Alone In The Dark: Planetary Annihilation’s Single-Player

By Nathan Grayson on May 26th, 2014 at 2:00 pm.

Annihilating planets with other people – orbited by warm smiles and booming laughter – is all well and good, but sometimes you want to be alone while decimating armies and grinding celestial bodies into stardust. It’s a good time to think, to take stock of your life and what it would be like to have it destroyed by space ships. That’s what single-player is for, but for quite some time Planetary Annihilation didn’t really have it. TODAY, though, that all changes.

Developer Uber Entertainment announced that Galactic War, as it’s known, is now available, explaining it as follows:

“In Galactic War, you’ll be placed in control of a reawakened Commander with access to a limited tech tree. As you explore and battle across the galaxy’s procedurally generated systems, you’ll collect random technology and find perks that boost your manufacturing and fighting capabilities.”

“We designed Galactic War to be replayable, and for every playthrough to feel different. We also want you to decide the scale and intensity: each of Galactic War’s sizes change how many systems are in the galaxy and introduce different loadouts. And the pressure’s on. Annihilation is final.”

So it doesn’t have the pre-written plot of an old-school RTS single-player campaign, but hopefully there’ll be some FTL-style joy to be found in the randomness and dripping dread of permadeath.

This, of course, is only the first iteration of Galactic War, so expect updates in the near future. For now though, the foundation at least seems interesting. And now that I mention a space game and the word “foundation,” I just want a game of Asimov’s Foundation series – or at least set in that universe. But you know, done the right way. If it’s an EA shooter then heads will roll and also were we talking about a different videogame earlier? I forget.

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61 Comments »

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  1. johnkillzyou says:

    The current iteration, from the conceptual level, disappoints me. I imagined it being something more akin to Sins of a Solar Empire, but with a ground focus.

    Yes, it is still in development, however this is a game which has been nothing but disappointing at every turn, at least for a turtler like me. The game just does not fit my preferred play style, and no amount of tweaking will fix that unless major changes happen. If you like to make huge defenses and a pretty base, stay away from Planetary Annihilation, but if big armies fighting is your thing? Might be worth further inspection.

    • trjp says:

      I’m not a player of RTSs but I’ve always gotten the idea that the Supreme Commander model (of which this is clearly) has always been a ‘pump out the units and go on the offensive’ game.

      They’ve never really been about building bases – and when someone can throw entire planets at you, there’s no amount of defences worth building?

      Defend your supply line/manufacturing – pump out death units – take over and win!?

      • Batolemaeus says:

        The thing that annoys me about planetary annihilation is the pacing. Supcom is a very deliberate game. Your moves have to be thought out ahead, you need to have a strategy.

        PA doesn’t have strategy. It is a pure tactics game like Starcraft, and indeed tries to ape SCs much faster pace to the detriment of gameplay. All the games I’ve played so far were the same: Pump out lots of first tier tanks, rush run to enemy commander, win. 5 minutes max.

        The maps are tiny and have very few geographic features that would limit your paths or create chokepoints you need to circumvent. I’ve never even needed air or navy.

        The multi-planet thing feels like a micromanagement nightmare rather than an interesting feature.

        I am very disappointed with PA tbh.

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          Cinek says:

          L2P if you got problem with early rushes (AI currently does, but they’re working on it). PA is all about strategy. If you want tactics – play CoH.
          As for size of the planet – just use planets generator to make as big planet as you wish,
          For multiple planets – use Picture In Picture. I do that and never got any problems with micro.

          • Batolemaeus says:

            Where is the strategy? Please elaborate. Also, what does L2P have to do with it? Are you implying that I need to learn to play so I can’t exploit the mechanical weaknesses of the game and win within 5 minutes? Will it take me longer to win if I learn more?

            Seriously, where is the strategy. The fast pace of the game shifts the balance so far towards tactics that it is all about build order optimization.

            The generated planets are still tiny and lack geographic features that make a tank rush not the best option btw.

            Picture in picture doesn’t make it any less of a micromanagement nightmare. I don’t get why you think it does. You still have to do absurd amounts of micro compared to FA with its many automation features.

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            Cinek says:

            Strategy is in base building, resource management, and troops relocation before the battle (nope, sending all your units in one direction isn’t the best way). Just like in every other strategy game out there: Base, Resources, Units.

            Tactical part is the less important one here, there’s actually very little tactics here comparing to, say, SoSE, your units got no “skills” you can manage so micromanagement is nearly totally unimportant here. You operate on dozens of units, and care about strategic relocation, there’s no tactical management of small forces here unless you really want to play a game this way.

