“Sah! We have routed the right flank of Xenomorphs and the central battalion of Cranoid from Mars attack is under fire from our artillery, what are your orders?”
If that sentence was even slightly interesting to you, then you’ll like 8-Bit Invaders. A blocky top-down RTS, with two several-hour-long campaigns, co-op campaigns, multiplayer and single-player skirmishes, and a multiverse mode (which we’ll look at that later on).
Each of the campaigns detail the factions rise to power, fighting off enemies, and discovering new units and buildings to be used in the next mission. Each mission is broadly the same, with some slight differences, such as destroying specific units, or just destroying everything the enemy has, like a petty child throwing away another child’s toys. In addition to unlocking new items, completing a mission on a harder difficulty earns you stars.
The skirmish mode is fairly straight forward, select a map, choose teams, AI difficulty, and factions. More interesting is the Multiverse mode, where you battle the enemy over several parallel universes. The easiest way to explain this mode is likening it to a RTS within an RTS, which sounds like a lot of clicking around, many peoples nightmare. In actuality though, this mode is a well thought out cross between the common battles of RTS’s and the top down civilisation builder genre.
There are two ‘modes’ to the multiverse game, the ‘world’ view and the ‘game view’. The world view is made up of large hexagons, each representing a different world. With the two players at opposite ends of this map, you are tasked with taking over parallel worlds, to eventually reach the enemies home world and destroy them. Buildings and units can be constructed in the ‘world view’, but you must research the technology first. To invade other worlds, you must select units and send them to attack a neighbouring world. Once situated there, a normal skirmish game plays out, and once finished you (hopefully) have a new territory to build on and expand your reach.
Most of the buildings are production buildings, creating several types of units. Some also are stepping stones for other units, and there is one ‘resource enhancer’ to increase your resource gain. Plonking down a building costs some resources, but needs no workers or little drone things to build it. Instead, it rises out of the ground like some ungodly turret from the Borderlands, bits and pieces coming out of other bits and generally looking pretty cool. One super cool feature that I love is that, if you build 3 infantry barracks, instead of all your troops coming out of 3 separate buildings like a large tour group stuck on the tube, they all come out of the first one three times faster. This little change makes it much easier to build structures without worrying about troop flow, which especially helps when you can only build within a small radius to your base.
There are two resources each faction has to look after in 8-Bit invaders, money and power/population. Money is collected from resource generators across the map, and is collected by a little AT-AT walker for the marines, and a weird brain thing for the Cranoids. Such vehicles and produced at your HQ and travel across the map to the closest resource point. Once at the point, they hook on and you ‘control’ that point, collecting money and having a large area of the map revealed.
Power is the marines second resource, and is produced in power plant buildings, and is used up by every other building you construct. If your power requirements are larger than your production, your buildings will run at a lower speed until you construct more pylons, ahem, power generators. Meanwhile, the Cranoids have a population limit, with a ‘motivator’ that increases your population limit by 20. Obviously these promote different play styles, the marines being able to raise large armies quickly, but the Cranoids are able to build lots of buildings to rebuild small armies.
Each faction has a super weapon, a unit constructed in a ridiculously expensive building. These elite units are automatically constructed if the building exists and no super units already exists. With several independently aimed and firing abilities, these units are the pièce de résistance (no not the Lego movie thing) of any army. The marines super unit, which I like to call the “Humongous-ultra-fuck-off-mecha”, or HUFOM (™), has a barrage of rockets that can destroy enemy units in a large area, a bloody big laser cannon, and finally a massive machine gun that cuts down enemy troops like a chainsaw against tree saplings.
Each race has a variety of units to field, from infantry up to large mechanised robots. Both factions have unique units, to complement different play styles. My favourite unit is the Cranoids Xenodog, an obvious reference to the Xenomorphs from Alien. One lovely little detail that made my heart jump was the acidic blood of dead Xenomorphs. Lying in pools on the ground, it damages any enemy units that walk over it, a tiny detail that dramatically changes how the game plays, as well as making a great link back to the Alien movies.
8-Bit Invaders links a lot to contemporary culture. The xenomorphs and Cranoids are obvious examples, but dotted around the levels are a plethora of references to pop culture. A TARDIS stuck in the mud, the “Thank you! but our leader is on another planet” at the end of every mission, and ‘Dukat’ and ‘Harkness’ being listed in the roster of AI names.
8-Bit Invaders is a bit odd when it comes to the difficult settings, in that it’s all over the place. When on the beginner difficulty, its a cake walk, with enemies rarely venturing outside of their base. Normal means they might send a scout or two out, but otherwise nothing. Hard is pretty solid, with the enemy just below your skill level. And then on insane, it’s hard to make any headway against a seemingly omnipotent and omniscient enemy which fields vast armies seemingly perfectly counter picked for your army. While I understand the need to teach players the ropes then increase the difficulty over time, the jumps are very severe, and a few difficulty options in between the existing ones would be well welcomed.
8-Bit Invaders is a solid RTS, harkening back to the days of old yet stretching to the future with modern features and layouts. Balance is solid, and battles feel difficult yet fair, a very hard task in any RTS. With enjoying gameplay and nice crisp graphics, 8-Bit Invaders is a great RTS to pick up.