Plan­e­tary An­ni­hi­la­tion

A rounded strat­egy, but worlds away from the best

Mac Format - - RATED | MAC APPS - £22.99 De­vel­oper Uber En­ter­tain­ment OS OS X 10.7 or later Re­quires 64-bit Dual Core, 4GB RAM, Shader 3.0 Ad­vanced 3D uni­verse Huge armies to play with Too much rush­ing Hard to track so much

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.

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