Reviewing an expansion pack isn’t easy, partially because one has to disentangle the expansion from the base game. Age of Wonders: Planetfall – Revelations makes this difficult mostly because the new features fit so darn well into the base game that I missed that some of them. On one hand, that says something about what the game could have used at launch, but on the other hand I’m pleased that Triumph Studios is attentive to the state of the game. That sentiment will carry through much of this review, so buckle your seat belts and get ready for some straight talk on the Age of Wonders: Planetfall – Revelations review. It’ll be worth your time.
In terms of visuals, several new assets have made their way into Revelations. The assets mostly comprise the new NPC faction, neutral critters, and secret technology and are in line with the rest of Planetfall’s graphics. So again, everything felt like it fit. New weapons, effects, and mods are thematically appropriate and well designed, as are models for units in the Forgotten NPC faction and Heritor secret technology. I did not notice much in the way of new sound effects outside of voice acting (primarily for the two new ‘campaigns’), but the voice acting was very well done (more on that later).
The premise of Revelations is that a faction of ancient beings, long confined to some sort of sleep, is prophesied to return. Faction leaders with the Heritor secret tech functions as ‘prophets’ tasked with heralding the return of these supernal beings. Skills available to those Heritor faction leaders focus on essence attacks, which feels something like a psionic attack, but often has a chance to generate an essence point, which can be used for a variety of things (healing, shields, etc.) by tactical ops or units with special skills. Additional tactical ops with the energy drain theme are prevalent, with some creating ‘drained’ creatures under the user’s control.
If this sounds very ‘necromancer’ to you, you’re not alone. Revelations comes across as very much a nod to its fantasy equivalent, at least in terms of the theme of the new abilities. The doomsday weapon (which I adore) whittles down enemy city population and spawns hordes of drained units under the user’s control – exactly the kind of thing I’d expect a necromancer to do. The NPC faction, the Forgotten, are of the ancient race mentioned above, but are somehow messed up. They can’t obtain essence the usual way, so they consume things to get their essence in a grotesque, undead-like fashion. See? A necromancer’s bony footprints are all over this.
I’m not complaining, mind you, but I did expect something a bit more unique than the current offering. Nevertheless, the Heritor secret tech and Forgotten are not the only additions to Revelations. I’m actually most excited about options for the map that come with this release. ‘Anomalous sites’ stoke my interest, in particular. These appear as purple markers on the world map and offer opportunities for heroes to complete ‘choose your own adventure’ style events. The sites are typically comprised of an initial uncovering phase (e.g., dig, cut down trees, etc.) that functionally make the hero wait for a bit. After a few turns of waiting, the real fun begins. Do you want to force your way through the door or take an extra turn to hack it? Choose carefully, because each option comes with consequences. My favorite was an option to accept a ‘love robot’ as a companion or to build another robot to be that robot’s companion. That’s how my faction leader ended up with a tier 2 robot wife that provided in battle buffs while alive, but a permanent debuff should it die.
The anomalous site mechanic is a fantastic addition to Age of Wonders: Planetfall. It adds a spice and sense of the unknown to a fairly straight-forward strategy game. Granted, I only played a few random worlds outside of the campaign maps, but I didn’t feel the rewards were overpowered (research, items, units, a new site for a given region, etc.), nor do I feel my hero’s time was wasted in exploring the sites. I wish I could tell you whether or not the sites are moddable, but I simply don’t know. Opening up moddability for anomalous sites has the potential to enrich gameplay options even more, though.
The campaign maps were better than I anticipated. The voice acting was on point, the story lines were more convoluted than I anticipated, and I did feel a sense of accomplishment for finishing the maps. As advertised, the campaigns (which are just single maps with story elements built in) add about 10 hours of game play, which sounds right. Well, for someone who is decent at Age of Wonders: Planetfall, anyway… I’m not that good. The nature of the campaign maps is really just like a random scenario map but with voice acting and themed quests built in. What I like about that is that I really enjoy sandbox-like 4x strategy games, and with the new mechanics, I feel like I’m walking a character through their own story each time I start a random map.
Age of Wonders: Planetfall – Revelations is a great addition to the Age of Wonders series and really does substantially add to the gameplay. If you already own Age of Wonders: Planetfall, I feel you’re missing out by not adding Revelations to your library. Its only real downside is its derivative, or should I say, ‘inspired’ feel, but even that doesn’t obviate the new and entertaining mechanics. This is a great addition for those who enjoy the Age of Wonders series and already own Planetfall. If you enjoy sci-fi 4x games or plan to buy Planetfall, I recommend giving Revelations a shot.
OVERALL SCORE (1-10): 9.0
- Great new mechanics
- Well written campaigns
- Fits very well with base game
- Derivative theme for new faction/Secret Tech