So this will be my first video game mod I'll be posting a review on. To make matters more difficult, I have not posted a review on its parent game, Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion, so there won't be a reference to fall on for this review. Here what I'll tell in my review is that instead of judging the game itself, but rather I will judge what changes this mod does to the game and if said changes are good or not.
According to moddb's page for it, the first official version of it was released December 2011, created by Goafan77. The standalone expansion pack, Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion was released in June 2012 so it's likely the Enhanced 4x mod was originally a mod for the previous expansions of Sins of a Solar Empire that's been recreated for the new Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion. This mod's goal was to create a more 4X experience, a type of RTS game where this game focuses on an empire or civilization by exploring, exploiting, expanding, and exterminating, by adding new features and balancing gameplay to accommodate these new gameplay elements.
1. There is a much more refined, larger, and better diplomacy system. One of the complaints that SOASE series has had is that despite being labeled as a 4X RTS game that placed a greater emphasis on your traditional RTS games action and gameplay while retaining the 4X elements, it focused far greater on the exterminate part and left the other 3 e's in the 4X game rather bare and inefficient in comparison. One of the core changes this mod did was expanding the role of envoy cruisers your faction has. Unlike in the vanilla game where you need to build multiple envoy cruisers to increase your relationship percentage with other factions and keep it there, you essentially just need one envoy cruiser as it can build embassies now in this mod. They are structures that act as Envoy cruisers that provide many bonuses to an allied planet's gravity well through whatever tech researches your faction gives. This helps you greatly as not only does it provide you a much more efficient and streamlined diplomacy game, but you can also spend less on pop cap on envoy cruisers and can focus more on the war effort. Envoy Cruisers role has also been expanded as they can send in spy probes and even debilitate an enemy's planet to your benefit, providing you more reason to treat Envoy Cruisers with respect and use more frequently in this mod.
2. Not only are there a greater number of artifacts for your faction to use along with increased chances to collect them on planets, but said artifacts can provide you with the ability to activate powerful neutral structures that can provide your planet with numerous benefits to you. Expanding on the vanilla's game artifact system, a gameplay element that allowed you to receive powerful bonuses and benefits to your whole faction in a myriad of individual artifacts ways, by increasing the number of the artifacts available for you to find, doubling a planets planetary exploration development to four save for home planets two (that don't have artifacts save for certain unique circumstances anyway), but the biggest change is adding neutral structures in gravity wells. While there are certain structures in neutral or independent controlled gravity wells that don't require such artifacts to work, many however do require these certain artifacts to work. While it causes problems in that due to the random nature of artifacts, which doubling the planet's planetary exploration development does help alleviate, it can be a chore to explore and find these artifacts and you may not even get the chance to use it, once acquired however, these artifacts are often worth it as not only do these provide with significant bonuses that aid you greatly in defense of a gravity well and you can acquire better versions of a factions own structures for your own use. To acquire these neutral structures, you must use your faction's colony frigates or explorer vessels to capture these structures under a new mechanic where there is now a delay to capturing them to reflect your faction's marines capturing the structure to bring to your empire's control.
3. There is a greater diversity to each faction in the game. While the vanilla game does a good job of differentiating each rebel and loyalist factions in the three main ones in Rebellion, this mod takes it further by not only renaming the factions to a different name, but it also expands on that by giving each faction greater flavors to their philosophies to better reflect on their difference from other factions.
An example with this while playing my favorite faction, Traders Economic Coalition (TEC), a faction of human traders under an authoritarian governing body that seeks to protect human interests by isolating themselves from other factions through strong defenses and tough warships behind a strong economy. To reflect this, they receive passive bonuses where their ships not only have larger hull point health, armor, they also receive stronger defense structures as well. Their home world comes a free heavy constructor, units that can build a star base in a gravity well, and it can deploy into a stronger than average star base unique to the home world for free too though it's upgrades cost money however. Economy bonuses, and most notably, they're the only faction that can build planetary defenses, defenses on a planet where your planet can actually attack nearby enemy attackers, ensuring that it will take more than a couple of siege frigates to bring a TEC world to it's knee after researching it. They're able to build multiple Novalith Canons, powerful planetary siege weapons that can take down an entire planet's population with one shot, more easily, and they receive huge defense bonuses to their armor and attack damage along with being the only faction that can build two star bases in a gravity well through research. Finally, their Titan, huge warships that can take on a small fleet of capitol ships on its own and is capable of providing plenty of buffs to your fleet or be an outright unit destroyer that can easily annihilate ships on it's own, is the Ankylon Titan, a huge support warship that provides defense buffs to it's allies, and receives passive bonuses to it's abilities if it is in an allied or your controlled gravity well where it can defend your planets from the enemy much more easily. The factions biggest drawback however is that because alot of its bonuses are defense based, TEC is a poor attacker compared to other factions and needs to build up strong defenses on its core worlds while relying on it's powerful late game, economy, and Novalith Canons to help them attack and defeat their enemies.
There are other factions in the game too in the form of Human Traders System (HTS), Orthodox Advent, Ascended Advent, Vasari Central Command (VCC), and Vasari Independent Republic (VIR). Each comes with their own flavors suited to their factions philosophies and you must learn to master them well in this mod.
4. This mod comes with its own mini mods to help add more to it's game play. One noted good thing about this mod is that it can add other mini mods to its game like doubling the number of research tech to provide even bigger bonuses to your faction, better enemy AI, more capitol ships, and other shenanigans to help enhance your game play experience.
5. This mod is noted as being probably the first mod to introduce hero units in the Sins community. One of the noted features of this mod is the introduction of something the vanilla game never had, hero units. These hero units work much like other video game heroes in RTS where they're much stronger versions of typical units and provide unique abilities and bonuses to your group of units or debilitate and annihilate the enemy much more efficiently. They even come with a research tech where you can actually remove the pop cap the hero units consume, coupled with their free resource cost, this essentially renders hero units free in this mod. This feature would get picked up on by other Sins mods, most notably Star Trek Armada 3.
6. Despite its age, it's one of the more supported and active mods on the game itself. Thanks to a diligent and still working mod maker and others helping it, this mod is still active and working. In fact just in June, the latest version of this mod, 1.75, was released.
1. There are bugs affecting it still. As you'd expect on many fan made mods, there are of course bugs though not terrible ones that I've seen still affecting the mod itself, most aesthetic issues such as the planet textures not looking right (notably on the volcano planets). Still it doesn't detract too harshly from the game and you'll likely not encounter anything really bad about it as it's a very sound mod.
Conclusion: In a popular mod making game as Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion, Enhanced 4X stands out greatly as being among the oldest and best mods available in this game. With so many good and positive changes to this mod that help make the vanilla game so much better that some even call this 'SOASE:R unofficial expansion pack dlc' for just how good it is and how influential many of its changes are such as the hero units and other changes, this is a must own mod for any SOASE:R fan.
Question: If you have any other recommended mods for SOASE:R, let the audience hear about it too