Planets Under Attack
Space…somehow I always end up back there, but I’m not complaining. My regular readers should know by now that I’m an avid Star Trek / Star Wars / Stargate / etc. fan and love strategy games that throw me from space battle to space battle. Endless Space, FTL, Sins of a Solar Empire, Galactic Civilizations…needless say, I was thrilled to give Planets Under Attack a whirl. Before we dive in, I’d like to thank Bernd Wolffgramm from TopWare Interactive for sending me a free review copy.
Planets Under Attack is a strategy game that closely resembles Oil Rush and Eufloria, but manages to set itself apart in numerous ways. For those of you unfamiliar with those particular games, there’s less emphasis on base building and more emphasis on managing your forces and conquering territory. In these games, there are points on the map that can be captured in order to gain some sort of benefit…though they usually serve to help grow your armies faster.
When I started up the game and reached the main menu screen, I was immediately pleased to see an option for “skirmish.” When I was younger and had the time to play RTS games for hours on end, I’d often skip the campaign and go straight to the skirmish modes to learn the ropes. There’s just something about skirmish that appeals to me…perhaps it is because I enjoy matches that are unscripted and more freeform. Still, the campaign serves as a good starting point for those of us who are winding down in our old age, and thus I chose to start there. There’s a multiplayer option (online and offline) as well as your standard video and sound options, though I was surprised to see that I could enable 3D. I don’t have the necessary hardware for that, but it’s a nice feature for those that do.
The campaign’s stage select screen comes in the form of a galaxy map. As you complete missions and special objectives on various difficulty levels (easy, medium, and hard), you’ll be able to unlock new areas. Some of the special objectives were fairly easy to beat while others required me to operate outside my normal line of thinking. You’ll run into other characters and races that will provide a fairly good challenge, even on easy. There’s also a robot campaign that you can partake in to experience the ins and outs of other playable race, which is available in skirmish and multi-player modes.
As for the matches themselves, there’s a lot going on despite the simple idea of “move these guys here, then move those guys there.” For one, the planets that you need to capture are actually moving in a predetermined orbit. This opens up a new can of worms that definitely sets itself apart from other games of the genre. In Eufloria and Oil Rush, I knew where my bases were at all times and which ones were relatively safe. The planets you capture in this game might be next to your main base now, but may end up on the other side of the map minutes later. It adds a bit more chaos to the strategy element, something I thought I wouldn’t like, but did anyway.
Other things that you’ll have to consider is the different planet types. In past, similar games I’ve played, almost all of the bases I’d capture would generate units…this isn’t the case here. Metropolis planets are the only planets that generate units. Space Fortress planets attack enemy ships that are in range, whether they are flying by or in orbit above another passing planet. Bank planets generate revenues and serve to increase your income rate. It should be noted that these planet types are what you’d call them if you were playing as a Human faction. Robot factions have slightly different names for them and use energy as opposed to cash, but operate in a similar manner.
On top of all of that, there are a few mechanics that need to be considered before blindly throwing units at your enemy’s planets. Like in Oil Rush, you’ll be able to upgrade some of your bases to make them more efficient. Your wealth bar, or the money you’ll use to upgrade your planets, also effects how well your forces will attack and defend. To sum it up, the more wealth you have saved up, the better. However, the more planets you have, the more money you’ll need to reach that bonus. It’s an interesting dance between expanding your network for more funds and using those funds to attack and upgrade your planets…it’s one vicious circle and requires a good bit of timing and planning.
Another cool feature that I really enjoyed seeing was that you gain experience as you play, allowing you to unlock technologies as you progress. These technologies serve to improve your forces in some way. You’ll be able to make improvements to your “ships”, your “people”, and other miscellaneous things found under the “special” category. They are all fairly useful, though I found myself drawn to ones that would improve my defensive posture. Things can get messy in a hurry on some of the later maps, and having a stronger defense served me (and sometimes my slow reflexes) well. There are five techs in each of the three categories, and you’ll be able to choose one per category to be active at any one time. You’ll have to weigh the variants that each bonus provides, positive and negative, and pick the ones best suited to you and the map you’re playing.
All in all, I found it to be a really enjoyable game. Its many game modes and online / offline multiplayer abilities really add to the game’s replayability, which is probably what appeals to me the most. This game has no shortage of bells and whistles…unlockable avatars, technologies, achievements, and ranks, just to name a few. I would have liked to have seen more unit types and I think the game would have benefited from a demo (currently, as of 10/2/12, there isn’t one available). Regardless, it is fast paced and a lot of fun to play. The unique game mechanics kept me coming back for more, along with a crippling need to master each challenge that was thrown at me. If you tend to play games like Oil Rush or Eufloria a lot or just enjoy a good space themed strategy game, then I recommend taking a look at Planets Under Attack.
Final Verdict: 7/10
You can learn more about “Planets Under Attack” by visiting the official website here:
You can find “Planets Under Attack” on Steam here:
It’s full price is $14.99, though Steam shows it to be on sale for $9.99 until October 4th, 2012.
You can view play sessions here: