Attack of the Earthlings puts an interesting spin on the standard humans vs. aliens storyline, putting the player in the shoes of the aliens, who are being attacked by the menace of humanity.
The storyline is the shining gem of this title. It’s glorious. the tongue in cheek humor and light-hearted nature of humanities portrayal is something that brings pure joy. You’ll listen to the overseer attempt to downplay your dealings onboard his facility, pushing the “shut up and get back to work” narrative to everyone else on board while also subtly telling security to actually do their jobs, please.
The storyline is very structured, as you work your way through the human facility from the bottom all the way to the top. You’ll work through each floor, tackling whatever challenge is laid out before you, all with the intention of hampering the earthlings’ attempts to take what’s yours. It’s the other side of the classic sci-fi storyline that’s really quite a joy to play out.
To go with the stellar storyline is a combat system that adds enough depth and variety from the standard turn-based strategy gameplay loop that draws from several inspirations to create something genuinely engaging. As opposed to starting with a squad, you start off with a single queen character, the mother of the brood, if you will. You’ll go around eating corpses for biomass, which you can use to spawn smaller creatures to aid you in your battle.
You’ll unlock more abilities and units to morph as you progress, starting out learning the basics of combat in a “fair fight” against some poor sod having a pee against a railing. That’s really the humor and sensibility of the title in a nutshell. Humanity is a threat, but not in their mannerisms, just their ability to split your planet in half. Dead Space meets the Office, basically.
Your units all have a range of abilities. The basic unit can fit into vents to travel vast distances quickly, while some units are larger and tougher, useful for a more direct approach. You can even get some units that deal ranged damage, allowing for a stealthy dispatch of your foes. finding a balance of units is vital, as you’ll have a variety of situations to deal with. While the stealthy approach is the best option nine times out of ten, there are certain situations that are best dealt with through brute force.
generally, your best course of action is the stealthy, up close and personal approach. Your strongest units are all melee units, and this really feels like a deliberate choice, especially as the stronger enemies enter the fray. If you’re spotted by an enemy, they’ll 1 shot all but your tankiest unit, so you really do have to be careful not to be spotted. Sometimes, you’ll have to use multiple units at once to kill an enemy. Thankfully, you’re able to create an attack command, which will have multiple units attack in unison, to avoid any unwanted attention. Eat the corpse, and all evidence is gone. Except for a big blood puddle that nobody seems to give two brass monkeys about.
As you progress through the levels, you’ll gain experience that you can spend on upgrading your queen and other units. These choices are made between levels and do offer a few interesting choices that impact the following level, but generally, the difference is so slight that you don’t really notice any of the buffs offered. It would be nice to see a little area added that allows you to test out these changes and additions because right now your choice is very much dictated by what sounds the most fun to use.
The situations Attack of the Earthlings puts you in are all heavily dictated by the storyline, sometimes detrimentally so. The missions are so focused that the prospect of other things to do and other ways around things just don’t exist. The game has a set plan for you, and while that plan is fun and generally unique enough to remain engaging, it would be nice to see a few other options and extra side objectives to really bring something new. Sadly, there’s a script in place, and you’ll be damned if you stray from it.
Unlike other titles within the genre, the levels are not procedurally generated, and with only one difficulty, each level only really warrants a single playthrough. Seeing as there’s no real incentive to go back through the levels, not even to collect missed objectives or items, Attack of the Earthlings is sadly rather lacking on the replayability front. There’s no harder difficulty to unlock, no New Game+ mode that allows you to play with all your unlocked abilities and buffs at a higher level. While a brilliant experience, Attack of the Earthlings really is a one and done deal.
When it comes to the visuals, it’s hard to find fault aside from a few janky animations and rather generous use of red. All of your control options are red, and when active, highlighted. In a different shade of red. Now I’m not remotely on the ladder for color impared vision, but I struggled here. I can imagine that those with difficulty seeing color could well struggle here. There’s a clear theme here and it fits, but a little more contrast certainly wouldn’t go amiss. Aside from this, Attack of the Earthlings is a gorgeous little title, with a clean art style that clearly differentiates units both human and alien, and creates an environment where each level feels fresh, but still part of the ship as a whole.
The final credit has to go to the sound design. There’s a real weight to the sounds, which helps movements and attacks to feel purposeful and makes your actions all the more satisfying. A big shout out has to go to the voice actors as well. While only a small portion of the characters are voiced, the performances portray the comedy of the storyline brilliantly, never sounding out of place or forced, and fitting the scene being played out perfectly. It’s the delivery here that really helps the story to stand out as well as it does.
Overall, Attack of the Earthlings is a fantastic title for fans of the turn-based strategy genre, offering an engaging storyline that couples nicely with the gameplay on offer. It’s a shame that the title is so short and offers such little replayability, as this really could have been one of the forerunners in the genre if it had a little more content to offer.