My brother and I had a love affair with turn-based strategy games growing up. Hours were spent playing Sid Meiers: Civilization II and III, Age of Empires II and Rise of Nations. I fondly recall my brother lightly abusing his powers as assistant librarian at our local library to host a family LAN party when our cousins came to visit. I still thoroughly enjoy playing RTS games and was really looking forward to spending some time with Age of Wonders: Planetfall.
What is Age of Wonders: Planetfall?
Age of Wonders: Planetfall is the fifth installment in the Age of Wonders series which is developed by Triumph Studios and published by Paradox Interactive. Like some other games within its historic genre, it builds upon the “4X” system of play: explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate.
Similar to other major 4X titles, players explore the beautiful foreign planet collecting and utilizing resources to further develop their cities. Unlike similar RTS titles such as Age of Empires, which force you to build workers to harvest goods, additional bases can be built on strategic points containing individual bonuses and resource “bonuses.” For example, some tiles contain the “meadow/plains” feature which produces food at a more efficient rate. These bases can later be “annexed” by a nearby base, expanding borders while simultaneously allowing the newly annexed base to produce units and conduct research.
What sets Age of Wonders: Planetfall apart?
There are several features which set Age of Wonders: Planetfall apart from its contemporaries. Perhaps the most interesting differentiation from other strategy games is its combat system. During a regular turn, troop movements are similar to other strategy titles like Civilization. However, when troops move into combat things get interesting. Rather than being controlled by an arbitrary algorithm, players take direct control during combat and become the field general. Units can be moved into strategic positions to utilize flanking maneuvers whilst attacking and into assorted cover to help protect your units. There is something incredibly satisfying about making strategic tactical decisions which lead to a victory.
Another interesting factor of unit control is the “Hero” upgrade system. Hero units possess special skills which help bolster surrounding units, providing boosts and timely healing to their comrades. As these units successfully survive combat encounters, players can “Upgrade” their heroes with a variety of different bonuses. These bonuses add a large amount of diversity to the available units, and the system will keep you tinkering for many hours.
Gameplay & Graphics
When considering how Age of Wonders: Planetfall looks and functions, the overall gameplay experience is extremely positive. Visually I really enjoy the look of the game. The graphics look sharp and fit the science-fiction aesthetic very well.
From a mechanics perspective, Age of Wonders: Planetfall’s performance was very solid. I did not encounter any game-breaking glitches. I did have a few slight annoyances, however. On a few occasions, when trying to move between the city menu and player movement, I kept accidentally moving the unit. There were several irritating moments spent trying to access the production menu, only to waste some player movement.
Due to my history of playing strategy games on a PC, I was longing for a mouse and keyboard. As this is possible on the Xbox platform, it was disappointing to learn this support was not included. I also found the turn system a bit tedious. I kept wishing for a fast-forward function like that in Civilization games between turns.
All in all, I have been enjoying my time with Age of Wonders: Planetfall. I’m still working my way through all of the various campaign missions, but I cannot see myself uninstalling this any time soon. Yes, it does have a few issues, on the whole, this 4x title is definitely worth purchasing. If you are one who enjoys strategy games you will have a good time with this.