I did buy all 3 aforementioned games and while i did not play them enough to be completely fair judge of them, i still think me spending money on them gives me right to voice my opinion, even if some people may disagree with my views... i guess i mostly want to vent my frustration, cause there is a good reason, why i did not play them that much, as all of them pretty much suck, for various reasons.
anyway, good thread.
Planetary Annihilation: the only good thing about it i guess is the innovative approach and technological advancement... but other than those, i dont like so many things about it...
- single faction
- the unit gameplay, you just produce them en masse and there seems to be very little finesse to using all of them. they are just expendable and you could not care less about them. Together with the cartoony graphics it takes all the immersion away. So i build naval battleship, happy about having a behemoth unit, only to find out it both looks and acts like shit. I lose it pretty quickly, but so what i build zillion of them.
- you spend hour to play the game and produce massive armies, spread around the whole globe, only to game move to that solar system phase and all that shit wont matter, cause another celestial object on its way for deep impact. Gives you solid feeling of wasted time, if that happens, does it not?
- the gameplay on the spherical map turned out pretty annoying, at least for me. During my limited experience i played only on relatively smallish planets i guess, where i would constantly lose focus of my stuff, cause scrolling down a bit would move it behind horizon. Once again it was nice and innovative idea (sort of, there were other games like Populous doing this before), but for me personally, did not work.
At least i bought this on sale, unlike Grey Goo.
Grey Goo: i could see there was obvious effort put into campaign and the aesthetics, those would be the positives. But the gameplay itself, i guess i should be warned when i read about the "oldschool" approach. But then again i used to like CnC games, like Red Alert 3 not so long ago. Anyway, the main negatives:
- the faction design - those have to be the most bland factions i ever witnessed in post 2000 RTS game. Literally nothing interesting to play with, except maybe epic units. Other than that, bunch of walkers or hovercrafts, obligatory anti-air, arty, some airplanes, which felt totally underwhelming... and that was it. Constructing human bases was annoying, rather than fun. Clearly there was some intent to make Goo faction unique, but it was not enough, yeah, you did not build traditional bases, which was interesting twist, but the unit roster was just meh. I think this faction, the way it morphed the mother goo into different unit types, could have been influenced by the Alien faction from the oldish Earth 2160 game - they worked in similar manner, except important part, beside the cloned/morphed land units you had access to massive spaceships, which were incredibly awesome and fun to use! Maybe OP as hell, but thats beside the point, which is:
no navy, no superweapons, no "general" abilities, no commando units, no alternate income sources (AFAIK), no "T3" level units, no sins like complex research tree, useless aircraft, etc., etc...
not saying all those things have to be in every game to be succesful or good, but just seeing that list it makes you feel that the game was truly pretty basic.
- the UI - i guess it was rather OK to use, but why did it have to took half the screen i would not know
- even with the effort put into single-player campaign, gameplay-wise it catered to multiplayer crowd with low unit counts and short match times... for me personally, thats not enough.
Act of Aggression: the best thing about it is the modern-warfare setting. Since for whatever reason all the other recent RTS tend to be sci-fi based (Ashes of Singularity, Grey Goo, Planetary Annihilation...) I like the use of real world stuff as well, the canned CnC was presented to be as modern warfare RTS too, except when it came to units, instead of Apaches you would get stupid scifish custom design VTOL helicopters. Not surprised a bit, it was cancelled But:
- the faction design again - while better than in case of GG, i feel the factions are not diverse enough. Or the game does it best to obscure those differences to players. When i played CnC Generals, the differences between US, China and GLA were very obvious on many levels and in many aspects, you could easily describe those differences in bunch of sentences, just playing few games. I played all the factions in AoA and i have an issue to do something similar here. All the factions have infantry, tanks, artilleries, planes, harvest the same resources...i am aware of some differences between say US arty (being missile based) and Cartel one (being tube artillery). or that one faction tends to need more money, while other aluminium...but somehow thats not enough, since despite these i fail to feel somehow different, if i play US as opposed to playing Chimera.
- lack of navy, which really could have been there and the plane mechanic is shit. I like direct control over my stuff - CnC approach, especially Generals one was so much satisfying to use. The only thing i like i guess is that you can have technically as many bombers as those "airfields", not just single general power one like in Gens. Its truly awesome to watch 15 B2s flying toward enemy base and in a while to send them again...
- the obscurity of visual stuff and the game related info cause of shitty UI - i never thought i would consider more realistic graphics as opposed to cartoony ones to be a downside, but in case of this game, it is. I cant literally see shit at times. Because someone thought it would be awesome to have everything up to scale, everything was zoomed in at first, so you could barely see 1/5 of your base. Then, after the fan uproar, they moved the camera back, so now you can see maybe half of your base at once - except you cant see visually identify your units or see them at all (like infantry). And if i have trouble to distinct different types of units in my unit blob, i start to lose the will to actually use them in some meaningful manner, rather than selecting all of them and send toward enemy. Why would i even want to buy artillery, if during battle i cant even see which one it is, so i wont select and use it separately the way its meant to be used for it to be most useful...the last time i played, i would just build shitload of helicopters for US and played just with those, cause i actually felt in control over what am i doing.
In regard to UI, you have quite a lot of structures, units and upgrades at your disposal, the issue is, actually too much, because the game presents them in totally chaotic way. Instead of having all those upgrades (and there is quite lot of them) displayed in some separate screen and most importantly in ONE place - like Sins research screen, they are accessed separately from several buildings, except you never know which building it was, unless you played the game enough... i still have no idea how to capture POWs for example...
- i found that despite the vast amount of stuff to build and upgrade, i rarely have enough resources to do it all. Even if i have multiple refineries over half of the map, i find myself constantly in need of something if i want this or that. Maybe its meant to press you into choices, to follow the path you think its best, so you cant have it all - but ultimately i ignored the research almost completely altogether and would rather build units for the available money.
So that would be all. Maybe i am just growing old, but as i see it the game needs to hit the sweetspot for me between being not too shallow like GG nor overwhelming like AoA. Otherwise i lose interest very fast. Bottom line, Rebellion is 10x superior game to all these 3 combined, cause it has flawless UI, ideal pacing, interesting diverse and fun to play factions, more complex and potentially fun features like trade, culture, diplomacy or proper research, different victory conditions...and while its big scale game and allows you to have fairly big armies (even though not as much as PA, way more than GG) and some frigates and cruisers are sort of expendable, there are actually units, the most fun to use ones, that you care about and attend to them like capships, titans or starbases, cause of the experience mechanic and abilities...
I am considering buying Ashes of Singularity this year and later Cossacks 3, when it comes out. Please, dont dissapoint me. I really miss a game which would excite me to play the way Rebellion did.