Planetfall: Suppose they gave a doomsday and nobody came?

, | Game diaries

By order of the Wasila Combine — heck, let’s go ahead and make this a religious thing as well — and by the will of the Promethean god, we’re going to uncork our PyrX refineries (pictured) to flood the atmosphere with toxic gas.  Actually, I’m not sure if there’s a Promethean god.  It seems like there would be a Promethean god.  Or at least an ancient civilization that worshipped some god.  Whatever the theology or lack thereof, we’re erasing all life on the planet from within the safety of our own territory.  This will require a lot less micromanagement than doing it with armies.

500 energy and 50 operational points later — Planetary Purification ain’t cheap — it’s a doomsday party and everyone is invited!

Whenever you play Planetfall, you’re playing as a race and a secret technology.  Each secret technology has its own doomsday victory, which has four identical steps.  First, you research deep into your secret technology’s branch of the tech tree to reach your doomsday.  Second, you build three expensive structures.  Third, you prime and launch an expensive operation.  And fourth, you hold out for ten turns.  After those ten turns, you’ve won the game. Doomsdays are economic victories, but under the veneer of an apocalypse.

Each doomsday comes with unique benefits when you launch the operation and hunker down for the ten-turn countdown.  This is when the other factions will have to respond to the existential threat you now pose to their survival.  These will be the final ten turns of the game unless you’re stopped.  They should be a doozy, right?  That’s certainly what the doomsday operations seem to think when they give you unique strategic and tactical benefits.  You’ll have up to ten turns to enjoy them.

In the case of Planetary Purification, the operation for the Promethean doomsday, this means all other players’ incomes are reduced by 30%.  It’s hard to harvest energy when there’s toxic flammable gas clogging the atmosphere.  This is also why all non-Promethean biological units have the choking debuff.  That’s -25% to hit and -25% damage inflictged because of excessive coughing.  Mechanical units are unaffected since they don’t have lungs.  Also, all units now have a -5 fire resistance.  Since resistance is a facet of defense that uses the same formula as armor and shields (i.e. -10% damage per point), this means fire does 50% more damage.  In Planetfall reductions in resistance are the equivalent of boosts to damage.  Finally, random fires will strike enemies in battle.

It’s the perfect situation for a series of climactic battles that favor my Promethean units.  And this is true of all the doomsday operations.  The Celestians’ Declaration of Truth lures enemy population into its colonies, afflicts all enemies with a soulburn so they take extra damage from Celestians and their followers, and gives a healing buff.  The Xenoplague Omega Transcendence shuts down other players’ food production, stops their units from healing between battles, and infects all enemy biological units with debilitating parasites.  The Synthesis Singularity steals half of everyone else’s research, boosts Synthesis units’ accuracy and critical hit chance, and compromises all enemy units to make them more vulnerable to electrical damage and hacking.  You get ten turns to enjoy the effects of your unique apocalypse!

But what actually happens is that no one does anything.  The AI players talk a good game.  They denounce me.  They break our defensive pacts and non-aggression agreements.  Their opinions of me plummet and eventually bottom out at -800.  But then they don’t show up.  They leave their armies at home.  And I know they have armies because I’ve watched them fending off the mutant wildlife when we were friends with shared vision.  Even though I can’t see them now, I know the armies are still there, because I can see each player’s ranking on the might graph.  And yet the armies stay home.  

I can’t say I blame them.  Mathematically, they’re each in a hopeless situation.  I’m on my own continent (I’ve militarily “absorbed” my Shakarn neighbors to the south), I’ve got tons of defenses built, I’ve called in some defensive operations, and I’ve got plenty of armies with lots of mobility infrastructure, including orbital relay points at the north and south end of my continent.  Virginia’s only hope is for the AIs to come at me from all directions with everything they’ve got.  Instead, they do nothing.

Actually, that’s not entirely true.  A Kir’ko stack attacks two of my naval territories on one coast, and a stack from a distant Shakarn colony attacks one of my naval territories on the other coast.  Then their forces turned around and go home.  And that’s it.  That’s the sum total of the AI’s reaction to my impending victory.  I didn’t even play the battles because they were against piddly naval militias.  I never get to see my Planetary Purification in action.  

This is one of the reasons I prefer the quicker victory objectives in Planetfall’s galactic empire mode.  A standard game of Planetfall will fall apart if you expect any meaningful aggression from the AI factions that isn’t backed by an overwhelming economic advantage (which is how the harder difficulty levels try to be competitive).  Those last ten turns should have been me fending off waves of desperate attacks.  Instead, they’re a simple test of endurance as I hit the “end turn” button ten times and wait for the AI turns to process.  

This is a sad reality of the state of AI in strategy games.  Planetfall isn’t as bad as some games, but it’s still bad. And that’s why it fares much better when you’re chasing some shorter term goal in which the obstacle is something other than coordinated AI aggression.  Of course, it’s worth noting that I’m playing at the default difficulty level.  On a harder difficulty level, would the AI have had more powerful armies and therefore been more willing to be aggressive?  On a harder difficulty level, would I have even gotten this far?

So Virginia goes passively, if not quietly, into that good night and now it’s part of the Wasila Combine.  We earn reputation with the factions for whom we did quests, including four levels for the Prometheans, two levels for the Dvar, and two levels for the Amazons, each unlocking more options for the Imperial Store, as well as free starting techs when we play those factions.  We also found the Progenitor Razor Claw, which lets us buy hopperhounds at the Imperial Store.  And both of our heroes leveled up.

At 7pm Pacific on Wednesday, March 17th, I’ll livestream the setup and first 20 turns of my next planet. You can watch on Twitch here or on YouTube here, and I’ll link the finished video when I’m done.

Next: the next world
Previously: mission pounce