Click here to read the preview.

Last week, we were lucky enough to meet the team from Frontier Development and got a brief hands-on session with the pre-alpha build of their highly anticipated title: Planet Coaster. Although our time with Frontier was short, we can confirm that Planet Coaster already looks absolutely fantastic – and this is coming from a writer that has only played the Roller Coaster Tycoon games very briefly in the past! We are incredibly excited for this game and have lots to share with you so sit back and enjoy the ride!

For those of you who don’t know much about Frontier, they are the developers of Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 and the more recent, Elite: Dangerous. With a twelve-year gap since the release of Roller Coaster Tycoon 3, they have been planning Planet Coaster for a long time and it seems like it has definitely been worth the wait. Fans of the genre will know that theme park management games haven’t really offered anything incredibly exciting or new over the past decade. Upon meeting the Frontier team, it was clear to see how excited they are about finally showing Planet Coaster to the rest of the world and how passionate they feel about the game. Their nervous, excited energy was infectious and we left the preview feeling as though we had just experienced what is (hopefully) the new installment that fans have been waiting for.

Gameplay


If you have watched the trailer for Planet Coaster then you will have noticed that it doesn’t really give much away in terms of what you will actually be able to do in the game. One of the things that we noticed straight away in the build that we played was how much freedom players will have in Planet Coaster. Everything is customisable. Want to change the colour of your impossibly tall Sun Flare ride? No problem! Need to increase revenue for your hat store? Just place a few advertisements around the park and watch as your guests flock to the store.

Planet Coaster views its guests as if they are real individuals. When you click on a guest you will be able to see what they are thinking and more importantly, how they are reacting to your park. We were able to observe this awesome feature through the free-roaming camera. Unlike any management games that we have played before, we were able to zoom in so far that we could see tiny details, such as the bolts that hold the rides together. In addition, all rides are also fitted with cameras, enabling you to fixate on a single cabin or seat. Here you can experience the ride in first person or watch your guests’ reactions. Moreover, Frontier have spent a lot of time layering ambient sounds (some recorded from real theme parks) to make the audio seem as realistic as possible. If you are currently zoomed in on a spot that is located near a rollercoaster, you will hear each of the guests on it as they whizz past. In addition, any transition, whether it be loading a park from the main menu or just simply panning from one side of the park to the other, ensures that the audio remains very fluid. Loading screens do not cue a different audio track that will clumsily stop and start, meaning that all audio transitions blend seamlessly.

As we mentioned earlier, we aren’t the most experienced when it comes to playing these types of games. However, the controls felt so intuitive that learning how to play the game was an incredibly simple process. Planet Coaster includes clear instructions, (located in the top right corner of the screen) that guide you through specific tasks within the game. When you place a ride down in your theme park, you are shown exactly what you need to do in order to get the ride running. From placing an entrance to adding a ticket booth, Planet Coaster makes all these steps manageable for new players.

Perfectionists will love the freedom players have in this game. The free-roaming camera allows you to do do things with the props and decorations that you probably didn’t think were possible. There is no collision when it comes to placing decorations. This really opens up the number of options you have to design your park the way you want. For instance, lets say you wanted to create a horror-themed park. You could place a few skulls around the park to give it a spooky feel and that would work fine, but it’s a bit boring. In Planet Coaster, you can stack several skulls on top of each other to form one giant skull, and you can make it even scarier by placing red lights in the skull’s eyes. By removing collision from the decorations, Frontier have given you free reign to create practically anything you want. We cannot stress enough just how simple it is to do what you want. The only thing you are bound by is your imagination.

Modding Support


Frontier have incorporated a system that enables you to share your creations with the rest of the community. For example, if you build a shop that you are particularly proud of, you will be able to save it, copy and paste it in order to use it elsewhere in your park, and also upload and share it with the community. This will effectively save you time when you are building various structures – especially if you want them all to look similar. We particularly like the idea of being able to upload and share your creations as we are really interested to see what the community will actually create.

System Requirements


Unfortunately, we cannot currently tell you what the minimum system requirements are for the game as they have not been announced. However, it is running on the same engine as Elite: Dangerous so players can potentially use that for reference. Although we were not told just how powerful the machine we played on was, we can safely say that the game ran at a smooth 60FPS. Despite running on a pre-alpha build, Planet Coaster looked and ran like a game that is practically finished. The impressive thing is that Planet Coaster will not be released until the end of 2016, giving the developers even more time to polish it even further.

Frontier Developments has revealed to us what the system requirements for the Alpha Build are, although the developer did say that these will change dramatically in the run up to release.

• Windows 7 64bit or newer
• Intel Core i5 -2300, AMD FX-4300 or better
• 8GB Ram
• Nvidia GTX 560 / ATI Radeon 7850 Graphics card with 2GB of Graphics Memory or better

We’ll keep you posted on any system requirement changes as we learn more in the build up to the release of the final version of Planet Coaster.

Additional Thoughts


Planet Coaster caught us completely off-guard but in the best way. We had no idea what to expect but now that we have experienced a small portion of what the game has to offer, we cannot wait to get our hands on it again! Thankfully we won’t have to wait long as the alpha goes live this Tuesday (22nd March). We’ll have more information on the full system requirements, modding capabilities and rides in the coming weeks once we’ve got access to a full alpha build.

Most Anticipated Feature: Building our own rollercoaster!