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Planetary Annihilation

By Mokman05-11-2013
Bis18marck70 (editor)
Planetary Annihilation

The Defence

Uber Entertainment
Uber Entertainment
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Core 2 Quad
AMD equivalent
Nvidia GeForce 8600
AMD equivalent
8 GB
2 GB

The game which defines the Real-Time Strategy genre is not the critically-acclaimed Company of Heroes, nor is it the much-loved classic StarCraft. It isn't even the long-running Command and Conquer series that had dominated the scene since the start. No, the game which I believe truly defines the genre is Supreme Commander. Admittedly, it would actually be Total Annihilation that takes the prize, but I've never played it, having been before my time. But boy did I play the heck out of Supreme Commander. With its massive amount of units, mind-boggling scale, and macro-focused gameplay, it worked on such an immense scope that placed it at the forefront of ambition, putting the strategy back into the genre.

Welcome to Death Star...or Cybertron.

Welcome to Death Star...or Cybertron.

Thus, when I first heard of Planetary Annihilation, a crowd-funded RTS made by the designers of Supreme Commander, I could barely contain myself. Adding to that the prospect of expanding the scale again this time to include entire planets and solar systems, along with the ability to swing them about like giant billiard balls, I was sold, and so was pretty much every other RTS fan in the community.

The first thing you realize as you play this game is how much inspiration Uber Entertainment have drawn from Supreme Commander - wholesale duplication of many of the mechanics, such as a central builder-commander, the economic dichotomy between the mineral resources you mine from the surface, and the power plants that you build around your base, as well as the distinctly macro feel of the game as you churn out hundreds of robots to die on the battlefield. There is also the tripartite element of land, sea and air, although sea in this case is quite neglected due to the small size of the oceans on most of these planets. However, there are cases where a planet, especially custom made ones, are mostly water, changing the dynamics of the game entirely. Building a base, an enormous army, and then defending against enemy raids up until the perfect moment whereupon you unleash an unstoppable rampage is still gloriously fun, as well as incredibly challenging. However, this time, they've managed to take it even further.

Up till the last technology tier, I have to say that this was pretty much the same as playing Supreme Commander, albeit with slightly less features and admittedly, much less polish (being still a beta). However, upon reaching the third tier and having an orbital facility, things changed dramatically. The first time I launched a ship into space, and had it orbit around my enemy's base, blasting away at his defences with my lasers while all he could do was watch on impotently was amazing. A whole new plane of combat had been forced open by this one structure, and it eventually led us to fight amongst the stars with different planets. Unfortunately, the solar systems had not yet been fully implemented, leaving the scale still limited to a single system, but that was epic enough as it is.

Fight for another cracked rock in space.

Fight for another cracked rock in space.

What is already implemented though is the ability to move planets, with comically huge rocket thrusters being built into the ground - by building 25 I managed to achieve the gold standard, crashing the huge planet into another, annihilating both me and the two other players. Planetary combat has also been changed thanks to the spherical shape, forcing players to consider alternate angles of attack and speedily getting off the ground into space, thanks to the relatively small size of each of these spheres in relation to your bases and armies. It is interesting then that to increase the size of a map, the game does not increase the size of terrain but rather the number of planets available for you to conquer, building into economic powerhouses, or perhaps military forward bases. Or for you to use as a giant planetary wrecking ball.

What really dug at me was the fact that the first two tiers played like Supreme Commander, which I have no complaint about in itself, seeing as the designers have the right to copy from one of the greatest games they have ever made. However, it was the fact that rather than adding to the Supreme Commander system, in terms of units and combat, they have instead stripped it of some features, such as the ability to link your base together using the power plants, creating vast complicated networks of energy-efficient structures, rather than simply plonking own a building wherever there's space. Another great loss was the usage of shields, huge half-spheres of glowing energy that prevented artillery and air power from decimating the ground forces, but moved at a dismal pace, forcing players to entirely change the methods in which they were going at each other. There are a few others not mentioned, such as the upgrade systems on the commanders or the lack of Experimental units that were massive in size. What I can only hope for is that in this iteration of the build they have yet to implement such features, as it would truly be a waste to add all these cool new toys to play around with into the game, but wreck the base upon which it was crafted.

Graphics and audio are a mixed bag too. The visuals are pretty and appealing from afar, a slightly cartoonish sheen to the proceedings giving the somewhat comical nature of planet-flinging a fitting backdrop. Armies of troops still look sleek and menacing and they stomp across the map, while air battles are exciting with rockets curving all about, leaving red streaks across the screen. However, the actual models, when seen up close, suffer from dated graphics, with blurry and sparse details leaving much to the imagination. Thus, it is clear Planetary Annihilation was a game built to played zoomed out - I don’t understand why they would even place a zoom feature in the first place. Perhaps this would be polished to a greater degree in the final build though, which I certainly hope they would, as it adds a whole new dimension to the troops which you would be playing around with.

This isn’t going to end well...

This isn’t going to end well...

The audio though already manages to impress, with elegant strains of music coursing through the game as you rotate about the planet before you, building into menacing crescendos as enemy flights soar above your base, raining fire down on your troops, and finally, a glorious climax as you crash one planet into another. The sound effects are similarly well thought out, giving each explosion a certain degree of impact that would otherwise have been lost.

Ultimately, Planetary Annihilation is shaping up to be a great game, with decent graphics and innovative gameplay mechanics underscoring the entire system. However, with a little bit more thought and a lot more effort, I can foresee this game becoming something truly great, a game that would take the crown of “Best RTS” from its predecessor. The path ahead for Planetary Annihilation is long and hard, and heavens know what sorts of difficulties the developers would face in implementing the million troop body count, or the huge solar systems duking it out on mind-boggling maps - but if there’s a team that can do something like this, it is this one. Fingers crossed, people.

Comments (3)
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Posts: 1548

More SupCom is always good thing for me.

Posts: 341

99% SupCom.
1% new.


Posts: 1548

YES! Another person who thinks that TA/SupCom is the best RTS ever!!!