I’m in the alpha for Planetary Annihilation; I’ve mentioned Total Annihilation here before, and I was a pretty easy sell on a spiritual successor, especially one in which planets can be weaponized. Since I have alpha access, I think I’ll post up some of my impressions here; nothing too far on the technical side, but some stuff that I found interesting.
First, there’s an in-game replay. I’m not sure exactly how this works, and I got stuck in it once without realizing it, but you can actually go through the timeline of the game in either direction, with real-time being the furthest option. You can’t change anything-orders you place are executed in real-time-but it’s certainly a useful tool to go back and look at where the radar blips were. I don’t know if this is a “alpha” thing or something that will make it into the final game, and how much of a role it will play, but it’s certainly interesting.
Second, it’s a game that really needs a tutorial. Normally I hate when games make me sit down and learn the camera, but about a minute into my game I was hoping there was something like that. Of course, the scheme’s rather intuitive, so I didn’t have too much of an issue, but the obsessive part of me that likes clean rows was a little bit upset that every time I zoomed out to the stellar scale and back down to see what was going on at my base I was at a different rotation, and couldn’t change it.
Third, it’s really pretty. Graphical issues courtesy of my aging laptop notwithstanding, the models are beautiful in their simplistic way, and in general I just loved the feel and look. I got about 15 frames at a good day (10ish in replay mode), so I wasn’t exactly racing along, but looking at the performance statistics I think there’s going to be plenty of chances to optimize that even further; my CPU seemed to be keeping up (though the game may have been hosted remotely, I don’t know about UberNet’s multiplayer practices) and it was just my increasingly obsolete card keeping me down.
So what’s my takeaway? I’m not sure that Planetary Annihilation will be the next Total Annihilation, but I’m confident that it will still be a great game. I didn’t get to try out the planet-hopping, but the world that I started on felt massive and expansive, and I’m tentatively excited about some of the promises-the game was, despite my computer’s underwhelming performance, very stable, and once I figured out that I shouldn’t be playing three minutes in the past it was very responsive as well. The gameplay is true to the formula-I was in a sandbox, so I didn’t get too much of a look at the way that certain things worked, and the AI didn’t launch any attacks at me, but the building and unit trees felt like good starting points. Obviously, as an alpha, the game is not functionally complete, but I’m excited to see where it goes.
Note that this post was written two weeks ago, so more features may have been added than the few I discussed.
Come back next week for my tentative impressions of Shadowrun: Fifth Edition, which launches on the 11th!