            As for your problem with winning by early rushes, well, there are two cases here:
            1) AI in current build doesn’t know how to counter them. That’s going to be fixed soon.
            2) You might have met some newbie players that don’t know how to counter that either – shit like that happens in every game, regardless.
            3) Turrets are significantly underpowered in a current build what makes it more difficult to counter rushes – it’s going to be fixed (in previous build they got turrets significantly overpowered making early rushes impossible if only your enemy had some).

        • tvcars says:

          I’ve already lost interest in this game :\

        • fish99 says:

          If you’ve ever seem SupCom or FA played competitively it was all about commander duels, masses of tech 1 units and most games over inside 15 minutes, a very different game from that played by the average player.

          • Batolemaeus says:

            I have. The commander duels are only really feasible on small maps though.

            A lot of the competitive FA scene puts me off too, like most competitive rts. Too much focus on massfab spam and runaway economies and build orders, too little focus on strategy.

          • soldant says:

            Batolemaeus, Fish99 is pretty much correct about any RTS you’d care to name – it’s all micro and careful build order to rush units to win. It’s particularly bad in games like SupCom, because whoever outproduces the other guy will win and there’s nothing you can do about it. When there’s limited resources things change slightly but whoever ends up with the most resources (by expanding the fastest) will win.

            The only RTS games where this doesn’t work are games that focus very heavily on micro, like CoH to an extent, or where they’re turn-based and out-producing the enemy isn’t something you can accomplish quickly.

            PA, being of the same ilk as TA and SupCom, has the exact same problem. The game is entirely about pumping out as many units as your economy can sustain while pushing at the enemy until they break. That’s why the T2/T3 units never got used in competitive play – they’re easier to spam and nobody builds anything higher because they’re focused on pumping out units.

        • Lemming says:

          It seems like maybe its biggest problem is identity. I’ve corrected commenters before on this but it was never supposed to be SupCom. It’s a TA successor, nothing to do with SupCom (which is a TA successor of a different kind). TA was super fast combat as well. The clue is in the name.

      • LionsPhil says:

        I’m not a player of RTSs but I’ve always gotten the idea that the Supreme Commander model…They’ve never really been about building bases

        Nope.

        Base building is a huge, huge, huge part of the TA lineage. To the extent that they have buildings which support a very turtle-heavy strategy, like the top-tier artillery that can bombard the enemy base safe from the shelter of your own, and in Forged Alliance even rapid-fire defence-tolerant strategic nukes.

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          Gap Gen says:

          I view shields as a design mistake in these games. In the last Core mission in TA I had to spam cheap wind generators to fool enemy artillery into avoiding my factories and mines, spacing out my important structures and having multiple redundancy. In one skirmish I fought an hours-long Western Front-style grinding war of attrition between two heavily fortified positions with a no-mans land raked by artillery fire. The idea that your base is huge, sprawling and vulnerable and not something you can wall off as a tiny nucleus is appealing, and it’s disappointing that Sup Com went back on that idea.

          That said, TA always felt like a game that should be played by algorithms, watching the AI grow like a bacteria infection across a petri dish, filling in holes left by nukes in minutes.

        • soldant says:

          In competitive play in TA, those strategies get you wiped out – a player who focuses on turtling will inevitably get wiped out by the player who focuses on rushing. The economy in TA was going to favour whoever expands the quickest and pushes on the enemy the most – you can’t invest in a Big Bertha if you’re constantly trying to replace point defences or the moho metal mines that you keep losing. On metal world maps you’re in a better position (since resources are abundant) but on any other map you’re going to have to expand or you’ll get out-produced.

          Playing against the AI though is an entirely different story, since their rushes can be held at bay by point defences since they usually attack one area only and trickle units out.

      • fish99 says:

        You could turtle in SupCom/FA but only against the AI and only because they were predictable (and bad). Try to turtle against a decent player and he’ll get control of most of the mass points and eventually steamroller you with superior tech and numbers.

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          Gap Gen says:

          I used to get mass converters and eventually end up with near infinite income before just pumping out 20 superunits and steamrollering the enemy. It did get old quick.

    • Lemming says:

      Hoping for it to be like Sins was a bit of a stab in the dark, wasn’t it? This was a Total Annihilation successor. That’d be like hoping the next C&C will be a turn-based FPS.

      I do share your turtleing woes however. I’m a complete turtle, and that’s how I always used to play Total Annihilation. While I’m a bit disappointed I can’t do that in PA (Seriously, its exhausting – not my cup of tea at all), I understand why that’s the case, given that we are dealing with spherical maps (planets), not somewhere where you can ‘dig in’ with your back to a wall.

      I backed this, and I’m glad it exists and I may try to play it again sometime, but I’m under no illusion of what the game is. It’s back to Dawn of War for me, I think.

      • LionsPhil says:

        I find “back to Dawn of War” an amusing comment, given I found it so turtle-hostile that it was the RTS that finally shook me out into being much more agressive about territory control and having a mobile response force.

