Planet X2 Review
Hey guys, I am the site's webmaster, and a long-time friend of the crew. I wanted to start getting more involved in the show via reviews, and this is my first one, so let me know what you think in the comments below.
We’re reviewing Planet X2, a Commodore 64 Homebrew developed by David Murray, also known as The 8-Bit Guy.
Planet X2 is a real-time strategy game where you play as an engineer turned general for the Terrans. Your mission is to prepare the planet for colonization. In your way is an army of aliens, referred to as the Protoids, who have the same goal of colonization in mind. Similar to other RTS games, your goal is to gather resources in which to build up your defenses, as well as construct an army of robotic units to find and destroy the Protoids before they destroy you.
There are three difficulty levels and ten maps to choose from. The difficulty settings affect how many resources you start with, with the highest difficulty level resulting in no starting resources. At the start of each game, you are provided with a single factory, which is used for processing minerals and crystals, which can in-turn be used as raw materials towards the construction of additional builders and tanks.You also start each round with two builders, which are used to collect resources, build buildings, bulldoze the landscape for development, and move objects. Builders have no offensive capabilities and can be easily destroyed by enemies, so be careful when exploring the map with them. Some enemy bases are across bodies of water so you'll need your builders to build bridges to get to them. In addition to collecting minerals, you will have to collect energy and gas. You can do this by building solar panels, and gas refineries.
Once you've built up your base and you're ready to take on the Protoids, you must build tanks and missile silos, both of which serve as your offensive units. Tanks will allow you to take the fight to the alien base, but be aware that the entrenched enemy will have Sentry Pods that will blow you to pieces if given the chance. To protect your base, you can place the tanks in sentry mode and they will attack any enemy unit around them. This is a must as the Protoids will send scouting units looking for you, and by the way, these suckers can swim giving them a slight advantage in that regard. Your best strategy by far is to build up your base, find their base, make a note of the coordinates, and launch a missile attack from the safety of your base. The game is over when you destroy all of the Protoid bases or they destroy all your factories, so build a few extras to hedge the odds in your favor. That being said, never get too comfortable because they will be coming for you!
So what do I think of the game? I don't own a functional Commodore 64, so I had to Emulate This game. I used VICE, as recommended by The 8-Bit Guy. As far as gameplay goes, let me start by saying that this is the first C64 game I have ever played, so it took me quite some time to get used to the keyboard-based controls. Moving around is not bad thanks to the WASD movement keys, but navigating the menus, which are mapped to the function keys took me significantly longer to master. This archaic design choice is something we've all grown out of and forgotten about with modern gaming and modern UI's, so keep that in mind as you play this game. That being said, it could have been worse, but thankfully David Murray developed a clean, user-friendly interface that contains detailed messaging and labels, which is always appreciated in the heat of battle.
Combat-wise, once you get used to selecting units and performing actions, the game becomes quite easy. I really like that you can switch between units should any of them be currently occupied with a pre-assigned task. This gives the player a feeling of actual leadership and control. The AI and pathfinding of your team is also pretty good, given the game's hardware limitations. Be warned though - while you are acclimating to the control scheme - you will die A LOT!!!
The number of maps and difficulty levels help to keep the game fresh... at least for a while. As much as I like the game, I must say, one you beat a map, it becomes increasingly easy to re-beat it as the maps are not randomly generated. But, I cannot fault the game for this lack of variety as it is a limitation of the platform vs. the developer. Given the hardware specifications David was limited by, if you really think about it, the game is arguably a hell of a lot deeper and more enjoyable than anything I can remember playing from that era of video games.
When it comes to artwork and sound, David and his team did a great job. Although, because I purchased the 'Lite' version, I did not get a boxed copy. From what I've seen though, the box art for this game is excellent, with a sample of it in the article's thumbnail. On the front of the box you have a great scene of a tank attacking a Protoid pyramid. This was created by one of the viewers from The 8-Bit Guy's YouTube channel. The back of the box gives you a synopsis of the game and great screenshots. Also included in the box (that I didn't get) is a cassette tape; yes a cassette tape, with a higher quality version of the game's music. And speaking of the music...while the music is by all means good; it will very quickly drives you nuts due to repetition. Fortunately, there is an easy way to toggle it off.
Included in the 'Lite' version I purchased was a floppy disk with the game, a user manual, and a link to download a digital version/ROM of the game. I must say that the user manual is excellent! It explains how to play, gives you information about the different resources, units, buildings and enemies, and it has maps for the first nine levels of the game. At least to me, the most interesting part of the manual was the explanation on how hardware limitations influenced the design of the game. David also created a great YouTube video on the making of the game as well (embedded below). Regardless if you are a tech-person or not, the information regarding the game's creation is well worth your time.
In summary, Planet X2 is a fun, addictive game that I highly recommend. While there is a bit of a leaning curve in the beginning to overcome in regards to acclimating to the controls and gameplay mechanics, you'll quickly learn from your mistakes and develop a strategy that best suits your play style. Before you know it, you'll be hunting down Protoids and taking over the planet in no time. I really enjoy what David was able to accomplish within the limitations of such old hardware, so much so that I will be reviewing more homebrew games in the future. Also, David is developing Planet X3 for MS-DOS, so stay tuned for more news on the Planet X series.
Feel free to stop by The 8-Bit Guy's Store for your copy: http://www.the8bitguy.com/product/planet-x2-commodore-64/
Planet X2, The Making Of
Disclaimer: Emulate This was not compensated to review this game. #NotSponsored