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Planetary Annihilation Community Metareview

12 min read

PA (6)

One of the bigger Kickstarter success stories as of late, happens to be Planetary Annihilation. Here’s a game which pitched itself using a hook reminiscent of a classic Invader Zim episode, got funded and then some. Now it’s out, and it’s time to review it. The only problem however, is that I’m too damn busy with other reviews right now, and as a game journalist, intrinsically wrong about everything according to Reddit and 4Chan. So it was time for a different strategy.

I gave the game to three local cool dudes, to take a crack at reviewing. We’re foregoing scores here, settling for a simple Yes, No or Maybe. Simple as that. So what do our reviewers have to say? Well much like my analysis of that strange growth on my neck, we decided that three opinions would be best. Here’s what our guys have to say:

Deon “The Hammersteyn” Steyn

PA (4)

Planetary Annihilation is a real-time strategy game that is in part a successor to Total Annihilation. A game that was Kick-started in 2012 that included staff that work on that game as well as Supreme Commander. The game is about conquering planets by first securing your own or defeating those that share your planet. Those looking for a nice single-player RTS game will be left disappointed as there is no story whatsoever.

Right off the bat most people would play the tutorial missions of any RTS game just to learn the basics. PA does not have anything like this. Instead you are presented with a Youtube video that takes you through the bare basics which looks and sounds more like a promo video.

Playing the single-player campaign (called Galactic War) is like playing multiple skirmishes in a row. There are different settings you can use to customize the game from map size, faction, difficulty settings and the commander you want to use though they all have the same stats. The same counts for factions as the only difference is the factions colour. All the units are the same which is a bit daring for a RTS in this day and age.

People who pledged money for the project will have access to other commanders, the rest can be bought inside the game which is silly because it’s purely cosmetic and costing you $10. In Galactic War look for other factions to fight and tech pickups to use in battle. Tech allows access to more advanced units and buildings, but it’s not very well executed here. You can only keep three pieces of tech and the rest is discarded which can leave you in a bind in later missions.

When you start building your base it becomes apparent just how small the planets really are. Your scouts can circumnavigate a planet in no time so it feels more akin to playing on a moon. You can however create your own solar system with a built in editor but it still feels tiny.

PA (1)

Then there is no in-game help and while it takes a while to figure the game out, having to resort to Google is never a good sign. Luckily it’s not too complicated and after an hour or so you should be fairly comfortable with the basics. To my shock I found after playing for half an hour that the game has no save option during mid battle. This is a tremendous flaw in my opinion. I normally save my game before attacking an opponent’s base as insurance so that if it all goes to pot I can at least reload my game. Instead I have to rebuild my forces from scratch.

The game has a nifty picture-in-picture function that at least allows you to keep an eye on two parts of the game which is a must as there is no map in the game at all. There’s a toolbar that allows you to hop between all the planets which helps a lot.
I’ve also experienced tons of lag during battle. This is partially due to the game being run on overseas servers that are either in North America, Europe or Australia which is the norm for most online games.

One surprising feature I found is the ability to destroy planets completely. Capturing a planet that looks like a mini Death Star requires you to build five buildings called Catalysts that requires tremendous amounts of resources. After building all five you can simply click on a planet and watch it explode which is tremendously satisfying. You can also crash an asteroid on the other player’s planet to decimate his forces and still keep the planet intact.

Conclusion: Maybe

Overall it’s a game geared towards competitive play. I would recommend this only for those that really love online RTS games. It brings a different experience to the table having you conquer planet after planet to win. I would advise people to watch a couple of Twitch Streams first just to make sure that it’s their cup of tea.

Brenton “Zakeroph” McPhee

PA (5)

Over the years we have fought battles and waged wars. We have conquered lands and built mighty empires.  Some of us went so far as to rule entire galaxies. However, mankind was built for one thing… ANNIHILATION! From the minds that brought us Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander, two of the best mass army and building RTS’s, comes a new game called Planetary Annihilation.

When it comes to strategy games there are multiple things that are important. Plans and schemes can only get you so far if you can’t see what’s coming next. And unfortunately, that is one thing that is lacking in Planetary Annihilation. Because no matter what you see, there is no mini map of any kind and that’s something that really hinders your situational awareness.  Once you get the hang of mouse wheeling your way to a view of the solar system that you are currently destroying, you’re still only seeing half of the battlefield. This sometimes leads to surprise attacks because you just can’t see them coming.

