The RTS genre is a pretty wide thing, and there are many games that can fall under it. Infested Planet is a different take on it, putting me in charge of a small group of marines and pitting me against enemies that number in the thousands. Does this approach work, or should this planet be quarantined?
The story in Infested Planet is mostly just there to provide some context. A new planet is discovered and questions to its habitability are raised. Soldiers arrive to clear it out, and along with them a mercenary group called Drake’s Devils. In fighting between the army and the mercenaries is already bad enough, but the planet hosts a dark secret in the form of an alien life. You play as an unnamed unseen commander for Drake’s Devils who is tasked with assisting in clearing out the aliens. The story is simple and the few plot points are all pretty expected. The characters are entertaining enough to help carry it, but there’s not much here for people looking for something deep.
Infested Planet’s simple presentation works towards its advantage. The game is shown completely from a top-down view and can be zoomed in and out to a pretty surprising amount. Extremely large amount of enemies can swarm the screen at the same time, but with only one enemy type it becomes easy to tell what you’re up against. It’s easy to find my marines, though at a glance it’s difficult to see exactly what weapon they’re carrying. I also had some problems with the game’s building menus, which are circular in design for no real reason and seemed to have no rhyme or reason as to where the hotkeys went (“V” for building? “W” for turret? What?) The music was forgettable and there’s no voice acting during the cutscenes.
The main goal in every battle is to try and clear out the alien’s hives and replace them with control points. Each hive is built on a point and spawns swarms of very weak aliens until it is destroyed. At the start of the game clearing out the hives is easy enough, but the swarms of enemies are always getting tougher and the hives begin to get poisonous towers and extra enemy spawns around them. The game continues to provide challenge with its mutation feature. Every time I captured a control point there was a chance the enemies would ‘mutate’ to provide more of a challenge. There’s a very large list of mutations and they ranged from trivial updates to complete game changers. One mutation may cause hives to spawn clones of marines, while another may cause them to make extremely fast offensive pushes every time they lose a hive. Each capture was a small victory and a worry that I may not be able to get the next point.
Yet each capture also awarded me with BP and I could spend that on many items to counter the mutations. I could add and remove troops at will, spending or reclaiming my BP in the process. There were also three menus I could go into to either place defensive structures, passive buff granting research buildings, or changing my soldier’s classes. One interesting feature is that at any time I could recycle buildings or send my units back to the default class and reclaim all my BP. This meant changing strategies on the fly was extremely easy, and I never felt penalized for placing defensive structures that may eventually outlive their use. Likewise, it never felt like the end of the world if I mismanaged something and got overran as losing a building also completely refunded me, while soldiers were just put on cooldown timers. Completing missions also saw me rewarded with cash which I could use to buy new classes or structures to place on missions, or for one-use buffs to start missions with better troops or more resources.
While most of the 20-ish mission campaign plays the same, there are a few missions that change the pace a bit. One required me to complete it under a time limited and granted me extra time every time I took out a hive, while another saw me dragging pods to a doctor while preventing enemies from dragging them off the map. They’re good mix-ups for the game. There were also optional random assignments that would let me earn extra cash and continually raise difficulty for better rewards. They’re tough, but perfect for anyone looking for more challenge. Sadly after beating the story mode there really isn’t much else to do. I could replay on a harder difficulty, and I could set up skirmish missions that let me customize a surprisingly large amount of details for the battles, but there’s no multiplayer of any kind and little replay value to the game.
Still, Infested Planet is a lot of fun. It’s a simple indie RTS that manages to balance accessibility and difficulty really well. I don’t know if I’ll go back to it now that I finished it, but anyone who’s looking for something a little lighter on the RTS end, or something more single player focused, should give Infested Planet a go.