Toy Soldiers: Invasion Review

Surprising new sci-fi units make this Toy Soldiers add-on an enjoyable addition to an already great tower defense game.

Earlier this year, Toy Soldiers memorably re-created scenarios from the First World War on tabletop battlegrounds populated with plastic soldiers and clockwork vehicles. A tower defense game first and foremost, Toy Soldiers afforded you the opportunity to take direct control not only of any defenses that you placed on predetermined build points but also of various tanks and planes. The original game certainly had no shortage of content, but three months after it went on sale, developer Signal Studios released a France-focused add-on titled The Kaiser's Battle. And now, another three months later, it has released the second and final add-on, Invasion! Available for just 400 Microsoft points ($5), Invasion--like The Kaiser's Battle before it--adds three new campaign missions, two new multiplayer maps, and a new Survival level. Oh, and in case you're wondering which army the new campaign missions focus on, the new add-on also introduces spacemen, UFOs, World War II Mustangs, medieval knights, fire trucks, and a giant robot to the war.

That's right, the British have raided the toy box and they're throwing its contents onto the battlefield with zero regard for historical authenticity. This charming new approach to tabletop warfare has resulted in missions that are not only more lighthearted than those in the original game (where there were precious few reminders that the units doing battle were toys), but they're also a little more challenging. New units aren't overpowered, but they do present some different problems. For example, UFOs move more slowly than the biplanes of WWI but attack in far greater numbers, while WWII Mustangs are superior to biplanes in every way but only show up three or four at a time. The British also have a penchant for zeppelins this time around, and taking those down should almost always be a priority because they're armed with powerful air-to-ground weapons that make short of work of your defensive emplacements.

As in previous Toy Soldiers offerings, much of your time in Invasion is spent purchasing, positioning, and upgrading defenses that include machine guns, mortars, antiair guns, cannons, and chemical weapons. Your war machine is funded with money earned every time an enemy is killed, and it is fun to figure out where and how that money would best be spent. In Invasion's campaign levels, you're frequently forced to adapt, and it's a fun challenge to keep an eye on which units the British are going to send out next and then adjust your defenses accordingly. You might need as many antiair guns as you have build positions for to deal with waves of UFOs and zeppelins, but you're going to have to give a couple of those positions up if there are waves of fire trucks and space tanks or an impressive boss incoming, for example. Alternatively, you might choose to build fewer antiair guns in the first place and compensate either by controlling one of the guns yourself or by taking to the skies in a plane.

On the easy difficulty setting, money is plentiful, so you can afford to make some mistakes along the way and should have no trouble preventing 30 enemies from reaching your toy box. Money is much harder to come by on the medium and hard difficulties, though, and it takes fewer enemies to destroy your toy box, so everything you do must be carefully considered lest you place a defensive weapon somewhere ineffective or, worse still, somewhere it'll get destroyed before it even has a chance to do anything. What's great about Toy Soldiers is that even in scenarios as challenging as Invasion's, very few mistakes that you make early on are so grave that your best bet is to restart a mission from scratch. That's because, unless you're a horrible shot, assuming control of your defenses invariably makes them much more effective, and so one machine gun might suffice where the AI would need three.

UFOs are the least of your worries when there are zeppelins headed your way.
UFOs are the least of your worries when there are zeppelins headed your way.

After playing through Invasion's mini-campaign, your next stop will likely be the new Survival map. Here, your toy box is assaulted by wave upon increasingly challenging wave of enemies until it inevitably falls. Invasion's Survival map is certainly better than the one that was included in the original game, in that it feels more like a campaign map and affords you more opportunities for experimenting with different defenses. Similarly, the two new multiplayer maps (Mont St. Quentin and Guise) are among the best that Toy Soldiers has to offer--even if there's no option to use the new history-defying units on them. Mont St. Quentin is a large L-shaped map that, at least early on, makes it harder to use the overpowered tanks to destroy enemy defenses from afar. Guise is a rectangular map that does away with tanks completely and features a neutral build point atop a bridge in the center, ownership of which can often mean the difference between winning and losing. The online multiplayer in Toy Soldiers still suffers from lag on occasion, which is unfortunate, but head-to-head play is still a lot of fun, and because there's no advantage gained from seeing what your opponent is up to, it works just as well in split-screen.

Despite the inclusion of some surprising new units and maps that play on the toy-box theme more than the original game did, Invasion is a more-of-the-same add-on for Toy Soldiers. That's not a bad thing, though, because outside of some niggling multiplayer issues, Toy Soldiers is a game that does very little wrong. Like the original game, Toy Soldiers: Invasion controls well, looks wonderful, and poses a satisfying and scalable challenge. There's not a lot of new content here, but it's all great, and it's hard to think of many better deals for just 400 Microsoft points.

The Good

  • Does even more with charming toy-box aesthetic than original game
  • New multiplayer maps are great
  • End of campaign boss is the best yet
  • Satisfying and fast-paced tower defense gameplay

The Bad

  • Only three new campaign missions
  • Tanks are still overpowered in multiplayer