independent

Sunday 15 September 2019

Planetfall falls victim to its own ambition and potential

Game review: Age of Wonders: Planetfall, PC, 7/10

Age of Wonders: Planetfall is a respectable and daring game that demands a great deal of time, but never necessarily rewards it
Age of Wonders: Planetfall is a respectable and daring game that demands a great deal of time, but never necessarily rewards it

Chris Hayes

Age of Wonders: Planetfall would have been a rather lacklustre release had the developers simply stuck to the tired old 4X genre-format.

Fortunately, Triumph Studio's amalgamation of classic 4X gameplay and XCOM-style tactical battles more than make up for the game's shortcomings in the aforementioned department.

The balancing act between ostensibly disparate gameplay types is a fine one, but the developer's have deftly woven them together into a cohesive and seamless - albeit often dizzyingly deep - gameplay experience.

Perhaps for most gamers, the most immediately familiar side of Planetfall's double-edged blade will be the hexagonal-tiled world that serves as your resource, unit and city manager. Everything you do in this view will be constantly reminiscent of the Sid Meier's way of life - micro-management layered upon itself ad infinitum.

That isn't to say that there isn't enjoyment to be derived from such gameplay, just that Civilization and its ilk do it much better. Once a situation requiring combat unfolds, the gameplay switches to a turn-based tactics match. You control an army of up to six unites and move them around their own tile-based map through points of cover, spending action points and gaining a percentage advantage on your opponent.

For a game that combines two of the most dense genres into one package with such fluidity and grace, you would imagine that the tutorial system would be given the same treatment. Alas, no. For if you are a new player to either genre, then Age of Wonders: Planetfall is going to be a very tiresome slog indeed. The tutorial system is essentially non-existent, making learning a rather trial-and-error affair.

Beyond the admittedly dense and tight gameplay, the replayability factor in Planetfall is simply just not there. While the mechanics of the game are reasonably well oiled, the story and enveloping atmosphere falls miles short of the mark.

There's very little self awareness in the cast of sci-fi tropes on display and absolutely none of the dystopian madness you would expect from a game about the future where an omnipresent force is behind all the decisions made on the planet.

Age of Wonders: Planetfall is a respectable and daring game that demands a great deal of time invested in it but never necessarily rewards it. Another title that falls victim to its ambition and potential.

Gorey Guardian

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