From developers Team Junkfish and published by Wales Interactive comes Attack of the Earthlings. Imagine going about your daily business and then out of nowhere a giant drill-spaceship full of hostile aliens lands on your planet with the aim of mining it’s resources dry. Well that’s what happens to the insectoid species of planet X13 in this darkly comedic take on the turn-based strategy genre where you play as an alien race having to defend its planet from hostile invading Earthlings.
The Galactoil Corporation is hell-bent on harvesting as much of the known galaxy for energy as possible and is led by its quirky CEO Mr Dickingham – voiced by SungWonCho (A Hat in Time, Paradigm). However, they have made a terrible mistake invading planet X13 as the swarmer race of aliens that live there are highly-aggressive and decide to fight back.
From the moment you watch the opening cutscene and intro to the game you know this one is going to be a laugh. The hilarious dialogue and banter between the Galactoil workers is inspired by the love of British comedies within the Junkfish development team and really fits well with the cartoon style graphics. Before you have even started playing you are smiling and giggling, all ready to eat your first Earthling!
You start your campaign of resistance against Galactoil from the bottom of the ship and have to fight your way up the 7 different levels from Drill to Board room spilling as much blood as possible along the way. The levels are large and require careful navigating to get through due to enemy patrols and locked doors, with the first two serving as tutorials to get the hang of movement, using Action Points and spawning and evolving units.
The first unit you control is the Matriarch, this is your Queen and needs to be kept alive as if she dies it’s game over and time to load a save file. When you kill an enemy you can consume their corpse. This will harvest biomass and with enough of this it allows you to spawn grunts. With more biomass these grunts can then be evolved into bigger and more specialised units – the stalker, disruptor and Goliath. So the more enemies you kill and consume, the more your army grows.
You would think that with Attack of the Earthlings being a turn-based strategy game you would have the standard two-phase approach to movement and attacking, where you can either move twice or move once and fire. But alas no, not only have they shaken things up with us playing as the Aliens but they have implemented their own Action Point system into their game, and its great! It enables so much more freedom of decision as you have up to 8 AP to use depending on what unit you select, and you can use these points to make as many moves as you want. For example you could move three tiles to a corpse, use 1 more AP to consume it, and then you still have 4 AP to either move again or attack an enemy if they are in range.
As for the enemies, they range from civilian office workers to Military grunts, bosses and CEO’s. Some have shields, some have high health and some explode on death. They all have a cone/arc that represents their viewing range and is coloured as to how alerted to your presence they are or not. Green cone is all safe, yellow is alerted but not seen, red is bad – move quick or get shot! Enemies can be alerted by either seeing a corpse that has not been harvested, seeing you, or hearing a nearby noise such as spawning a grunt or opening a door. Once on alert the enemies will start to look around for the cause of the disturbance, so make sure to hide!
This is where you need to put your strategic hat on and be sneaky, stealthy and wise. Learn the abilities of the evolved units to best combat different enemy types and survival will be easier, like using the lure ability with a disruptor unit to distract an enemy and make them face a certain direction. You can also use cover, cupboards, lockers and vents to hide certain units in, with the vents providing sneaky routes through the levels to set up ambushes or escape detection.
Sometimes these tactics alone will not work which is where you will need to use another great feature to this game, the group attack. Used to either kill multiple enemies at once to avoid alerting others or to team up on an enemy with high health, the group attack is an essential skill to master. You set each unit you want to attack with on their target and when all are done click both thumbsticks in. The coordinated carnage that follows is so satisfying!
Each level completion rewards you with mutagen which is scaled to your performance. Completing the level within the par time and killing lots of enemies will reward you with more mutagen, with it being deducted for going over the par time or for unit deaths. Mutagen is used to upgrade all four of your units to make them stronger and/or to give new abilities. This has been made really flexible though by allowing you to get your mutagen refunded if you do not like certain upgrades and using it to unlock others. The freedom to experiment this gives you is great and refreshing as not being tied to rigid upgrade paths takes away a lot of stress around decision making.
As you work your way up through the levels you will be faced with many challenging enemies but also some great cut-scenes. The developers really have made sure that the game is truly fun to play, with hilarious banter between lower down grunts all the way up to the CEO Mr Dickingham. A voice you will hear a lot is Mr Pecker, the supervisor of the ship and Dickingham’s right-hand man. He is brilliantly voiced by Tom Harris who really brings this character to life. Pecker is constantly trying to repel the swarmers with “superior human intellect”, which of course isn’t all it’s cracked up to be within this dysfunctional corporation. To help him out on some of the higher tier levels are mini-boss characters who take quite a beating and dish plenty out too. To kill these requires a large coordinated force comprised of units with different abilities and to use them tactically to minimise your casualties and earn more mutagen.
The gameplay here is fun and engaging with a real element of strategy required despite the comedy and humour. Many will enjoy beating the evil Galactoil several times to improve their score and explore all of the mutagen upgrade paths. However this is all the game has to offer in regards of replay value. The campaign requires a good 9-11 hours to complete, but that’s all there is to do as there are no extra difficulty modes and no extra units or upgrades to unlock and this is a real shame. I know that this is an indie game but a lot of time and effort has been put into this title and it really shows. I would love to have more reasons to pick it up and play again and again as it’s a cracking game to chill and play through.
A review copy for Xbox One was provided for the purposes of this review. Thank you!
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- Full of comedy and humour
- Gameplay is fun yet challenging
- Action Points system
- Group attack mechanic
- Flexible mutagen upgrade pathways
- Great voice-acting
- Campaign is a little short
- No difficulty modes