LGR – Planet Coaster Review

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Planet Coaster has been one ofmy most anticipated PC games ever since it was announced by that title at E3 2015.

And now that it's finally out of early access, it's time to take a look at the full release.

This is a game very much in the vein ofTheme Park and Roller Coaster Tycoon, which makes sense, seeing asit's a game by Frontier Developments.

Yep, the same developer behindspace trucking sim Elite Dangerous, although their involvement with parkmanagement games goes back much further, with titles like Scream Ride, Zoo Tycoon 2013, Coaster Crazy, Thrillville, Roller Coaster Tycoon 3, and even the Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 expansions, all being developed by them over the years.

Planet Coaster begins with an avatarcreation process which seems important, but this is pretty much the first and last time you'll ever see it.

Maybe they'll do somethingmore with avatars in the future, but as of now, the only thing theydo is appear on this world map alongside your friends actingas Steam Workshop shortcuts, and I think they might show upat random in other people's parks if you're playing online.

And yes, this is a game with online functionality, but it's not a multiplayer game, nor does it require an always-on Internet connection.

Once it authenticates itself withDenuvo servers after installation, you can play offline and diveinto the meat of Planet Coaster, which is the single-player Career,Sandbox and Challenge modes.

Each one of these plays usingthe same tools, just different rules, and the overview for fools is the Career mode gives you a somewhat linear setof maps and objectives to complete, Sandbox mode lets you do anything at any time with no restrictions to creative freedom, and Challenge mode is like a mix of the two, giving you lots of creative choices, alongside a set of objectives tocomplete and a budget to maintain.

Speaking of budget and objectives and all that, there are no surprises as to how Planet Coaster plays, if you've messed with any notable parkmanagement game in the last 20-odd years.

You pick a map or a scenario to play and are presented with a plot ofundeveloped land to do with as you see fit within the confines of howevermuch profit you can generate.

There are indeed roller coasters– plenty of them, of course– but the majority of things you'll seeand do have nothing to do with them.

Attractions abound in Planet Coaster, with thrill rides, carousels, log flumes, train tracks, and all manner of stuff inbetween to keep visitors occupied.

There are also employees to hire and train, shops to build and customize, and food and beverage needs to fulfill.

On top of that, you're goingto be managing ticket prices, cue times, litter and vomit cleanup, and research and developmenton new rides and features.

It's also imperative that you maintaineach ride so it doesn't break down too often, as well as beautify your park so that visitors get distracted by pretty things and don't ask for a refund when ittakes hours to board the teacup ride.

This is all well and good, and absolutely the bare minimum as faras PC games about theme parks go.

The real question is whether or not this is fun and compelling enough to play beyond a couple of hours of screwing around.

Well, I'm happy to say that, yes, it is! But it also doesn't do a whole lot to push the genre beyond what we've already had in the past, either.

It's also not the only game on the block right now, with titles like Roller CoasterTycoon World and Parkitect also vying for your attention.

So why bother with Planet Coaster? Well, what it has is a very particular set of skills.

Skills its developers haveacquired over a very long career.

Skills that make Planet Coastera dream for people like you.

Potentially.

Because while Parkitect is a gameaiming to mimic the gameplay and style of the Chris Sawyer Tycoon games, and Roller Coaster Tycoon Worldis a rushed-to-market anomaly of bad timing and poor planning, Planet Coaster picks up right whereRoller Coaster Tycoon 3 left off, but improves on that in ways that game sorely needed.

Immediately upon starting a new map, you can tell it's a game crafted with care.

The interface feels familiar, yet modern.

The graphics look promising.

And there's this soothing soundtrack by Jim Guthrieand J.

J.

Ipsen playing in the background which instills a sense of focus and calm.

[music plays] Or maybe it sounds like the trailer to the latestaward-winning indie flick reveal in 2016, I can't quite decide.

[joyful music plays] Planet Coaster is also just a gorgeous game, which of course isn't necessary for the business side of things, but it's a great plus in a 3D park sim like this.

The sound design is also right on point, giving you all the screams, coaster whooshes, crowd chatter and rickety mechanical audio cues one needs to suspend disbelief.

[amusement park ambience] You can also customize this further withambient sound generators and music customization.

And yes, this also lets youdrop in your own music tracks to fine tune your park's audio-visual theme.

[hard rock music plays] As you can see, it also allows you to enjoy the rides from a first-person perspective, and man, this really makes me wish for some VR support.

Seeing as they also made Elite Dangerous and it uses the same Cobra Engine underneath, I have hope for that in the future.

Speaking of engine stuff, it apparently allows or somepretty robust terrain manipulation.

Easily the best I've seen in a park sim to date.

