Age of Wonders: Planetfall Preview and Interview

Paradox Interactive and Triumph Studios' Age of Wonders: Planetfall is currently heading towards an August 6, 2019 release. And even though that date is still a few months away, the folks over at PCGamesN already had a chance to check out an early build of Planetfall and share their thoughts on what they saw there. A few sample paragraphs:

I’m drawn into a tactical battle and, not to be reductive about it, it’s XCOM – even more so than Age of Wonders III was. Your troops have a complementary system for movement and action points, there are damage bonuses for flanking enemies, your army is capped at six units, there’s an Overwatch stance, and you can take both full and half cover. Yet each of these ingredients has a twist: you get three action points rather than two, flanked enemies will turn to face their attacker when shot, you can get around the unit cap by reinforcing armies with others, Overwatch is directional rather than 360, and taking cover works very differently on Planetfall’s maps – which are far more open than XCOM’s urban environments.

The changes in flanking enable you to pull off fun tricks – like sandwiching a tough opponent between two of your own units and attacking it in the rear with one, causing the enemy to turn to face them, thus enabling the other to make a flanking attack too. One of my favourite moments in my time with the game comes when I use this trick to beat a force of alien insectoids twice the size of my own army – very Starship Troopers. So yes, the battles are a little derivative, but they derive from a brilliant game, and make some smart innovations.On a couple of hours’ evidence, then, the change in setting is a gamble that could well pay off. I’m struck by the boldness of it – fantasy was a long-established comfort zone for Age of Wonders, while with Planetfall, Triumph is entering the equally crowded field of sci-fi strategy, and has had to conceive an entirely new canon in doing so.

And while the above preview features a few quotes from the game's developers Benny Arents and Tom Bird, you can also check out PCGamesN's full interview with them. The interview goes over the reasons for Planetfall abandoning Age of Wonders' usual fantasy setting, shares some details about the game's story and characters, and more. For example:

We’ve seen a main character, Jack Gelder of the Vanguard. What can you tell us about the story and his role in it?

Arents: Jack was far away from home when the cataclysm happened. The tutorial [which ends with Jack returning to the Star Union via a centuries-long cryosleep] is a prequel to the main story. He’s on his way back home not knowing what he’ll find, and when he arrives, everything is in ruins. The Union no longer exists.

There are survivors – there are the playable factions but also the NPC factions all scattered across all of these planets, and during the campaign Jack is trying to piece together what actually happened, who survived, and how can we move forward. Every scenario is you trying to establish your empire on the ashes of the Star Union.

Bird: In a way, Jack represents the player. He comes in and is like ‘What is going on?’ The other races know who they are, like the Amazons and the Assembly, have a path, and a mission. The Vanguard, however – their very identity is gone. The whole point of the Vanguard is to guard the Star Union, and the Star Union is gone. Where did it go? As the Vanguard, that’s your job to find out.

Arents: Every race has their own campaign, consisting of two missions. Then there’s a final mission where you can choose which of these factions that you played, in all these other campaigns, that you want to represent. That’s then the conclusion of this whole story arc. So you get to explore each faction individually, and their their own internal conflicts and struggles.

For example the Kir’ko are struggling with: ‘Okay, now that faster than light travel has been re-established and we’re getting into contact with all these remaining parts of the Star Union again, how do we treat them? They used to enslave us, but we broke free, so do we want vengeance? Do we want reconciliation?’ How do you want to approach the reunion with these people? You get to choose, in the campaigns.