Hands-On: Interplanetary Wages Worms-Like Warfare
Recently I had the chance to play Interplanetary, a Steam Early Access game being developed by Team Jolly Roger. Interplanetary is a turn-based strategy artillery game where you wage wars by developing your own home planet and firing planetary barrages at enemies. The game is far from polished but Interplanetary is a heck-load of fun. There is something immensely satisfying about the intense friendly rivalry of the game that I haven’t really felt since… well, since Worms.
Indeed, Worms is in some ways a touchstone for the game. Because I only had one copy of the game which is currently multiplayer only (with hotseat, LAN or online matches available), I got together with a friend to drink a beer and so we pummelled each other with railguns. We played the game in a hotseat way that felt very much like playing Worms. However, Interplanetary brings a level of strategy and planning to the bombardment that made it far more intense, demanding, and enjoyable.
Essentially, each player has a turn to manage the planet they run. This involves building powerplants, solar and nuclear, and interplanetary bombardment defences and weapons, from railguns and guided missiles to friggin’ lasers, and eventually asteroid guidance systems. Yes — the ultimate friendly rivalry settling weapon is crashing a small storm of asteroids into your opponent’s planet. Construction takes a turn, and then you can spend your remaining energy on firing your superweapons and powering your kinetic shields. You win when your opponents’ cities are smoking piles of rubble.
There is also an interesting tech tree that requires rather tactical decisions — do you push for resources first, or defend yourself from telescope surveillance, or rush to drag asteroids from their orbit or harness the raw power of the sun to burn your enemies out of existence?
The real test of your skills is in judging the right trajectory your railguns need to fire on. You are given a wonderful red line indicating the projected direction of your shot. However, you need to take into account that the planets are orbiting at different speeds, and sometimes a trajectory you felt was perfect ends with your shots being yanked off course by a passing, uninhabited planet, and crashing into the sun or whipping off into the vast depths of space.
The game is still in Early Access however, which means that some of the features are still far from fleshed out and finished. Indeed, the surveillance tab even promises more features to come, which will probably add another level of strategy to the game. There are also problems, according to their site, on some computers not running Windows 8, which might impede some players.
I would also have liked to see more information on the tech tree, as there is little direct description of what exactly each technology you research unlocks. However, this could also be due to its Early Access nature.
A final kind of strength for me personally was the way in which the game in some ways seems to ask a question about the effects of this kind of militarism. Their website nods to this as well:
The main problem with planetary civilizations is that developing one may take more resources than a single planet can offer. Sometimes, even a planetary system is not enough. Especially if you have competition. In distant cosmos, two sister planets have reached a tense situation. The greed inherent to both civilizations has driven them to drastic measures: the building of massive cannons aimed directly at each other. Let the game of interplanetary artilleries begin!
And, if nothing else, this game shows how awful interplanetary warfare is. As one of my friends announced after the very first salvo: “I killed 9 million people in your cities. I beat Stalin with one shot!”
Fundamentally, though, the game’s real strong point is the ridiculous hotseat fun. While granted, I haven’t played many games online, I did feel that the real strength was in the intensity of PvP combat in person. The atmosphere of fun was continually built by the bitter rivalries, the not-very-subtle Machiavellian politicking, and the debates about why you should bomb Will back to the Stone Age (the simple answer is because he shot me).
Interplanetary is currently available in Early Access on Steam.