A rounded strategy, but worlds away from the best
Planetary Annihilation is a sad reminder of an old rule – some things work better on paper than in practice. In this case, the central gimmick is instead of fighting on flat battlefield maps (like almost every other real-time strategy game), the action takes part on small spherical planetoids in the middle of a spinning solar system. Think The Little Prince, only with stamping armies of robots at war, and a far higher chance of someone trying to use their home to reproduce the extinction of the dinosaurs as a basic battlefield tactic.
It’s a great idea that should have been amazing – whole planets at war, battle raging both on and between them, with up to ten players (on official servers, though it’s possible to push that with a little modding and a lot of horsepower).
Instead, its worlds play host to a strangely flat strategy game, with a scale that puts too much focus on raw numbers and simply keeping track of everything. Even with some in-game assistance, such as a picture-in-picture view for monitoring one location while guiding battles elsewhere, that’s tough. Getting started in the first place is also far harder than it should be due to the lack of a tutorial.
There’s also little single-player content to speak of. Along with the expected AI Skirmish mode, the only campaign is an oddity called Galactic War, which randomly generates a universe map to explore picture. Not everything needs Starcraft 2 levels of story, but a little more than this wouldn’t have hurt.
That puts the bulk of the game on the multiplayer side’s shoulders. However, with no built-in matchmaking and considering the game’s been out for a long time in early access, it’s not easy to get into. The hardcore RTS fans most likely to
Not everything needs Starcraft 2 levels of story, but a little more than what’s on show here wouldn’t have hurt
– starting with nothing and gearing up with random drops to fight in random battles. It’s an empty experience that does nothing to either breathe life into the game or give a reason to care about the big appreciate it are also the most likely to chafe at the quantity-over-quality focus of the game itself and the individual battles. Meanwhile, rookies are going to find the style impenetrable compared to, say, Starcraft 2, and its slow introduction of elements and easing into the more brutal online matches.
But, even if not, it doesn’t take long for the novelty to wear off, and what’s left is a mediocre strategy game at best. Death-clouds of units might be a realistic vision of future fighting but are far from the most interesting way to lock horns – just as hastily building one is hardly the most exciting strategy. Being charitable, it feels like it was pushed out before the designers finished finding the fun. Richard Cobbett
Planetary Annihilation’s great ideas ultimately fail to come together into a game that deserves them.
Watch out if you’ve got an underpowered Mac; Planetary Annihilation will make it cry.
Much like the main game, the randomised Galactic War sounds more fun than it is.