Today marks the release of the final ‘8-Bit’ game in the trilogy of pixel-art RTS games, 8-Bit Invaders. Just like its previous siblings, 8-Bit Armies and 8-Bit Hordes, 8-bit Invaders not only looks and plays like a much more casual Command & Conquer title, it comes from Petroglyph, a studio that contains developers from the original Command & Conquer games!
If you’ve played any of the games in the 8-Bit series then you’ve basically played them all, as they are all essentially the same game but with new units, story, visuals and maps. However, 8-Bit Invaders stands out to me as the best game within the franchise thanks to its difficulty, units, accessibility, and overall fun factor. Let’s take a closer look and see just why I feel this game is the one you should pick up first.
As mentioned above, All three games are technically the same, bar a few differences which I’ll cover within the review. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out both my 8-Bit Armies and 8-Bit Hordes reviews by clicking on their name (a new tab will open).
There is a story that runs throughout all three games, and within each of the six factions, however, it’s rather basic and generic as it’s a simple paragraph of exposition rather than a gripping narrative. However, that’s all you need as the 8-Bit games are technically casual RTS games and not narrative-driven ones, such as Sudden Strike, Dungeons III or Halo Wars. As such, fans of the genre may feel the game is a little basic, yet they should enjoy the gradual increase in difficulty along with the satisfying progression and rewards system which is in place.
Each mission will consist of a clear ‘goal’ or objective, this is your mandatory goal which you must meet if you wish the mission to be successful. Whilst playing on Easy, you only have to complete this one goal in order to progress as all other side missions are disabled. If you opt to play on Normal or Hard then you will be given two side missions which, upon successful completion, will unlock permanent boosts on whatever levels you play next. I’ll go into this in more detail below, but I really like the progression and reward system which you are given within this series, it adds a lot of replayability to the game as well as making the game more accessible for people of all skill levels.
The developers have implemented a great control style, for the most part, so that you can easily control everything with your controller without any issues. This is essential as nobody would want to play a split-second RTS game where you’re struggling to operate efficiently. I’m glad developers are getting good at adapting the controller to games that wouldn’t usually use this method, games such as Townsmen, which I reviewed yesterday, also implemented a really good controller mode which actually changed the UI on PC upon swapping over. But I digress! There is one thing I don’t like, which has been the same throughout the trilogy, the creation of units.
I won’t go into it too much, as I’m now used to the process after playing countless hours on all three games, but newcomers may find the controls a little fiddly at first. You see, placing buildings and commanding units is very straight forward, but when you’re building new units, you must use Square, Triangle or Circle to do so. Whichever button you press decides which group the unit will be in upon completion. This means you need to predetermine which units you want in each group. The reason this gets a little fiddly is that once the unit has been created, you can’t swap what group they’re a part of.
Again, as someone who has played the games a lot now, this doesn’t bother me anymore. All three games operate exactly the same, so as you master one, you’ve basically mastered all of them. With all the current fuss about mouse and keyboard on consoles, such as Surviving Mars which has recently added the option to the PS4 and Xbox One, it would have been nice if these games also allowed that option for those who wished to have more control over their units. Or, if the games ever come to the Nintendo Switch (Which is something I would really like to see), hopefully, the controls can be re-adjusted for the touchscreen as well.
Progression and reward via the ‘three-star’ method
I’m not going to go into my hatred of the three-star progression system too much, I don’t like games that hold you back and restrict content until you acquire a certain number of stars. However, the 8-Bit series use this grading system to reward you, rather than restrict you. For example, I always refer back to games such as JYDGE and Road to Ballhalla, both awesome games which I’ve reviewed previously, yet they both offer a three-star grading system based on time, efficiency, and deaths/enemies killed. If you don’t have enough stars, as you may have only got one or two on some of the harder levels, then you’ll hit a wall and have to try and earn more before you can move onto new levels.
