by Travis Fahs1
Planets Defense Review
Galactic Conquest Made Simple
The real-time strategy genre has always been a tough one to nail on a tiny phone screen. The need to manage so many units and buildings is a perpetual stumbling block, and these difficulties have given rise to a surge of tower defense games to take their place. Tower defense games, while fun, are frequently seen by the hardcore audience as simpler or more “casual,” and the dearth of real strategy games has left many hungry.
Planets Defense aims to bridge this gap. It’s a clever, innovative title that rests somewhere between tower defense and RTS, but with mechanics all its own. It’s a deep, challenging game sure to satisfy strategy fans, but with a simplified interface and some streamlined elements to make the game more touch-friendly. It’s a best-of-both-worlds approach that makes it a perfect fit for Android phones.
The strategic elements in Planets Defense are neatly separated. The highest level strategy takes place on a board where you select your next mission. The campaign is not linear; it allows you to select any stage in an adjacent space, and and each stage unlocks new tech that can be employed in future levels. This seems pretty simple, but it’s actually one of the most important elements. If you don’t have the right units available, some of the missions will seem downright impossible.
Once you enter a stage, you’ll see a view of a small solar system with an enemy based and a few planets. This is the view where you’ll see the action take place, and actually command your offensive units to attack enemy targets. Viewing a planet brings you to the base-building stage of the game, which allows you to mine different resources and produce units to use in the space view.
Although this is reduced to a pretty simple grid with a few fixed slots, a lot of the usual RTS strategies apply. You’ll need to work up enough of the right kind of materials to outpace your opponent’s production before you get steam-rolled. After a few missions, you’ll be able to start taking over other planets and mining meteors to expand your production. You’ll have to balance this expansion against defense, and this ends up being the core decision for much of the game. Don’t let the title fool you. This is not a game about simply warding off waves of enemies. You’ll have to build up a strong offense and ultimately crush your opponent.
Outside of the clever set up, Planets Defense is actually pretty Spartan. Although it uses the Unity engine, the graphics are pretty basic 2D stuff, with little embellishment. There’s no story, and little in the way of special-case design to add variety. This is a game designed to be pure and replayable, and it won’t use slick presentation to draw you through its campaign.
Each mission only takes a few minutes, and even the entire campaign can be tackled in a couple hours, but Planets Defense is not really about such things. The adjustable difficulty settings help the replay value quite a bit, but procedural content generation might have gone a long way to further increase its longevity. As it stands, though, it’s still a must-download for anyone looking for a mobile-friendly strategy game that doesn’t confuse simple for shallow.
But is it hardcore?
Summary: Planets Defense manages to segregate some of the different aspects of the RTS genre for the sake of a neat, clean interface, but it manages to do so while still holding onto a good deal of depth.