Age of Wonders reminds me a lot of Civilization. Granted, the latter has been more of a constant over the years. Age of Wonders came into existence in the late 90s and found some success — just not nearly as much as Sid Meier’s opus. Instead it went into hibernation for nearly a decade. Age of Wonders 3 brought the series back to a decent reception, all the way back in 2014, giving Triumph Studios another chance at establishing the franchise.
But how would the studio follow up the high fantasy 4X title? If I had to place my bets at any point, they wouldn’t have been on a game set in futuristic space.
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I have played some Age of Wonders 3. Not a ton. Maybe 10 hours, which isn’t even a full campaign. But I liked what I saw! It drew me in with how much of a departure it was from typical strategy games. With a high fantasy theme, and the various design decisions Triumph Studios made, it felt a lot more like Dungeons & Dragons than most other titles out there.
That’s one of the reasons I was so surprised when I saw that the series is going cosmic. I was a bit unsettled, in fact. All I could think about was Firaxis’ attempts to do the exact same with Civilization: Beyond Earth. That didn’t quite pan out for Firaxis. Beyond Earth wasn’t a smash hit like previous titles; it changed many of the systems and delivered a solid enough sci-fi experience, but it didn’t have the same sticking power as other games in the series. It didn’t land for me, personally, either — even as someone who loves titles like Endless Space, Stellaris, and space games in general.
That said, at least the core of Planetfall is the same as its past entry. There are six different factions, randomized maps, quests, and the like. The factions primarily revolve around finding different paths for humanity. The somewhat uninspired Amazons have had all men die out. They now live on through genetic engineering. The Assembly are super-soldier scientists that replace their limbs with machinery, as their physical bodies fail over time. And there are space dwarves, non-humanoid creatures that were once part of a hive mind, and the Syndicate nobles (basically slavers).
Honestly, a lot of what we saw boils down to Age of Wonders… but in space! The biggest additions come in the form of new secret techs. At the beginning of each game, each faction will choose a secret tech that decides the path the civilization will take. Do you opt into the Xenoplague — where you splice a virus into your own species and attempt to take over the world? Or do you go Promethean, Developing robotics that take over with fire? There are a multitude of these. Though they aren’t truly “secret.” By the middle of the game you should have an idea as to what you’re dealing with. These things tend to emerge through unit modifications and cities.
The good news is that it’s somehow already July! And Age of Wonders: Planetfall comes out on Aug. 6, 2019 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. It’ll set you back $49.99 USD, but you won’t have to wait long to figure out if the next installment in the series.