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Planets Under Attack

Do not be deceived! A mere glimpse at the title, Planets Under Attack, and it would be easy to presume that this is a simple game. Probe further and you’ll discover a limited selection of mechanics to build and mobilize your arms to both attack and defend planets. Dig deeper still and you’ll find a plethora of strategic options, both before and during any match. You’ll also discover a single player campaign that at times is pointlessly frustrating, telling a story you won’t care about, but for the most part that’s okay.

The larger purpose of the game is multiplayer, or at the very least skirmishes with AI opponents. Everything builds towards this, something that is easily noticeable in the single player game. While there is a story there, complete with it’s own twists and turns, it’s only there to give each map a sense of purpose. You’re not allying with an AI partner to defeat two opponents in a bout of elimination. There’s a reason these things are happening, even if the reason is fluff.

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Planets Under Attack brings the usual assortment of game types to the table. There’s elimination, which translates to deathmatch or team deathmatch. Capture requires you to acquire specific planets in the solar system. In domination you have to hold onto as many marked planets as possible to accumulate points, and in king of the hill you have to hold onto a specific planet for a specific set of time. Fairly standard stuff. The actual gameplay is not.

At any given time there’s generally a limited amount of things that you can do. You can order ships to move towards a planet, and you can upgrade, or change, a planet’s infrastructure. Upgrade planets and they’ll be able to build and store larger and larger armadas. Every planet you control builds ships automatically, so the more planets you control, and the more planets you upgrade, the more ships you can send at your enemy.

But wait, there’s more! If you’re playing as humans, you’ll have to pay for your ships to attack. They can move from friendly planet to friendly planet for no cost, but every ship sent out costs you a single solar. So, when you find yourself strapped for cash because you spent your last upgrading each of your planets, you’ll find yourself a sitting duck for a little while, unable to pay for the numbers required to attack. Managing your monetary funds becomes just as necessary as managing the size of your fleet and the structures on your planets.

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As you expand you’ll slowly find holes in your defense. This is what makes the actual playing of the game feel like a puzzle game, like Tetris or Bejeweled. Eventually your planet will come under attack. Their fleet of three hundred has been dispatched, and all you’ve got to defend that specific planet is pittance in comparison. Your ships can’t be everywhere at once, and considering any one of your planets can be attacked at any given time, you’ll find yourself having to quickly manage your armada on the fly.

A technology tree makes the game deeper still, which is further developed as you play via a leveling system. Gain experience by playing missions, doing skirmishes, fighting online and it’ll all go towards the collective sum, unlocking various effects that change the flow of combat. These aren’t necessarily bonuses, but trade-offs. Want your ships to have extra speed, but do less damage? Want to make more money, but at the cost of ship production? All of these pieces come together, building towards a style of play that is uniquely your own.

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The only troubles this game really has is maintaining a constant difficulty within it’s single player campaign. Certain missions place you against overwhelming odds within matches that aren’t regulated to the format of a skirmish map. Bosses have a very distinct advantage, but rather it’s the payback missions that take the cake for unreasonable amounts of difficulty. The goal within those is simple; collect money and pay back what you owe before you’re swarmed. You have a mere fifteen seconds in between each succeeding wave of enemies. It’s a daunting task, to say the least.

Which, in this case, is alright. The single player is there, but it’s not the focus. It exists to train you in the arts of attacking planets, managing resources and somehow, against all odds, taking control of a solar system. Planets Under Attack is a surprising little strategy game, filled with a lot more depth that what can be seen on the surface.

8 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2011.

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