        Also because its turrets were nearly useless. You can tell a lot about an RTS’ intended playstyle by how well the base defences work, and in TA/SC they’re brutal.

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          FriendlyFire says:

          Relic’s post-Homeworld games (DoW, CoH) are all focused on the idea of expand or die. I find the design to be nice, since it removes the need for resource gathering in the traditional sense, but it is indeed the very opposite of turtle-friendly.

        • Lemming says:

          You might want to take a look at DoW again. I must’ve played it a million times, and it very turtley. I think they moved away from it a bit with the other races and expansions, but vanilla DoW is like the turtler’s dream. The turrets aren’t useless assuming you are upgrading them and putting them in groups. I think almost every map I had each entrance to my base guarded by a bolter turret and missile turret each side, some mines just outside that area and just kept upgrading and adding to the sentry towers. I could then do my usual ‘a bit of everything’ army behind my safe-as-houses defense and steamroll across the map, capturing resource points and upgrading/building on them as I went. Maybe it’s just the space marines designed for this kind of play?

          • Sian says:

            My guess is that they meant DoW 2, where you can’t plant as many turrets and those that you can are used more as a means to suppress enemy units than outright kill them, except for AV turrets.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Nope, never played it.

            Compare a turret in DoW to one in TA or SupComm. The latter is much more capable of fending off equal-tier troops. The income model in DoW is also much more demanding that you get out there and capture points, whereas in TA you can heavily upgrade a core of metal resources and pad out with metal makers.

            They did nerf turrets pretty badly in the expansions, including putting limits on their number and I think placement. I can’t remember if I’m only remembering that version, but I certainly remember turtling working really badly for me vs. what I believe is called a “hedgehog” strategy.

          • Lemming says:

            See, I compare a turret from DoW to a TA or SupCom one and I see something far meatier and capable in the former, given that TA/SupCom relies on the idea that you’d build loads of them very cheaply to accomplish much the same result.

          • Volcanu says:

            You can turtle agaisnt the AI to some extent in DoW, but if you try it against human opponents you find that they quickly overwhelm you with tier 1 units by virtue of having a faster requisition rate. I think DoW’s relatively low unit cap helps mitigate against the usual RTS thing where the person who knows the right build order of the economic buildings will always win – but it does actively encourage you to leave your base.

            As Lemming says they further encouraged this in the expansions where they tended to place requistion points and crucially relics in places where you have to come out and contend for them. I was always a massive turrtler in RTS games too -and as one of the above posters says DoW was the first RTS that got me to break with my natural instincts and become more expansionist. I love DoW but I do find it a bit exhausting at times by virtue of you being in almost constant conflict and being kept very busy. There’s a part of me that misses the slower pace of old school RTS where (against the AI at least) you could enjoy tending to your base, creating near impenetrable defences and building up a collosal army before steam rolling the opposition and watching the fireworks – I loved doing that in TA. DoW is fantastic but you barely ever get to revel in the lovely unit animations, and watch your army destroy things as you do have to manage them quite intensely, manually replacing soldiers and upgrading weapons/triggering special abilities and so on.

            Anyway I sort of rambled off topic a bit there…..

          • BlueTemplar says:

            I like playing DoW1 at a reduced speed : makes managing every unit you have on the map actually feasible.

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      Cinek says:

      This game was never suppose to be anything like SoSE – and I’m most grateful for that. From all types of the RTS the “build hard counter or die” kind of games, like SoSE, is worst one out there.

      • johnkillzyou says:

        By “like Sins” I meant every planet was on the same map, and you transferred your troops from planet to planet, not “Fight battle, click things on overworld until next battle, repeat”. Maybe using Earth 2150 as an example would’ve been better, that game did that very well.

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      Gap Gen says:

      I admit I’ve left PA until it’s “released”. I didn’t get into a previous beta build I tried; commanding across multiple spheres felt counterintuitive and fiddly, and the interface wasn’t there to help you along.

      • Kamalen says:

        I played a bit of alpha, then a bit in beta and now into it in gamma.

        The multiplanet managment has been heavily transformed in each iteration, and nowhere near it was before ; now you can dezoom to system level and zoom to whatever planet like super easily.
        Plus you can have a second camera anywhere and you can command troops througt it.

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          Gap Gen says:

          Cool, sounds good. Will still probably wait until it’s done to avoid burning myself out on it, but sounds promising.

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    SuddenSight says:

    I wonder what brought this on. I seem to remember their Kickstarter said they wouldn’t have Single Player.

    • trjp says:

      According to the guy doing the Giant Bomb QuickLookEX – it was a stretch goal?

    • Kamalen says:

      I can see your mistake. They said they wasn’t going to include classic-RTS-style single player modes. But this kind of galactic war was a kickstarter goal.

