Planet Coaster Alpha Impressions

By: on September 13, 2016

Developer: Frontier Developments
PublisherFrontier Developments 
Preview Platform: PC (Steam)
Release Date: November 17, 2016

As a fan of the Rollercoaster Tycoon series; I can say that Planet Coaster, even in alpha, is the sequel that I have been waiting for since the last Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 expansion pack released in 2004. While there are still some features missing (again, as it is in alpha), it’s already more robust than any of its competitors (the lackluster Rollercoaster Tycoon: World), and improves on its predecessors in countless ways. Below are a few of the best features in the game so far, and what I hope to see in the coming patches leading up to the game’s November 17th release.

Best parts of Planet Coaster so far:

  1. The terrain system. This has to be by far one of the most impressive terrain editors I’ve ever seen in a game, and I have spent a fair amount of time messing around with Far Cry. Planet Coaster has improved on past games by making the building of intricate mountains, caves, and dark rides a breeze. What might have taken hours in previous games can now be done in a few minutes, leaving time for other details such as…
    Sunrise over Dragon Mountain (my super subtly named coaster)
    Sunrise over Dragon Mountain (my super subtly named coaster)
  2. Lighting and special effects. The lighting system is brilliant in this game. A simple feature of adding colored lights with realistic ranges and occlusion, makes even barren pieces of a ride feel themed. In my time with the game so far; I have found myself frequently messing with lighting more than placing props. There are also a lot of special effects ranging from jets of fire, to eerie mist that help set the tone for some intricate theme rides.
    Getting the lighting right in this cave took forever.
    Getting the lighting right in this cave took forever.
  3. Props, both custom and premade. The feature that will likely contribute heavily to this game’s success and longevity is the whole-hearted embracing of Steam Workshop. Players can easily upload buildings that they make in game, or create their own props and make them available for others. It allows dedicated players to produce the content they want, and has already spawned hundreds of amazing scenery pieces, buildings, and parks.
    They may seem still, but I swear those knights are animatronic.
    They may seem still, but I swear those knights are animatronic.
  4. A well-thought out coaster builder. This is especially important, given the freedom that Planet Coaster’s competitor Rollercoaster Tycoon: World implemented with their coaster builder. Rather than giving players complete control over every sprite of the track, Planet Coaster sticks to track pieces of a set length (which can be changed), that are edited through degrees of movement. Players can create any type of track they want, without the frustration of having to spend hours making minor adjustments. The developers are continuing to add new track pieces and variations with each update, making the possibilities endless.

What Needs to Come Before Full Release:

  1. Campaign mode. As of right now, there is only a greyed-out button for campaign, and a series of challenge maps, but it will be finished before release. Mostly, I’m just curious to see what sort of campaign a sim game like this will have in mind.
  2. Different ride types. Notably absent in the alpha are water rides, and slower rides (go karts, track rides, etc.) It’s hard to imagine a rollercoaster game without a log flume option, but the Planet Coaster team has not said much on what ride types they plan to add before full release. Please, bring back the water rides!
    This damned kraken is too loud, scaring all the kids on the merry-go-round
    This damned kraken is too loud, scaring all the kids on the merry-go-round
  3. Custom sound pieces. A feature I always wanted in the original Rollercoaster Tycoon was custom sound boxes. For example, the ability to put your own (very intimidating and totally manly) roar in an animatronic, in place of the stock noise, or even hollow rocks to play theme music throughout your ride. Ideally there would even be an editor that allowed players to pick which parts of the ride heard which noises (that kraken roar can be heard through the whole ride right now), but I know I may be dreaming.
  4. Building intricate firework shows was also a large part of Rollercoaster Tycoon 3, and is not yet in Planet Coaster. What theme park is complete without its signature firework show?

Needless to say; I am very impressed with the Planet Coaster alpha so far, and will likely be putting in many more hours before and after release. It’s easily the best coaster building game I have ever played, and satisfies all the wants I have had for a true Rollercoaster Tycoon sequel. To see more gameplay, check out our Twitch channel, where I will be live streaming the building of a new park, starting September 13th at 7PM, and then continuing in a series until release.

About Ashton Macaulay

Ashton lives in the Ewok village that is Redmond Washington, enjoys gaming, writing, and a good pug.
  • TMagician

    When you talk about custom props and Steam Workshop I think it is important to mention that players won’t be able to upload their own 3D files. You can only combine in-game props to create new bigger pieces and upload them to the Workshop.

    Unfortunately the Dev Team of Planet Coaster has mentioned multiple times that custom sounds and music won’t be an option in Planet Coaster – though I don’t know what’s keeping them from adding this great feature.

    • Ashton Macaulay

      Well it appears custom sounds did make it in! Excite!

      And they announced a bunch of 3d shapes to help make more custom scenery!