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Attack of the Earthlings

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Strategy
Developer: Team Junkfish
Release Date: Feb. 8, 2018


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PC Review - 'Attack of the Earthlings'

by Cody Medellin on Jan. 11, 2019 @ 2:00 a.m. PST

Attack of the Earthlings is a turn-based alien adventure where humans are the ultimate invasive species, and the alien Swarmers need YOU in order to repel the human scourge from their home planet.

The console is home to many different types of strategy games, from the tougher 4X variety to something more suitable for beginners. There are classic medieval and sci-fi themes, with a sprinkling of fantasy and historical ones taking place in every environment imaginable. One common thread is that they tend to be serious affairs, with humor being either rare or nonexistent. Attack of the Earthlings is different in that humor is at the forefront, but it doesn't forgo good strategy mechanics.

In Attack of the Earthlings, aliens have landed on an unnamed planet with the intent of strip-mining the natural resources before moving on to other worlds to repeat the process. The twist is that the aliens are humans. They're all workers of Galactoil, the evil energy company bent on turning natural resources into profit no matter the consequences. You play the role of the native species of the planet, the queen of insect-like beings, and your job is to eradicate the invaders before your world is lost.

The premise seems fit to be a lesson on human greed and how far the species will go to be wealthy. The game touches on that aspect as it marches toward the conclusion, but the approach isn't heavy-handed. Instead, the game puts more of a focus on humor, particularly the stupidity of some of the workers for the corporation. Some of that humor comes from signs calling attention to the hourly accident counter, which resets once you make your first kill in that area. Other chuckles are due to the dialogue, like an announcement about how the machinery shouldn't be used to reheat food. Some subtler laughs come from having co-workers discussing each other's follies or pseudo-Twitter posts to the company. The sci-fi tropes and references open up each level, explaining how the queen managed to reached the level of the Galactoil complex in the first place. Not everything is hilarious, but there's enough here to make one smile often.

Attack of the Earthlings plays out like a standard grid-based strategy game where each unit has action points, and it's up to you to determine what's used for movement, attacking, or any other action you want to perform. The grid isn't visible, but you can see how far your action points can take you. Additionally, you can attack diagonally, which most grid-based strategy games only let you do on occasion. You can level up your character after each level, so you're quite formidable by the end of the game.

The big difference is that you always start out with one unit: the queen. She's a powerful unit in terms of killing power, but her movement isn't as vast as your other forces. She's also pretty fragile, and since her death causes a "game over," keeping her alive is the top priority. Luckily, she can hide out in spaces.

The only way to expand your forces is to acquire biomass, an element harvested from the human bodies you thrash along the way. Eating the corpses and spending action points causes your queen to spawn different alien types that protect the queen and wipe out the opposition so the queen can perform her appointed task. The regular Swarmer can do some basic attacks and crawl through vents, while the Stalker is an upgraded version of that. Disruptors are all about ranged attacks, and while those attacks aren't very powerful, they can do some good damage to enemies. Finally, there's the Goliath, who can soak up damage and affect people in nearby rooms with a stomp.

Spawning your little army gives you a nice amount of strategies that aren't revolutionary but fun to execute. Having a hulking Goliath scaring everyone is enjoyable, but so is being able to flank the heavily armed guards. It's satisfying to lure enemies with pools of blood so you can ambush them from a corner. The tandem attack doesn't get old because there aren't too many opportunities to apply it.

The levels make all of the strategizing fun. Unlike most games, the level layouts feel natural for the different parts of the facility you're invading. There aren't convoluted corridors to go through or oddly placed crates and structures to navigate. The stages also feel distinct, so there's no sense of déjà vu as you progress through the human base. It certainly speaks well of the design team that such easy pitfalls were avoided.

About the only real issue with the game is its lack of longevity. There aren't too many levels, and the story emphasis means that there's not much in the way of variety when it comes to your victims per level. You have some leeway when it comes to strategies, but don't expect anything like what you can do in titles like Xenonauts. Finally, the lack of difficulty levels means you can't challenge yourself when the campaign is complete.

The presentation is fine. The quasi-cel-shaded look for the characters works well, and it blends in well with the brighter-colored environments of the ship. The animations are good, and the lack of flashy effects means a steady high frame rate on even the lowliest of systems. Meanwhile, the music and voice work are excellent, but you'll lament the inconsistency because only a few cut scenes feature voice acting. In-game, that's reduced to muffles and screams.

It is by no means a masterpiece, but Attack of the Earthlings provides a fun and a solid strategy experience for those who aren't looking for something extremely deep. The levels have a good layout, and there's a wide variety of smart and dumb enemies to keep you invested. Your offensive abilities, from setting up traps to body disposal, are fun, and the humor keeps things lively. It is a short experience that doesn't have much replayability due to the lack of variable difficulty, but you'll still enjoy your time with Attack of the Earthlings.

Score: 7.5/10

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