Planar Conquest Review
I appreciate ambition from a smaller studio, but I despise a quick port from a mobile platform to PC. It sends the message that developers are just looking to broaden their player base and squeeze a little more value out of their product. Planar Conquest is the latest title to follow suit with this trend. It’s a 4X strategy game that allows you to create your own sorcerer hero to command a burgeoning nation among a realm of discord. As the namesake of the title suggests, you can travel between planes of existence and harvest their respective resources. Aside from that interesting twist on how maps work in a traditional 4X game, there isn’t anything too groundbreaking. In fact, there isn’t even that much strategy at all.
Diving into the core mechanics of the game, we find a simplified 4X strategy game mixed with an even more simplified (and frustrating) turn-based combat mini-game. At the planar level, you have access to your towns and your units. Like many other 4X games, your towns are your generators; you upgrade your towns with buildings or use them to produce units. Building progression follows a simple prerequisite system: you must have building X and Y before building Z. This makes building choices fairly linear, severely hindering my desire to play multiple games. The linear build order doesn’t require any strategy and is simply a time gate for accessing mid and late game units.
“Combat isn’t handled at the planar level, however; combating armies are placed in a gridded field and are allowed to set-up starting positions.”
Speaking of units, there is a bit more strategy involved when considering how to build your armies. Units can have melee or ranged abilities that inflict a damage type as well as a skill that can proc during battle (e.g. life steal or able to inflict weakness). Units can stack on a single tile and can be moved as an army or can be strategically split for flanking opportunities. Combat isn’t handled at the planar level, however; combating armies are placed in a gridded field and are allowed to set-up starting positions. Once set, combat begins with one side where each of the units are allowed to move and attack, and the hero sorcerer of each team is allowed to cast a single spell provided they have the mana for it.
“Often the winner is simply determined by who has more units which begs the question, why even have this type of combat system?”
This form of combat has a lot of potential, but in practice it falls short of a strategic experience. Often the winner is simply determined by who has more units which begs the question, why even have this type of combat system? There is an auto-resolve button, but I find those outcomes highly suspect and question if the decisions made on my behalf are optimal ones. The whole system feels clunky and unnecessary.
I tried some pacifistic runs to avoid the dreadful combat, but found myself sucked in anyway when the over-aggressive AI declared war on me the second they found me. Maybe I looked at them wrong or maybe I was a little too close for their liking, but I found myself locked inside my capital under constant siege from my assailants with no way to bolster my own armies.
This battle is what really sealed my opinion of this game; I was in a vicious cycle of being attacked with constant draws. There was zero progression for either side yet I was constantly being assaulted by invaders. I would have gladly accepted the sweet embrace of death and defeat but at the start of every battle the enemies would retreat at the sight of my wooden wall. It was a constant stalemate. I couldn’t experience anything else this game had to offer since I was stuck.
I will say there was a lot of ambition for this game, but so much of the content is crippled by the cumbersome combat system. That compounded with the lack of keyboard shortcuts was the nail in the coffin for me. Tedious clicking of the same orders from turn to turn got old fast. I wish I was able to enjoy the other aspects of Planar Conquest, but uninspired combat and the clicking tedium was enough for me to walk away.
***A PC review code was provided by the publisher***
- Good customization for your hero
- Great spell variety
- Ambitious amount of content
- Battles can be stuck in a loop
- AI doesn’t seem to play fair
- No keyboard shortcuts for PC port