In 8-Bit Invaders and the previous two games, instead of having your progress brought to a halt, you actually get rewarded with bonus units and structures so that replaying the levels on a harder difficulty becomes easier. For example, every mission has a mandatory bronze task for you to complete. If you achieve this then you’ll win the level and you can progress to the next one as well as unlock new unit types and structures to build in all levels. However, if you’re playing on medium or hard mode then you’ll be able to complete two other side missions such as killing a certain number of enemies, opening some reinforcement boxes, or slaughtering someone before a set time. Completing these will grant you an increase in your initial loadout.
That’s right, some will increase the amount of money you start with, some will give you a certain building upon starting a mission, and some will have you begin with a number of units at your command. These bonuses also take effect in all missions, even the ones before the one you’re on. So, if you’re stuck on a mission, complete it on Easy, so you can progress, then come back to try again once you’ve unlocked a boost to your initial loadout! I know I’ve said this in each of my reviews for these games, but I really like this process. It gives you a sense of progression, satisfaction, and determination on overcoming the missions on which you’ve failed on. In a way, it’s almost rogue-like.
Why is this game the best?
Technically, all three games are the same, as I mentioned before, yet 8-Bit Invaders felt the best and most enjoyable for me. To understand this, let’s look at what I liked and didn’t like about the previous two games. 8-Bit Armies was very generic, it looked great as it was the first in the franchise, but it was basically a Comand & Conquer de-make with a similar set of units and buildings you would see in those games. 8-Bit Hordes was more fantastical with its Orcs and Dragons yet it suffered from balancing issues. There was a mission that should have taken 15 minutes yet it took me over an hour due to the AI being far more advanced than it should have been. It also swapped out guns for the odd magic spell and a lot of melee weapons, which is great but not as interesting in my opinion.
Then we get to 8-Bit Invaders, which is conveniently about Cranioids (aliens) and Marines (the space kind, not the navy). Gone are the melee weapons as we grab our laser rifles and ray guns! Not only that, the Cranioids have Xenodogs (which are a spitting image of the Xenomorphs from ‘Alien’), giant tripod-based robots, flying saucers, and more, whereas the Marines have badass mechas and cannons. So, I personally found the combat to be a lot more exciting and explosive as rockets and plasma beams are shooting all over the screen, creating their own mini light show!
This also leads to the comment I made regarding accessibility, 8-Bit Invaders is by far the most balanced and ‘easiest’ of the trilogy. Regardless of whichever campaign you choose to play, I never felt like the enemy was overwhelming me or getting an unfair advantage – the opposition offered a decent challenge as I got further into the story, yet I always felt like I could turn the battle around should I find myself outnumbered. However, once I put the game on hard, the game really started to kick my butt so I put it back on medium until I’d unlocked more bonuses via the progression system. Once I’d done this, I was able to overcome the missions and move on with little issues, meaning the progression system and balancing was spot on for me.
The multiplayer aspect is literally the same as 8-Bit Armies and 8-Bit Hordes, only with the two new races and new maps, so I’ve copied the below from my previous reviews and made a couple of amendments:
If you’re tired of playing 8-Bit Invaders on your own, there are a few online options.
• You can play one of ten missions in online co-op with another person (friend or stranger) where it’s both of you commanding units on the same team as you aim to complete the mission and take down the enemy together. These all also come with three objective stars for you to work towards.
• There is also a standard Multiplayer mode. Here you can pick from one of the ten maps which are sorted by how many players they support (2-6). You can set whether you wish the game’s objective to be: destroy all the opponent’s structures, destroy all units and structures, destroy your opponent’s HQ, or assassinate your opponent’s ‘super unit’. You can also adjust how many resources are present in each deposit and if there will be random crate drops which store additional units.
