Age of Wonders: Planetfall - Joe's Mini Review!

I'm about halfway through the campaign now, and I think I'm ready to offer my verdict.


I used to play Age of Wonders 1 and 2 back in the day, local competitive and co-op. It was a remarkable series, and there was always something magnificent about building a really gigantic wizard's tower that you could then use to blast spells about your domain. Nothing else has quite captured that level of awesome. But this, this is a pretty decent successor.

My first attempt at Age of Wonders: Planetfall was abortive. This is definitely one of those games that has an immediate learning curve that can exhaust patience if you aren't careful. If you load it up, and you aren't in the right mindset to start to grok the strategic map and how territories work, you might get angsty and quit in frustration as I did the first dive in when the game came out. I came back to it seeking to satisfy a more strategic itch, and I'm glad I stuck through it. The "roleplaying" choices provided by the campaign offer some interesting elements of depth, and there is definitely a forking storyline, so actions/quests that are completed in the campaign do feel like they have impact.

The Good:
  • The races are unique and interesting. Each feels reasonably well fleshed out and has unique mechanics.
  • The secret techs provide even more dynamism, so even if you're fighting the good ol' fashioned humans, you may not know what to expect.
  • Tactical combat is nifty, and holy moly there's a lot of modifiers and effects.
  • Landmarks add a fun dimension to where you settle - jockeying for positioning to secure the higher end landmarks that earn your city better benefits and a leg up.

The Iffy:
  • "Operations" are spells, either strategic, tactical, covert, and doctrines - and while they are rather clever, I long for the looming wizard tower mechanic that determined reach.

The Bad:
  • End game can trudge along, and it feels like if you've made the wrong sequence of build-ups in early-mid game, you'll spend all of your time in a reactive, defensive crouch against roving hordes and enemy AI players. The game is often decided almost completely at the mid-tech level.
All told, it's worth a play-through, especially if you're on the Xbox Games Pass for PC. If you do play, finish out the tutorial and the second planet, at a minimum. The game really starts there.
@Zloth , I haven't returned to it since the DLC dropped. The new Stellaris Federations has had my attentions locked in, and I'm piling through as a diplomatically-oriented hive mind. I'll add the Tyrannosaurus AoW: Planetfall playthrough to my queue...after Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord.

Ever play a game and you're committed to finishing, but you see a zillion other people playing a newer game and you're jealous? That's me right now with Bannerlord. Knowing that if I don't finish out this run on Stellaris, I won't be able to come back to it for a while. It's delightfully frustrating and motivating at the same time!
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