Have you ever lamented the lack of real-time strategy games on consoles? If so, Petroglyph Games once again has you covered. The third installment of their 8-Bit series, 8-Bit Invaders, is being beamed up onto console platforms, bringing alien-blasting goodness to PS4 and Xbox One players. Unlike the fantasy-themed 8-Bit Hordes, 8-Bit Invaders does away with ogres and wizards in favor of marines and aliens, but retains the series’ focus on casual, accessible fun.
In many ways, 8-Bit Invaders is very much a reskin of the games that came before it. The core mechanics and functionality are the same, so players of the previous two games will find themselves right at home here. If you’re new to the franchise, or to RTS games in general, the developers have clearly gone to great lengths to make your introduction as painless as possible. An optional tutorial explains the basic gameplay, but 8-Bit Invaders is a very straightforward experience either way. The interface has also been tailored for console play, with building and unit wheels replacing the original grid interface, and auto-assigned, one-click unit teams replacing the click-and-drag approach used on PC.
Like other 8-Bit games, the campaign here features two factions, each with twelve missions to battle your way through. On one side, you can play as the Marines, a faction focused on high-tech firepower whose design and aesthetics are very reminiscent of the GDI team from the Command & Conquer franchise. Opposing them are the alien Cranioids, a bunch of hostile extraterrestrials whose units range from fiendish, otherworldly attack dogs to colossal tripods. I’m probably reading a little too much into Petroglyph’s history, but the Cranioids’ units certainly reminded me of the Scrin from Command & Conquer 3 – and that’s not a bad thing. The Scrin were cool, and the Cranioids are similarly fun to play with.
Battles generally follow the classic RTS procedure of gathering resources, constructing a base and assembling an army to defeat your enemy. Your Harvester unit is integral to maintaining your finances: it’ll set itself up in the nearest unoccupied resource node and provide a steady source of income. Each new type of building you construct will often give you access to new structures and/or units, providing you with more powerful assets as progress through each faction’s tech tree – its own specific set of assets.
In the campaign itself, the objective system returns from previous games. I was quite fond of it in my review of 8-Bit Hordes, and my opinion is no different here. Every mission has three objectives for you to complete: a bronze, silver and gold task. Clearing the bronze objective is how you beat each mission – it’s your priority target for that stage. The silver and gold objectives, while optional, are definitely worth attempting. The loadout system used in the 8-Bit games, which determines your starting resources and units, depends entirely on you accomplishing these optional missions.
Initially, your starting forces and finances will be rather meager. Although new technologies are unmissable, the silver and gold tasks will, if completed, provide you extra units, buildings, and money at the start of each mission. If one particular objective is giving you trouble, it’s perfectly viable, not to mention a lot of fun, to complete a few more missions before returning with a much larger, more powerful starting force. Part of the appeal of RTS games is in using a much larger army to crush your enemy, and the 8-Bit games understand that perfectly.
The loadout system was the best part of 8-Bit Hordes for me, and I’m similarly impressed with it here. Replaying old missions in RTS games isn’t anything new, but it’s usually the same experience over and over again. The enhanceable loadout in the 8-Bit games offers a fresh take on retreading familiar ground. There’s something immensely cathartic about going back to a mission that once gave you trouble, only now you’re coming in with a base and army perhaps three times the strength you once had.
Outside of the campaign mode, there’s plenty to keep players occupied. A separate co-op campaign allows you to team up with friends, and the traditional skirmish mode makes a welcome return. Heading online will allow you to test your skills against other players – even those on other 8-Bit games! Even if you only own 8-Bit Invaders, you can play with or against players on Armies and Hordes. If you want to pit the Deathsworn from Hordes against Invaders’ Cranioids, or any other faction combination you can think of, the cross-game functionality has you covered.
Like its predecessors, 8-Bit Invaders features a charming, retro-themed style. It’s an interesting mix of true old-school design, where artistic vision was often limited by the technology available, and the more detail-oriented approach of modern games. Although the cute, voxel-based design isn’t going to blow any minds, it adds a good deal of character to a game that already has plenty going for it. As for music, fans of Frank Klepacki’s iconic RTS scores will once again find themselves in familiar territory: 8-Bit Invaders is full of his work. While not quite as memorable as his C&C work, it suits the tone of the game perfectly.
What is 8-Bit Invaders, then? For those who have played other games in the series, it might seem overly familiar. The mechanics are largely the same, and we’re yet again presented with two opposing factions, each with 12 missions to beat, alongside a separate co-op campaign and a skirmish mode. For new players, however, this is an excellent entry point for the series and the genre as a whole. Easily accessible and effortlessly fun, this is a surprising amount of RTS fun in a compact package. It may not have the longevity of larger-scale strategy games, but here’s still plenty to love here.