Have You Played… Planetary Annihilation?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Planetary Annihilation [official site] got a mixed reception. On one hand, the premise and eventual game wasn’t too shabby. It took the plague-like swarms of units from Total Annihilation and the hefty robot generals of Supreme Commander and brought the whole RTS genre to it’s most ridiculous conclusion, forcing you to wage war on multiple globes. If you survived long enough against your opponent, you might even be able to build a massive thruster and launch one planet into another: the game’s ultimate superweapon.

On the other hand, features touted during the game’s Kickstarter were missing when it came out of beta and always-online DRM meant you couldn’t play against the computer without an internet connection (although that has since been fixed). What’s worse, the developers released a slightly-improved update, Planetary Annihilation: Titans, just one year afterwards, charging full-price again another $15 for things that arguably should have been in the first game to begin with, leaving anyone who bought the original with a sour taste in their mouths. The only people who got this expansion for free were early Kickstarter backers.

But if you haven’t played either, and are itching for fast-paced land-grabbing, there is still a lot to like about these robotic hordes. The AI is fiendishly quick and challenging, combat is frantic and stressful, resource management is a hairy juggling act, and dramatic matches have explosive and silly finales worthy of cheers and groans. Titans is the definitive version, if you’re up for it. It’s not a perfect example of the genre, and the developer’s actions have given it a bad reputation. But if there’s a sale on and you’re in that particular mood, it’s worth taking over a few worlds.


  1. Konservenknilch says:

    Backed it, played it. Very fun, especially the kind of nutso core mechanics and ultraweapons. But, too fast-paced and chaotic for me. I hoped for a more SupCom vibe.

    Anyway, I don’t regret the investment and am curious about what the studio does next.

    • skittles says:

      I didn’t regret it either… much. My main problem is I always like single player for RTS. And well, the campaign was crap and the AI is worse.

      Also I presume because of the negativity around TITANS that it wasn’t a free upgrade for everyone? I was certainly gifted it.

      VERY CONFUSED though over the angst against TITANS? It was provided free to all backers to my understanding. That is what they said, and I was certainly gifted it.

      • mikeyh says:

        The Galactic War AI was made super easy because people complained it was too hard… make sure you play on the highest level for the full AI or install the Queller AI mod for AI Skirmish.

        Titans was free to Kickstarter backers and 66% off (~$15) for existing owners… the negativity is from steam early access who did not get it free and everyone else who jumped on board that wanted it for free.

      • Quitch says:

        You can make the Galactic War harder using the “GW” mods provided by wondible. All sorts of difficulty options in there, including restoring the old absurd difficulty.

  2. Walsh says:

    I missed the variety of units from SupCom and TA. This one didn’t have as many fancy end game units, which was kind of a let down.

  3. DelrueOfDetroit says:

    I bought it hoping for a modern Total Annihilation which yeah for the most part I got. The problem is that the game has way too much going on at once. Trying to micromanage multiple planets where you can be attacked by any direction is a bit of a headache.

    And yeah, the Titans thing left a very bad taste in my mouth.

  4. Harlander says:

    It’s a fun idea, but trying to manage stuff on multiple planets made it feel a bit too overwhelming for me. It would’ve been easier if I could have somehow kept an eye on all of them at once, I think, rather than having to switch between them.

  5. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    I remember when the kickstarter was running I was quite into kickstarter; I do like helping fund promising projects which might otherwise not see the light of day. I did back out of this one, though. Still, a shame it wasn’t a good as people hoped it would be.

  6. KillahMate says:

    I’m told PA: Titans does a lot to improve on the endgame insanity, making the whole thing significantly more fun (and of course it benefited from all the patching and rebalancing the original went through), but haven’t played it myself to check. Anyone have any perspective on this?

  7. A Wanderer says:

    “Launch one planet into another as a superweapon.”
    So it’s basically Warhammer 40K Orks : the game ?

  8. slippers4xmas says:

    Sour taste is right. Great game, but then they annihilated the player base with the standalone expansion that simply added a couple of units.

    Then Ashes of the Singularity does the same, but offering even less. Why do RTS developers hate their genre so much?

    This is why we can’t have nice things.

    • stuw23 says:

      Given that Ashes… is published by Stardock, and that they’ve been pulling that stunt with a lot of releases, it really is a sad scenario. When PA: Titans was released, I found myself thinking “oh god not another one”. Sad times.

  9. Nauallis says:

    Backed it, played it, got a sour taste after I learned that the game wasn’t going to feature a campaign, despite being touted as a modern-day remake of TA. What made it worse were that the original alpha/beta tests were PVP-only, and when they finally did implement AI, it’s not terribly fun to play against because it’s not limited to actions comparable to what a person could do. Oh well.

