Planetary Annihilation late alpha review:

A review of Planetary Annihilation in the late alpha stage.

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Planetary Annihilation(PA) has been in the alpha stage for the better part of four months now, and development has been proceeding quite rapidly, so I do believe now is a good time to see where we stand.

What is PA?

For those of you who don’t know what PA is, I’ll try to describe it as best as possible.

You should also check out the kickstarter trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhEYvOYceNs

PA is a large-scale strategy game comparable to Supreme Commander(SupCom) in scale. And in many ways it’s a successor to Total Annihilation(TA). In PA (as opposed to SupCom), you fight on spherical planets rather than flat planes.
Similarly to SupCom, when a game begins you start off with a single commander unit, which can build any of the basic facilities you require, it’s important to note that when you lose your commander, you lose the game. You also have two resources, metal and energy; metal can only be obtained by claiming metal deposits, and energy can be generated by building generators.
Again, akin to SupCom (and TA) the economy works with a constant stream of resources, building a unit  requires 500 units of metal; building within 5 seconds will consume 100 metal per second. A metal extractor might generate 5 metal per second, so in order to have a stable economy, you would require 20 metal extractors to build the aforementioned unit.

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Where is the game so far?

Currently there are several buildings in the game; you got Bot, Vehicle, Air and Naval factories. Bots are akin to infantry, very squishy, but they move fast. Vehicles are more resilient but slower. Air allows the building of bombers and AA fighters, and Naval allows for the building of ocean-going ships.

Recently they also added the Orbital Launch Facility, which currently allows for the building of radar satellites and orbital interceptors. It’s important to note this facility will be much more important as development continues, as you will be able to claim other planets using this facility.

In addition to factories, and metal extractors/energy generators you also have access to defensive towers, torpedo launchers, AA batteries, short and long-range artillery, and cruise missile launchers. Finally there are also nuclear-launch and anti-nuke defense facilities. As you might imagine, it takes a lot of effort to get a nuke launched, but if they hit the mark they can wipe an entire base of the map.

It must be said that at this particular time, most of these bugs have been resolved, in fact the only bug I still encounter is the nuclear missile spinning like a mad circular saw, and not landing to blow up.

Recently a planet and system editor have also been implemented a clear sign that the beta is coming, as fighting across multiple planets is one of the game’s main selling points.
Another recent implementation are rudimentary AI opponents, although these stick mainly with air units.

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How does it play?

Probably the most important question. The game at this particular time feels good, lots of explosions going on, very dynamic combat. It is still unbalanced and a has a few bugs going on however, but all this can be forgiven because we are still in alpha. Additionally the bugs aren’t that plentiful, about as much as you can expect from a regular EA release these days.

Also balance is rarely, if ever, a concern during alpha testing, since balance can easily be adjusted by tweaking values on the units, such as health, damage, rate of fire, units cost, build time, amount of ammunition, etc. The primary concern during alpha testing is making sure everything inside the game works as intended.  Yet despite this, most units can be used quite well against each other, mainly because the emphasis in PA lies on mass production, and massed assaults rather than micro-ing single units. The obvious exception to this is of course the commander, as you can’t afford to lose him.

There is also a certain meta beginning to evolve, on larger planets nukes are used quite a bit more often than on smaller ones, mainly due to the fact that they can be used defensively as well. In desperate situation players will often try to get wings of advanced bombers in the air and try to rush the enemy commander down with these (which works rather well if you play it smart). Massed Bot rushes at the start of the game are comparable to Zergling rushes in StarCraft: easy to execute, but if you fail you are in a world of hurt.

Graphically the game also looks nice, it’s not the best looking game ever, but it has very clear idea of the aesthetic it wants to have. It uses a sort of cartoony-simplistic style, with very clearly-defined unit and building models. While this is not my preferred style, I can appreciate it and I have to say, the game executes it particularly well.

The soundtrack so far is really good–limited, but good. Hearing the brass play while you are fighting on multiple fronts, with explosions going off every which way is quite impressive.

Score

Please note: as this game is currently in the alpha stage, the score is a temporary one at best, and not respresentative of the final product.

Graphically: 15/20
Sound: 10/20
Gameplay: 50/60

Total: 75/100

Conclusion

While the game in its current state could be released as a mediocre strategy game, it’s a very good game for an alpha.
It’s also clear Uber has a long road ahead of them before they are ready for a complete release of what they promised, but from what I’ve seen so far they are well on their way.
I’m really looking forward to the beta and more features. And I recommend anyone who hasn’t bought it yet to get beta access at that time.

The beta should be coming out  September 26, 2013.

Eliniale [CO.RE] out

The Verdict

7.5Good

The Good: Gameplay is solid, if somewhat buggy at times, although bugs are getting rarer with every build.
The game feels good, explosions are nice, armies feel huge, and impacts feel powerful.
Sound and graphics are good as well.

The Bad: Alpha will be alpha, bugs can be encountered.
The game is somewhat limited in scope as of this time.
More music tracks should definitly be added.


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