A bold, but powerful strategy game for alien invasion.
- Terra Invicta Early Access | Although I have called games ambitious before I can now say Terra Invicta is one the most wild, bizarre, and largest ideas that any single development team has ever attempted to implement. All at once it’s a grand strategy-scale geopolitics simulator, an alien-invasion battler, and a hard sci-fi solar system industrialization simulator with integrated real-time newtonian-physics-driven fleet combat. While I was engulfed in its world, the interface, accessibility and balance of this new mix of ideas are all very traditional strategy game failings.
- Terra Invicta’s simulation of a world in which secret alliances manipulate its countries is one part. They are responsible for managing national allegiances and research as well as militaries. To build a revolutionary movement in an ever-changing political landscape, you must take control of one or more of the seven factions. Each has its own unique asymmetric victor conditions.
- It also includes a simulation of human expansion in the solar system. This includes the militarization of space and the industrialization of space. I have never seen this type of scenario in a videogame. The game includes real-time space combat as well as years-long travel between different solar bodies. You’ll need to use a staggering array of science fiction and near-future techs to find the best way to build colonies, ships, and stations capable of producing the space resources needed to win the battle.
- Both of these games are very enjoyable on their own. They both have unique ideas and well-designed systems. However, whiplash that I experienced from just playing minute to minute became extreme. Terra Invicta’s weakest link is where these two complex games meet. They are so different you could easily love one or hate the other. It is not easy to love both of these ideas, even if you do.
You will spend your early hours trying to keep your head above the water. | Terra Invicta Early Access
- This is combined with an interface that struggles to keep up with the complexity of the mechanics and allow you to manipulate them. Terra Invicta’s early days will be filled with trying to stay afloat. After just 50 hours of playing Terra Invicta, I lost my first campaign. This was partly due to the difficult learning process of figuring out the interface between Earth and space. My struggle of resistance was over when alien factions on Earth decimated too many nations. Meanwhile, my efforts in space lost steam due to a mix of strange mechanics and ship design problems. All of it culminated in a death spiral that I didn’t know I was in until it was too late to escape.
- Although death spirals are not fun, it did show the cleverness of Terra Invicta’s overall scenario. It showed how Earth’s vast resources can be used to help you achieve your goals… if they’re available. Although aliens might have some technological advantages initially, there are billions of people and they have the largest concentration of useful resources in the solar system. They also have an economy to make use of them.
Spacer Soldier Spy | Terra Invicta Early Access
- The seven conspiratorial groups are perhaps the most interesting thing about Terra Invicta. They aspire to work with, submit to, prove themselves to and fight back against the aliens. Each faction is represented well by a key character. They are all voiced and quoted whenever new research or important events occur. It’s good to get flavour from each faction leader over time as it’s possible for a weak faction not to be one you interact with directly.
- Each faction has its own unique plans. The Resistance is a faction that aims to unite Earth and fight the aliens. Humanity First, on the other hand, has a similar goal, but is more genocidal and will do whatever it takes to eliminate aliens. This includes encouraging terrorist bombings against pro-alien countries or nuclear strikes against alien targets. Extremist groups can easily rack up atrocities. This clever mechanism also slaps war criminals with permanent sanctions.
- The Servants are at the opposite extreme. They believe that aliens can be divine beings, and their campaign is intentionally simpler. Terra Invicta is taken to new places by the Servants, who are determined to communicate and contact them with Aliens.
Interesting conflicts can arise from ideological differences among factions.
- These ideologic differences can lead to interesting conflicts. As The Resistance, I was able to form international alliances to invade countries and overthrow friendly governments. One exceptional moment was when I had to unify the feuding US with Europe to attack an alien-controlled country seeking nuclear weapons. Another was convincing Brazil’s neighbours to allow them to move armies capable of exterminating growing alien plant life.
- I formed alliances of convenience to groups like Project Exodus. They were, while they were spending resources trying to escape alien conquest, at least they weren’t actively working with the bad guys. It’s also cool to know that you cannot “kill” an idea. While you can weaken or cripple one faction by stealing their resources or assassinating them, they will undoubtedly recruit new members and rebuild over time.
- The council of your faction is responsible for putting your plans into practice, selecting recruits from a wider pool of candidates with different loyalties, backgrounds and traits. One counselor I had was a paranoid Cynic. While this made her a great spy and counterspy, it also made her difficult to trust with valuable assets as her true loyalty was hard to gauge. In a world with hostile alien life, it is quite common for her to refuse to work in dangerous and unstable environments.
