Planetary Annihilation was once the greatest financial success story in the computer games category on Kickstarter. When the campaign was launched back in August 2012, creator Uber Entertainment had nothing except for a concept video and a need for $900,000. It was a long shot, but with promises of Total Annihilation-inspired gameplay on a planetary scale, and planets with rocket thrusters, the PA campaign quickly gained massive traction. After 30 days, Uber Entertainment had raked in an impressive $2,229,344.
I was one of the 44,162 backers who got caught in the headlights of the shiny Planetary Annihilation campaign. Not only did I pledge enough to get the game as a digital download when it was released, I also got access to the alpha and beta versions, the opportunity to name a planet in the game (I named it “vegard”, of course) and a physical collector’s edition game box. All in all, I threw $175 at the campaign, more than ten times what I’d usually spend on a game.
Then the waiting game started. Two years later, in early September 2014, after over a year on Steam Early Access and numerous delays, Planetary Annihilation was officially launched. But the reception was mixed. While the game had some original ideas, it turned out that it was quite hard to implement them. Planetary warfare, for instance, sounds great, but it’s very hard for the player to handle such a vast battlefield. Also, the game lacked a proper tutorial, and for a complex game like Planetary Annihilation, a good tutorial is essential to give new players – at least those of us who prefer single player – a little help to get off the ground.
The Kickstarter backers didn’t responds too well to what Planetary Annihilation turned out to be. In fact, when Uber Entertainment, just one month after the Planetary Annihilation launch, created a new Kickstarter campaign, Human Resources, it quickly became apparent that the campaign would bomb. The timing was terrible – players were using most of their time complaining about Planetary Annihilation – and the Human Resources campaign was pretty much created using the same mold as the campaign for Planetary Annihilation: No actual gameplay, just a lavish concept video and stellar promises of “insanely huge battles”.
It’s safe to say that Planetary Annihilation did not live up to the high expectations set by Uber Entertainment themselves both during the Kickstarter campaign and later during the development process. Now that the company has finally managed to provide their higher tier backers with physical rewards, can the arrival of the Planetary Annihilation Collector’s Edition make up for the disappointment?
Short answer? No.
And here’s the long answer: It starts with the packaging. A collector’s edition of anything is supposed to feel exclusive. The Planetary Annihilation Collector’s Edition packaging both looks and feels like it’s been thrown together on a tight budget. It’s a plain box. Apart from the fact that it’s slightly deeper than your average game box and that the words “collector’s edition” is printed everywhere, this could have been the box from any pre-download-everything era PC game. The next property that’s usually associated with exclusivity is weight. The Planetary Annihilation version of exclusivity feels pretty much empty if you lift it.
Which isn’t that far from the truth. Let’s have a look at the contents of this so-called Collector’s Edition:
- A thank you letter from Jon Mavor, who I think was the tech lead on the project. He just calls himself “PA Dude” in the letter, though. Is he trying to distance himself from the project? I’m just speculating, of course.
- A Planetary Annihilation quick start guide in three languages; English, French and Spanish (15 pages total)
- The game DVD in a paper pocket
- Three rubber plastic sculptures in a plastic bag
- A ULINE air cushion.
Come on! You could at least have made a proper, plastic cove for the DVD? Perhaps created some sort of polyform cast for sculptures? And the air cushion? Give me a break. You filled my collector’s edition with air!? I realize that the same packaging is used for people who pledged even more money than me and therefore receive even more goodies, like the hardback art book. But still.
Receiving the collector’s edition of Planetary Annihilation didn’t do anything for the foul taste I got in my mouth after playing the game back when it was officially released. If anything, I feel even more disappointed. But finally receiving the physical rewards from my I’d-like-to-plead-insanity-pledge have given me a strange need to install the game again and see if anything has changed for the better since I last played it. Maybe delaying the physical rewards was just a cunning move by Uber Entertainment to get people who had abandoned the game to try it again?
No matter what it was, it worked on me!