Age of Wonders: Planetfall – Star Kings releases to PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on November 10th. Joseph Pugh conducted this review on PC.
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Star Kings is the third and possibly final expansion for Age of Wonders: Planetfall. If you don’t know, Planetfall is a fantastic 4X game with a large focus on tactical combat.
Star Kings features a new faction called the Oathbound, a faction of honor-bound Paladins who walk around in giant Gundam style mech suits. You could say that the Oathbound have the power of God and Anime on their side.
Star Kings brings two new campaign missions for the Oathbound, new powerful landmarks called Grail Configurations, and a host of new wildlife units to contend with. Releasing alongside Star Kings is the Triceratops patch, which is available to everyone for free, whether or not you purchase Star Kings.
This bears mentioning because the update introduces a Galactic Empire mode that is a complete game-changer. I will be talking a bit about it, it’s too large to ignore, but it won’t affect the score for Star Kings itself.
The campaigns featured in previous expansions always showcased the newest features found inside the expansion, and Star Kings is no different. The absolute best way to get your feet wet with Star Kings is to play through it. It introduces you to the new Oathbound faction, the Grail configurations, and wildlife units.
Planetfall has always had a strange kind of humor. It’s a fairly serious game but occasionally it throws an oddball at you, like the anthropomorphic space pirates found in Invasions. Star Kings seems to have toned it down a bit, but you still get the occasional rib-tickler in the campaign. Meeting people like Harald the Potter reminds you that it is indeed still Planetfall.
The campaign itself is solid if pretty straight forward. It does a good job of getting you up to speed with who the Oathbound are and their culture. The story itself is a pretty interesting one that treads ground where the others didn’t, even though I saw the twist coming in advance.
The Oathbound are pretty much the quintessential good guys in Planetfall. You can go rogue and be a warmonger, but you do get bonuses for having a good reputation. The Oathbound are a very interesting splice of medieval fantasy holy paladins and kaiju crushing mechs. A combination that I didn’t know I wanted.
On the strategy side, Oathbound heroes can become lords of different settlements, imparting bonuses to them while they are within that settlements borders. The lower tier Aspirant unit is on the weaker side, despite possessing quick strike. But they can be elevated to higher tier units through a special strategical operation. Both of these features feel really cool, thematic, and powerful.
In battle, the Paladins charge in with powerful mechs and are supported by the Seer units. The Oathbound have a strong melee focus, so much so that some of their giant mechs can swat flying units with their massive melee weapons.
The Seers, on the other hand, alongside some upgrades and operations, rip the RNG from the game. You can impart a guaranteed critical hit with some abilities, force an enemy to fumble an attack, or even negate the first attack to hit a unit altogether using precognition.
I can’t overstate how powerful that is. The Oathbound are pretty strong on their own, but using the in-universe ability to see the future to mechanically force the RNG out of key attacks is insanely powerful, and fun. Yet I never really felt that it was broken either, simply because the Oathbound have weaknesses.
They have a tendency to clump up to take advantage of the fact that they can shield one another. Most of the offensive units are weak to arc damage, and it can be difficult to get good combos on the Oathbound since they rely so heavily on battlesuits, which are usually heavy and vehicles.
On the flip side, Oathbound heroes get access to the same battle suits and even unique ones. Which is super cool and really makes Oathbound heroes feel unique.
It is somewhat disappointing that the Oathbound are Human. The universe is literally the limit for alien races, and with the addition of Star Kings four of the factions are purely human, and another one is cyborg humans.
I’m not unhappy with the Oathbound, in fact, they may have replaced the Vanguard as my favorite race. (Yes, my favorite race was literally the plainest humans possible, and I’m a hypocrite). I just feel like there were so many other things we could have seen other than more humans.
The Seer units bother me, there are multiple tiers of these units, but their appearance doesn’t really change that much. I’ve played as the Oathbound a lot, and I still get them confused. I have to click them and see what abilities they have, I can’t tell at a glance. The mechs look awesome though.
Grail Configurations and Wildlife
Grails are a new and very rare landmark that is generally the end result of a special quest chain. There are multiple types of grails and if one appears, it’s a mad dash to claim it because they impart extremely powerful bonuses.
They are yet another factor that can put a spin on any given match enhancing Planetfall’s already staggering replay value. Star Kings also adds three new types of wildlife units. The Mycelians which is farm machinery that have been taken over by sentient fungus, the Dark Paladin Apostates and the Psionica, living crystals that drain life force.
You fight a lot of wildlife in Planetfall so there is never a situation where more variety is a bad thing. Each of the three types have unique strengths, weaknesses, and styles. I love the Apostate take on chaos magic, where they can deal a random damage type when they attack you.
The Grails and wildlife are welcome additions to the game, even if they aren’t particularly groundbreaking.
The free Triceratops patch introduces Empire Mode, a feature so significant it nearly dwarfs the entire expansion itself. Essentially, you make an empire that can consist of a variety of factions. Then your progression within the mode continues between matches.
You choose from a variety of planets to conquer, all of which have random traits. These could be anything from penguin hives to two warring Dvar factions. Not only does this affect that particular game, but it can also hold new viable win conditions, and it influences what you earn post-game.
Your commander and heroes levels carry over, but you also have a new currency called renown that you can spend in the match. Conquering a planet with the aforementioned Penguin Hive will allow you to spend renown to bring in some wildlife units. There are a ton of relics like that.
Further more you level up different factions in your empire which allows you to choose some units, mods, and operations from it that you can later use in a match. You could, for example, bring some Vanguard units when you’re playing the Oathbound. This grants you a wide variety of synergies that would be almost impossible otherwise.
I can’t help but feel that the expansion itself is a little light. The first expansion featured a new secret tech and NPC faction. The second one brought a new faction and NPC faction.
Star Kings brings forth the Oathbound faction, but no secret tech nor NPC faction, and it feels a bit empty. It leaves a void that the grails and new wildlife units can’t fill.
Don’t get me wrong, The Oathbound are worth the purchase. Honestly, the Developer or Paradox could have stuffed the Galactic Empire mode into Star Kings instead of giving it away for free, and they would have been well within their right to do so. So I’m hesitant to complain, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed anyway.
Regardless The Oathbound faction is incredibly cool, fun to play, and brings another unique playstyle to the game. Star Kings is a powerful final act for the elegant beast of a game that we call Age of Wonders: Planetfall. Previous fans would be doing themselves a disservice by missing out on it.
A copy of Star Kings was provided for Gideon’s Gaming by Paradox Interactive for the purpose of review.
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- The fantastic new faction combining sightseeing Seers with big honking mechs suits
- A solid campaign showcasing all the new features
- Grail configurations add another degree of unpredictability and replay value
- The new wildlife units spice up the PVE combat
- The galactic empire mode included in the free patch is so awesome I can’t believe it’s free even if you don’t buy Star Kings
- The Oathbound is another faction of humans, lame
- All of the Seer units look very similar
- The expansion feels like it’s lacking content, even if the free patch makes up for it