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August 28, 2007
Planetarion Review
 

By: Michael Dougherty

Planetarion (referred to as PA by many) is a space-themed, browser based, MMOG (massively multiplayer online game) which has drawn players from all over the world. Shortly after its initial release in 2000 the game reached its peak player base, topping out at an estimated 180,000 planets in the universe. While this may seem to be an impressive number, in truth, many believe that as many as half these planets were duplicates. The user base was probably in the 90 - 100 thousand range and has since dropped to perhaps a few thousand active users when the game went from free to pay-to-play. Recently the owners of Planetarion (SimTech, Ltd., a daughter company of Jolt) have decided to offer free rounds to attempt to bring players back to the game. This seems to have done exactly that and bodes well for the game's future should they decide to stick to a free model.

The basic premise is fairly simple; you take possession of a planet and control research as well as the development of military units to defend your planet. You start with a single planet in a unique galaxy within a universe. For the first 72 hours you cannot be attacked or attack other planets, giving you time to build up your resources and army. During this time you must also attempt to obtain new asteroids as these are needed to mine the resources for constructing new buildings, research new technologies, etc.

One of the more notable features is the fact that this all takes place in real-time. Many actions in the game require a great amount of time, for example, space travel can take up to 9 hours to complete while the research of a single new factory may take 24+ hours. However, you do not need to be logged into the game the entire time, logging in a couple times a day to check on your progress and issue new commands will usually suffice.

An important aspect of the game is its reliance on alliances (or guilds). This is similar to many other online games, but with Planetarion it is difficult to make any progress at all without being a member of a strong alliance. This is a major drawback for many. In most games, players are much more successful when joining a strong alliance; in Planetarion solo gaming is really not an option. Should you decide to go it alone you will more than likely find your planet and asteroids farmed by the larger alliances from other galaxies to further their campaign.

In order to be successful in Planetarion it is a good idea to join and be active in their online community. Here you will have a chance to learn the basics of the game as well as meet other players. On the messages boards you will also have an opportunity to search for an alliance to join. Many alliances are constantly recruiting new players and often willing to help out with resources and/or protection while you are getting started. Again, a solo player with no interest in communication is not going to be successful in Planetarion.

Planetarion has no sound and no real graphics to speak of. Your main tools are embedded into the Planetarion web page and are simply tables of data which allow you to make decisions about your planet and issue commands. The action is very slow as is progression: Your first few weeks will be focused on obtaining asteroids and stockpiling resources. The following weeks will be filled with research, construction, and setting up your military before you can mount a successful attack on enemies.

Sounds boring, right? Well, if you generally find yourself in front of your PC questing in the World of Warcraft or screaming Killing Spree! At the top of your lungs in games such as Counter Strike or Unreal Tournament, then yes, this game will likely put you to sleep. If you are like me and cannot pay attention to anything for more than 5 minutes without some kind of visual stimulation; if you sit in front of your PC twitching uncontrollably when you don't kill a PC/NPC or blow something up on a regular basis then this is definitely not the game for you. However, if you are a strategist who enjoys a slow-paced, turn-based game then you will not find anything better than Planetarion. The keys to this game are strategy and patience, couple this with the proper player base and the right frame of mind when entering the game and you just might find yourself pleasantly surprised and extremely addicted.

For more information about Planetarion please visit http://www.planetarion.com/.

Score: 7/10

Pros: Free to Play;
        Strategy focused;
        Played in Real-Time.

Cons: No Graphics or Sound;
         Slow-Paced;
         Reliance on Alliances (or guilds).

 
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