Dark Light

It’s the tail end of the quarantine season here, and with the reopening of the world right around the corner, there’s always space for a new way to wait “just one more turn” in life. Age of Wonders – Planetfall would be one game where I can sink a lot of time contemplating my choices in life (and the current playthrough). With the new expansion, Invasions, adding a new race to the mix, is it worth getting into? Is playing as reptilian overlords on an alien planet as fulfilling as being one on Earth? Let’s take a look and find out.

Story & Narrative

Just like cold-blooded reptiles, the newly introduced faction, The Shakarn are laying claim on the galaxy. According to the game’s store page, they’re a merciless band of lizards that use trickery and deceit along with brute force to take down their opponents. The story opens with the player-customized commander landing on the dark side of a moon, with his trusty general. Soon you capture a human spy, who you can choose whether to imprison or grind into food. Here is where the branching storyline begins.

What you do next is up to you. You can choose whether to help some of the nearby Therians, an NPC race that basically merged DNA with animals to create hybrid warriors, or not. The backstory is that they ravaged the Shakarn border planets as pirates, but are now in the same boat. Being pirates, they have abilities of the shady kind that can hinder or aid your progress based on the side you choose. How you want to play the game will influence the story, and for the sake of spoilers, I will stop here. I will say, however, that the plot is very well written, and the narrator’s voice is firm yet powerful. A job well done on that front.

The Shakarn

Since this faction is a very important part of this expansion, I decided to add a section dedicated to them, because let’s be honest, these lizards deserve it. The Shakarn are masters of tech. Their unique hackers are capable of copying enemy abilities and literally defeating a foe with their own weapons. Like Ditto. Shakarn weapons are sonic and laser-based, and research into those trees add some pretty powerful tech mods to units. Some units are capable of using “Omni” weapons, capable of both Laser and Sonic damage. This adds a second layer of depth to the complicated reptiles, with the ability to “Epimorphically Regenerate” a little health each turn. They also boast some of the best long-range overwatchers in the Deadeye, with their stagger inducing and burning omni cannon. Their caste-based society sees their Domok warriors on the frontline, brutish beasts with guns designed to end their foes. The unit designs are exquisite, and the animations are top-notch.

Gameplay & Mechanics

The majority of the gameplay is essentially the same as in the base game, which in itself is similar to Civilization VI. Multiple tech trees, districts, production, food, energy. The usuals. For those new to the game, this differs from Civilization in the sense that settlers don’t exist. You don’t choose the location of the cities. Instead, there are sectors, which you annex, usually by defeating hostile alien critters at that location. This has not changed in the expansion, with an “if it ain’t broke don’t fix” policy, which I’m perfectly fine with.

As in total war games, when two opposing armies collide, the game switches to a tactical battle map. Unlike total war, this here is also turn-based. This Xcom-esque hex-based combat was a point of contention for me in the base game and this expansion does nothing to alleviate that problem. The hex-based system feels janky. Cover from the front-left and front-right, but nothing right in front of you? And you still don’t get shot? I don’t buy it. Even in a game full of alien lizards, the combat system feels iffy at best and downright annoying at times.

This expansion adds some new features like World Events, something similar to Age of Empires 3’s cosmic events, adding random combat buffs and debuffs, something that could either lead your colony to greatness or cause you to look for quick alternatives to survive. Another new feature is the late game Voidbringer Invasions. Warhammer fans will feel right at home, because these decked-out-badass-trans-dimensional-enthralled soldiers are essentially the Chaos Spawn trying to wreak havoc on the world. It’s an interesting late-game challenge that adds a new dimension to the challenge the expansion provides.


For ₹529/ $19.99  at full price, the DLC offers one solid faction and storyline, with the same solid Planetfall game-play mechanics. If you liked the base game, you’ll like this expansion. If you didn’t like the combat of the base game, this expansion isn’t going to change your mind. However, I would recommend you get this expansion on sale and try out the excellent story; if nothing else, you can always auto-resolve the battles with an OP force. Glory to the Scarlet Scepter!

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