All hail the lizard people!

Title: Invasions DLC
Platform: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 (reviewed)
Developer: Triumph Studios
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Release date: Out now
Tl;dr: If the conspiracy therory’s as good as this then I’m all for it
Price: £18.99/$19.99
Family Focus?: Click here for more information

Praise the Lizard-people! The Lizard-people are our friends! Long live the Lizard-people!

No, I’m not talking about the nutty conspiracy theory suggesting there’s an elite group of Lizards disguised as people that secretly rule the entire planet. I’m talking about Invasions, the new DLC for Age of Wonder: Planetfall and the new reptilian race called the Shakarn. With tricks like the ability to cloak or to disguise themselves as another race, they’re a dirty bunch, but it didn’t take me long to fall in love with ‘em.

Led by the level-headed Commander, Naranga Od, alongside her stereotypically gruff Army General, Kudat Rotak, players can look forward to a whole host of new units to control, including the Raiders (general foot-soldiers), Recon (flying low-level vehicle), Sleeper Agents (hand-to-hand combat unit), and DeadEyes (snakelike brutes), among a whole host of others. The cool thing is that some of the units are able to use holographic disguises on the battlefield, which mimic foes and their abilities and can confuse players to no end. It takes a bit of getting used to, and I’ll admit that the first time I used the technique I was a little confused about what was going on, but once I got the hang of it I always made sure there were one or two units with the ability in my armies because I found it to be so effective, not to mention fun!

But it’s not just the lizards out there you have to worry about; there’s also a new NPC race, called the Therians. Like the Shakarn the Therians have their own strengths and weaknesses, too. Described as a rogue militia that fuses its own DNA with that of animals, I found the Therians to be schemers when at the negotiation table, often getting my armies to help them with a particular task, for example exterminating an opposing army that they claimed had become dangerous after combining their DNA with an alien animals DNA, only to then find out post-extermination that the real reason they wanted my help was to get to the scientific research/goods below. I felt used and, after a hard-fought battle, a little abused. My advice: take their word with a pinch of salt.

Obviously, as Invasions is DLC, we’re not expecting much in the way of changes to gameplay mechanics – it’s still 4X turn-based strategy – but there has been an interesting new tweak to the environment. World Events now play a part in your quest for dominance, though you’ll never know how or when they’re going to strike or who they’ll be benefitting. Boasting over 20 different means of shaking things up, some of the big ones listed are pirates, superstorms, and solar flare catastrophes. Whilst I didn’t encounter any of these specific incidents during my playtime, I did have a meteor strike aid me in battle, causing substantial damage to the sizable opposing army. Although the event itself and the army it affects is supposedly random, I couldn’t help but think that in that particular battle someone up there was looking out for me. Phew.

Sometimes it’s the inclusion of randomly generated army destroying World Events that get the blood pumping and sometimes it’s just the little things, you know? Take, for example, the detail that has gone into the sounds and movements of the Shakarn. The developers haven’t just thrown a new lizard skin onto the current character models and left it lifeless and dull, no, there’s tail swinging animation (for those that have tails, anyway) and reptilian sound effects upon movement, in this case, a general hissing when moving around the maps. I couldn’t get enough of this and it really shows the attention to detail that the developers have applied to make this new DLC and its flag bearing race stand out from the others available in-game.

I’ve found with Planetfall that some of the character writing can be a little…hit and miss, shall we say. It’s not that they’re not fleshed out enough – which they are – but more that, on occasion, whether it be a consequence of a conversation having to be read rather than said or perhaps a slight ‘offishness’ with regards to the English being used (Triumph Studios is Dutch, after all), the characters struggle to come to life, their attempts at humour often miss the mark, and the whole things can feel a bit ‘2D’. With Naranda Od and Kudat Rotak, this is less the case as they seem to bounce off one another better than other characters encountered, though it does still ring true more often than not. If, however, you’re not as picky as I am and can just go with the flow (I’m envious), there are some funny moments to be had: one was to do with a human who had followed our ship to the planet we’d landed on in the hopes of reuniting with his wife. Upon being captured by Kudat Rotak, he’s thrust in front of Naranda Od, who tells him his wife has passed away. Shocked, the man says that’s impossible, he spoke to her on the previous planet not long ago and he’s followed her radioactive wedding ring signal to this spot, to wit Naranda Od turns on a holographic projector and becomes his wife, before explaining that it was her all along. Then the man blacks out. A little dark, perhaps, but the thought of this giant lizard lady passing as a human woman and this poor man believing it was his wife was enough to make me giggle. Don’t judge me!

Invasions also has a new game mode, Conquered Worlds, in which players are able to form an alliance in order to topple a king. One player starts as the king of a giant empire and all the other players have to unite with the common goal of bringing them down. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to play this mode as I got too sucked into the new campaign and ran out of time, but the idea is a sound one and it’d be interesting to see what tactics emerge in the community with regard to toppling the empire or stopping it’s destruction.

Overall this is a piece of solid DLC. It has all the charm of the original Planetfall but with a well thought out additional campaign and race, plus challenging environment catastrophes to spice things up on the battlefield. It may be a little on the pricey side for DLC but, I mean, it’s lizard people, and who doesn’t love lizard people?

Long live the Lizard Queen!

The Good

  • Great new race to conquer planets with
  • Fun World Events that can change the tide of battle
  • New game mode!

The Bad

  • A bit pricey

Family Focus

Age of Wonders Planetfall Invasions DLC is rated PEGI 16 and ESRB Teen. Contains blood, violence, and threat. Also, politics, which essentially the same.

This review is based on a retail code of the game supplied by PR for the purpose of review.