Infested Planet leaves early access, starts slaughtering aliens

A top down view of cartoony helicopter gunships firing rockets into an alien hive.

Infested Planet is out now; here’s our Infested Planet review.

Over the last year, Infested Planet has been one of those games I keep firing up whenever I’m at a loss for how to spend a few minutes. It’s the gaming equivalent of an earworm: something simple and catchy that I never quite appreciated how much I liked until I realized I’d invested several hours in it over the course of a week.

Today, it comes out of Early Access and emerges as a full-grown real-time tactics game, one with heavy overtones of Starship Troopers and maybe just a hint of StarCraft.

Infested Planet is available on Steam for $12 until March 13, at which point it goes up to its regular price.

I stand by most of what I wrote last year. While the game definitely improved since designer Alex Vostrov first showed me a build at GDC, the best parts of this game have been there from there start. It is a methodical advance into the heart of an alien swarm, using massed firepower to keep from being completely overrun. Figuring out how to hold the ground you’ve gained while still keeping up the offensive is the main tension, and it gets increasingly maddening as the difficulty picks up.

I did have reservations about Infested Planet’s lack of challenge, but the more I played, the less I worried about that. Later missions start throwing some serious twists your way, and start demanding a much more varied set of tactics and tools in order to keep making progress.

But really, I think the reason I kept coming back to Infested Planet is the same reason I worried it might be too easy: it’s really not a game with an interest in punishing you. If you screw up, and you will, you don’t fail the mission. You and your squad just get driven back and you end having to retake some lost ground. But there’s never a moment when Infested Planet just terminates a mission and makes you repeat a whole bunch of work because you didn’t figure out the puzzle fast enough. You just stand on the defensive, keeping the aliens at bay, until you work out another approach.

Which I’m increasingly fine with. Infested Planet ended up filling a Peggle-like niche in my gaming habits. It’s a game where I chase scores and completion times while I give myself a mental break from work and 500-turn strategy games.

Also, coming out of a mission with tens of thousands of kills is a pretty great feeling.