It has been a while since the last expansion for Age of Wonders: Planetfall – Revelations – however the wait has been worth it as this is easily the most content-rich and impactful addition to the game thus far. While the last expansion did offer quite a lot, Invasions takes it a step further. The developers, Paradox Interactive, are not only adding new gameplay features that thoughtfully expand on and twist the moment-to-moment gameplay and offer greater strategy, but are also adding a swathe of new engaging content. It’s an exciting modification to an already great experience, and it feels like Paradox are really hitting their stride here.
The big addition that will excite many dedicated players is the new race, The Shakarn. This is an entirely new faction with all new units, technological upgrades, and unique buildings. A proud warrior race of lizard-like people, they consider themselves superior to all other races in the game and it’s easy to see why. In gameplay, they have access to new and interesting abilities, many of them are massively effective and differ from other factions’ capabilities.
There’s a really unique focus on espionage, stealth, and trickery. Some of the most fascinating and powerful moves at their disposal come from deception. Units have the ability to create holographic decoys that the enemies will focus fire on, some can activate sleeper agents in the enemies ranks, while others can even transform themselves into enemy units. These are some of the most satisfying and fun tactics I’ve used in Planetfall. However this does not necessarily mean that they do not have brute force either, with many buffs and abilities appealing to the warrior race nature of the Shakarn. Even despite all this strength, they still feel balanced, and don’t overpower the base game factions.
Included as well is the NPC race, Therrians, which are anthropomorphic pirate forest animals. They add a funny, tongue-in-cheek touch and actually offer some effective units. Watching SMG wielding bunnies kill whole groups of units is a serious highlight of the whole expansion. Their side quests throughout the main campaign are humorous and offer respite from the serious tone of the narrative being told.
That main campaign is engaging, and much like the previous expansion it offers a large amount of choice and mixes up the traditional objectives seen in the base game. While the plot is somewhat weaker than Revelations, it’s still engaging and offers glimpses into the culture and history of the Shakarn. There are multiple ways to deal with the situations put in front of you, and there are even multiple endings depending on what you choose. It also connects to the greater plot and context of all the other campaigns in Planetfall.
Finally, there are two major gameplay additions included in Invasions that really spice things up, especially for the endgame which has been crying out for a much-needed boost. The first is world events, which are essentially massive incidents which affect the whole map: these can be minor, like resource changes for players, or huge, like those which change whole landscapes. While it does not often drastically change the way you play, it does add yet another layer of interesting strategy to consider during games.
A much more exciting and needed addition are the Voidbringers, which are interdimensional monstrosities that are looking to dominate everyone. They can show up around mid-game and their units will appear around the map; players have the option to either fight against them or to join their side. This is especially interesting in multiplayer games where it can turn the whole map into two massive factions. They can be a constant nuisance and the only way to defeat them is to destroy their Beacon, a heavily guarded base, which is only accessible after killing a certain amount of void units. Their presence pauses all victory conditions besides for those who join their cause. This is a gigantic shakeup to the endgame which essentially re-contextualizes your goals and makes it so much more than just beating the other players.
There’s not much bad to say about Ages of Wonders: Planetfall – Invasions on Xbox One as it does everything a good expansion should, adding more of the content that players love while simultaneously improving on the formula of the base game. In my review of Revelations, I said it was a good sign of things to come, and Paradox Interactive proved me right. This is an excellent addition to the game and well worth it for anyone who enjoys or is looking to get back into Age of Wonders: Planetfall. Praise the Shakarn!