Celestial Kings: Alliance Of The Sacred Suns

Stellaris, the grand strategy/4x hybrid from Paradox, wasn’t trying to be Crusader Kings 2 in space. It’s a very different game, with a focus and goals that don’t quite fit in with the personality-driven world of Crusader Kings. And that’s fine. I enjoy Stellaris a great deal and can’t wait to see how it grows. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to play Crusader Kings in space though, and Alliance of the Sacred Suns [official site] looks like it might be almost exactly that.

Here are the basics:

Alliance of the Sacred Suns is a 4X game where you have just reached your majority as an 18-year old trying to rebuild humanity’s old empire after a cataclysmic war forced humanity to move to a new quadrant of the galaxy. It is over 1000 years later and you are thrust into a position where, after a string of weak emperors, everyone from planetary viceroys, to system and sector governors, to scheming Primes (basically cabinet heads) is forward to taking advantage of your inexperienced and timid rule.

The important thing here is that you play a character, not a nation, empire or race. You are a person in the game world. And that person has limited time and energy:

In AotSS, you do not have unlimited power. Unlike virtually every other 4X game out there, you can not do anything at anytime. You have a small pool of Action Points that you spend to do basically anything, from planning empire-spanning Projects, to communicating with characters in the game, to meeting with your cabinets, to even going hunting. As you age, your pool will gradually increase, reflecting your increased familiarity with how to ‘make things work’ as an Emperor. Most importantly, the Action Point limit puts the kibosh on micromanagement, allowing us to simulate your empire in unprecendented depth without thereby forcing you to spend hours optimising every last trade fleet. Your choice of where to intervene becomes a matter of careful deliberation – the Emperor’s time is precious!

Where’s the fun in playing as a character if you don’t have other characters to play with though? Alliance of the Sacred Suns has you covered. The galaxy is full of people, and you’ll need to interact with them to get things done, whether forging alliances or plotting in the shadows. In order to learn their traits skills and possible motives, you’ll need to spend time learning about them, as all of their qualities are vaguely defined when you first encounter them.

Those characters are contained within Houses (immediate and welcome echoes of Dune), which are “multi-generational organizations” that own planets or systems. The Empire is the sum of all the Houses within it, and you (nominally) rule over them all. Again, it all sounds very Crusader Kings.

The game is about less micro and more about making the large-scale decisions that shape an Empire. You will not be building 10 Science Labs to accelerate research; instead you will designate a planet as a Scholarly Conclave and try to install a viceroy that is aligned to the need for research, allowing that planet to grow organically – they will build Academies and attract academia themselves, with a few nudges along the way. You will not be building transports and endlessly clicking materials to go from planet to planet – instead, you will set up trade hubs that serve as collection centers and build starbases of appropriate sizes to move materials and food along from your Imperial capital to sector capitals to system capitals to normal colonies.

Formerly called Imperia, the game is deep into development. I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of it before today, when a tweet brought it to my attention. I’m fascinated by indirect control in games, as my love of Distant Worlds makes clear, and if AotSS manages to pull off even half of what its sole developer is attempting, it could be my next favourite space game.

Here it is in action:

And if you prefer words to video, here’s a blog entry about the workings of AI, framed as a day in the life of a character.


  1. Harlander says:

    I’d fiddled around with this a bit earlier (back when it was called Imperia) and it’s pretty interesting. At the time I felt it didn’t quite give enough feedback on the actual consequences of things you did, but there’ve been a lot of changes since then.

    “CKII in space” is absolutely the description for it.

  2. SirRoderick says:

    It looks really interesting, but the official site appears to be down so I’ll have to bookmark this for later perusal :P

  3. RedViv says:

    Hooray! Indirect control works!

    If I had not been smitten before, they definitely would have gotten to me when they paired a regal Empress with Basically Lord Dominator Bots in the header pic.

  4. Shiloh says:

    That looks pretty interesting – I’m getting a sort of Dune-y vibe from it.

  5. Chiron says:

    My body is ready.

  6. JiminyJickers says:

    Sounds good! CK II is my favourite strategy game in a long time just because of all the personal/political drama.

  7. Captain Narol says:

    I’m one of those people who wish Stellaris would be more like CK II, so color me as very interested !

    Let’s hope they can deliver…

  8. mercyRPG says:

    Combat is junk in Stellaris compared to Mega-Amazing Master of Orion I-II. Since battles are everything for me in a space game, I ain’t buying Stellaris.

    • mitthrawnuruodo says:

      Indeed. And sadly ParadoxDevs have no real short term plans to improve it.

      • Zenicetus says:

        That’s not entirely true. The Heinlein patch for October will include a “combat overhaul” which is mainly a switch to dedicated roles for ships, and some weapon balancing.