  10. PancakeWizard says:

    Backed it, own it, never played it. Once I realised turtling would be impossible, it put me off. Glad it exists, though.

    • bills6693 says:

      I thought the same but actually tried it a few months ago. I found that turtling was indeed possible (against the AI that is, probably wouldn’t work against humans). Its just a bit different.

      I made a map which was basically just a load of small planets, and it was set so each player started on their own planet. Immidiatley built up my construction vehicle count, mined all the metal, and built a layer of planetary defence satellites and anti-orbital ground troops which roved the planet. Easy to do too, as you can just drag an area and they’ll build stuff over that entire area (so just told them to create a defensive net and they just did it). Sat happy on my planet, launched lightning strikes using unit cannons against the enemy if they tried to weaponise any planets to smash me, and took my sweet time!

      Still, playing the game just made me want to play Supreme Commander so after a few days of this I just went and played the supreme predecessor.

  11. KDR_11k says:

    My least favorite part of TA is always building the metal extractors, it just feels like busywork but it’s mandatory and they’re easy to lose to raids which mean more busywork… Unfortunately Ashes of the Singularity has that stuff as well despite also using a territory capture mechanism. Nothing less fun than having to go through and fix all the minor damage you incur all the time lest it builds up into major attrition.

    • jon_hill987 says:

      In PA you can set your constructors to auto-build metal extractors in a target area.

    • DelrueOfDetroit says:

      Play The Pass map in TA. There’s only two extractors on each side separated by a snaking canyon. I used to play that map A LOT.

  12. rapine says:

    I don’t think this fairly tells the details of things that happened. Yeah, the game released with some features missing that were expected. The Unit Cannon was the main one that comes to mind. The Galactic War campaign was a mess. The quantity of players in a single game never quite reached what the Kickstarter campaign hoped for, but that was mainly due to technical limitations.

    The internet basically went on a smear campaign of Planetary Annihilation. They tanked the Steam reviews down to unrecoverable levels. The game was a lot of fun and well made already, with some missing elements, hardly a fair backlash.

    When they released PA: Titans, all Kickstarter backers received it for free and everyone who owned the base game got 66% off. Hardly full price. This allowed for new and more fair steam reviews to be posted (this was before Steam added the recent versus overall ratings).

    Anyway, very fun game, lots of undeserved hate.

    • KDR_11k says:

      I think more than unfulfilled promises the game was simply not much fun to many people, especially those mostly interested in the turtle and build up approach (that’s not serious RTS play but popular among casual players).

    • Son_of_Georg says:

      I badly wanted this game to be a worthy successor to Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander. It had all sorts of great ideas early on in development, and some of them actually worked. Picture-in-Picture and instant replays were pretty brilliant. I also loved the idea of drop-in multiplayer. But the game just never really worked. I mean that both in the sense of “It wasn’t really all that fun” and “It was too buggy.” For my friends and I, after release at least 2 out of 3 games would crash somewhere before the end. Then they released Titans. I was the only one in our group who was a Kickstarter backer, so I got it for free. The rest of them paid more for PA than I did and would have had to buy it again. I think we’re done with that forever. I hope someday the people who worked on this get a chance to make an RTS that lives up to their ambitions, but PA went wrong in a lot of ways.

    • Marr says:

      I was a Steam early access backer, and the main problem is that Uber barely communicated on Steam at all. The 66% off didn’t show up when Titans launched, and when it did arrive it just looked like a normal temporary sale price with an expiry date countdown, except that it didn’t show up on the wishlist. There were no developer threads about this on the discussion page, and requests for clarification went unanswered.

      • mikeyh says:

        Are you sure about that?

        Valve recommended removing classic PA and the time limited discount due to their policy at the time.

        The 66% off upgrade discount became permanent before expiry and has always been available.

        It was communicated everywhere in the PR, official posts and community posts on launch day.

        eg the classic PA steam news post “To say our thanks, players who owned PA before August 18, 2015, will be able to purchase TITANS at 66% off in the Steam Store!”

        I checked steam after Titans went live and the upgrade discount was showing for my classic PA.

        Maybe the posts were missed in all the negativity from people expecting Titans for free.

  13. stuw23 says:

    I have a copy on this, but can’t remember how I got it. Holiday sale? From a bundle at some point? No idea any more. I’ve tried a few times to get in to it, but I just bounce off it each time. It’s more aggressive and high-tempo than I like my RTS’ to be, and found it incredibly difficult to keep track of what’s going on once I spread to a few planets. The lack of character to the units doesn’t really help, either. I can understand the appeal though, and I’ve enjoyed being a spectator to some online games, but the Titans move bummed me out. That said, I got PA: Titans from a Humble Bundle monthly, but haven’t given it a go yet. Whenever I get the RTS itch now, I just seem to go back to AoE 2 or, if I want something fast, Starcraft 2.