- My council members were very important to me. An Argentine military colonel was one of my favorite men. He led my… deniable missions. It’s difficult for enemy factions gain popular support when their agents are abducted or killed, if they make it public. Her military experience was crucial, since Counselors’ missions have an impact on the missions they are able to take on. While spy and soldier have obvious purposes in a shadowy war global, diplomats and religious leaders can spread your cause’s ideology and give you more influence. Top scientists also contribute to research, while economists and businessmen assist in finding funding and managing organizations that function as equipment for your council.
- Your council has limited resources, so you can’t do everything. Counselors are limited to two missions per month. This means that you have to constantly make tough decisions about priorities. Do I want to send my Resistance spy to investigate an enemy agent? Or to weaken Servant Control in Argentina?
- It’s also a great thing to be able to recruit and keep criminals in your support.
Terra Invicta clearly aims to model every aspect of the world, at least at the macro-level.
- This geopoliticking and fighting is performed on a robust and detailed simulation of Earth. The overview screen shows things such as global opinion about each faction and Earth’s GDP overall, the economies of countries, and details such as the degree of human-caused climate changes. Or…is it human-caused? Terra Invicta begins in 2022. This is precise down to details such as Russian forces occupying Eastern Ukraine or Crimea. It’s clear that Terra Invicta wants to replicate every aspect of our world, at least at the macro-level.
- This is the coolest example: research can be divided into two types at once. Every faction can contribute to public projects that demonstrate the larger arc of humanity’s work, as well as private projects that only benefit their faction. As everyone else, you must split your research output among them.
- Big public projects are often a double-edged sword that unlock opportunities for all. These can be political movements that unify countries into one nation, such as a united EU…or break them down into smaller, weaker targets to alien conquest. They could also include the development of technology that allows for cleaner nuclear fission, which will help to mitigate against future energy crises. You get the opportunity to decide what the next step is for humanity’s future. Additionally, you can unlock private projects that are based on that tech if you make the most contribution to it. This is a significant benefit in the vast web of tech trees – which I enjoyed despite its lackluster organization.
- You can use all of these public techs to allow your faction to access private research and get smaller-scale benefits. These can give you access to corporations and political movements. Or they could provide benefits for your agents such as defoliants for alien plant. They can be extremely specific tech, such as new rocket engines, weapons or asteroid mining techniques. The variety of private research options I had was a great advantage. It added tension to every decision. While some are not as exciting, there are still many options. It’s great fun to choose between new plasma rocket engines or economic methods to boost military defense. Or enhanced cybernetics for counselors.
- It is quite strange that the simulation does not include obvious cascading effects with all this intricate detail. The economies of each country are tracked by their GDP, wealth disparity and productive capacity. However, countries are independent units so that any apocalyptic events in one country do not appear to have an impact on the rest. Pavonis Interactive intends to increase this level of simulation over the course of Early Access.
- Without a global conspiracy, countries are also brain dead. It is very difficult to gain a foothold within countries with large populations or economies. In at least one of my games, I witnessed China remain untouched for more than a decade after the alien invasion. It is hard to believe that one of the most powerful countries in the world would do nothing, not even develop its space program, as madcap events take place all around it.
It’s fun to watch the simulation of Earth in action but also overwhelming.
- Simulations are fun and effective for the most part. I can see that for many people the biggest draw here will be the conspiracy-vs-conspiracy thriller world that you can engage in and develop. It is possible to create an African continent unified or to disintegrate the EU. As the Servants, I orchestrated a permanent peace, eventual reunification, of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and a diverse, democratic world superpower. Although I was wrong, the sentiment is lovely.
- However, this simulation can be overwhelming. It is hard to find relevant and useful information for your cause. This is made worse by the interface. Although it tries to help you, it fails to provide any useful information. There is no warning or indication that the AI might be engaging in nuclear warfare. You can only make a few loud noises and then turn the globe in an attempt to find them. Small icons are used to indicate wild swings in public opinion that could lead to you losing control of key nations. You might not be able to tell if a country is heading towards civil war or regime flip and risk losing your power. It is possible for enemies to gain and hold control of nations you hold more easily than you might think.
- These frustrations are most irritating for new players, but they can also be annoying for veterans. Although you can protect your control, it is very micromanaged. The best strategies are counterintuitive decisions like abandoning or taking countries. But it was only after watching the AI do this that I realized what optimal strategies were. To keep up, I had to manually check the economies and opinion charts of every country I could find.