When setting off on my first galactic conquest, I didn’t quite know what I was meant to do or how to go about it. To say the tutorial system in PA is severely lacking would be an understatement. I tried to view a few of them and was not entirely happy with the YouTube videos I was sent to.  I understand the idea of having crowd-sourced assistance but if you believe a Google searched wiki article is the best way for your customers to learn your product, you’re going to have a bad time.

PA (7)

We have definitely moved onto the age of the internet, with most of us connected regardless of where we are.  Although some people might not like the fact that Planetary Annihilation is one of them “Always On” thingamajigs.  You log in to an account (Steam is kind enough to link to your account automatically after the first login) and from there on out you have your profile. Yes, this includes any and all SP games you try.  This does mean though, that if you are not located in one of the server locations you might experience a little lag during moments of the game.

Visually, the game is beautiful; Planets orbit stars, all existing and effecting each other in perfect harmony. Harmony? We ain’t here for no harmony! This is where the best part of the game comes in.  You see, at first I was happy taking out those dastardly enemy commanders with my ground forces for a few star systems. But then I gained some tech, and I enjoyed destroying them with some decent air force power.

Nothing really lived up to the name of Planetary Annihilation however, until I  gathered a particular piece of tech and I was finally happy with the title.  I was battling with a commander’s home world.  He had defended off all landing attempts quite well, but I had the technology, and it was time to try it out. I deployed a few fabricators to the moon orbiting his planet, strapped a few rockets on that bad boy and launched the hunk of a moon at his base… what base?

Conclusion: Yes

PA (2)

I have mentioned the main issues I have with the game, they aren’t many, but they are very significant. Despite everything though, I could really not stop playing it.  It does take a little more concentration to get around the map awareness issues but it is still a brilliant RTS experience and the diversity of how many ways you can overcome any base’s defense is what really captured me.

Even if that meant BUILDING A DEATH STAR.

Nthato “likes planets” Morakabi

PA (3)

Planetary Annihilation has a certain charm to it that makes it a title worth investing in. As a Real Time Strategy game, one must always remain patient, build resources and amass an armada before hurtling into combat as annihilation is not just a probabilty but a certainty. Starting off with the single Commander Unit, of which you have a wide array to choose from for a default unit, players then proceed to explore outer space from planet to planet, collecting Tech until you reach a planet which has a foe ready for battle. From here on out it’s all about building units for resources, combat and further exploration.

Three game modes are available to play with from the start. The single player campaign Galactic War, in which the galaxy is opened up for exploration, has you starting from one star system and travelling along to others while collecting new tech. The other game mode is the AI Skirmish which lets you set up the number of commanders and the number of planets that the warfare will involve. The last game mode pits you against online players in a multiplayer skirmish, customizable in regards to the server location, number of players and other specifics to join the type of game you want – though matchmaking to those specifics is not that great.

PA (8)

The explorable planets vary in design, size and environment to create a unique experience for each visited sphere. These environmental designs range from typical grey drabs similar to the surface of the moon, to waterless deserts and lava saturated planets. The planets come to life as the rising or setting sun sweeps across them.

Although the units themselves have polygonal shapes, this does not lower lower the quality of the game but creates an interesting artistic feel to it. Coupled with the planet designs and little yet cool features such as zooming out of the planet and seeing the tiny units spaced out across the surface of your world, give the overall look of the game a deep-space kind of feel, as though the universe is truly there for domination.

Gameplay-wise there is much to grasp as a new player in regards to shortcuts and navigation which are vital for playing. There is much to learn and feel through before needing to watch the available tutorial which gives the necessary basics for starting your planetary war. Once that is out of the way however, the game is fun to play and becomes far more exciting as the armada at your command engages the enemy in all out planetary warfare and you suddenly realise why its called real time strategy.

Conclusion: Yes

If you’re looking for an RTS title that steps out of the norm and allows you to bash two planets together in the midst of fun and engaging warfare, then Planetary Annihilation is a game worth checking out.

PA (9)

Right guys, thank you kindly for those opinions!

I’ve had a few hours with the game so far. And I do agree with the guys above, as a more traditional mini-map system is needed, alongside a better tutorial system that doesn’t rely on YouTube videos and wikis. I’m not asking for some hand-holding, but a quick mission that sets up the basics can be very effective in guaranteeing a lasting appeal.

That being said, I dig the concept of this game. I kinda get a perverse thrill when I play Asteroid P-Klap on a galactic scale. But when it comes to being competitive, this is where Planetary Annihilation finds its stride. I can’t say much for the single-player side of the game, but it’s hard to not be impressed by a worthy adversary that just appeared in your solar system with a Death Star in tow.

Last Updated: September 26, 2014

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