You know what’s pretty great? Good video games. You know what makes good video games even better? Not having to pay a penny for them. Well, I come bearing great news for lovers of good video games you can play without paying a penny: Planet S is totally free and by all accounts pretty darn good.
Planet S plonks players in a solar system made up of 14 procedurally-generated planets, each varying in their terrain and resource availability. As a spacefaring ship, you’ll need to land on one of the planets and use the materials you have to start settling it, building up your presence to attract more inhabitants and keep your economy rolling.
This is a strategy game about interplanetary colonisation, so naturally one planet won’t quite be enough. Once you’ve claimed a planet by building a spaceport, you’ll then need to stake your claim to another planet, adding its supply of resources to your growing economy to keep your population growing and level going up. If you’ve played classic strategy series Anno before, you’ll be right at home with the way that Planet S approaches its economy system, population satisfaction and progression. (And yes, I know Anno 2205 was technically ‘Anno in space’, but Planet S goes a bit farther out than the Moon.)
There are two different paths to victory, which come through in how you decide to spec your planets’ technology. If you invest in scientific tech, you’ll be aiming for a peaceful win through scientific advancement. Dropping your resources into military tech, meanwhile, opens up the ability to fight with your rival players and win through domination of the galaxy.
As you’d expect, each research type comes with its own technology tree full of new buildings and bonuses that can be used to advance your civilisation. You can also trade with your fellow space-civs, with up to four players able to play together in online PvP.
Planet S has just emerged from a year of early access, and its full release shows a few signs of being a bit barebones still – the tutorial is a bit limited, as are options for CPU opponents. Developers TeamJA have plans for additional patches and quality-of-life improvements in the near future, along with a bigger update to add support for mods next spring.
That said, this is a free RTS you can play with friends, and its Steam reviews are a glowing “Very Positive”, with praise for its deep-yet-approachable strategy, satisfying gameplay loop – especially in multiplayer – customisable maps and rock-solid offering. Plus, it’s completely free – have I mentioned that? Go and check it out on Steam.