Very rarely does one video-game inspire others with its mechanics. Off the top of my head, I can only think of a handful that has had any lasting effect on the video-game industry. Gears of War popularised the cover-based shooter, Arkham Asylum invented a combat system that is widely used amongst many developers, Dark Souls was groundbreaking when it came to game design and difficulty, and XCOM practically invented a whole new form of strategy in a genre that needed something to shake up the formula. All of these games have inspired smaller developers to take their mechanics and turn into something new.
Attack of the Earthlings, developed by Team Junkfish and published by Junkfish Limited, was definitely inspired by the latter.
You play as an alien race that is going about its business until mega-corporation Galactoil lands on your planet to siphon the planet’s natural resources and move onto the next planet. Quite rightly, you’re not too happy about that and the next five to six hours will consist of lots of murder and human annihilation. Fans of XCOM will be right at home with the movement and combat, but for the uninitiated, I shall explain. Each mission is tile based and every unit you control will have a specific amount of Action Points (AP) which shows you how many tiles you can move. Every alien also has an Attack Points which can be used to kill enemies. The key to a successful mission is managing your AP and Attack Points until you reach your goal with minimal casualties.
At the beginning of each mission, you control a single unit, The Matriarch. Upon killing and munching up some humans, you’ll be given Biomass which can be used for a number of things, but most importantly the creation of more units. Even though the same, weak little grunt will be spawned, by earning more Biomass you’ll be able to mutate your little weaklings into stronger units, one of three different classes. There is a ranged unit which can take out enemies from distance, a tank like unit which can take loads of punishment and does extra damage, and a unit designed to be sneaky which can kill enemies whilst ignoring the armour they’re wearing.
After each level is completed, you’ll be awarded an amount of Mutagen depending on how well you did in the mission, how many turns it took you to complete it, how many units you lost and if you completed the secondary objective or not. This Mutagen can then be used to upgrade each class, including your Matriarch. You’ll be able to unlock some quite useful skills such as the ability to kill enemies through walls with shock waves, increase the health of your Matriarch, and attack more than once with one of your units. You won’t earn enough Mutagen to unlock every skill during your playthrough, but skills are easily swapped in and out which allows you to play around with each skill and choose the loadout you like best.
Unfortunately, whilst Attack of the Earthlings can be described as an XCOM clone, it lacks any of the intricacies that make XCOM such a deep and strategic game. Once you’ve been introduced to all of the classes you can control, the game very rarely goes past second gear. Every now and again, you’ll be introduced to a new type of enemy, but they are still no match for the units you already have. Very little managed to provide a challenge besides the small smattering of boss fights throughout the game. Towards the end, I was constantly spamming the unit that could ignore armour as every enemy had armour and the other two enemies were ineffective at taking them out without sustaining casualties. It was easier to just sneak up behind everyone and one shot them than do anything else.
Attack of the Earthlings isn’t going to break any new ground when it comes to graphical prowess. It’s an adequate looking game and that’s all it needs to be. Some of the more realistic pictures and models can look a little bit strange, but the majority of the game just looks fine. What I would like to have seen is much more variety when it comes to each level. Throughout the game, you slowly move up the human ship, and a bit more environmental variety would have improved the game leaps and bounds and stopped that slight feeling of staleness you get from longer play sessions. Despite being set inside a giant space station, due to the quirky nature of the game, there was a lot of unexplored potentials. When things were finally starting to get a little more interesting the game ended.
Musically, the game isn’t particularly interesting. The same backing music plays through the majority of the game and it isn’t too memorable or exciting. However, one aspect of the game I have to commend is the voice acting. Even though there is only a few voiced characters, the voice actors do a terrific job of giving the characters some personality. YouTuber SungWon Cho deserves extra praise however, as his performance as Dick Whittington is hilarious, each joke is perfectly executed and every scene with him in it was improved tenfold. He was so good, I looked forward to whenever Dick Whittington would speak to the aliens or his employees over the sound system.
Unfortunately, once you’ve finished Attack of the Earthlings there’s almost no point in going back to it. Once those credits roll, there’s very little to do afterwards. Each mission doesn’t have multiple paths to take and isn’t as open-ended like XCOM and other games of the same genre. This makes the game fairly linear meaning that once it’s done, there’s very little in terms of replay value. You could always replay a level to try and get more Mutagen or complete the secondary objectives if you missed them the first time around. There are of course the trophies that you can try to unlock, with each level having a cool little secret to uncover, but other than, you’ll struggle to get more than around 7 hours with the entire game.
In the end, I feel like Attack of the Earthlings is worth your money if you’re in the market for an XCOM like game and you’ve already played both XCOM games to death. For £14.99, it’s just at the right price. Any more for this fairly short experience would tip the scales in a negative way. It’s a hilarious, fairly well made XCOM like that will have you laughing out loud more than once. I don’t think it’s a game for everyone, especially if you need a meaty story to sink your teeth into, but it’s definitely worth a go. I’ll be awarding the game the Thumb Culture Silver Award so if it sounds like something you’d enjoy, then definitely go and buy it!
Disclaimer: A key was received to complete this review