Age of Wonders: Planetfall - PC Review


Introduction

Age of Wonders: Planetfall is a 4x Strategy game that has some unique elements that other 4x games don't have. It has a number of factions, races, combat options, and other features that I'll cover in the next section. The game also features some amazing music by composer Michiel Van Den Bos, who has worked on the Age of Wonders series since its beginning. In my opinion, the game is spectacular and I absolutely had a blast playing in this universe, despite my steep learning curve.

Story and Gameplay

Right off the bat, Age of Wonders: Planetfall pulls you in with a story about discovering what occurred to your homeworld while you were in cryosleep. The era is known as Planetfall and it gives players a sense of purpose.

Like any other game, players are taken through a tutorial level that teaches the basics of gameplay, complete with army customization, city management, manual combat, annexing land, and more! Age of Wonders: Planetfall explains elements to players without massive text boxes and without too much description, like I've found in other games. No one likes massive walls of text unless they like the nostalgia of text blocks in Star Wars (as an example). Anyways, between the voice acting and the text boxes, players get the sense of what each information screen is used for.

At the beginning of gameplay, I jumped right into the campaign. And as a new player to the series, I felt it was better to jump in and learn on the fly than it would be to customize a commander bound to a faction that I knew nothing about. In brief, there are six different factions that can be played. They are:
  • Vanguard - The Vanguard is the race that players begin the campaign with. They are advanced humans that use high tech weapons. Vanguards get to use firearms and lasers for weapons.
  • Syndicate - The syndicate is a stealth-oriented race that is able to ignore morale penalties. Essentially this race consists of rogues and has access to arc and psi weapons.  
  • Kir'ko - A race consisting of humanoid bugs, this race is able to spit out corrosive chemicals and they can buff other players to fight in a swarm. They can use bioweapons and psi weapons.
  • Dvar - These guys are steampunk looking dwarves who have powerful AOE attacks and medium-ranged attacks. The Dvar get access to firearms and explosives.
  • Assembly - These are biochemical beings that can come back from the dead by rebuilding their own members from fallen troops. The Assembly is great at researching and have access to arc weapons and firearms.
  • Amazons - A female warrior race who have awesome dinosaur mounts! They can terraform forests and bend the will of creatures. This faction has access to bioweapons and lasers (cue Austin Powers air quotes!)

Due to the fact that I am a new player to the AoW series, I accepted any task or quest that was offered without regard for the consequences of my actions. Part of the reason I did this was to learn as much about the game as possible in a short period of time. I discovered rather quickly that unlike many 4X games that I've played, when players encounter an enemy faction, instead of accepting or declining an offer, they can complete a quest to gain favor. With the exception of Endless Legend, it is not a commonly used feature in this genre. It gave me the opportunity to see what types of missions players could embark on to gain favor with the different factions in this universe.

Unlike previous AoW games, this title has a story peppered throughout with neat little banters between commanders (like ones between Jack Gelder and Daiyu Jiang) which adds insight between the faction stories and woes. In fact, this surprised me greatly when playing, that not only did these little bits add to the immersion of my gameplay experience, but receiving opportunities from unknown people about factions you might be friends with, really brought me into the game.

There is only one thing that has somewhat bugged me about the game and it's not really that big of a deal. I say that because I do come from playing several Civilization games where players are spoiled when it comes to expanding your cities. When customizing the cities with increased production of energy or food sources, there is a lack of options. Considering the other features that AoW has, it is a minor detail, though it does make me want to not care much about expanding the cities because of that fact.

Overall, I really love AoW: Planetfall because I enjoy 4X games. This one has features that I'm not accustomed to but feel like they add to the experience of the game, like the questing for favor and getting information that might sway your relationship with different factions.

Combat

One of the features I enjoy about AoW is combat. Players have options when it comes to gameplay, depending on how much time they might have to play. There is an auto-combat mode where the AI determines based on your army value and random rolls which side wins the fight. It is a useful feature to have when a player can only achieve so much in a day.

Conversely, if players have time to spend on the combat, there is a manual mode where players use an XCOM style turn-based combat. It is complete with overwatch abilities, cover areas, and healing or grenade abilities which are only available once unlocked in the tech tree. The tech tree is important because players can customize their commanders and units by adding mods that are only available once they are researched. And the army members will be able to add new templates when players modify the units with a variety of weapons or healing capabilities.

