Available On: Mobile (iOS, Android)
Played On: Android
Having grown up with a mouse and keyboard and real-time strategy games that end in -craft, I generally avoid RTS mobile games. I’m pleasantly surprised by Iron Marines Invasion, a made-for-mobile RTS that focuses on squad management and fast-paced matches.
Iron Marines Invasion takes the normally complex RTS genre and distills it down to a handful of squads, and a few defensive buildings. The campaign features dozens of scripted missions, bolstered by randomly generated side missions, as my crew of ultimate badasses hops from plane to planet defending the galaxy from the villainous Vultures and Raad.
Like many modern RTS games, my army is headlined by a hero. Only two heroes are available in the beginning, and both feature their own mini-skill trees. Ulta can summon extra units and make them temporarily invulnerable, while Halford can unleash a spinning wave of bullets and generate copies of himself.
Squads consist of different factions of units, including commandos, scoundrels, and frognauts. Once spawned, a squad’s units can be swapped on the fly into any of its three unit types. Frognauts can appear as the bulky Stormtoads, the supportive Bubblewogs, or the artillery-launching Bomberfrog.
Easily swappable units makes building a team quick and fun — exactly what I want from a mobile game. When traversing across the map, I can swap my slow-moving Sentinel mecha into the flying Gale. When facing aerial units, I’ll need to change my grenade-dropping Jetpack Rebels into something that can hit air units.
For a single mission I can field up to three or more squads, giving me a satisfying array of units without having to sift through a bunch of tech trees or menus.
During combat I mostly rely on my hero’s abilities over micromanaging my units. In fact, micromanaging can be a pain because of one troublesome issue: units prioritize moving over attacking. If I select my entire army and move through another army, instead of stopping to attack, they’ll diligently move while getting blown apart. It’s a completely pain, forcing my army to crawl forward at an unheroic pace, and having to babysit my squads far more than I’d like to.
Though the story isn’t exactly riveting, the campaign is impressively long, with over 20 missions, including large-scale boss fights. Special missions are randomly generated side content. Aside from leveling up my heroes, completing missions, achievements, and bounties awards credits, which can be spent on single-use weapons and tech in the Arsenal.
The Arsenal weapons feel a bit like cheating, as I could theoretically grind until I had a bunch of bombs and laser drones and win a mission with their help. But I still technically worked for it!
I’m less enthusiastic about the units and heroes gated behind real-money purchases, staring at me from the selection screen. Obviously the coolest and craziest stuff, like mecha dragons and cat ninjas, are gated behind these bite-size paywalls. That’s fine for a free-to-play game, but Iron Marines Invasion is not free-to-play! The gated content puts a damper on an otherwise stellar experience.
Iron Marines Invasion is rated E10+ for fantasy violence and mild blood. It also features in-app purchases.
Iron Marines Invasion isn’t the most ground-breaking RTS mobile game, but with fast-paced action, fun units, and colorful warfare, it does everything (almost) exactly right.