As films like Aliens and Starship Troopers have demonstrated, watching an outnumbered squad of space marines annihilate hordes of enraged enemies can be delightfully cathartic. The recent release of Rocket Bear Games’ Infested Planet attempts to adapt that exhilaration into interactive form, as a base team of five leathernecks battle a propagating plague of evolving creatures. In execution, it’s a continuation of a concept that Rocket Bear first explored in their freeware title, Attack of the Paper Zombies. Fusing real-time strategy fundamentals along with Galcon’s shifting tide of momentum, Infested Planet proves to be both accessible and absorbing.
Like any respectable game built upon RTS basics, Infested Planet gradually teaches its tenets across of series of introductory stages. Forsaking traditional resource gathering and elaborate tech-trees, the title’s concentration is squarely on tactical combat. Using traditional troop maneuvering methods, players use their mouse to either ensnare a swath of squad members or pin-point an individual unit for orders. Unsurprisingly, a click of the right mouse button offers a context-based instruction, either to move to specific place or to attack a particular foe, depending on what’s under the cursor.
So far, so conventional. At least until players will come into contact with Infested Planet’s grubs. Typically traveling in enormous torrents, Marines can stand their ground and mow down this pestilence with their standard issue pulse rifles. However, if the devil dogs charge into a sizable surge of enemies, their encircling health meter begins to wane. Fortunately, death isn’t always an irreversible setback- troops will respawn at any captured checkpoints after a few seconds. Of course, if you let the aliens overrun all of your outposts, defeat will be nearly inevitable.
Although the grubs have strength if numbers, the grunts have the advantage of advanced weaponry. Shotguns trade range for blast power, while RPGs can quickly destroy spawning spots, offensive gun emplacements, or alien hives. Ammo for these armaments either replenishes gradually or can be quickly filled by sending a marine to one of the depositories that are scattered across most playfields. Every captured outpost rewards players with BP, which can be used to outfit your marines with amenities like flamethrowers, towable health regeneration stations, extra troops, or even the ability to call in helicopter strikes.
Arguably one of the best investments for your space bucks in the stationary turret, which can be used as a defensive sentry, or placed by a courageous corpsman to whittle away at the health of an alien nest. Like most of Infested Planet’s elective equipment, each turret can be immediacy recycled, giving players a complete reimbursement on their investment. As such, gamers will likely employ a tactic of cyclical building, scrapping, and rebuilding to ebb away at their opponents. The game’s other strategy is to zoom out, studying the map for chokepoints, and post marines and sentries at crucial locations while remaining troops rush the hives.
Undoubtedly, these approaches could rapidly propel players through Infested Planet’s campaign, if it wasn’t for one disruptive obstacle- mutations. Midway through a stage, the aliens can evolve, adding a variable that forces gamers to modify their playstyle. From growing an exoskeleton capable of resisting shotgun blasts, adding a fury-induced movement speed, or spitting marine-melting acid from hives, each modification forces gamers to adjust their attack stratagem. Another element to keep Infested Planet fresh are the variety of game types: from procedurally generated skirmish maps, weekly challenges, and even a campaign that splits into three offering tempting detours like cash-earning side missions. Those hoping to unleash the grubs against the marines will be disappointed to learn that the title is geared toward the single-player.
Adeptly, Infested Planet doesn’t force a single solution set on players, instead allowing them to come up with their policies. To assist this type of autonomy, gamers also reach credits for the completion and even attempt of each stage. This currency can be used to purchase either permanent upgrades such as bunkers which can heal marines or deployable minefields or single-use perks like mercenaries or extra shotguns.
Although Infested Planet exhibits competently rendered battlefields, the title suffers from a lack of visual diversity. Stages are viewed from a top-down perspective, flaunting nicely drawn alien landscapes which get coated with an ample amount of crimson splatter. Other graphical elements don’t fare as well- such as the alien mines which resemble asterisks. But the larger issue is the lack of distinctive backdrops- the title’s visual output feels a bit too static for a twenty-dollar purchase. While the framerate is typically solid once a stage gets going, the first few seconds of a new level can introduce a bit of stutter. The game’s other issue is AI pathfinding. Too often marines will detonate on mines, instead of marching cautiously through areas filled with explosives.
Boasting a substantial campaign and ample supply of auxiliary modes, Infested Planet should keep players busy for at least ten hours. While that duration may be marked by slogging through homogenous-looking battlefields, developer Rocket Bear Games has been diligent with their updates; hopefully, they’ll provide players with a bit more art. Yet even in its current state, the game is immensely enjoyable, allowing players to strategize, shoot, and shop in an effort to stop the alien incursion.
Infested Planet was played on the PC with review code provided by the publisher.