Having recently played AOW III a lot(had it as a podcast game for awhile)...Now that I've got a bit more experience with military systems around conquest, I've got to say that I really like the way it's handled. Cutting off sectors just generally works better than occupying resource nodes did, the timers are reasonable, and the one turn rebuild for turrets, wall style, is generally a lot of fun. Though given the number of ground units you'd think they'd still have walls in the future.
I'm also genuinely impressed by how different the factions are. The AoW III races racial units had a tendency to be a bit overly similar, with maybe a standout or two that were genuinely different. Here though? There's a broad role similarity and tech tree similarity (which isn't my favorite thing, but was expected) but there are genuinely major differences between the units and more reason to use them instead of going all in on faction units. Especially the workhorse infantry; there's huge differences there that are really well done.
I both agree and disagree with this. Now, I'm not going to get to play Planetfall for awhile, but I can already tell the difference between races is way higher than it was in AOW III. However, some things I'd note,
1. The Secret Techs, from what I can tell, are way, way less impactful than class choice was in AOW III. I think this makes sense, given that the DVAR and Syndicate are way more different from each other compared to say, Elves versus Humans, but its still a difference worth noting.
2. Race differences could actually get pretty extreme in some cases. Like, Goblins having awful normal infantry, but really excellent pike infantry, as an example. Now, how much that showed up in playthroughs... I don't know, given how often racial units would rapidly get traded out for class units, which speaks to the balance issues AOW III could have.
With all that said, yeah, Planetfall does do better at overt race difference, which is probably a better approach.
Well, that, and holy crap this game seems to have a way better strategic layer!
This is what I actually really liked about AOW III, on replaying it. For all the issues the Age of Wonders series can have, and AOW III specifically, it's a series that I think has a really clear sense of focus.If anything they're further apart. AoW is way over on the squad tactics side of 4x games, with a very limited scope (a planet, yes, but the map's aren't actually planetary scale by any stretch of the imagination). Meanwhile Stellaris is stupid huge, all combat is spaceships, and it fundamentally focuses on massive scale politics.
I bring this up because there's a lot of 4X games that either are trying to slavishly recreate games like Masters of Orion 2, or, are trying to do way, way, way too many separate things at once. Age of Wonders, while clearly inspired by games like Masters of Magic, and later on, taking some inspiration from Civilization 5, I think has a clear identity it tries to accomplish. Which is namely a game with awesome tactical combat that is well supported by the strategic layer. It even manages to differ itself from Total War with its strategic layer having a little bit more depth, and the combat being more... approachable, for lack of a better word.
Granted, don't know how Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic was like in this regard, which I bring up specifically as that seems to be the best of the 2-D Age of Wonders games.