Age of Wonders: Planetfall Modernises TBS Multiplayer

I played a ridiculous amount of Age of Wonders: Planetfall yesterday. Like… Stupid crazy amounts given it was also a work day, and a work day today. Sleep took a bit of a backseat unfortunately. Which might explain why I’m not quite up to doing another full impressions post today ala the Fire Emblem: Three Houses impressions of a few days ago.

Discovering the multiplayer improvement in question was a bit of a process though. One full of consternation to start with, actually.

Planetfall made. Time to let the locals know everything the light touches will soon be mine.

“Alright, it’s definitely time for sleep now. And by now, I mean – it was a couple of hours ago.” I say, only half-heartedly meaning it.
“…Yeah, OK. Let’s save then.” Someone eventually replies, equally reluctant.
Silence passes again for a few moments. Then, “Where is the save button? Can anyone find it?” I ask, puzzled.
Another voice, “You’re the host, right? Should just be there on the menu…”

But it isn’t. There is no save button to be found anywhere. Given the <redacted> number of hours we’d just put into the game on the ‘Enormous’ map setting with a full 12-player spread (4 of us humans, rest AI) this was absolutely cause for consternation.

And one that in the moment, I thought was going to result in a very different sort of post today.

But as it turns out, there isn’t a need to save. The game persists in the cloud. You can drop in and drop out as players as you see fit. You can even leave it in ‘simultaneous’ turn mode so that anyone can drop in and finish up their turn in any order. Steam can provide you with a notification (if you allow it) to let you know when the turn has progressed and play is ready for you again.

Battle lines are drawn. But they needn’t have bothered. The opposing army over there is made up entirely of those two units. Yep. Just the two. (Spoiler: They didn’t win this one.)

If you’d like to go a little more traditional, you can switch the turn mode from simultaneous to sequential and again, you can be notified when its your turn to play.

This is very reminiscent of some of the best early era Turn Based Strategy games (including Age of Wonders 1, 2 and 3 incidentally) in allowing ‘PBEM’ or Play By EMail. Except in those days the save file would literally be sent from person to person in the chain.

Eyeing up the next potential conquest.

If you’re wondering the main advantage of this — it can be hard to get people together all at the same time for the type of time demanded of you from a multiplayer turn based strategy game. Really hard.

Asynchronous play with the game in the cloud allows everyone to drop in and out as their time allows to play their turn. But unlike the old solution to this problem of PBEM, if you do get the gang together for an hour or two (or more <cough>) you can seamlessly within the same game flip back to that mode for a while.

For all I know, this extension to the multiplayer capability was part of the Age of Wonders: Planetfall marketing and hype. But I’d kept fairly clear of it all and have come in fairly cold — already knowing I’d want it as a long-term fan of the series. So this was a surprise, and an awesome one at that. :D

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