  3. MrPete says:

    I find the Galactic War much more appealing than skirmishes with the AI. Mostly due to the slower pace (in my last tries I had next to no chance rolling out the big guns vs AI) but second due to the randomized findings. Oh, shiny tech! But I don’t have the storage, what to do?

    And for the Foundation game:
    http://seldoncrisis.com/
    I can’t say how much it’s set in the universe or how “loosely” they based it of the mentioned books (since I don’t know these) but the prospect is interesting!

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      Ooh, interesting. Foundation is an interesting source of inspiration for a space game. I’d love a SF game that’s true to its 50s source material, existing in a universe that views nuclear tech as unlocking the stars (and perhaps with Dick’s pessimism about the suburban despair of the era). I also like the idea of an asymmetric space 4X, where you’re a tiny republic using diplomatic guile and tech to overcome much more powerful foes, eventually encountering more and more powerful enemies until you finally hit the galactic core and reunite the empire (with choices along the way about what that empire is). Lots of possibilities. (Although, actually, one thing that Foundation is not about is combat – even a showdown with the old Empire’s fleet ends via court intrigue and not a missile-flecked shootout).

  4. RanDomino says:

    Did anyone play in Total Annihilation’s Galactic War? By the time I owned a copy of TA (and, er, had Internet) it was done. It looked cool though.

    • Lemming says:

      Do you mean the single-player campaign? Because yes, apart from Skirmishes or a LAN game with a friend, that’s all I played.

      • DelrueOfDetroit says:

        No, he means Galactic War. It was a competitive online game launched by Cavedog on their Boneyards service a few months before they shut down. Basically players would choose to fight for either ARM or CORE and compete over planets in a galaxy.

  5. BlueTemplar says:

    Meanwhile Zero-K, which is still more feature-complete than PA, and has arguably more strategy, has been Greenlighted :
    http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=247032802#

    When will RPS cover this rough gem of a free, open source game?

    • Lemming says:

      By ‘open source’ it looks like they mean ‘stolen unit designs from other RTS games’.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Certainly wearing its TA influence rather boldly.

        Looking good, though, design-pilfering aside.

      • BlueTemplar says:

        AFAIK, Complete Annihilation, and then Zero-K aim always was to replace the original Total Annihilation models with new ones. I don’t think that Zero-K still has any original Total Annihilation models, and it now features many units that look pretty unique in concept to me.

        Even Balanced Annihilation is starting to go this way too (though they’re probably upgrading the unit models rather than the underlying unit “concepts”).
        http://springrts.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?f=44&t=30537

        • LionsPhil says:

          One of the commanders in those Zero-K videos was pretty much exactly the ARM commander. I also spotted (from memory):
          * Big Bertha
          * Goliath tank
          * Wind power plants
          * ARM solar power plants

          There’s something very similar to a fusion power plant in there too.

          I’m sure there were more.

    • Mezmorki says:

      Sweet! Great to hear Zero-K is headed to steam. It’s been a while since I played it but it was a great culmination of the various SpringRTS engine TA-revival efforts. Very fun game ;)

  6. Boosh says:

    I finally took a punt on this given the steam sale and singleplayer, and what a massive disappointment.
    Thank goodness I only paid £17.

    • Lemming says:

      What exactly were you expecting that couldn’t be gleaned from a quick video of some gameplay footage? I’m just amazed anyone could buy this post-Kickstarter and not know in advance what they were getting.

  7. derbefrier says:

    Surprised to see so much negativity. I thought it was a pretty fun game and welcome the new singleplayer.

    • Sian says:

      I haven’t played it yet because I didn’t back at a high enough tier, but even after the negativity here I’m looking forward to it.

    • plsdeleteme says:

      I guess one big problem is that people expected Supreme Commander 3 (for whatever reason) when the game is more akin in design and name to Total Annihilation.

      Also I would be interested to know how many hours the “lost interest” people have put into it. My interest in the game has dwindled too recently. But I have also put more than 30 hours into the game. So I really see no problem with that. Especially since I am sure that Galactic Conquest we keep me coming back every now and then.

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        Cinek says:

        Problem is that many people around here are simply to young to remember and play TA. That’s why the expected this game to be like the last large strategy game developed by the same guys that they did play – and that is SupCom.

      • LionsPhil says:

        I’m not sure what distinction you’re drawing between TA and SC here. Both are turtle-heavy large-scale games where terrain is significant. They’re a lot alike, and sound unlike this, beyond the aesthetic.

        Hell, one of TA’s marketing points was that the 2D tileset terrain had a 3D heightmap under it that informed lines of fire, sight, and such.

    • Kamalen says:

      Don’t listen to SupCom boys. The game is pretty fun. The singleplayer mode, however, is quite a copy past of the old Galactic Conquest mode from Star Wars Battlefront 2, with RTS instead of FPS battle, and needs much more work, IMO.