If you still want to play these Multiplayer levels but you can’t find anyone online, jump over to Skirmish mode and you can do exactly the same options as you can in the Multiplayer mode above, only this time it will be you vs 1-5 CPU opponents instead. The good thing about the skirmish is you can even jump into a 3-6 player map and have multiple ‘people’ grouped together. For example, if you want to take on a ‘hard’ CPU but you don’t think you can do it alone, stick a few Easy or Normal CPU AI teams in the game and set them to be your ally. Now it’ll be you three against the one enemy. Obviously, you can flip it and have more against you or a simple free-for-all if you choose as well.
Cross-play with another game?
The rather unique feature about the 8-Bit franchise is the fact that the games are Cross-game. Not to be confused with Cross-play or Cross-platform, Cross-game means that anyone with either of the three 8-Bit games can play anyone else who owns either of the games. For example, Say I owned 8-Bit Invaders yet my mate had 8-Bit Armies, we can play against each other in multiplayer whilst picking from the units from our game. So, I would be able to pick from the Cranioids and Marines and they would have the Renegades and Guardians.
Although, as I own all three games, each of mine picks up on that fact and allows me to pick from any of the six factions upon entering the multiplayer mode, without having to load up a different game to change them around. Similarly, I don’t only have access to the ten maps which 8-Bit Invaders comes packaged with, I have access to all 32 of them (ten for both 8-bit Invaders and Armies, and twelve for 8-Bit Hordes). I love the fact that the developers have done this as it means you can share games with your friends and still play against each other, or you can experiment and play as either one of the factions within any of the maps you’ve played throughout the series.
What I’ve enjoyed doing, even though I’m terrible at it, is starting a six-person skirmish with five CPU controlled players, each one being a different faction. This creates some rather epic and intense gameplay sessions as you’ll see dragons, tanks, aliens, mutants, and space marines all fighting each other as they try to emerge the victor!
Just like the multiplayer section above, the game is technically the same as the previous games in the series. My only issue is one which I’ve also had since day one – you have no control over the camera, so it feels like you’re too zoomed in on the battlefield. I don’t mind about the fixed angle, as it’s very reminiscent of the Comand and Conquer games, but I would have loved the option to zoom out a little and take in more of my surroundings.
I personally feel 8-Bit Hordes has the best environment aesthetics, as it’s nice and colourful with its vivid green fields and castles for you to work through, but I also like the dark areas within 8-Bit Invaders which are instantly lit up once you begin shooting your laser weapons all over the place.
One thing which I did notice, which I don’t recall happening in the previous games, was an issue with the audio balance. I like the music within the game, as it has that B-Movie sci-fi tone to it as it’s all very alien and mysterious., However, thanks to your weaponry generating tonnes of noise, it’s hard to hear the music until you reduce the sound effects in the menu. It’s not a big issue, but either the weapons are louder than usual or the music is quiet on certain maps.
I couldn’t have asked for a better game than 8-Bit Invaders to conclude the franchise with. From its sci-fi themed music and aesthetics to its blatant ‘Alien’ inspired units, the final game in the franchise offers the best balancing, the most explosive wars, and the more accessible adventure for new players. Whether playing on your own as you work through the campaigns or if you grab a mate and do co-op or multiplayer, there are many hours of enjoyment to be found here, many more if you own more than one of the games.
The online with strangers side is still very quiet, which is a shame, but if you’re playing with your mates then it’s a fun experience. 8-Bit Invaders would be the game I recommend everyone who likes the look of the franchise starts out with, followed by 8-Bit Armies and then 8-Bit Hordes.
- - Great sci-fi soundtrack and cool pixel-art visuals
- - Really good balancing which makes it more accessible for everyone
- - Cross-Game multiplayer with all three games and all six factions
- - 24 campaign missions with three difficulty levels in each which offers many hours of entertainment
- - The Xenomorph and Loading Bay mecha suit from 'Aliens' make an appearance
- - The sound levels are a bit off in some maps
- - The online side is still very quiet if looking for a stranger to play against
- - Camera controls are still locked, so no zooming or rotating
- - All three games are essentially the same game but split into three separate purchases