Age of Wonders: Planetfall – Xbox One Review
Our Xbox One Review of Age of Wonders: Planetfall
As a fan of strategy games, I give a lot of respect to game developers and publishers who are used to producing Strategy games for PC, and take a chance on console… sometimes it pays off, other times they miss the mark. In Age of Wonders: Planetfall’s case, it is a master-class on how to successfully take a franchise with a dedicated perhaps niche audience, and open it out to the masses!
A wonderful turn-based strategy game that takes a classic 4X game-style, then paints it in the unique Age of Wonders style to create something that feels fresh and original. For those not familiar with the Age of Wonders franchise, AoW: Planetfall is combination of turn-based hex strategy games like Civilisation and turn-based tactical combat seen in XCOM Enemy Unknown. A combination that is a match made in heaven!
As mentioned, this is not the first game in the Age of Wonders series, but Planetfall is something very new in a few ways. It’s the first outing for console, it is set in space for the first time, and it’s designed to be the perfect introduction to this unique and wonderful game franchise! If like me you are a fan of Age of Wonders, then you are also in for a pleasant surprise, Planetfall is a break away from classic historical/fantasy setting we’re used to, but honestly this is the best one yet!!
As with any strategy game you have 3 game-modes. A New Scenario mode which is essentially a ‘random map’ mode; the Multiplayer Online mode which will be VERY popular I feel; and a multi-faceted campaign where you learn more about what happened to the Star Union a Human empire that practically owned the Universe once upon a time. You see the story through the eyes of 6 different factions, all with differing opinions of the Star Union, and it’s safe to say not everyone liked them! As you complete campaign missions you unlock new maps and levels, which get progressively more challenging and progressively more fun to play
On the subject of factions we need to take a moment to look at, and appreciate the incredible and wonderfully unique factions playable in AoW: Planetfall…
The Vanguard – The Humans. A group of colonists who awaken from cryosleep after 200 years to discover that their Star Union is no more. They are the last remnants of the Star Union and are faced with the impossible task of rebuilding their once great empire.
The Kir’Ko – The Aliens. A hive brood race of aliens that were enslaved by Star Union. When the Star Union fell, they were freed and rapidly found planets to call their home… Are they out for retribution or reconciliation?
The Dvar – These dwarves. The Dvar were stranded on a hostile world at the fall of the Star Union. With just their brains and braun to keep them alive, they learned to dig and dig deep, using every element they can find to better their chances of survival!
The Syndicate – the space-age mafia. They essentially worm their way into any faction through diplomacy, and then sponge them for everything they can. Don’t be fooled though, they are powerful psionic fighters too, and are happy to use slaves as their frontline.
The Assembly – The Robots. At a foundry that was meant to be producing the next of the Star Union’s bionic and genetically enhanced soldiers, when the fall of the Star Union happened, these soldiers rebelled from their masters and learned that the only way to grow their numbers was harvest the ‘parts’ from the battlefield!
The Amazons – The bad-ass women! An all-female all powerful faction now, but one that started as a group of bio-engineers who were stranded whilst terraforming a planet at the fall of the Star Union. Over generations they have learned to adapt and thrive and are able to call on creatures to fight with them, yes we are talking Dinosaurs and Penguins!!
It is going to be amazing to watch the PVP scene unfold with these 6 factions, watching how players utilise the various unique faction perks and benefits!
One thing that can make or break a game of this genre, especially on console is the Tutorial, because there is a LOT to get your head around and learn, and not many buttons to use! As soon as you start the AoW: Planetfall tutorial, you realise you are in safe hands as the tutorial essentially holds your hand through nearly every aspect of the game without patronising the player (which for a grown man is strangely comforting!)
On the subject of controls, the game utilises every button on the controller with well thought through layout. The wheel menu and tabs are all easy to learn, and the use of analogue sticks makes everything really quick to scroll through. You may click the wrong button from time to time but that will be human error!
Take note Strategy game devs: In turn-based games, a menu wheel can solve so many confusing button layouts and make yours and your customers’ experiences so much smoother!
What makes Age of Wonders: Planetfall so much fun to play, is that the team at Triumph Studios, clearly had a lot of fun when creating the scenarios that play out. There are some really interesting campaign quests, and a plethora of side quests that keep you constantly moving around the map and meeting new colonies and factions. The NPC factions are also lot of fun, all coming with their own perks and difficulties… and I must say the Psi-Fish were a particular favourite! (They are exactly what they sound like, psionic jellyfish!!) Each campaign mission feels like a game unto itself and I am telling you now, you will lose dozens of hours trying to complete the whole campaign.
Warning to players: Even on the beginner difficulty do NOT be sparse with your armies, hire every hero, and Save Game regularly too!!
In a nutshell, what Triumph Studios and parent company Paradox Interactive have here is nothing short of magnificent! They have taken a timeless strategy series that is adored by people around the world, and opened the floodgates for a huge new wave of fans to appreciate the franchise across multiple platforms! It’s a game seeped in quality and attention to detail, and whilst there are a couple of sound glitches here and there, a patch will soon fix that. Playing it on my Xbox for the first time, it feels like a game that was designed specifically for us Xbox users! AoW: Planetfall will provide countless hours of fun whether you are the casual gamer, or a master tactician, and yes in case you are still wondering, I did say dinosaurs and penguins!!
Many thanks to JohnnyAtom for the review code.
Written by Matt Rushton