As with most turn-based tactics games, there are places that can be used to provide cover and the area is sometimes modified by effects like geothermal instability. What these effects do are modify the players' ability to annex sectors, losing regeneration, suffer damage per round, reduce vision, etc... I successfully completed a battle in a geothermal instability area with some minor loses. It was one of the few times that I decided to manually enter combat instead of letting the computer do it for me - mostly because I took a look at the army values before making this decision. 

When it comes to the tech tree for combat, there are certain abilities that are listed under unintuitive names. Most notably is Kinetic Force Manipulation which is merely a fancy name for increased damage and a longer range. But, for the most part, the research levels progress in a logical manner. 4X games are notorious for labeling abilities under names that take time to get accustomed to. However, in AoW, there are many abilities that make a great deal of sense when you consider the two or three pieces of technology that players receive.

Graphics and UI

In the main menu, there are a lot of options available to players ranging from resolution to combat UI. As with most games, there are options to change keybindings, scroll speeds, autosave maximum amounts, displaying damage numbers, and more. Heck, there is even an option to force fast combat animations too!

If that isn't enough, something interesting about this game is that it can be played with a controller. Now, I have no idea how well it plays because I've always played 4X games on a keyboard, but it's a wonderful feature to have for players who prefer playing games like that.

I will say that I like the graphics style and it's no surprise that AoW: Planetfall is a step up from its predecessors because it is skinned to be more modern. The game is rich in graphics, for this type of game, and has multiple screens that give critical insights to a players' cities, army complements, and story objectives. Once I learned where information could be found, the game wasn't too difficult to get into. Everything needed is listed under appropriate tabs at the top left of the screen.

Music and Sound

Given that Age of Wonders: Planetfall is my first experience with this series, I found the music to be compelling and epic. To be frank, this is the sort of music I would listen to while writing an adventure novel. In fact, the music is so brilliant, that I've listened to it several times and I would often catch myself zoning out just to listen to the soundtrack. However, that's not to say that it drowns out gameplay, in fact, the soundtrack complements Age of Wonders quite well. Right now, the soundtrack has nine tracks and they are brilliantly looped to cover two hours of gameplay. Moving forward, the soundtrack will be expanded over time, as was indicated in the Dev Diary.

Since Age of Wonders is a series that has been around for a long time, Triumph Studios hired long-time veteran and Dutch composer Michiel Van Den Bos. He is known for his compositions in Unreal, Unreal Tournament, Deus Ex, and Overlord. Ever since he began composing on the Commodore 64 and the Amiga, he hasn't looked back. Mr. Van den Bos works in the EDM and Contemporary Classical Music categories, and he is also a DJ in the indie/alternative scene. Together, Triumph Studios and Mr. Van den Bos have produced content that is spectacular together. Take a listen to a sampling of Planetfall's music below!

More information about composer Michiel Van Den Bos can be found on his social media pages: YouTube, Facebook, Soundcloud, and Twitter. He does have a website but it doesn't appear to work at the moment, so I won't put the broken link in here.


Thoughts After Planetfall

Age of Wonders: Planetfall has been an enjoyable experience. I haven't played any 4X games recently, especially since I haven't picked up the DLC for Civilization VI, but I can't say that I'm disappointed with this title. The game has a story that isn't shoved onto players with giant text boxes, the factions are unique and interesting, and the gameplay is engaging both in and out of combat. This is a game that players can sink many hours into, especially since they can customize their own commanders and units to suit their playstyle.

Overall, Age of Wonders: Planetfall earns an 8 out of 10. It possesses features that most other 4X games don't have (that I've encountered), an easy to understand tutorial, and options when dealing with other factions. It's definitely a title to pick up!

Be sure to follow Triumph Studios on Twitter, Facebook, and Website. Also check out Paradox Interactive's social media accounts: Twitter, Twitch, Facebook, and Webpage.

To get a copy of this excellent 4X Strategy game, grab it from the Steam store or the Paradox website!

Game Information


Platform:
PC
Developer(s):
Triumph Studios
Publisher(s):
Paradox Interactive
Genre(s):
4X Strategy
Mode(s):
Single Player
Other Platform(s):
Playstation 4,
Xbox One

Source:
Provided by Publisher







Article by Susan N.
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