Worlds of Magic: Planar Conquest
Developed By : Wastelands Interactive
Published By : Ultimate Games
Category : 4X Strategy
Release Date : Jan 24, 2020
I’d imagine most gamers have at least one genre that they’re not familiar with, mainly due to hating that style of game or just being uninterested. For me that genre would be strategy games, 4X strategy games even more so. I’ve never had anything against the genre — I’ve dabbled with the Valkyria Chronicles and Fire Emblem franchises — but when you predominantly play RPGs it can be hard to make time for more lengthy games. Going into Worlds of Magic: Planar Conquest, I knew that my lack of experience with the 4X genre would likely make this a difficult game to play. What I wasn’t prepared for was just how beginner unfriendly it would turn out to be
Planar Conquest is set in a fantasy world being overrun by the Unhallowed, which are for all intents and purposes undead beings. As a Sorcerer Lord, you have the opportunity to conquer other races or try to unite them all. It’s a simple setup filled with the usual fantasy tropes, but it does an OK job at getting you introduced to the world you’re about to conquer.
After creating a procedurally generated world, you have to decide on the race you’ll have control over, along with the talents of your Sorcerer Lord. How you create your character seemed to have more of an impact on the game than the race you choose to lead. By putting skill points into various magic circles and disciplines, you can unlock different spells and abilities to help both the city building and combat aspects of the game. Creating a custom Sorcerer Lord presents you with almost too many options, especially for beginners, so thankfully there is an option to pick a pre-set character instead.
Once you’re actually in game, you’re overwhelmed with information from the get go. Various resources, unit types and areas all require your attention, and Planar Conquest doesn’t do a good job of explaining most of this to the player. There is a tutorial mode, though this only last for a few minutes and covers little outside of the basic controls. Because of this it’s hard to recommend the game to new players, though it’s possible to learn everything after enough trial and error. This lack of direction ends up being the hardest part about Planar Conquest, as once you’ve figured things out, the actual turn by turn gameplay isn’t very engaging.
From my limited experience with 4X games, I’d say the basic structure of Planar Conquest is similar to Civilization if you ignore the fantasy theme. You start with a single town that generates resources based on the tiles within its borders. You can create new units from here, creating armies to protect your empire or explore more of the map. Filling out the map is simple enough as you can set units to auto explore, making the ever-present fog of war less oppressive.
As you build new units, expand your empire and discover new points of interest, it’s inevitable that you’ll end up running into another faction. In Civilization you’d often have the chance to negotiate with the leader of another empire, leading to new allies and potential trade agreements. In Planar Conquest however, it often felt that the AI never really cared for peace. I could understand this if I was playing as the aforementioned Unhallowed who are permanently at war with everyone, but when you know there’s little chance at a peaceful resolution no matter your choice, it limits the amount of tactics you can employ.
Another area where Planar Conquest differs is the way combat is resolved. Instead of a simple animation that leads to some units being killed, battles instead take place in their own turn-based arenas. It’s incredibly basic, even with the inclusion of your spells, and they take far too long to complete if there are more than a handful of units in battle. There is the option to auto-resolve battles, though even that is held back by the game sometimes deciding that a fight you should be guaranteed to win is actually not in your favour.
These issues with the battle system point to a biggest problem with the game overall: it’s kinda boring. After getting the hang of all the different areas the game wants you to learn with little to no help and struggling through the clunky menus, there’s very little here to keep your interest. Each turn you’ll check the units being built, maybe explore more of the map or get into a few fights. Planar Conquest fails to make it feel like you’re running an empire, the lack of interesting backstory or choices only harming the game in the long run. It also doesn’t help that the game isn’t particularly pleasant to look at, due to some ugly textures in battle and the overall flat look of each map. At least the artwork is nice, even if you’ll mostly see it before you actually start a campaign.
In the end, I’m not really sure who Planar Conquest is designed for. 4X fans likely already have a favourite game in the genre, one that has higher production values and delivers an overall better experience than this game. Furthermore, newcomers to the genre will only be put off by the bland visuals and lacking tutorials. Maybe this is the game for you if you’re absolutely dying for a new portable 4X title, but even that might not be enough to make this worth playing.
*The Switch Effect was provided a code for this game*