howl /// Thursday June 20 06:07 2013

PC - Planetary Annihilation

The Elephant in the Soup

Since Planetary Annihilation's Early Access launch on Steam its been getting as much attention about its price tag as it has about its gameplay. Living in Australia I am keenly aware of software pricing and seeing US $90 price tags on Steam is not something that is particularly unusual. If you want it cheaper, simply wait. Its what I do and I am none the worse for it.

Total Annihilation

So what is Planetary Annihilation? Well it is the spiritual successor to Total Annihilation and offers RTS gameplay on planetary and eventually inter-planetary scales. You can read all about it here. Those of you that have played the likes of Supreme Commander or Sins of a Solar Empire should feel right at home.

Sins of a Solar Empire might be a strange comparison to make for some readers but it makes perfect sense to me due to its real time combat and multi planet management and combat scenarios which it implemented rather well. If only it had a strong story campaign!

Alpha Commander

Planetary Annihilation is in Alpha, and it not anywhere close to being a finished title. It would be so easy to just list everything that is broken but that's not particularly interesting to anyone but Uber Entertainment. What actually matters to us is whether there is a core of a game within Planetary Annihilation that is, or will be, worth playing.

Oh its there, I can feel it in my bones just waiting to burst through, its just going to take a little time. Planetary Annihilation shines occasionally, but well its Alpha and it bites the hand that feeds it.

Supreme Commander

Playing Planetary Annihilation has been a rough ride for me. There is a bare bones interface that just manages to get the most basic jobs done and to be honest, it can be frustrating as all hell. After a few games though and with a little bit of experience under my belt, I had an army built and was defending my base and attacking my enemies.

Then it suddenly happened. My frustrations melted away and I was entirely focused on the "game", on tactics and on my opponents. I was no longer wrestling with the interface or cursing the controls. I was having fun.

I had a stable economy of metals and energy producing a steady stream of units out of my factories. I was pushing back my attackers and starting to dismantle their bases, in that satisfying way that only an RTS can supply. All I needed was to keep pumping out my advanced robots and I was on my way to a mayhaps victory.

Unfortunately at this point of perfect joy, Planetary Annihilation decided that providing an interface was making my life a little too easy, so it removed all my displays and menu's leaving me with no way to interact with my factories, builders or Commander. Once the production queue's cleared I could do nothing but move my units around and watch them explode. My buildings soon followed.

It was time to use my Alpha Commander suicide strike stratagem! Just a note, you don't want to be anywhere near a Commander when it's destroyed. You can see the explosion from orbit.

War of the Future

There is a long way to go with Planetary Annihilation, but I see the potential of the game and I hope that my gamble on the Steam Early Access edition pays off.

I would love to see some form of unit tracking sooner rather than later. Knowing where idle builders are would be a blessing. Setting rally points for the factories would make organising and utilising my army a lot easier. You essentially have unlimited units so you need to have great logistics to keep your army organised and working. Its easy to lose the positions of your units if they escape a control group and spinning the planet around to find lost units is a royal pain.

I found the factories to be somewhat problematic as well. Not knowing which end a unit was going to come out of caused headaches. At one point I had units trundling off the ramp of a Advanced Robotics Factory into a mountain that I was using to help shield the flanks of my base. Once they were in the mountain I couldn't get them out making the entire factory useless. I tried to reclaim the factory but Planetary Annihilation was having none of that.

The AI opponents are absolutely appalling as well. The cereal I just ate had more tactical expertise. They are good for leaving you alone while you learn the basics, but if you want some actual fun then stick with some warm blooded opponents. The unit pathing is about as good as the AI as well. I wasn't expecting my whole land army to drive through the ocean on my planet, but it turned out to be a rather convenient short cut.

Commander in Chief

I am looking forwards to Planetary Annihilation's future and the scale of the battles increasing. Beta should be an absolute blast, but I will be happy with testing each Alpha release and giving my feedback.

Just give me a Commander that can transform into a mobile battle fortress and I will be happy. Its rather disheartening having to make it trundle off when its under attack... let it fight!

Edited // Thursday June 20 06:06 2013 // First Version ///