Those familiar with Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander will find themselves at home. At its heart is an economy of resources driving your forces forward as you expand your base and increase your firepower, frantically escalating into an all out war with an opposing player. Planetary Annihilation ups the ante and allows up to 40 players to battle across the stars in one match. Think RTS games on steroids. You’re now racing against multiple others; trying to amass the most resources, gain the strongest fleet and conquer other worlds all the while protecting your own base. It takes frenzied and awesome up a notch.
For those who watched the first trailer, one particular part stood out that thrust Planetary Annihilation into the limelight: in one final act of desperation, an asteroid is sent colliding into a planet. The surface of the planet is destroyed, as are all the units and buildings. Much to the delight (or dismay if you’re on the receiving end) of players, this wasn’t just a con to get more buyers. The asteroid belt is a part of your arsenal and, if you can get to one without your enemy noticing, they’ll be in for a big surprise. Planetary Annihilation is more than just who can get the most units, but a real arms race with the ultimate goal of not only controlling the land, sea and air, but also the heavens above and using it to obliterate the enemy. After playing for many hours I can tell you now that a single enemy nuke beats hundreds of tanks any day. Perhaps obvious, but when you’re caught up in the moment, trying to overwhelm your enemy with constant barrages, you can forget how vulnerable you really are.
As it turns out, only one unit really matters; the Commander. This special unit is the one you start with and will be with you until the end. If it dies, you lose. Planetary Annihilation is currently in beta and it shows. The game itself is not properly optimised and very unstable, so large scale battles are unlikely to be as smooth as you’d like them to be. Path finding is unpredictable and will almost certainly annoy you. The AI toggles between overly aggressive or entirely passive, leaving you to build up your forces uninterrupted making it little more than a simple building game. However, these things will undoubtedly improve with time. As it stands now, Planetary Annihilation shows a lot of potential and things can only get better. Planned features include extending the battlefield to cross the galaxy and the ability to form alliances with other players creating the potential for a Star Wars-esque universe. The game engine is built to be modded, paving the way for some no doubt crazy mods. But we’ll have to wait for all that.
Planetary Annihilation has been fleshed out quite a bit since its inception, but there’s still a fair bit to go. If Uber Entertainment manages to realise the game’s potential, it will not only be brilliant, but elevate RTS games to a completely new level.