Age of Wonders: Planetfall is an Enticing Blend of Civilization and XCOM
Age of Wonders: Planetfall is a varied and intriguing sci-fi 4X strategy game that takes advantage of the quirkiness of sci-fi.
The Age of Wonders series is making a return in August, though it may not be in the way many fans would expect. Instead of delving into a fantasy world, Age of Wonders: Planetfall embraces sci-fi to great success. And unlike 2014’s extremely underwhelming Civilization: Beyond Earth, this 4X game is taking advantage of the opportunities science fiction gives creators to craft interesting races and worlds for games to take place in.
If you haven’t heard of Age of Wonders before and are wondering what Planetfall may have in store for you, the best way to describe it would be Civilization meets XCOM. Age of Wonders: Planetfall plays as one would expect a 4X game to outside of enemy encounters, but once the fight begins things transition to an XCOM style turn-based strategy game. The lengthy mid-to-late game turn I played was fun, interesting, and gave me a decent overview of everything this title has to offer, but I can tell that Age of Wonders: Planetfall is a game I will need to spend hours on to truly fall in love with.
As part of my short 30 minute demo, the newly revealed race of The Assembly was shown off to me. Age of Wonders: Planetfall has a variety of classes for players to choose from, and they are all more interesting than the typical sci-fi cliches everyone is used to by now. That being said, the current status of all the factions stems from the fall of the once powerful Star Union though the reasons behind its demise will be shrouded in mystery at first. The developers went as far as describing the fallen Star Union as its own character. While many 4X games will just through you into a match and task you with making your own story, Age of Wonders: Planetfall is establishing a lore heavy and engaging world to serve as a backdrop for the matches played.
Once I got into a match, I was debriefed on the more general mechanics on the world map of this 4X game. It has cities and tech trees galore as one would expect, but Age of Wonders: Planetfall spices things up by dividing the map into sectors that can be absorbed by colonies. Every colony is also run by a special leader that players can either create themselves or pull from one of 50 preset options. Each sector can specialize in something like food production or research. Whereas Sid Meier’s Civillization VI gives its cities more depth by having players build improvements on the surrounding tiles, each area in Age of Wonders: Planetfall will feel unique and strategic due to its specialization.
After learning about all of that, the turn I saw kicked off with The Assembly using their Doomsday weapon, which is based on their Secret Technology. This is a secondary thing the player chooses at the start of the game, and they are game changing abilities based on some larger ideas within science fiction. The Assembly’s secret technology is xenoplague and their Doomsday weapon is called the Omega Strain.
With the Omega Strain, The Assembly hope to mutate everyone via a virus, causing there to be one homogenized race and mind that can be worked on. In game, this means that for 10 turns the Omega Strain causes opponents’ food supply to deplete by 100%, decrease their unit’s strength and how much they can heal on the world map, and buffing gives The Assembly’s units buffs. After activating this ability, all of my enemies were angers so I had to protect Omega Towers scattered throughout the map. To do so, I ended my turn by entering combat with a Vanguard unit close to one of the Omega Towers.
While Age of Wonders: Planetfall remains a strategy game once a battle between two units begins, the style of strategy game changes. Instead of being a Civilization style 4X game, things change to a turn based strategy game more akin to XCOM. This style worked well for Age of Empires III, and it maintains its luster in Age of Wonders: Planetfall, even if it may end making late game last for a long time. I had access to a variety of different units: regular soldiers, snipers, tank characters, etc. These all had distinct advantages and disadvantages, and can be used to resolve battle swiftly if the right strategies are used.
I was facing off against a giant mech that could easily take out smaller enemies. To avoid this, I made sure it stayed focused on my unit that fulfilled the role of the tank and hit it with everything my stronger units could do. It was satisfying to take down the giant mechanical beast, but several enemies still remained before I could progress. As just one part of one turn, this portion of Age of Wonders: Planetfall was quite lengthy consider my units were upgraded to fit the late game. Almost half of my demo time was spent in this section, and this was just one battle on one turn. While I don’t mind that, it’s obvious that Age of Wonders: Planetfall will be a gigantic timesink for anyone who picks it up. For a 4X strategy game, I can’t even say that’s a bad thing.
While strategy games that try to ape other, more popular ones are usually bad, Age of Wonders: Planetfall avoids this by retaining element that people love from the Age of Wonders series while crafting its own unique identity with things like customizable leaders, sector specializations, and secret technologies. If you are a strategy game or 4X fan itching to find another game to lose yourself in, Age of Wonders: Planetfall should have you covered.
Age of Wonders: Planetfall from Triumph Studios and Paradox Interactive releases for PC, PS4, and Xbox One on August 6, 2019.