire in the throes of civil war. Manipulate the church’s control over the anti-technological inquisition, hell, convert enough followers to your particular heretical sect and take it over. Get elected to Emperor, by your peers, and have royal titles to dole out each with different advantages and some with impressive forces. Alienate or do business with the massive independant guild structure. Keep an eye out for alien invasions from several quarters - take those Imperial troops you’ve been granted to prosecute personal grudges and the external threats they’re supposed to be facing could get out of control. Unfortunately I think the aliens were borked until, or possibly even after, the last patch and would rarely attack if at all. Still fighting them could be worthwhile as one might discover lost tech or potential allies (exotic free units).

The gameplay felt like a bit cross between the the freewheeling parlimentary rules of Kingmaker, the empire building of Civilization and a straight up sci-fi wargame. The only thing missing, bizarre in a title based on a tabletop RPG, was a sense of roleplaying. The characters themselves were just nameless units apart from rulers and served relatively little purpose aside from rallying units. Noble commanders, if they’re all killed, would lose the game for you as well. Inserting a little roleplaying into the game ala Star Wars: Rebellion (the only good thing about the game) or Freedom In The Galaxy (a boardgame that did the same thing but better) would have really made it stand out all the more. That and not being broken.

The Fading Suns setting is arguably on par with Dune or The Book of the New Sun, whereas GalCiv’s setting is for me terminally bland. I had far more fun playing EFS in all it’s brokeness than GC.


The problem with the Fading Suns is that the very complexity that made it so neat is what made it almost impossible for even an excellent AI to keep up… and the AI that came with the game was anything but excellent. There’s an extensive diplomatic model, galactic governmental posts (which are there specifically to give the house that occupies them unfair advantages), overall strategic decisions on the space map, Civ-like play down on the planet faces, and so on. I really wanted to like the game… its features looked really cool. But I can’t begin to imagine an AI that would make the game even halfway fun.

As for PBEM games… I dunno. Those never worked for me for the Civ-type games. (Which is how part of the game plays out.)

I’m too lazy to google, but are there EFS fan sites with forums? Is anyone still playing today? Game is 7 years old and didn’t sell that well initially.

One was the focus on planetary maps as battlegrounds. You really had the sense there were boots on the ground on worlds, wargame style, and that tactics mattered as much as strategy.

This is the thing that actually scares me about the game – it seems like the scope is too vast. Manage an empire AND deal with the troops on the ground on every planet?! If you only have a dozen planets, I can see it being manageable, but most 4X style games (which I presume this would be classed as) have a lot more planets than that. The last thing I want to do is have a game where I’m dictating galactic policy and then immediately telling my grunts in Company E332 to reload their rifles.

The other was the ambience of the setting.

Yes. Fading Suns is one of the most underrated settings around, but sci-fi settings, in general, don’t do to well in the RPG market. Fading Suns is effectively the Dark Ages in outer space, and that’s a niche arena. But it’s very cool.

The only thing missing, bizarre in a title based on a tabletop RPG, was a sense of roleplaying.

Well, RPG type stuff doesn’t sit very well on top of galactic scale conquering. This is also the difference between leveraging a setting vs. leveraging a game.

If I remember correctly, there were only a dozen (or so) planets, and the surface area on each planet wasn’t too large. It was very manageable… but the different levels of abstraction completely hosed the AI.

The hook for EFS was definitely a combo of the setting (a very fun RPG pen and paper environment with Dune-ish pretensions) and the ability to actually fight out planetary invasions in a hex wargame fashion. It was and remains the only game where you actually can seize spaceports, land troops via jumpship, and fight out battles of planetary conquest of the sort you read about in sci fi novels. Unfortunately, as noted above, the game’s reach exceeded its grasp by a large amount.

I’d love to see the same sort of thing done with classic BattleTech though…

What everyone else said about the Middle Ages in Space setting. I loved the idea of Symbiots infecting planets at the edge of the galaxy, factions bickering ala Shogun over the capital planet, heavyweight offices to dispense to your lackies. And never forget the Inquisition!
Atmosphere by the boatload, whereas Galciv had generic human-like races battling over a generic random map.

Yes, wouldn’t mind a modern (graphics and features) version of this game meself :)

Who wants to make it with me?! I can bring the tea and bickies.


If only that was all it took!