Earthfall is the brand new Left 4 Dead inspired co-operative first person shooter from Holospark. The game sees 1 – 4 players, able to jump in and play the storyline; with the title just fully released, before being part of Steam’s Early Access. Earth may have just fallen to an alien invasion, however, with some help from 3D printers players will be able to print themselves an arsenal to survival and aid in the killing of lots of the invaders. However, is this an invasion you’ll want to defend against? Let’s find out!
Players find themselves in a gameworld, set in the Pacific Northwest, which has been become somewhat decimated, with a lack of humans, since the alien invasion began. With the fate of the world in your team’s hands the aim is simple, still it’s a crazy plan. Players must over the course of the missions push onward into regions controlled by the aliens to attempt to save the day. Alas, aliens of all shapes, sizes and seemingly ability will be stood in your way. These extra terrestrial creatures give the game a rather unique look, and each pose a different style of threat from the genre classics of bullet sponging tanks to goo spitting ranged units.
Thankfully, the arsenal available to players strikes a brilliant balance, to help the team combat the invaders! It is varied enough to offer players a chance to use a load of awesome weapons to discover their favorite, especially with the inclusion of the more sci-fi inspired weaponry. At the same time players won’t be left trawling through endless weapon variants to determine which is best in a scenario. There will be a couple guns at any time that’ll get the job done better than the rest, giving weapon selection purpose, but still offering players choice on what to carry.
Take the shotguns as an intuitive example, get right up and personal and they are devastating, perfect for clearing a room. Conversely, it’ll match up poorly against the gun emplacements when needing to defend a location. This effectiveness can make specific weapons incredibly enjoyable to use at the right time, there’s a sense of awesomeness when cutting through a wave of aliens with a wall of iron. The arsenal is interestingly 3D printed in-game at select points, taking direct inspiration from current day technology, even pointing towards it occurring back as early as 2016 in the lore. Alas, these 3D printing tidbits are the most intriguing element of the game world.
Lore-wise Earthfall had the potential to set the game aside from those it took inspiration from but it doesn’t seem like an avenue the developers have dived deep into. There can be something special about a lack of information if used as a mystery, with the story of the world being slowly learnt by progressing through the game. Alas, those looking to get an understanding of the world or the characters in it will be sorely disappointed. This might have flown for a game such as Left 4 Dead, but gaming should have improved in the past decade.
The team has not only made the bold move of not distancing themselves from the similarities to Valve’s classic Left 4 Dead but actively have confirmed it was the inspiration for the title. Glaringly similar features and enemy types aside, Earthfall does manage to capture the coop feeling of the much loved franchise, whilst adding new sci-fi twists and elements. Apart from the shift from zombies to aliens, one of the most notable additions is the barricade and defense systems. Players are no longer left to fend off hordes with just the weapons they carry. Players can rig up barricades and turrets to effectively fight alongside them. How does a barricade fight you might be thinking: players have the ability to upgrade them to be electrified or even be gushing flames, perfect for thinning the ranks of the aliens.
Gamers will traverse a range of different environments from a chilly, snow sprinkled church to rusted car piled warehouses. Level design wise each has its own unique feel. Some have more height with a variety of floors to explore, while others will be larger expanses where you can see what’s coming from a longer distance. They levels are generally rather linear helping gamers stay on the right path but with plenty of directions for the aliens to attack from. The only negative is that a number of these directions that aliens come from are dead ends, which if you keep trying to go down can get frustrating.
Earthfall is built as a cooperative shooter and when friends get involved the fun truly begins. This is in part to not having to worry what the semi-competent AI will do. Nevertheless, when you have an ally, which you can communicate with, the tasks seem more manageable and you can revel in the moment together at what the game has thrown at you and what you’ve experienced together. This turns a game with cool moments into something to experience together. This isn’t to say that solo isn’t a similar experience, it just feels like the game has been designed with friends chilling, playing a game together in mind.
Veteran shooter gamers will potentially find Earthfall on the easy side, something exasperated by good teamwork. This is partially due to the AI for the aliens, which don’t always show the signs of intelligence that enabled then to invade the whole of Earth in the first place. The general rule is that they are more effective in numbers, so it is often when attention is drawn that players might come unstuck. The aliens can dish out some serious damage when players get surrounded so getting downed isn’t impossible. This is where another aspect of Earthfall is reminiscent of Left 4 Dead, the revival system. If a teammate gets downed you’ll have time to get them back to their feet: jarringly there isn’t much of an animation but they can then carry on.
Perhaps it is being overly critical of Earthfall with limited lore, and a sense of ease of completion, when the same issues can be found in Left 4 Dead, a title it is easy to sing the praises of. The comparisons are not subtle, yet Earthfall feels more like a missed opportunity to drag the genre forward in similar ways as Vermintide has managed to. There is fun to be had, jumping in and playing the missions cooperatively is a blast, driven by a shared experience of defeating aliens. I’d love to be able to say the lore of the world was as interesting as the thoughts behind the 3D printing but again gamers will be left wanting, needing, more than is on offer. Earthfall is just missing that knockout feature that helps it stand out, perhaps this could be added in still, but otherwise it’s a good but not great experience.
[Editor’s Note: Earthfall was provided to us by the developer for the review.]