A newly introduced species of the reptilian sort shakes up the Planetfall setting with a variety of new tricks for establishing their supremacy.
Type: Single-player, Multi-player
Developer: Triumph Studios
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Release date: 26 May, 2020
I’ve been a long-time fan of the Age of Wonders series, though I was a bit apprehensive when it came to the Planetfall spin-off. Age of Wonders 3 still has a spot reserved for it among my favorites (I still haven’t made it through even half of the campaigns), but the newest release didn’t quite jump out at me at first glance as those prior had. After diving into it and giving it a real shot, Planetfall brings some interesting new ideas in, but ultimately, falls short of the incredible title that came before it. That said, it’s certainly not the worst game out there and I’ll likely be returning to it again in the future if it continues to improve.
Invasions, the newest expansion for Planetfall, is a step in the right direction. A new player faction, complete with its own campaign, breathes more life into the experience, as do the accompanying additions like the NPC faction and world events.
Burly Dromok and Cunning Zardas
The Shakarn are the new playable faction that consists of a variety of anthropomorphic reptilians that seek to conquer the galaxy for themselves. They’re divided into three castes that are reflected on their roster: Dromok, Zardas, and Gama. Dromok are the big, burly forces that are most at home when duking it out, blow-for-blow, with their foes. They’re powerful and dangerous combatants that make up the front line. Alternatively, the Zardas prefer to use their brains instead of their brawn. They focus on the arts of deception to eliminate their unsuspecting foes, often even taking their shape and capabilities or backstabbing from behind. The last of these, the Gamas, are the leaders, origination from one of these castes biologically but adapting the strengths of both for their use. These are your heroes and, as we’ve already seen with other factions, they can vary wildly based on their class and your chosen upgrades.
The above strengths and weaknesses become clear as you play and the Shakarn offer a unique experience as enjoyable as any other faction. They begin with aquatic deployment tech and amphibious units which officially makes them the go-to for those with their eyes on the seas and their islands. Terrifyingly enough, they’re also able to steal racial technologies and adapt them to their own uses which has the potential to be very powerful in the right hands. Finally, they’re also masters of propaganda and can use this to control their own populations as well as sow chaos among their foes in a multitude of ways.
The Shakarn campaign is an interesting look at their culture itself as they make their moves on Star Union space. You’ll gain plenty of insight on their values and the different views of their castes within, starting with the initial stealthy invasion right into the destructive war that follows. I had fun with the story overall, but the experience still felt a bit shallow and I usually couldn’t play for more than an hour or two in a single session.
Furries Galore and a ‘Free’ Invasion
The Therians are the newly introduced non-player faction that looks like something straight out of a furry convention. Their story is that they’re the result of failed experiments involving human and animal DNA that have banded together to survive the perils of the galaxy, most often via hit-and-run piracy. They arrive complete with their own batch of relation quests that tend to lean toward the humorous and several units that can be recruited with a focus on dealing damage at close range. These units are pretty solid all things considered, though I didn’t feel anywhere near the investment in them as I did the Shakarn.
The Shakarn don’t have a monopoly on invasions in Star Union space; now while the Voidbringers enjoy getting their hands dirty. Their units have something of an ethereal appearance to them and remind me of something that would fit right in with Lovecraftian mythos. Their stats keep them competitive even in the later portions of the game when they arrive and they’re likely to add some challenge to prevent you from getting bored as you clean up the map. I liked this faction and the feeling of otherworldly malevolence that they carry with them, a great villain-themed addition for the late game.
Age of Wonders: Planetfall continues to improve from its somewhat shallow start and Invasions is its most recent success story on this path. The Shakarn are a unique faction that fits in with the setting and seems to be balanced well considering all of the powerful capabilities that they have access to. The Theriancs and Voidbringers are both welcome additions to the gameplay, though thematically the latter is more exciting due to the former often feeling like more comedic relief. The price tag itself seems reasonable if you’re a Planetfall fan and want more of what you already enjoy, but I wouldn’t jump in for it if you’re trying the base game out for the first time unless it’s heavily discounted. At the end of the day, I’m still feeling a bit lukewarm overall when it comes to this title, but I’m cautiously optimistic if new DLC like this continues to be released.