Attack Of The Earthlings is a turn-based Tactics game developed by Junk Fish. It is available on Steam, GoG, Humble Bundle and PlayStation 4 for $19.99. and Xbox One for $17.99. This review was conducted on a standard Xbox One System by Joseph Pugh.
Note: The humble bundle link is a referral link, I get a small commission if you buy the game through it.
Attack Of The Earthlings is a turn-based tactical game akin to X-Com. The twist, however, is you are playing the aliens battling against the invading humans. There is a major emphasis on stealth and ambush, allowing the game to clearly set itself apart from others in the same genre.
You play as the Matriarch of an insectoid race known as the swarmers. You are slightly miffed at the fact a giant drill ship has just landed on your planet and is screwing everything up. The only way to rectify the situation is to, kill all the humans, obviously.
The ship in question is a run by a corporation known as Galactoil, who manages to tick every box on the evil corporation trope checklist. Attack Of The Earthlings takes a jab at dark comedy, but the humor is largely hit or miss. Sometimes it’s funny, other times it falls flat. There are quite a few not so obvious tongue in check references, however. Such as a trio of scientists being named after three well-known characters in a beloved dinosaur movie.
The game is played in turn-based fashion. You take a turn, then Galactoil takes a turn. You control your units with the use of action points and attack actions. Each unit has a limited number of each per turn, and each action requiring a set amount of one or the other.
At the start of each stage, you begin with only the Matriarch and if she dies, you lose. As you kill humans, you can consume them which gives you biomatter. You can use biomatter to create grunts that can be later evolved into a variety of other swarmer units.
Each level is decently large and the humans, whether they are soldiers or civilians aren’t always aware of your presence. They patrol or wander around and have varying degrees of line of sight. You must study and plan your approach carefully. There is no randomness to the game, attacks deal set amounts of damage and they always hit. The earthlings tend to be well armed with weaponry and armor making them very dangerous.
Your best approach will always be stealth and ambushes. Earthlings can overwhelm your swarmer’s if you fight them head on, as many of your swarmer’s will die in a single attack. As the game progresses you will obtain a wide array of options for dealing with the enemy.
Each turn most units have at least one attack action, some have more. If you attack an earthling and they live, they will attack you back. While some humans die in one attack, you have to plan for the ones with armor or higher health. Some even explode on death.
One such option is setting up a group attack, you can move multiple swarmers into position and have them attack at the same time, dealing all the damage at once. Others will include your many upgrades.
You start with the ability to make grunts from biomatter. These are basic little insects that can move and attack. They can also in true horror movie fashion, traverse and hide through vents. Later on, you unlock the ability to evolve a grunt into one of three other swarmer types though it does cost biomatter to do this.
You have the Stalkers which retain the ability to use vents and ignore armor. The Disrupter that can make ranged attacks, and the mighty Goliath that deals more damage and can take more punishment than other swarmers. You also have the ability to assimilate a civilian. This gives you a sort of double agent that can distract other humans but can’t attack.
Deciding when, how and what to attack is key. The more humans you consume, the more biomatter you get. But is it worth the risk to go for humans that are off the beaten path? It’s a ton of fun to use and plan your strategy with all the swarmer types. The core design of the game is very well done and I have little to no complaints about it.
The fun and strategy grow after each stage. You get a certain amount of mutagen based on your score that you can spend on an evolution tree. Unlocking nodes on the tree can grant new abilities to your swarmers. You can make the Matriarch deal more damage and have more health, grant the stalker double damage on back attacks, or give the disrupter a ranged distraction for example.
I didn’t find any unbalanced abilities either, each one was situational and useful with no outliers proving to be too strong or weak. Something that almost always tends to happen in these type of games.
You aren’t locked into the choices you make in the evolution tree. Between levels, you can deselect any of the nodes you have unlocked and have the mutagen refunded to you. This means that you can more or less change load-outs at your discretion between levels. It’s very intuitive.
Each stage takes place on a different part of the ship, starting at the bottom and ascending floors upward. You will devour pathetic humans in logistics, marketing and more. Each stage has its own objectives and themes. There is a nice variety of gameplay between them. One might have you eliminate drills and then deal with a security team.
Another might have you fleeing an area that’s about to be purged, giving you a limited amount of turns to succeed. One has you planning ambushes as you fend off waves of humans while you defend the matriarch. The variety is very much a good thing and something I didn’t expect going into Attack Of The Earthlings. But it’s not all good news.
One stage, in particular, is simply awful. The game takes away most of your strategical options and gives you a single grunt of which you have to sneak through a level. This level, in particular, pulls out a plot device that makes it so the lone grunt is incapable of killing any earthlings
Controlling a single unit through a stealth sequence in a turn-based game is tedious, time-consuming and unfun. If you get the little guy spotted even once, it’s toast and you’re doing it over again, with the same patrol routes and unchanging gameplay. Variety isn’t always good and that level, in particular demonstrates that fact, but it’s an ugly blemish that doesn’t extend to the rest of the stages thankfully.
Furthermore, the design of the game isn’t procedural or random, this means that the game has next to no replay value compared to similar titles. This isn’t a bad thing by itself, not every game needs to be infinitely replayable, but it’s also a tad short for my tastes. It lasted me around eight hours from start to finish. Keep in mind, it is a turn based game which is slower by nature so eight hours isn’t all that much.
The visuals are decent and everything is presented in a clear and concise way, the controls are smooth and easy to use, borrowing from its X-COM brethren. But the animations and special effects leave a lot to be desired, you won’t find a lot of eye candy here.
All of that aside, Attack of The Earthlings is a great turn-based tactics game. Its gameplay, barring that one stage is very well done and it makes you think hard and plan to accomplish your goals. While it lacks any replay value, I enjoyed the time I spent with it and do not regret the experience at all. If you are fine with a somewhat shorter tactical game, buy it now. Otherwise, wait for a small sale. If you like tactical games you should really pick it up at some point either way as the game is well designed and very fun to play.
A key was provided for Gideonsgaming by Junk Fish Via Indieboost.com
Interested in other turn based games? Check out my review of For The King!
- Great tactical and stealth gameplay
- Playing as the insectoid aliens is a nice change from other games in the genre.
- Stages have varied objectives and gameplay
- Variety of units that are fun to play
- Evolution tree skills can be swapped in and out between stages
- The dark humor is funny at times
- The dark humor falls flat at times
- A little short with no replay value
- One level, in particular, is awful to play through
- Animations and special effects are lackluster.
- No difficulty settings.