General game information
Game name: Earth’s Dawn
Release date: December 7, 2016
Price: US$ 29.99
Genre: 2D side-scrolling action RPG
Developer: oneoreight Studios
Publisher: Rising Star Games
Earth’s Dawn is a 2D action RPG title set in a post-apocalyptic future in which Earth has been invaded by an alien race and humanity’s last hope is an elite unit of super soldiers who can use the enemy’s technology against them. Gamers will have to fight their way through hordes of creatures hell bent on their destruction, collect loot from their dead corpses and craft new weaponry and equipment to take on massive bosses. The story is a collection of cliches, but it has some interesting moments and the animated cutscenes are really well done, and do a pretty good job at immersing the player in the fiction.
The game starts slowly, introducing the threat of the E.B.E invaders with a lavishly detailed intro, and then drops players in the middle of the action as a newly recruited member of a special forces team that can use alien technology to power their weapons and armor suits. In order to make players feel like they are part of a greater war effort, a small platoon of soldiers clad in the same power armor will follow them around, though, strangely enough, they won’t take part in the many fights that break out as the game progresses, disappearing as conflict erupts and reappearing once the battle is over. This feels out of place, because Earth’s Dawn is an action game at its core, and seeing how a perfectly fit combat unit vanishes into thin air every time there is a fight is a pretty big immersion breaker.
The game starts out as a simple brawler, with the X button on the 360 pad acting as the main attack command and the Y button as the secondary weapon trigger (a gun at the beginning, can be upgraded to several different weapon types as the adventure goes on) but it quickly becomes a fairly complex action title, letting players learn new moves that can be chained together into combos that will take care of most enemies in a visually satisfying flurry of kicks and sword slashes. The right trigger in the Xbox 360 pad works as a rocket boost system, allowing for quick evasive maneuvers and airborne combat in some situations. In order to aid gamers in their quest against the invading alien forces, Earth’s Dawn has a complex skill tree which lets players link different attacks to create their own fighting style. Leveling up usually unlocks a few skills, and beating missions with a good combat rank rewards even more useful skills.
Aside from the skill tree, the game also contains elements of monster hunting games, and every enemy defeated may drop different materials that can be used to craft weapons, armor and other tools, or even upgrade existing equipment. As most monster hunting titles do, Earth’s Dawn also features optional missions that act as resource gathering sorties, tasking the player with hunting down a specific enemy type that drops a particular material type that can be used to develop new tools of destruction. As the game progresses, players will have to engage creatures that are resistant to some elemental attacks and weak to others, a mechanic that keeps gamers on their toes and forces them to choose their weaponry wisely in order to avoid being outmatched by their alien foes.
Most missions are quite short, ranging from a minute to two or three, though main quest scenarios are usually a bit longer, and they play out on big, interconnected maps, forcing the player to manage their health levels and find ways to advance through the level before facing powerful bosses. Since there are no mid mission saves, gamers need to complete levels without dying too much or they will have to return to the hub and redo the failed mission. This can be particularly frustrating in some sections that play host to heavy difficulty spikes, but it works well for the majority of the game’s duration. Some levels feature machinery that can alter gravity, adding a new dimension to the gameplay and letting players engage in fun puzzles. Sadly, the levels tend to look rather similar, and after a few dozen missions the game starts feeling a bit repetitive.
Most bosses can be quite tough, forcing the player to adapt quickly to changing combat conditions if they intend to survive the fight unscathed, and they usually have more than one phase, changing their attack patterns as their vulnerable spots get destroyed. Thankfully, after a few missions, gamers get their hands on a powerful move that can be charged as they fight and it acts as an “oh crap!” button, dealing massive amounts of damage if used correctly. Once the hulking creatures lose enough health to be in a critical state, players can deal a killing blow which will not only reward them with the boss’ death, but also with an over the top animation that fits the art style perfectly. This critical state mechanic also applies to normal creatures, and dispatching them when they are in this state will let recharge the player’s health and shower them with loot.
Graphically, Earth’s Dawn looks beautiful in some places and straight up strange in others. The art style is incredibly similar to the one featured in games developed by Vanillaware, such as Odin Sphere or Dragon’s Crown, but applied to a sci-fi world instead of a fantasy one. The backgrounds are all beautifully rendered and lavishly detailed, and enemy models are also beautiful on their own way. Strangely enough, this isn’t the case for the human characters, as they look a bit grotesque, with their big heads and dead eyes. I believe that this may have been a conscious choice, since it hammers home the fact that humanity has been fighting a losing war and they are exhausted at the beginning of the game, but doubt that the art style will please everyone. Sound design is great overall, with an enjoyable soundtrack and competent voice acting during the title’s many cutscenes.
Ultimately, Earth’s Dawn is a stylish action RPG with a few noticeable flaws that prevent it from achieving greatness. Its complex skill tree, exhilarating boss fights and in-depth crafting mechanics will keep some players busy for a long time, but others may be discouraged by the game’s repetitiveness and annoying difficulty spikes.