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Planets Under Attack (PlayStation 3) artwork

Planets Under Attack (PlayStation 3) review

"Unfortunately Planets Under Attack is a worse version of Galcon Labs, which already had its problems."

I played Galcon Labs a year or so back and enjoyed it a bit, so I've been wanting to give some other games in this genre of real time interplanetary strategy games that are inspired by Galactic Conquest a shot. Planets Under Attack seemed like a version of Galcon with 3d models that could be zoomed and rotated, which looks awesome during large assualts. So it seemed like a good place to start, especially when it went on sale for $.99 on PSN.

Planets Under Attack takes place on an overhead view map of a solar system. You start in control of some planets. So does the enemy. There are also neutral planets. There is a number above each planet representing its population. Population slowly rises up to a population cap on all planets occupied either by you or the enemy, but not on neutral planets. This represents how many ships are needed to conquer that planet. Your money also slowly rises as time goes on. You can attack a planet, either neutral or enemy controlled, by moving the cursor over to it and holding down R1. You can then press a face button to set a value on the target; X for 10, square for 20, or triangle for 50. As soon as you press a face button, that number of population will take off from your planets in spaceships and fly over to attack that planet. This also costs an amount of money equal to the value you set. Keep in mind you can press as many face buttons as you want. For example, you can press X and square to send 30 ships, or triangle twice to send 100. When your ships are out in space and on the attack, you stop generating population and gold. Ships are only launched from your planets that aren't locked. You can toggle a lock symbol above any planet by pressing X while it is highlighted with the cursor. You can also switch all planets to lock by pressing circle or unlock them all by pressing square.

As your ships reach a planet they are assigned to attack, they lower its population number. This also destroys your ships as the planet fights back. If you lower the planet's population number to zero, you take it over. Any extra ships that weren't destroyed in the assault land there and add 1 to the population number. You can move ships between your planets using the same technique as attacking a planet, but you won't stop population and income growth during these moves, and it doesn't cost money.

Some levels task you with destroying enemy forces while others have objectives, such as holding a specific planet for a certain amount of time. There are even a few boss fights where you face off against gigantic planets with weird abilities. As you might imagine, as you conquer new planets to keep your population growing and position yourself for attack, the enemy is doing the same thing. The AI is pretty good. It will take over planets and grow its forces quite intelligently and keep you on your toes by attacking you and aggressively taking objectives. Vying for position of key planets and areas is important, as is managing what planets you use to attack. The game has a bit of a weird interface as you can't directly tell a planet to attack another. You must set a value on the target planet, and then all unlocked planets contribute ships to that attack. This means if you want, for example, just one planet that is close to your target and has a high population to launch an attack, you must lock all the other planets and then set the attack number. The interface is again complicated by the fact that it takes a few seconds for a planet to launch all its ships, and if you unlock any planets during an assault where the whole number of called for ships have not left yet, then the planeta you just unlocked will begin contributing to the assault. This means that you can't, for example, launch simultaneous huge attacks on opposite sides of a level because if you don't wait until an attack fully launches before unlocking the planets you want to use on the other side of the board, then all unlocked planets will launch ships in support of both attacks, sending ships flying all the way across the map.

You can also upgrade your planets to increase their population cap and defense value. This is activated by holding L1 and pressing X. Each planet can be upgraded up to 2 times. There are also 2 special planet types. Space fortresses don't grow in population, but they shoot at any enemy ships that fly near them. Banks also don't generate population, but they continuously generate money, even during attacks. Space fortresses provide some offense, and they often need to be captured if they are sitting on a choke point so that you can launch attacks that are going to pass through their target area as neutral fortresses will attack anyone that flies by. Getting a bank on your side can help you to keep the attacks and expansion going continuously, which is really important. At a certain point in the game, you gain the ability to pay some money to convert a planet into any of the 3 types, and it's a good idea to make a bank if there isn't one you can quickly capture.

The game's campaign is not that great. The artwork of the different character portraits is kind of cool, but the story is dumb. If you play on normal mode, the levels quickly get frustratingly hard, but not at all engaging, meaning you don't want to keep playing them when you loose. I switched to easy mode to finish up the main parts of the campaign, and then I didn't stick around to unlock extra levels by completing side objectives in the missions. On easy mode, you can dominate all but the last few levels. Those last few levels are the most fun as they are challenging but doable. Normal mode is too hard and also not fun, which is a really, really bad combination that makes you want to instantly quit the game.

If you read my Galcon Labs review on my old blog, you'll see I had a kind of mixed experience with that one too. There is some fun to be had in Planets Under Attack. But something about the pacing, balance, level design, or maybe even the basic gameplay idea is flawed. It's not fun enough. And unfortunately this game over complicates things and makes it even less fun then Galcon Labs, which at least was frantic and chaotic in a good way and lent itself to quick thinking and extreme aggression. The slower pace of Planets Under Attack along with its complicated mechanics that don't compel the player are bad news. Games like this really need to capture the player's imagination. If you're going to be hard, you have to make the player react by saying, “That was fun, I bet I can beat this level if I just do this or that next time...” not “That was not fun, and I don't have any motivation to try again.”

The music is awesome though. It's kind of peaceful.

I'm really on the fence about trying the last game on my list in this sub-genre. That would be Mushroom Wars, which I've heard good things about. It looks different enough that I might just give it a shot. Unfortunately Planets Under Attack is a worse version of Galcon Labs, which already had its problems. It's a 3 out of 10. Starting 2015 off right with a bad game!


Robotic_Attack's avatar
Community review by Robotic_Attack (February 06, 2015)

Robotic Attack reviews every game he plays... almost.

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