Welcome to This Is Not A Review. In these articles we discuss general impressions, ideas and thoughts on any given game, but as the title implies, it’s not a review. Instead, it’s an exercise in offering a quick recommendation (or dismissmal) after spending enough time to grasp the ideas and gameplay of a thing without necessarily playing it from A to Z.
The subject of this installment: the Revelations DLC for Age of Wonders: Planetfall, developed by Triumph Studios and published by Paradox Interactive.
After putting in over a thousand turns during my review for Age of Wonders: Planetfall, I can’t say that I’m starved for more content from DLC.
Revelations couldn’t have been an easy delivery for the developers either, considering that they were following up one of the most pleasant surprises in strategy gaming last year and expanding a strategy game is often a risky move — additional elements can easily lead to unnecessary cluttering of the original design. Unfortunately, Revelations falls into that trap.
The big thematic hook for this DLC is the introduction of the Es’Teq — an ancient biomechanical race whose theocratic culture revolves around the eternal preservation of the soul.
There’s no shortage of alien races in science fiction that touch on these ideas — there’s more than a passing resemblance to the Necron from Warhammer 40K here — but Triumph does what they can to find a home for these ancient undead in the aftermath of Planetfall’s campaign.
Even though this new race has a similar techno-religious feel to the Celestian units from the base game, the tactical design of the Es’Teq’s Heritor technology stands out by focusing on “essence” — a spiritual energy that can be extracted from enemies and used as a consumable resource. It’s an interesting concept that forces the player to assess whether it’s worth cashing in essence for short-term gains, but the lack of synergies with other existing units makes it feel disconnected from the rest of the design.
Similarly, the new “anomalous sites” that show up on the strategic map in are too self-contained and disruptive to the overall pace of play. These sites usually offer branching paths to different outcomes and rewards, but the choices required to go through those paths often take multiple turns to resolve, which then makes their narratives harder to follow as numerous events and combat encounters happen elsewhere in the world.
On top of that, the player is required to park a unit on the site for these choices to progress, which clashes with the way that Planetfall’s design encourages the player to be more proactive in exploring the map. By requiring units to simply wait at a site until the exploration plays out, strategic play is noticeably slowed — I wouldn’t be surprised if many players simply ignore these sites altogether.
Even though I can’t enthusiastically recommend Revelations, I would still say that returning to Age of Wonders: Planetfall is worthwhile for those who haven’t played much since launch. As usual with games under Paradox’s stewardship, a steady pace of patches have delivered various UI and design improvements, including orbital platforms and the ability to manually retry automated tactical battles. This DLC may not be a great fit, but the core content is still worth the time spent among the stars.