Stellar Relic

Tag - Planetary Annihilation

Screenshot Saturday: Blood and Glory


Videogames are confusing, beautiful, complicated messes, and the best way to convey that is through screenshots, whether they are beautiful, informative, or goofy. Each Saturday we bring you one screenshot each from a game we played. It’s Screenshot Saturday.


Dave: I’ve been falling down the World of Warcraft rabbit hole again this past week. It started with a trip down memory lane not too long ago; then, I moved on and experienced some vanilla WoW thanks to a couple of private servers, which I’ll talk more about later. Eventually, though, I found myself back with my own account once more, looking at UI options and gear options and so on. Here’s the UI I ended up with (at least for now – it still needs some tweaks). It’s called RealUI and is super minimalistic – this is with the UI shown, out of combat. Once in combat, action bars appear, but when you’re not busy killing stuff you can enjoy as much of WoW as your eyes can take in. Pretty sweet!


Thomas: Shadowrun: Hong Kong came out! I actually pre-ordered it, which is an insane thing to do, but I don’t regret it in this case. (Other pre-orders I have not regretted: X-Wing Alliance. End of list.) So far it seems very similar to Dragonfall in both mechanics and story. I love the gunplay and the XCOM-style cover system. The storyline is serviceable enough so far. And cyberpunk Hong Kong is pretty cool. This screenshot doesn’t have any action in it – I just really adore the environment art. Look at those lanterns, the lighting, the flowers, the little details! It’s lovely.


James: Planetary Annihilation’s expansion pack, Titans, released this week, and it was just the thing necessary to get me back into blowing apart planets and looking at colorful little bots. It’s not even the titans that drew me back, although they are definitely nice; it’s the changes and optimizations to the core game that pulled me in. From better performance to a smoother interface to terrain changes that allow for elevation differences, Titans brings many quality of life features that make Planetary Annihilation much more of a joy to play. All we need now are multiplayer Galactic War instances and flat map projections, and we’ll finally have the Total Annihilation successor we really deserved.

Planetary Annihilation: Titans Releases on Steam


One of the best strategy games in history was released in 1997: Total Annihilation. Long-defunct developer Cavedog created a title that spawned a legion of fans and a few well-received spiritual sequels. The most recent, and most troubled, of these sequels is Planetary Annihilation. Today sees the release of a new stand-alone expansion, Planetary Annihilation: Titans – and it just might turn the franchise around.

These games, at their best, truly make the player feel like a commander – a general of armies – with warfare on a grander scale than other contemporary RTSes. Even in the original TA, players managed hundreds or thousands of units without feeling overwhelmed. It was one of the first ever 3D RTS games, where terrain really mattered and projectiles were true objects. In an oft-cited example, a shell from a Big Bertha artillery piece, flying across the map, could vaporize an aircraft that happened to be flying through the shell’s trajectory. Stuff like that can’t happen in Starcraft.

A sequel (in spirit) wasn’t released for ten years, but Supreme Commander eventually came out in 2007 to almost universal acclaim. Once again, it debuted features we take for granted in most strategy games now, the fully zoomable map being the most prominent. Supreme Commander 2, though worse than SupCom, continued the tradition, and is a fine game on its own merits.

Then Uber, a new developer with lots of old TA and Supreme Commander vets at the helm, announced a new title: Planetary Annihilation. This was one of the first big Kickstarter projects, and it soaked in cash from the legions of fans looking for a modern take on the old formula.

Upon release, my experience was similar to that shared by many old Annihilation/Commander fans: extreme excitement, followed by confusion induced by the poorly-written tutorials, followed by disorientation and disappointment. The “fighting across multiple planets in a solar system” thing is a great advance in theory. In practice, the planets are tiny, making battles feel cramped and their consequences swift. There’s no space to trade for time, and managing multiple bases across multiple planets and moons quickly became tiresome. The key selling point of the game just didn’t work.

A few years passed, and the developers at Uber patched and updated and patched again. By all accounts, Planetary Annihilation has become much more playable. Today, Uber capped this all off with the release of Planetary Annihilation: Titans, a stand-alone expansion.

Titans looks interesting. It adds the titular Titan mega-units (similar to the Experimentals from SupCom) along with a hodgepodge of other new toys. Multi-level terrain, which was shockingly not part of the original PA release, is finally implemented, as well as a totally rebuilt tutorial experience. Titans is priced at $40 for new buyers, with a 66% off promotion available for previous owners of some version of PA (bringing the price down to $13.60). Additionally, those who backed the original Kickstarter will receive Titans for free.

For those of you – like myself – who felt burned by Planetary Annihilation, now might be the time to give it another chance.