Invasions is the second expansion for Age Of Wonders: Planetfall. It is available on Humble Bundle, Steam, Paradox Plaza, Playstation 4, and Xbox One. Joseph Pugh conducted this review using the PC version of the game.
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Invasions Planetfall with a new playable faction complete with its own campaign, a minor NPC faction, and a handful of new features. The Shakarn are a race of lizards playing off of the conspiracy trope of secret lizard people hidden within society.
The Shakarn are sneaky and brutish in equal measure, the very concept is embedded between its two castes. The large powerful Domok and the thinner more agile Zarda.
The Therians, on the other hand, are space pirates with a unique flair. They work together using pack tactics and like other NPC factions, you may integrate them into your forces by working with them.
Invasions brings new threats and opportunity in the form of world events and the aptly named Voidbringer Invasions that call forth a mysterious enemy to disrupt the game. Invasions also features a new type of gameplay mode and two campaign missions based around the Shakarn.
Shakarn Your Money Maker
The stars of the show are undoubtedly the Shakarn. Planetfall’s factions are all varied with interesting gameplay themes and styles. The Sharkarn fit right in alongside them, bringing a combination of brute force and covert guile.
Like the other races, the Shakarn come with a racial tech tree and a plethora of units, buildings mods, and ops. They use lasers in tandem with a brand new sonic damage type.
I should note that if you own the previous expansion, Revelations. There are no Shakarn commanders that use the Heritor secret tech out of the box. This is probably because not every player will own both. If you want to fight as or against a Heritor Sharkarn, making a few of them is incredibly simple.
On the battlefield, the Sharkarn tend to have a shorter range but the duality of their ranged weapons damage types tends to make resisting them difficult. Many of them have powerful close range blasts that can stagger or concuss foes. Others can mimic enemy units or even deploy sleeper agents to outnumber enemy forces unexpectedly. To top it all off, many Sharkarn regenerate a small bit of HP every turn.
During strategical gameplay, the Sharkan use propaganda and holograms on both their own populace and other factions. By infiltrating an enemy, they can steal and use other factions’ racial techs, and many units are camouflaged in the water.
The Shakarn’s unique style of play is a little tough to learn but rewarding. You can definitely play as a manipulator, pulling strings behind the scenes, a crushing force, or a combination of both. The Shakarn pair well with all of the secret techs and they are an excellent addition to the game roster.
A few of their vehicles are a little disappointing from a visual standpoint. They look a bit generic and I probably wouldn’t have guessed they belonged to a lizardfolk faction if I were shown them out of context. They are however effective and fun to use.
The campaign not only does a great job of showcasing both sides of the Shakarn, but is a great way to be introduced to all of the new features within Invasions. Like other campaigns, you are presented with choices that not only affect the current mission but the next one. I really enjoyed playing with the hidden lizard people concept in the first mission, yet you can still play aggressively instead if you choose.
The Shakarn are not the only new faces to arrive. The Therians are anthropomorphic animal space pirates following in the shadows of their Deer leader. Triumph Studios really have a knack for taking a silly idea and making it work in the game that doesn’t feel odd or out of place.
The Therians are a well-designed NPC faction that adds even more variety and choice in a serious manner. Yet to win them over, you may need to complete quests such as helping them research the meaning of “Who’s a good boy”
The Therians as a faction consists of a variety of anthropomorphic animals. Close combat wolves, chemist squirrels, and sniper foxes to name a few. They work well in packs and if you have ever felt that any of your commanders or heroes was incomplete without their very own Fursona. You can buy injectors off of the Therians to turn them into one.
Just like the Sharkarn, the Therians are an excellent addition to the roster of the game. They are flexible, fun, and fit perfectly alongside other NPC factions like the angry gamer spacers.
An Eventful Space
Invasions adds world events to the game. A variety of events that can occur randomly and last for a few turns. They usually affect both strategic gameplay and combat. Such as weapon caches falling from space, allowing you to run around and pick up that sweet loot, but debris may fall on units when in battle.
Planetfall’s experience as a whole really benefits from variety. World events are a small and un-intrusive addition that can make pretty big waves on your strategy and helps shake up the variety in the game.
Void-bringer Invasions are a much bigger disruption. They can spawn in mid to late game and dramatically change the situation. They come with a hodgepodge of enthralled units and can become a new win condition by opposing them or joining them. Void-bringers are an ever-present factor as you never know if they will appear and they are another great tool the expansion adds to shake up the gameplay even more.
The mixture of Voidbringer units with a variety of other units from other races can make them a unique foe to contend with in combat. It makes the event very interesting.
The Voidbringers themselves have unique abilities but are visually reskinned Psi-Fish, one of the base games NPC factions. That’s really disappointing considering how core to the theme of the expansion the Void Bringer invasions are.
Invasions also introduces a new type of game mode. Conquered Worlds pits a team of factions against a single player that starts the game much bigger and more powerful than the others. It’s a neat mode that is a lot of fun and adds even more gameplay variety to a title dripping with it.
While not part of the expansion directly, a new patch is dropping alongside it with a ton of fixes but notably an overhaul to the diplomacy system. Commanders now have personality traits that you can discover that influence how the AI plays. It’s a fine addition to the game that I felt was worth a mention. I really enjoy it.
Invasions is well worth its weight in content. The Shakarn and Therians are great additions to the game and add even more combo potential with the existing secret techs. The new campaign is solid and introduces the player to most of the new features that Invasions brings, while world events and Void bringers can really shake things up during a game.
Any complaint I have is largely lost within the noise, sure I don’t like some of the visual styles of a few Sharkarn vehicles and I’m disappointed that the Void Bringers are reskinned Psi-Fish, but that’s largely superficial and only marginally impacted my enjoyment compared to the rest of Invasions.
If Revelations was an appetizer, Invasions is the dessert to Planetfall’s main course and I have a sweet tooth. It’s a great addition to the base game and compliments it with every feature it brings.
A copy of the game was provided for Gideon’s Gaming for review By Paradox Interactive.
- The Shakarn are a unique and fun race that fits well alongside the others
- The Therians are another great NPC faction to be integrated or conquered
- World events and Void bringers go a long way to shake up the turn to turn gameplay
- The Conquered Planet game mode offers a neat unique scenario
- The Shakarn campaign is solid and is a great entry point to view the expansion’s features.
- The visual style of some Shakarn vehicles looks generic
- The Voidbringers are reskinned psi-fish