Age of Wonders: Planetfall for PC review — Civilization-style strategy meets XCOM-like tactics

Two different styles are brought under one banner with Age of Wonders: Planetfall, though there are some flaws with the design.

Windows Central Recommended Award

Strategy games like the Sid Meier's Civilization series and tactical combat-focused ones such as XCOM are both immensely popular in the PC gaming community. They've even won over the hearts of many console players in recent years, too. However, these two genres rarely intersect with one another, as they operate on different principles (though both share a focus on turn-based mechanics).

Age of Wonders: Planetfall, though, is a departure from the norm. In this sci-fi title, both the strategy and tactics genres are molded into one experience that works well. And while developer Triumph Studios hasn't gotten this formula down to a science yet, Age of Wonders: Planetfall overall stands as a solid game you'll have a good time with.

What you'll love about Age of Wonders: Planetfall

Without a doubt, the thing that stands out the most with Age of Wonders: Planetfall is its tactical combat system. Drawing inspiration from the likes of XCOM, the game operates on a turn-based system with all the staples of the tactics genre: individual unit control, accuracy based on range and cover factors, and specialized abilities. Your forces are segmented into armies, which are six-man squads led by commanders. In the strategy part of the game, you can control where these armies move to on your map, and if one (or more) of them run into an enemy army, a battle will begin. Then, it's up to you to figure out how to use your wits and quick-thinking on the battlefield to achieve victory.

The tactical gameplay is incredibly complex in all the best ways.

The amount of depth to the combat is crazy. With a complex set of rules that dictates how melee combatants interact with ranged opponents to a dizzying amount of different abilities and skills units can learn, there's nearly no end to the different approaches you can bring to fights. You can even customize each unit in each army you have, giving you the flexibility to create specialized troops. For example, one of my armies is built around sniping, while another is a mixture of hardy melee fighters and cover-hugging riflemen dedicated to holding a front line. Each of these armies are effective, but if you bring both of them into the same battle, their strengths cover the other army's weaknesses. Being able to create cohesive battalions like this is an absolute blast. When you throw in the fact there are six different races to choose from, the fun never ends. The developers have included a procedural generation mechanic for replay value when starting a new game, too, and they've even added mod support.

In terms of presentation, Age of Wonders: Planetfall is also a treat. These types of games can sometimes have disappointing visuals, but this one looks incredible with its high-quality textures and vibrant, rich color-scheme. The score is excellent too, featuring a wide range of both energetic, action-focused tracks as well as calm, mellow ones that do a lot to immerse you as you partake in the strategy half of the game.

What you'll love less about Age of Wonders: Planetfall

Age of Wonders: Planetfall's strategic side is lacking.

While the tactical side of Age of Wonders: Planetfall is fantastic, the strategic half of the game is where problems arise. The core issue with it is that it's just not that interesting. There isn't nearly as much depth in negotiating an alliance with foes instead of blasting them to smithereens. And there's a lack of variety in your options when upgrading the bases you establish, which directly butts heads with the nuanced layers of the tactical combat. It's not awful, but it feels tacked on. Thankfully, it does at least feel more fun if you choose a style that focuses on switching between tactics and strategy. Just don't expect to have a great time if you try to avoid all combat actively and focus on being diplomatic.

Another problem is that the quests the game tasks you with during the campaign are bland in design. For the most part, the game sends you on fetch quests, which isn't that interesting. It's not a massive deal for me considering I love the combat encounters these quests typically lead you to. But be aware that in terms of writing, the game doesn't try to do anything special.

Should you buy Age of Wonders: Planetfall?

Age of Wonders

Age of Wonders (Image credit: Paradox Interactive)

In some ways, Age of Wonders: Planetfall fails to bring strategy and tactics together in a high-quality way. While the tactical side of the game is incredible, the strategic half is lacking, and it feels like that part of the game could have used "more time in the oven," so-to-speak. Even so, it's decent enough that you'll like experiencing it in short bursts. The fact that the combat system is just so damn fun makes it hard to feel heavily critical about the game overall.

In the end, I think you'll love this game if you're a tactics fan and you enjoy some casual strategy focus on the side. If you're a massive strategy fan, though, this game will likely disappoint you.

Age of Wonders: Planetfall is available now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.