Infested Planet, much like the evolving bug aliens that you fight off in the game, has transformed itself from a Steam Early Access title to a full release on Steam. I had the chance to sit down with Infested Planet a number of times over the past few weeks leading up to the release and I’ve struggled quite a bit with what to say about this genre-bending game. As you’ll come to read, that’s not at all a bad thing.
Infested Planet is a very different game in many ways. To truly be familiar with everything Infested Planet does you’d probably need to be well versed in both tower defense and squad-based RTS games. As the Steam tags would seem to indicate, it’s difficult to really define Infested Planet as belonging to a single genre. So many different systems come together to make Infested Planet a unique blend of tower defense and real-time strategy. Infested Planet feels so different that in my mind the only game I can even compare its gameplay style to is Mud and Blood 2, a very obscure flash-based WW2 game.
Both games share a similar view, gameplay style, and notoriously brutal AI with a wide range of tricks to completely tank your strategy. You see, I played a lot of Mud and Blood 2 in college, and have long yearned for a game that could match many of the addicting qualities of that game. Infested Planet nails just about all of them and improves tenfold in many areas. Most people haven’t played a game like this before, but you absolutely should give this unique genre a try.
Infested Planet offers a scripted campaign that increases with difficulty as you progress, so much so that after nearly 20 hours of gameplay I’m still stuck on one of the final missions. Throughout the campaign players unlock new technology such as buildings, weapons, and defenses that can be used in subsequent missions. These different unlocks form the bread and butter of your strategic options and vary so greatly in design that it’s possible to play Infested Planet many different ways. Players that want to turtle can do that to a degree, offensive players can gamble with their lives for a chance to expand, and clever resource managers can slowly expand while maintaining a defensive advantage.
Oftentimes my tactics in squad-based games include rushing in with brute force only to eventually overextend myself with a false sense of confidence at which point I either retreat or lose entirely. Infested Planet will punish the hell out of you for thinking you’re better than it. In fact, in the later missions if you are outplaying the AI it will just decide to evolve and do crazy things like make clones of your squad or send a giant beetle to build a new base in front of your base. Infested Planet uses unyielding complete brutality to overwhelm you with endless waves of enemies coming from multiple directions. Just when you think you’ve made headway a new hive awakens and begins spewing newly evolved creatures from a path you haven’t had the chance to defensively harden.
Even when you’ve finished the challenging campaign there is a ton to do in Infested Planet. Random missions offer time based challenges that range from easy to nearly impossible and that’s assuming you get a fairly randomized map. In one instance I started the most difficult random mission only to find that the enemy hive closest to me had a long range missile turret that immediately began decimating my marines. Maybe I could have survived the onslaught of missiles with time, but a 2 minute time limit mixed with hundreds of enemies swarming on my weakened defenses meant I had been defeated in literally seconds. As frustrating as that might sound, nothing about Infested Planet makes me want to close the game and give up.
Despite the brutality, Infested Planet is a game that I want to come back and challenge myself with. I’ve still only unlocked half of the Steam achievements thus far, and that’s simply not enough for a person like me playing this type of game.Graphics
For this type of game I would say the graphics are nearly perfect. Even a little bit additional realism would greatly take away from the game in my opinion. The stylized cartoon realism and top down view add so much to the overall game.Sound
The sounds are all crisp and clear. Infested Planet does suffer a bit from the usual issue that oftentimes affect these games in that it faithfully recreates the sounds of as many units as it can. When you’re dealing with hundreds of enemies on screen this can cause a whole bunch of similar sounds pumping through your speakers at the same time. Thankfully the music is great, so bring that music slider all the way up and kill some bugs!Gameplay
The gameplay is challenging, addictive, disheartening, and thoroughly enjoyable all at the same exact time. While a setback might be frustrating, Infested Planet always makes you seem that you have a chance to come back from adversity, however fleeting that chance may be.User Interface
UI is minimalist for sure, but also completely functional. The developer clearly went with a less is more approach and when it comes down to it that’s all a player needs to succeed in the mission. I did however encounter two UI bugs throughout the Early Access phase that carried over to retail release. One of them, an invisible icon for the officer upgrade in the pre-mission buy menu, was somewhat gameplay-affecting. This game could easily be ported to mobile devices and retain the exact same UI.Performance
Overall the game runs extremely well, even while recording gameplay I was able to run on max settings with very little slowdown. I was especially impressed with the ability to set the AI’s CPU affinity from within the in-game settings.