It’s been five years since Ironhide Game Studio (masterminds behind the acclaimed Kingdom Rush tower defense games) released the first Iron Marines game back in 2017. Fans have been clamoring for a sequel to this beloved real-time strategy game ever since, and their prayers have finally been answered with Iron Marines Invasion for Android.
Iron Marines Invasion picks up where the first left off, but you can still play it as a standalone experience without losing much of the context. You might, however, encounter more of a learning curve to overcome if you didn’t play the first game. Much like its predecessor, Iron Marines Invasion is a challenging RTS with oodles of sci-fi flare to bring your strategic battle of wills to life.
It’s almost certainly going to make our list of best strategy games, so let’s dive into the details and find out what makes Invasion such a solid mobile RTS experience.
For those who may not be well versed in Iron Marines, I would describe the series as loosely similar to Starcraft, but with a heavier focus on combat rather than establishing and managing resources. Don’t get me wrong, you do have some of that in Invasion, but you’ll spend the majority of your time exploring maps and duking it out with hordes of baddies, rather than building up an impenetrable wall of defenses.
The story behind Invasion is straightforward: You are part of a galactic federation tasked with taking out violent threats like the dreaded Raad, keeping the cosmos safe and prosperous. I didn’t pay much attention to the story though, as that’s definitely not the focus of the game. Invasion is all about the actual gameplay, which is pretty darn fun.
As new threats pop up on planets throughout the cosmos, you assemble a team and deploy them on missions and spec-ops against your many foes. Each mission is comprised of a given hero (a badass with special abilities to lead your grunts) and squads, which are made up of units of three from any given specialty, like rangers, snipers, bombers, and even aerial units and mechs.
Your given hero will have a suite of ultimate abilities that work on cooldowns. When used, the specials do things like giving nearby squads armor, doling out special attacks, calling in backup troops, and much more.
On top of that, you can also equip up to three weapons that are purchased using in-game currency. These aren’t necessary to win, but they can be very helpful in turning the tide during heated battles. If you do feel like you need a little extra oomph, you can unleash turrets, targeted bomb drops, and even medics to help blaze a path to victory. I’ve found that these extra weapons are especially useful for boss battles.
As if all of that weren’t enough, there’s also a big honkin’ skill tree full of powerups to play around with. The best part about the skill tree is that you can reset your choices at any time, making it easy and fun to try out new strategies at the drop of a hat.
Did I mention that you can also swap out your squads during missions? Yeah, it's crazy. All of these elements combine to form a complex system that encourages experimentation and changing strategies quickly when things aren’t going your way.
One of the best things about Iron Marines Invasion is that it’s a premium game. Sure, that means you have to pay $4.99 upfront, but RTS games are particularly prone to skeevy monetization practices like punishing timers, energy systems, and in-app purchases for all of the “good” stuff. I would much rather pay a little cash for an experience that isn’t bogged down with intentionally designed grind to incentive IAPs, so Iron Marines Invasion’s premium price tag is well worth the investment.
I will, however, put a little tick in the cons column, because while it may not have any ads or particularly predatory IAPs, Iron Marines Invasion does have some in-app purchases. These mainly relate to unlocking additional heroes and squads that can’t be unlocked by simply playing the game. Purchasing a hero bundle is the most cost-effective way to get all of them in one fell swoop, but it still might be more than most folks are willing to pay, myself included.
I would also knock off a couple of points in the beginner friendliness category, as Iron Marines Invasion can seem daunting when you’re first starting out — particularly if you don’t play many RTS titles and/or haven’t played the previous Iron Marines game. Thankfully, you’re given four optional difficulty levels, from Casual, to Normal, to Veteran, and even Impossible mode (which can be unlocked later) for the true battlefield strategists out there.
In addition to the learning curve, Iron Marines Invasion had a couple of other quirks that I didn’t especially love. Having the high ground really matters in Invasion, which is all well and good, but I hated how the screen is completely black over areas obscured by high ground. It made the view feel more cramped than it actually is, and could be easily fixed by making those areas shadowy rather than totally obscured.
The UI can also be a little finicky, as I often found myself accidentally redirecting my troops rather than simply scrolling the screen one way or another as I was trying to do.
With those few small complaints in mind, I have to admit that they’re heavily outweighed by the things that make Iron Marines Invasion great. The worlds you explore are beautifully designed, with all manner of vibrant color palettes to make them feel more alien and the chunky, cartoony character sprites make the game feel really energetic.
There are almost 100 missions for you to take on between the campaign and special operations, eight unique heroes to try out (if you purchase all of them, that is), another eight unit groups for 24 possible squads, and achievements for the trophy hunters to shoot for. There's not a lot of replay value here, but you're likely to get at least 10-20 hours out of the experience, depending on your selected difficulty level and how much optional content you choose to engage with.
Along with Crying Suns, it’s definitely among the better mobile RTS games you can find in the Play Store and I would highly recommend it to any strategy fan out there.
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A lifelong gamer, Mogan has had a controller in hand since the PlayStation 1 ruled the world and Neopets seemed eternal. She loves to play new and old games alike, especially if it's something weird and charming. Puzzlers, JRPGs, adventure, and rhythm games are her favorites.