Review: A Planet of Mine25 Jul 2017 6
Review: A Planet of Mine
Released 20 Jul 2017
I don't own Civilization VI. I don't own Civilization V or IV either. It's not that I don't like that kind of 4x gameplay, quite the opposite in fact, and they've all spent time in my Steam checkout cart. Kids, work, marital bliss, and other real-life considerations are what keeps me from pulling that particular trigger. See, I have a bit of a problem with games like that—I can't stop playing them. When the occasional Rome: Total War sneaks through my defenses there is some salvation in the fact I don't take my iPad Pro everywhere I go. It limits things a bit. Hey, at least there's no compelling 4x game for the iPhone right? Right? Wrong…
A Planet of Mine is a game of space exploration, empire expansion, natural resource exploitation, and, potentially, the extermination of those that stand in your way. It hits all the exes. You start from scratch with a couple inhabitants of a mint-condition planet and begin issuing orders. Shelter is essential to grow your population and more workers means you can do more things. Food is another priority and animals will starve if your population outstrips your ability to feed it. Assigning labor to gather natural resources--wood from forests and rock and minerals from mines--is another must. These resources can be refined into more advanced materials which also requires critters to work.
Things can get pretty intense as you send out explorers to colonize additional planets. There are a whole host of different biomes to discover and planets have different strengths and weaknesses. Part of the fun is figuring out the best way to compartmentalize your empire's needs and develop specialized planets: food production, timber, mining, refining…you can go a lot of different ways. There are also AI-controlled alien species to encounter and engage in both diplomacy and war.
As you play A Planet of Mine you gain "ascension," effectively XP, and your empire levels up. Leveling unlocks more advanced building types to construct and you can upgrade existing structures to their more advanced version. You also gain a resource called "science" which allows you to purchase new discoveries in the game's technology tree. Options are things like solar and nuclear power, a bonus to how quickly you can explore new planets, and a discount on future discoveries. You can create facilities and dedicate workers to hastening your collection of both ascension and science and thus grow your empire and advance its technology much more rapidly.
The Space Chickens, The Cosmopork, The Tedibears, and The Pandarians all populate this particular universe and you can lead a total of 16 animalistic species. Each species sports its own starting tech and bonuses for finding or producing a specific resource. This breadth of options adds some solid variety to the game, though some species are clearly better than others. Adding to the game's replayability are the 15 different modes of play. Unlimited mode takes place in a big solar system, 15 planets, where you compete with 3 other species for room to grow. Builder mode is a sandbox, just you and 8 planets all to yourself, where the only goals are those you dictate. Add to this 13 different challenge modes with specific goals like building a 10th level civilization, reaching a huge population in a relatively small system, or becoming an ally with 3 out of 4 other species in the solar system.
A Planet of Mine is free to try with more than enough content to decide. You have access to four distinct species, the turn-limited "Discovery Mode", and one challenge mode. A $2 purchase will buy you a pack which unlocks three additional species, Unlimited and Builder modes, and several challenges. The species and challenges are all based on a theme: war, science, production, and advancement. A $5 purchase unlocks everything. Essentially, this is a $5 premium game with an extensive free-trial period.
Sounds great, right? The game's far from perfect and there are some issues to be aware of before diving in. The tutorial is largely worthless and the Pandipedia, the in-game wiki, while of some use displays "???" when you don't know what something is. Realistic, sure, but not particularly helpful in figuring out what you don't already know. Plan on teaching yourself what to do and how to play, which isn't terribly hard unless you're new to the genre. Some resources are also a bit out of balance. If you don't uncover enough iron early, for example, you could find yourself at a standstill (to combat this try playing with Techno-Moles who get the "Geology" tech to start, which allows you to probe any ground to find out what resources lie beneath, as well as a 30% bonus to quantity of iron mined). Uranium is a late-game constraint, especially if your animals aren't the best at dealing with, you know, radiation damage. Further nitpicks of mine are the single saved game slot and the frequent misspellings throughout the game.
These shortcomings were not enough to keep me from getting sucked, at faster-than light speed, into A Planet of Mine. I spent several evenings, and a solid chunk of more than one workday, immersed in the game. It gives you plenty of short, medium, and long-term goals to pursue and it feels good to accomplish them and grow your civilization. The economic simulation is surprisingly strong and pleasingly complex, especially for a mobile phone game, and will keep you occupied for however long you care to devout to it. I highly recommend checking out the challenge modes because, at least there, you have a definite end point (though you do have the option to keep playing if you like). A Planet of Mine is a must-try title for any fan of 4x games. Play it, if you dare!