Celebrating 20 years in 2019, the Age of Wonders series has always been nestled comfortably within the high-fantasy genre. However, with the upcoming release of Planetfall, the 4X (expand, explore, exploit, exterminate) strategy-sim will be moving away from the familiar swords and sorcery angle, to take the conflict star-side-dealing with the politics and ensuing drama that comes from building a galactic empire from the ground up.
We recently got a chance to check out the upcoming strategy game, seeing its expanded scope and the greater focus on the little details in the new setting for the series. Though it’s now firmly in the realm of science-fiction, Planetfall still hangs onto some of those familiar tropes and themes from the previous games.
In Planetfall, you’ll take control of one of six factions following a 200 year long dark age after the collapse of deep-space communication. The many civilizations that have evolved during that time have once again come in contact, and they’ll now have to cooperate or enter fierce conflict with one another to find a foothold in the new age. With factions having its own unique campaign, you’ll be able to create your own custom commander from the character creator and build up your empire through either careful diplomacy or with an iron fist.
Here’s a quick breakdown of all the game’s factions:
- The Amazons: A bio-engineered faction using skills and traits focused on wildlife and the environment.
- The Assembly: A cyborg faction that assimilates organic life to bring them into their fold.
- The Dvar: Former humans that evolved into subterranean dwellers. They possess advanced engineering technology that have helped them survive the harsh climates.
- The Kir’Ko: An insect race that communicates through a hive-mind. They seek to rebuild their empire and expand further.
- The Vanguards: Tech-focused human faction who have awoken from hyper-sleep to find the galactic civilization in a vastly different state. They use mechs and other high-tech weaponry to survive in the field.
- The Syndicate: A shifty feudal empire that specializes in politics and rough trade to secure its goals.
Planetfall’s approach to science-fiction takes a decidedly retro and somewhat over-the-top approach-which certainly adds a level of fun that you wouldn’t expect to see from a rather involved 4X strategy-sim. Channeling the same tone found from ’80s sci-fi like the classic Battlestar Galactica or even more modern films like Starship Troopers, there’s a really amusing vibe throughout, even when you’re nose-deep in the finer details of building up your empire.
For those into 4X games, you’ll find a lot of the familiar micromanaging, political discourse, and empire-building gameplay that you’d expect from the sub-genre. However, for those fairly new to 4X, there’s a bit of a learning curve as you’ll have to manage many systems at play. Even for those who know what they’re getting themselves into, it can be easy to feel a bit lost in the weeds when checking out all the necessary data for your commander and units. However, each faction’s main campaign also serves as a tutorial, which preps you for what’s to come in the other game modes. When you feel you’ve got a handle on what’s to come, you enter the Scenario mode, where you’re totally free to build up a new civilization and amass an army on the planet of your choosing.
Though you can take a more diplomatic approach to engagements, there will be times where you’ll need to defend yourself against enemy forces. In similar fashion to another combat-strategy game like XCOM, movement and actions are performed over the course of turns-allowing you to plan out your attack carefully. Units and resources that helped you in the early hours can be upgraded to face off against new threats, which include planetary wildlife and rival factions. There are alot of factors to consider when in combat, such as terrain, enemy attack range, or the type of foes you’re facing, but the combat in Planetfall offers a lot of options for you to take on the enemy as you can.
At first look, Planetfall is certainly a big change for the series. However, it still presents that very familiar and detail-oriented 4X gameplay that the franchise is known for. With a planned launch on PC, PS4, and Xbox One on August 6, the next game in the Age of Wonders series will mark a new beginning for the 4X strategy-sim.