My jaw dropped when I saw THIS could be made, completely from scratch, using nothing but the base game andits included modular parts system.

In fact, it's not only optional to constructrides and buildings using a bin of parts, it's a necessity.

The creative side of Planet Coaster seems to be the main focus inalmost all portions of the game, perhaps to a bit of a fault.

Thankfully, there's a ton of pre-made stuff on Steam Workshop already, so if you don't want to spend hourscreating a toilet, you don't have to.

But yeah, everything from ATMs to drinkstands are completely bare-bones blocks until you add some aesthetic fluff to make it look presentable to visitors.

And this is sadly where the experience begins to falter, because while it's great thatyou have this much freedom, it can be a huge pain to take advantage of it.

Object manipulation in complexareas is just fighting a losing battle, as items constantly get in the wayof what you're trying to click on, and the object movements go from being too slow to insanely sensitive, depending on the camera angle.

Path creation is also an absolute chore, with a piece-by-piece system in place instead of any kind of point-to-pointor click-to-paint system.

Same goes for coaster creation, which is slow and old-school in a way that invokes frustration in lieu of happy nostalgia.

Placing pathways and coaster railsis arguably the one function that the ill-fated Roller Coaster Tycoon World actually pulls off better than Planet Coaster.

There's just a lot of room for improvement here.

You get used to it, but the fiddlingand fighting with controls never stops, and neither does the lack of informationpresented to you while building things like coasters.

There are heat maps and ratings and all that, but it doesn't tell you HOW to improve the stats.

It's just up to you and yourpain threshold for trial and error, which is doubly annoying when you'replaying a Career or a Challenge map, where a finite amount of cash is on the line.

And then when you do get a half-decentpark with a bit of money coming in, well, so much for the challenge.

It's all but gone after thatinitial profit hurdle is overcome.

There's very little in the way of hassle or hardship once you've attained any kind of steady income and have a few trained employeesroaming around doing their job.

Visitors don't seem to get bored of old rides at all.

When rides break down, they're easily fixed up in a jiffy and no one is ever turned offby the apparent lack of safety.

And of course, no one ever dies or gets injured.

Heck, you can't even pop their balloons or pick them up and drop them into the water anymore, which is not a real complaint, so muchas an observation to make my point.

About the worst that can happen to anyone is sometimes they'll vomit, and to that point, just clean it up, give theman unpoppable balloon and they'll be fine.

There are no disasters, no unexpected events, no time limits to complete objectives, no VIPs to give special treatment to, nothing really beyond givingpeople enough affordable junk to do while making sure everything is clean and punctual.

Even the stuff that looks likea bit of a challenge really isn't, like how visitors demand nicer scenery around rides.

You COULD carefully plan out a lush garden for them, complete with intricate flowerbeds and old-world architecture.

Or you could place a ton of freakin'flame throwers and call it a day.

The result is exactly the same,and no one ever acknowledges it.

One final thing that sucks is the performance, which is irregular and laggy after youreach a certain point of complexity no matter what system you play it on, it seems.

This is somewhat expected for a game like this, being rather CPU- and GPU-intensive with all the object and physicscalculations happening on the fly.

But even on my latest PC build,I had to crank down the graphics to low when building coasters andplacing pathways in larger parks, because the input lag justgets unbearable in those cases.

Ugh, man, it probably sounds likeI hate Planet Coaster by this point, but I assure you that is not the case.

I'm just frustrated that it comes soclose to being a phenomenal game while still succumbing to many of the same pitfalls that so many similar park sims have in the past.

Whether or not you want to purchase this isup to your tolerance for the issues at hand.

But the asking of $45 is actuallypretty decent for the potentially dozens, or even hundreds, of joyful hoursyou can spend here if you like this.

Even with some performance issues,superficial challenges and iffy pathway creation, Planet Coaster is still one of my favorites of 2016.

I haven't had this particulargaming itch scratched this nicely since Roller Coaster Tycoon 3, and dude, that game had some issues.

But it still got my mind racing withcreative possibilities in a 3D space.

Planet Coaster improves on thegameplay from that in several ways, and still achieves at least the samelevel of inspiration and blissful freedom that people flock to tycoon games for.

It's got visuals, atmosphere,style and charm out the butt, and you can tell the folks behind this hadlearned much from their past experiences.

Planet Coaster is still not the ideal park simulation, but it is getting close, and has me once again optimisticfor the future of the genre.

[joyful guitar music] Hey, you're still here!Well, if you enjoyed this video, perhaps you'd like to see some of my others.

You can click these right here or stop by every Monday andFriday for new videos on LGR.

And as always, thank you very much for watching.