- Terra Invicta’s biggest oversight is its storytelling about aliens. It feels almost as if they don’t exist for much of the campaign. It’s funny during the early X-Files-esque conspiracy year, but by then I hear they are terrorizing civilian populations. I would have liked to see more than one piece of grainy art depicting them.
- It’s not clear if you capture, kill, or see an alien agent. An alien that you have never seen or heard of might be mentioned in a mission description. Terra Invicta can sometimes feel like it has forgotten that it is a game about an alien invasion, despite all the time it spends explaining the amazing things its key characters and people are doing.
- That is, at least, until you travel to space. There’s plenty going on in space, most of it in purple of the alien conquerors. But again, it’s a completely different game than the surface. Space is all about winning, by strategically and precisely beating others, taking control of the resources and not letting go. You need Earth’s resources to start your first colonies and stations, but your space efforts will become self-sustaining later.
- You’ll be able to build fleets and eventually fight alien ships as part of these efforts. However, there are severe consequences if you do so. Alien fleets may move to destroy your space assets as a retaliation.
- This is the best place to build space stations, resource colonies, shipyards, and other infrastructure. You can balance expansion against control, boost from Earth versus use of space resources, and local-system construction capabilities. This toybox is just as exciting as it gets. Terra Invicta has 350 stellar objects and is the only strategy game that can match Terra Invicta’s deep and broad model for space exploration.
- Space combat can be confusing and frustrating if you don’t have a strong background in hard science-fi. It’s about the weapons and preparation that you use before fighting, as well as what happens during battle. It’s about how much Delta-V an engine can produce and what that impacts the craft’s performance in battle.
- It can be difficult to precisely adjust maneuver nodes in real-time combat. The interface is both confusing and slippery. Complex kinetic and energy weapon tactics were abandoned by me after my second battle. It’s possible to build space warships very early in your career, but it’s a trap option and a waste of time. I tried to overwhelm the enemy using missiles and it worked quite well.
- Later, I attempted to build huge, massive, and awesome space battleships. Spoilers: My macross fantasies went horribly wrong. It was apocalyptically disastrous. My Titan-class ship, a Titan-class vessel, was destroyed by an alien Destroyer just seconds after it entered its first combat. Terra Invicta didn’t want to help me and I couldn’t figure it out. My kingdom as a combat log.
Space gameplay can be both fascinating on paper and frustrating in practice.
- Space gameplay sounds great on paper, but it’s frustrating when you start to get real space resources. This happens after a dozen hours of playing the game. It’s a good game design to allow the campaign to become more complex over time. But not when it can be so critical and swing from victory to defeat so quickly. Terra Invicta will not teach you how to win the space fights you begin. You can only learn by putting yourself in combat with enemy fleets in space. However, you cannot export your ship designs from an in progress save. This will not have any bearing on your campaign’s strategic situation.
- Even more frustrating is the way the Earth layer can invade the space one. Your stations will be taken over by enemies just like they do on Earth. However, the difference is that your private resources were used to build them. The time it takes to send a counselor to return them is months, and years, at best. This can be crippling for your efforts on Earth. Although it is possible to send in your own space fleets in order to attack with marines, I have found that this only leads to ridiculous situations in which control of a 50-person outpost is flipped back and forth every few weeks.
- These kinds of political maneuvers are understandable and create drama on the Earth layer where large numbers of people and complex government systems are involved, but they’re frustrating in space. We allow strangers into our secretive space weapons research center, then let them make stirring speeches to take control. Why isn’t every marine stationed there doing something about it? Although technically you can do the same thing to the AI, it is difficult to actually do so. It requires planning and a lot of luck, as well as a rare counselor trait.
- You shouldn’t dare to blow up non-alien space stations, regardless of how hateful their occupants may be. This is an atrocity comparable to a nuclear holocaust, and said that everyone disliked it.
- Terra Invicta’s ambitious early access release is full of brilliant ideas. It also offers a lot of strategy game fun. However, you have to be prepared to dig into the sometimes opaque and confusing mechanics in order to get there. Although politics are fascinating, even if it is overwhelming, the space layer is really cool. However, the two don’t seem to be able to mesh yet. Terra Invicta is a great game. However, it takes so much trial and error to get results. My overall recommendation must be made with large caveats until Terra Invicta has had more time.