Jul 22, 2017 Last Updated 9:22 PM, Jul 21, 2017

Plancon: Space Conflict Review

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Ever since Ur-Quan Masters, I've had a weakness for space adventures that take place in our local sky.

(If you haven't played UQM and you like retro, get it here: https://sourceforge.net/projects/urquanmastershd/ )

So all these guys had left to do before releasing it, was make sure it wasn't buggy, and I'd have smeared my love all over it like grape jelly on a peanut butter sandwich. Unfortunately, I must suspend my love for now. 

PlanCon is buggy, but I love its concept. So, along with offering constructive criticism, I will be performing some rudimentary QA. For free. Lucky HeroCraft. 

TUTORIAL ISSUES

This needs some work. Aside from the language translation issues, there are some tips that show up on the loading screens. These tips sometimes contain essential information that should be incorporated into the tutorial, such as how to use repair droids and how coatings work. Even the tips aren't very clear on that. There are things I still don't know how to do; even after playing for eight hours, I still have no idea how coatings work. 

It would be good to mention a red arrow flashing over a planet in the navigation window means that planet is under attack.

GUI ISSUES

It doesn't seem to be possible to click on the flashing journal link below the mini-map, in spite of the tutorial's instruction. Fortunately, clicking on your portrait will also get you there. 

The quick nav menu that comes out of the left of the mini-map doesn't work properly. When you click it to open the menu of nearby locations, it responds by immediately selecting whichever destination happens to be under your mouse. 

In the upper left corner, below your portrait, system messages briefly appear. They are difficult to notice and don't stay on the screen long, so if you miss the alert that a planet is under attack, too bad. Fortunately, I've yet to see a planet fail to stave off an attack, but I do hope it's possible as adds an interesting element. 

A number of crashes to desktop vs. hours of play: two in eight hours. Not sure what caused them exactly. A forgivable ratio for a new game, in my opinion, but it should be addressed fairly soon. 

Sometimes the sounds effects stop working. This might be caused by tabbing out excessively to take notes. :) Music is unaffected. 

Items floating in space don't always respond to a single double-click. Sometimes you must first click them to select, then double-click if you want to pick them up. I think it happens when the software is busy thinking. It doesn't always have the ability to queue your clicks. 

Some of the item descriptions are ambiguous. "My shield that consumes 90% of the energy of the shot." What does that mean? Better shields absorb less of the energy of the shot, so apparently absorbing more of the energy of the shot is a bad thing. Makes no sense to me. Obviously, I'll just keep buying the ones that claim to do less, since they are obviously “upgrades”... There must be a translation issue here. 

Once you figure out how to activate your missiles, there doesn't seem to be a way to deactivate them, short of moving them to your cargo bay. Because of this, you quickly run out of missiles if you don't take steps to prevent it. By the way, they do AE damage to anything caught in their blast, including you, so if you use them, pause frequently during combat and strike carefully. 

PRAISES

The graphics are great. They are crisp and clean and remind me of the little cardboard vehicles in Steve Jackson's Car Wars. 

The music is good. I hardly notice it, but I enjoy it. That's a tricky balance to achieve, and in my opinion, it's exactly what you want. Nice work. 

I love the trade tab. I'd assumed I'd have to record prices on my own, as in some other games I could mention. Glad I don't. 

When loading, most games say “Loading..” or “Please Wait..” or something clever like "Generating ablation cascade."  This one just says, “Wait.” Maybe I'm stereotyping Russians, but it cracks me up. Please don't change it. I love it. 

Some of the writing shows a great sense of humor, which makes me wish the translations were better. I found the investigation of Superintendent Chantler especially amusing. 

The circular planetary orbits aren't entirely realistic, but they are realistic enough to make things interesting. I appreciate how the passage of time influences all orbits: Sol and the planets in the navigation screen, and the planets with their various satellites orbiting them on the main screen. Also, your ship takes these orbits into account when traveling to them; heading to where they will be, rather than where they currently are.

3

The Verdict

All things considered, in spite of its bugs, I love it. It's inexpensive, and I could easily put ten to twenty hours into. I'd happily pay ten bucks if it ran properly, and I'd give it an eight.  As it is, it barely maintains my recommendation, which breaks my heart. I have to give a six for now, but if it gets fixed, I will update my review. 

That's what I wrote before I found out the following while verifying my assertions:

During gameplay, players receive rewards for completing various achievements. Completing your training, for instance, grants twenty-five crystals.  If you start a new play-through, then leave it and go back to your original play-through, your achievements, but not the bonuses they bestowed, are removed, leaving your achievement list empty. As you play, you now gain the achievements again and quickly become too powerful. 

Cheating ruins the fun for me. I had to stop playing it. Worse yet, if I want to start again, I will have to start from the beginning, unless the developer can somehow undo the damage that's been done. Software should not be released with bugs of this nature. So, unfortunately, I must give a very low score to a game I otherwise find appealing. I cannot recommend it until this issue is fixed. I give an annoyed three, but as mentioned previously, I will update it if the issues are addressed.

Kevin Riggs

Kevin Riggs is an analytical writer, dedicated to disc golf, cooking, and promoting science and critical thinking. But he also has a dark secret. At night, or whenever it's dark enough for dark secrets, he plays the shit out of video games on Steam under the dark, dark, pseudonym of, “Lazyface”. Kevin played his first video game at a Shakey's Pizza, back in 1977, when they cost two-bits each, and stood a good 5-8 feet taller than they do nowadays. It was called “Space Invaders”. Quaint, eh? He even remembers when pong still seemed like a pretty cool idea.

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