Review: Interplanetary: Enhanced Edition16 Aug 2017 0
Review: Interplanetary: Enhanced Edition
Released 02 Aug 2017
Back when we were younger and computers were a lot less powerful, there was a trend of artillery duel games. Each player had a base that was a also an artillery system capable of launching a large variety of projectiles. You set the angle, determine the power level and let ‘er rip! Another game from back then was called DEFCON, and the goal was to wipe out the enemy population via nuclear weapons. Interplanetary: Enhanced Edition was sired by both of them.
There’s not much of a story here. The game’s Codex provides fluff pieces on the buildings you can construct, and this is your only insight into the lore. Planetary societies are just fighting interplanetary wars with each other. These colonies decided that a solar system is just not big enough for them, so they started raining railgun slugs on population centers. The society seems to be mostly OK with the constant threat of death via space projectiles - it’s kind of like the Cold War!
Now that you have detached yourself from the question why, you can get to working on how. Whether you play a singleplayer or a multiplayer match, you will have the option of facing off against AI players (online AI being one of the new features of this edition). The game also allows the player to tweak planetary resource levels, orbits, the amount of cities, weapons allowed in a match, and similar parameters. The game even generates a seed number so that you could share your favorite system with friends… which is unlikely, considering that only 0.1% players worldwide have 25 online victories (and only 0.2% have 10 single player wins).
Once you’re in the match, you’ll get to see the map of the entire solar system as well as the 3D maps of all of inhabited planets. Naturally, yours is the most important one! By default, a world only has five cities, and once you lose them all, you lose the game. Cities can’t be built or rebuilt, but their population (healthpoints) as colonists keep getting it on in the shelters. Cities produce power, materials and science, but can’t power anything by themselves.
As you place buildings on the world map, you have to maintain power links. Most buildings outside of power plants have two connection slots, allowing you to daisy chain mines or gun batteries. Cities have slots depending on their size, while defensive structures only have a single slot, making them harder to incorporate. The enemy doesn’t even need to destroy a power facility to bring down an entire chain, so it’s best if you mix in some power plants into the chain here and there.
Power is also the resource needed to fire weapons and defenses. It doesn’t accumulate over turns, but it does regenerate fully. Material, an essential part of the building process, does accumulate, but it’s also gathered just like any other resource in an RTS game… except for the fact that your planet will eventually run out of it. This is very much a late game issue: every loss become irreplaceable, as you struggle to find funds for repairs. On the other hand, even a severely damaged facility can be sold for a great refund, so all of those mines can be recycled!
One of the few things that the game AI will teach you is that you needn’t rush the weapon production. Spend the first six or more turns simply building up your power and material production! At that point of the game, you will only be able to get a railgun or two online, and the enemy won’t have that many targets, either. Unless you get extremely lucky, you will be bombing empty fields.
Right, onto the whole “annihilating millions of people” part. Interplanetary is a game about “guesstimating” trajectories of your projectiles. Each weapon has a firing arc depending on where it’s built on the planet (and the planet's current rotation). You will match the angle with the launch speed to try and hit other planets. However, the preliminary course plotting only shows the trajectory in a static system – meaning that planets will continue to move as the shot flies, thus moving out of or in the way, distorting the trajectory with their gravity fields. The AI is much better at this than I am – while they will plan multiple planet gravity slingshots, I am likely to miss any shot that is more complex than a slightly bent line (managed to hit my own planet once, too).
How lucky we are, then, that weapons others than simple artillery exist. Interplanetary features three weapon classes. Ballistics covers railguns, the superior coil guns and the asteroid redirection superweapon. All of them require you to get the ballistics right to hit the planet, and offer no post-launch guidance. Missiles, MIRVs and nukes only require you to aim close to the planet – the weapon then locks on by itself and strikes the surface. It’s a very early precision weapon, as the secondary targeting also allows you to target specific parts of the enemy planet (MIRVs just autotarget). The last category is lasers, and it contains the humble laser and the solar laser superweapon. They turn shooting into a point and click adventure – as long as you have direct line of sight, you can instantly damage anything on the visible side of the enemy planet. Unlike missiles and artillery, it’s a very precise weapon that does little splash damage. However, you don’t need to aim, which worked wonders for me.
Defense is the flip side of the coin. The great thing is that you plop it down and it works by itself. However, it needs energy every time it fires – energy that you use to launch railgun projectiles into the void (and, almost accidentally, into other planets). So if you go all out in the attack, you rob yourself of defensive capabilities. This is less of an issue in the late game, when your planet is lousy with nuclear power plants (or even regular ones) and you just don’t care to fire all of your guns anyways. On the other hand, defenses aren’t a surefire deal: they don’t have a 100% intercept rate, and things will get hurt by splash damage if the railgun slug impacts even slightly outside of the defensive range.
That’s where the upgrades come in. Each building has two upgrades slots and cities can have up to three project slots. The upgrades are permanent (though some city projects only last a few turns) and they can are used to boost health, make the building stealthier, increase resource production, expand the range of the defenses or give weapons fun new capabilities. Most of those upgrades have downsides: for example, increasing resource production also increases resource consumption, which means that you’ll mine your planet out much faster.
All of those upgrades and advanced buildings (anything above basic solar plants, mines and railguns) need to be researched. The research tree is similar to the ones we have seen in Civilization-type games, but you can just skip some of the items you’re not interested in. The research quickly gets unimportant once you run out of planetary resources, since you can’t afford to build new structures.
However, even getting to that point is highly unlikely, since mining a planet dry takes a lot of time. And surprisingly enough, the games with more players seem to last a lot longer than smaller games. This can be explained by bigger systems making it harder to target you guns – and make you much less likely to be hit since players will have so many other targets. The multiplayer games seem to be mostly 1vs1 affairs, where one player throws in the towel even before a city is destroyed. AI, however, doesn’t know how to give up and will have to be taken out completely.
The game, simple as it looks, will start struggling in the fire phase, especially late in the match. You’re never anywhere near bullethell levels, yet stuttering becomes very much apparent. Another super annoying thing is that the menu music reaching crescendo every thirty seconds or so. You will want to turn off your loudspeakers, since it gets super repetitive.
Interplanetary: Enhanced Edition is an OK game. The art of shooting artillery by slingshoting it around planets is a fun new experience. However, the fun thing about DEFCON (if there can be any fun about it) and the aforementioned artillery games is that they’re not long. Interplanetary, however, feels as long as an actual war.