  14. PHPH says:

    I despise this game. I really liked Total Annihilation back in the day, and I still play Supreme Commander today. I’ve wanted a next-generation version of SupCom forever. Planetary Annihilation is closer to TA than SupCom, but there’s too many little things wrong with it.

    The most annoying part is the camera. The view is directly top-down and not isometric because the game is played entirely on spherical planetoids, which is the game’s central gimmick. Having a top-down camera with the perpetually uneven planet surfaces is extremely disorienting. It probably takes getting used to, but it was too frustrating for me to get to that point.

    I despise this game because I really, really wanted to like it. I’ve wanted a modern and better performing version of SupCom for a long time, and every time a game in the TA vein comes out, I get my hopes up all over again. Then this happens.

    Ashes of the Singularity is on my shit list for the same reason.

  15. McCool says:

    “It took the plague-like swarms of units from Total Annihilation and the hefty robot generals of Supreme Commander”

    I assume this was just an honest mistake, but you got those two the wrong way around. Robo-generals was one of the things TA brought in, but SupCom was famous for the giant swarms of units and maps on an unprecedented scale. It’s easy to get generic sounding RTS titles mixed up, but the author DID play them, right?

    • Darloth says:

      And yet, TA had giant swarms of units (flash rush, anyone?) and SupCom had robot generals, and super-units in general that TA originally mostly lacked (though dozens were modded and patched and expanded in, of course).

      Maybe you think that those two titles were more well known for the things you stated, but there’s nothing that’s actually -incorrect- in the original statement.

  16. RanDomino says:

    I got it in a bundle last year and I thought it was fine. GOTY 2006.

  17. Carighan Maconar says:

    I played both PA and Titans.

    PA itself was pretty bad. Boring, simplistic, flat, and pathing so broken that using more than a handful of units was a chore.

    Titans was a *huge* improvement, and if it had been the original release, it could have been quite alright. Thing is, that’s still only “alright”.

    All these two games did was make me install SupCom again and play it for a few days. That was it. My only Steam refunds to date.

  18. mikeyh says:

    As mentioned in an early comment this story incorrectly states “charging full price again”.

    Titans was always a ~$15 upgrade (66% off) for existing owners and free to 45,000+ Kickstarter backers.

    Next update for Titans and Classic PA is due soon: link to wiki.palobby.com

    Timeline of updates is here: link to wiki.palobby.com

  19. Unsheep says:

    As a single-player gamer who prefers offline gaming, Planetary Annihilation never really appealed to me.

    Also, if you need to use Steam/Origin/etc in order to play a game I don’t consider it DRM-free at all.

    I’m not sure why the game flopped though. The always-online matter cannot be the issue since the majority of Steam users seem to prefer online multiplayer gaming over anything single-player. In theory the game should have been very popular with this crowd.

    Maybe it was too complex for the mainstream ? Perhaps the YouTube gaming celebrities did not “promote” it enough ? who knows really.

    • mikeyh says:

      You don’t need steam to play offline… only to download or you can use the Uber launcher.

  20. FredSaberhagen says:

    Lurker forever, finally created an account to comment on how great this game is. Played TA as a kid and was immediately able to jump in to the metal/energy eco.

    Agree about multiple planets being taxing (and lags games terribly) so I always play single planet skirmisses. The spherical battlefields are incredibly fun and allow for infinite flanking opportunity.

    Steep learning curve make it easy to bounce off this game for new players unfortunately but I can always find a game. This weekend the cousins are coming over for a 4player LAN!

    Couple other things- the community made an expansion “legion mod” that includes a whole new bunch of units…

    Also nukes are FUN!

  21. mikeyh says:

    The Performance Update of Titans & Classic PA Build 99377 is live: link to forums.uberent.com

  22. Quitch says:

    This article incorrectly states that existing owners need to pay full price for TITANS, but it’s sold at 66% off to existing game owners i.e. at an expansion price.

    • Quitch says:

      As I can’t edit my comment I should also note that it was provided free to every Kickstarter backer. The TITANS “controversy” was a small number of people who balked at the idea of having to pay for new content, and a couple whose sole issue seemed to be that it was labelled an expansion and not DLC. Amusing for anyone who remembers the transition period from expansions to DLC.

      What this article call a “minor improvement” was 22 new units (including experimentals), new maps, new terrain features, a new game mode, the addition of wreckage… basically, an expansion. Not on the scale of a Blizzard expansion with cinematic campaign, but it wasn’t priced at Blizzard levels either.