        If by “improving it” you mean a complete switch to hands-on, turn-based tactical combat, then no that won’t happen. It’s not the Paradox style. They want combat results determined in advance on the strategic level.

    • zer0sum says:

      Check out StarDrive 2 if you haven’t. I made it. Battles are good:) I think we have a big week long sale coming up.

    • Doubler says:

      Personally I’m quite happy to have some space 4X’s that emphasize empire management and downplay combat, but if the opposite is true for you you might want to give Sword of the Stars a try some time if you haven’t already.

    • Scrofa says:

      Battles in MoO1-2 are an absolute chore to play and contain zero tactics.

  9. Someoldguy says:

    I love this sort of thing when it really works. I hate it when the AI is hopeless and the rival empires have to cheat to appear competent. Fingers crossed.

  10. MajorLag says:

    Any 4x that claims to do away with tedious micromanagement has my attention.

    • mitthrawnuruodo says:

      Not proper 4X (lacks the exploration part), but do try out Romance of the Three Kingdoms XI and Nobunaga’s Ambition : Sphere of Influence.

      • shde2e says:

        Sphere of Influence is absolutely loaded with micromanagement though. It just has an extensive automation system, which basically allows you to automate most of the work if you want to (and you will want to.)

        On the other hand, once most of the stuff is automated i found that there wasn’t really much left to do for me, so then it just became boring.

  11. Niko says:

    I’m sold just after seeing the title image.

    • Sound says:

      Yeah, it’s wicked. Captures a lot of that Dune feel, too. I hope the game includes tons of visual and UI cues that feed into that aesthetic and vibe.

  12. wodin says:

    Great to see some innovation here. Also I love more hands off type games, stems from my love all those years ago playing Football Manager on the BBC B..loved watching the match play out. Games you plan and then watch things play out are for me. So will be keeping my eye on this one.

  13. mitthrawnuruodo says:

    After the disappointment with the arbitrary limited and extremely lazy character system of Stellaris, this does look alluring. But given their roadmap, and unavoidable delays, I do not foresee the “1.0 alpha” coming out before 2018.

    • texashawk76 says:

      Hey mitthrawnuruodo, this is Steve, the developer of AotSS. .4 has been delayed in part because we completely redid the entire UI/UX. which took a while because with a game like this we really wanted to get it right (it will absolutely make or break the game). We have been working on the .5 update somewhat concurrently (the Emperor update) and while we have been hesitant about wanting to pin down exact dates due to the size of this project, we are making very solid progress, and in fact will release a new gameplay video either this weekend or next week. Thanks!

  14. Shadow says:

    I had no idea this was even a thing. Looks very interesting, and I love the Dune/Fading Suns vibe.

    • dasquish says:

      Thank goodness, another Fading Suns fan. I thought I was the only person who played that game!

      • snv says:

        As i recall Fading Sun’s was extreme micromanagement and as such the opposite of Celestial Kings. Do i remember it wrong?

  15. The Ultimate Clone of The Ultimate Warrior says:

    We wants it! We neeeeeeeds it! Smeagol likes it very much!

  16. Scripten says:

    Oh, Imperia! Nice to see that the game got an art upgrade. The earlier versions were nice mechanically, but the art style did it no favors.

  17. cpt_freakout says:

    Yes please!

  18. klops says:

    Looks like the portrait artist has been playing Coup :)

  19. Zenicetus says:

    This sounds very interesting. Is there an end-game goal like siring an heir to continue the legacy? Or is there no programmed endgame, and it’s mainly about telling emergent stories about your rule?

    • texashawk76 says:

      Hi Zenicetus! There is actually a very deep history in the game that explains how humanity got to this point, and part of that history is also part of the ending. There is no dynasty – the game ends with you. As Adam said, the entire game is about you. You can move as a character around the galaxy, you can do things great and small as a character, you have stats like other characters, and when you die the game ends. In some ways it has strong RPG elements, but it is first and foremost a 4X/GS title. There is an endgame – your ultimate goal (beyond survival) is to rebuild the empire to prepare for a much greater threat on the distant horizon. We’ll be talking about that in diary entries on the main website soon. Thanks for your interest!


      • Sound says:

        Hey Steve,

        Why do you call it a 4x game? In my opinion, that seems needlessly constraining. Particularly where other 4x games are much more dedicated to gaming an empire-conquest system, your game seems ‘more human,’ far more RPG-ish. I don’t see how the ‘4x’ label fits, or encourages what’s great about this work.

        Though I have no experience with this game’s predecessor, and haven’t seen much more than this latest video. So I suppose this is premature commentary.

        But my point is that this seems like a real style outlier, and is exciting for that reason. Why push it into that worn-out 4X box?