Friday, 09 March 2018 05:58

Attack of the Earthlings Review

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Strategy and Stealth and Snark, Oh My!

The only thing that’s better than an anti-hero is an anti-villain. That being said, the premise of Attack of the Earthlings is perhaps the title’s strongest cornerstone. When a farcical bunch of capitalists (Galactoil) land on your home planet to begin a mining operation, you (a swarm of alien insectoids) begin an exterminating operation—or, maybe you’re just hungry. Either way, playing as “bad guys” against comically inept human beings is a refreshing take on the traditional monster-in-space story. It’s an XCOM-like fusion of stealth and turn-based strategy, revisited with a droll sense of humor.

You begin each level as the Matriarch, the mother of the indigenous alien race. Like a moving base, she consumes the fleshy pink invaders for biomass, and essentially converts those calories into alien spawn. In other words, eat people, produce offspring. The li’l spawned grunts can then be evolved into a stealth, tank, or ranged version of the species in order to overcome obstacles and progress through the maps.

The seven levels of the human mining rig reflect the hierarchy of American capitalism in an amusing way. You devour your way from blue collar boys to the administrators to the intelligentsia and finally to the underqualified C-suite elite. Most of the maps are well-structured with variance in the environments, but the gameplay is hamstrung by an ambling pace.

Slow Motion Square-Dancing

Attack of the Earthlings has the kind of limitations that make for an exciting challenge. Since it’s easy to kill—and even easier to get killed—a well-executed strategy takes into account the restricted movement, attack power, and single attack point of any given alien. Methodical. Tactical. Think novice chess with a body count. Despite the limited mechanics, each level is reframed in an engaging way. For instance, one level might require you to play defense, setting up traps and positioning your ranged attacks with care. The next might be a solo stealth mission. Another imitates a chase sequence. All within the confines of gridded, turn-based structure.

However, pacing remains an issue. The gameplay loses something when you’re stuck in a closet for four turns and have to witness every bumbling human make their move, including even the inane ones, like approaching a water cooler. Most of the levels were well-designed, but one map in particular went sprawling in every direction and it took a solid ten minutes of hide-and-seek to locate the targets. Without a minimap and stuck at a trundling pace, it’s possible to get lost a little bored in the fog of war. A little more playtesting and tweaking might have remedied this, but as it stands, the sometimes-frustrating slowness of the turns slightly detracts from what’s otherwise an enjoyable and entertaining release.

The incorporation of a talent tree added another layer of interest, although it would have benefited from being broader and more gated. With only a few additional upgrades available to each monster, and the point system being more than generous, it’s easy to “specialize” in everything. Gameplay, then, ends up being fairly ubiquitous regardless of how you spec. For that reason, there isn’t much to be had in the way of replayability.

Encounters of a Retro Kind

A quintessentially sci-fi horror setting interweaves with humor that could be out of an SNL skit. There’s a balance of refined wit and self-aware immaturity, replete with dick jokes of every kind—some in-your-face, some that take you by surprise. Meanwhile, the narrative continuously pokes fun at corporate America and capitalist greed in a satisfying and satirical way.


The Verdict: Great

This is for the casual strategist. It’s short; you can play it in one sitting. It’s sweetly forgiving; you can stop mid level to save, and reload levels in increments of five turns. For that reason, player mistakes don’t carry much gravity and neither does dying. Moments of intensity are moderated by a general lack of urgency, but not in a way that’s unenjoyable. On the contrary, Attack of the Earthlings melds lightheartedness with simple-but-fulfilling strategy.

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Chiara Burns

Half-bald and wholly irreverent, Chiara is a content writer armed with black coffee (i.e., mana) and a library full of games that she might never finish— mostly because she gets distracted by side quests and lore. Her favorite place in this world is Thailand, where she taught English and studied Muay Thai for eight months, and her favorite place in not-this-world is Tamriel, where she’s logged an unmentionable number of hours. When she’s not leveling up in-game or in real life, she’s wondering why the Fade not.


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