Review: Alpha Invasion


Looking for a strategy game that has tactical depth, is fast to play, and works well on a touch-screen smartphone? If so, your hopes could well be answered by Chris Hanson's Alpha Invasion, an ad-supported arcade game for Windows Phone.

Author: Chris Hanson

Version Reviewed: 0.2

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Alpha Invasion is a fast-paced strategy game, one that I would go as far as saying is played in real time. Rather than discrete turns between you and your opponent, you can make your moves whenever you feel the need, and make another move while the first is still taking place. Of course, your opponent will also be making their moves at the same time, so the game board is constantly in flux.

Anyone familiar with how Risk is played will recognise the process going on here. You send over part of your army from one territory to attack another. The defending forces will battle it out with the attacking forces, and the victor will claim the territory as their own.

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In Alpha Invasion, the territories are represented by planets, and you'll fly your forces through space to deal out death from the skies through a simple dragging operation from your base planet to the target. It's a simple control mechanism that's very fast to do, which is important, because in higher levels you'll be running multiple attacks at the same time, sending waves of attacks from multiple bases onto a single planet occupied by the enemy. You'll also be dragging between your own planets to send reinforcements from one planet, far away from the action, to bolster the defence and attack capabilities of a planet nearer the front line.

There's a lot going on in each single screened level at any one time, and it is nice that Alpha Invasion takes time to ease you into the game through the early levels of the story mode. You'll start with one opponent and three or four planets as you are prompted through the basic concepts of the game, with more planets and enemies added as you play through.

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Through there is a story mode, Alpha Invasion on first glance might seem to be a very quick and basic game. That's because, all the tactics aside, it's simply very fast to play an entire level because the action is so fast and frenetic. It's a very easy game to keep having 'just one more go' because of the fast nature that promotes a virtuous cycle of trying out a tactic and being rewarded very quickly (or also finding out that waiting around for the others to attack each other is a silly strategy). One quick run through a level can easily turn into an hour of gaming.

Alongside the story mode you have the battle mode, where you can set up individual battles at various skill levels, with varying numbers of opponents, battles, aims and goals. This is great to tailor the experience and give the game life beyond the story mode, but there seems to be something missing. Life shouldn't just be about frenzied battles.

If there is a game that is crying out for an achievements system to hand the player some long term goals, then that game is Alpha Invasion. Because of the speed you can play through an individual level, the story mode can be burned through in 45 minutes, and the battle levels are so piecemeal, there's nothing beyond the quick burst of satisfaction when you complete a level to keep you coming back for more. That does the core game a disservice, but the design of Alpha Invasion needs to think of appealing to the medium and long term parts of a gamer's psyche.

The short term is already taken care of, and taken care of very well. A few tweaks and the application of achievements and long term goals would improve the longevity of what is a smart and well-coded game. 

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