Fried chicken, waffles and potato chips are all wonderful things in their own right and some of them work well when paired together. Frito Lay taught us a few years ago, however, that combining these three items into a new single entity will not have a synergistic effect on deliciousness. Earth’s Dawn is an action RPG that attempts to combine action platforming and a fully action oriented battle system with more traditional RPG elements. Do they succeed in creating a Frankenstein’s genre that is truly greater than the sum of its parts or does it fall into the realm of failed combinations such as mint toothpaste and orange juice?
Earth’s Dawn takes place after an alien race known as E.B.E. has invaded the Earth and destroyed a good portion of our civilized parts after us Earthlings have enjoyed many decades of peace, because a game that takes place during the aforementioned decades of peace would be boring. The E.B.E. have been able to have their fun demolishing most of society without much in the way of human resistance because as luck would have it they are completely impervious to current weaponry available on this planet. Likewise, games with completely invincible enemies are equally boring so the humans made a scientific breakthrough by constructing new weapons using the E.B.E.’s technology against them, which includes the usage of biotech suits.
Character customization in Earth’s Dawn is not as robust as some other RPGs but there is some freedom to design the character to suit an individual’s play style. Choice of gender is offered, with each gender having several available heads to choose from. There is a customizable skill tree but this has more to do with attribute scores and not so much with having a vast array of special abilities to select. Most attack variety stems from button and analog stick usage, so the best attribute types to stack will be determined by an individual’s play style, such as whether or not an emphasis on attack, defense, or tech would be best suited for someone.
The story is told largely through cutscenes that show portraits of non player characters explaining what the E.B.E.’s next move is or briefing the player on the upcoming mission. The players advance through the game by completing the main counter offensive missions which consist of reaching an end point of an area or defeating a boss monster. These levels are 2D platforming affairs filled with hostile alien creatures. When the player encounters these enemies they engage in battle which is all out action. The characters have a right and left hand attack which the default equipment is a gun in one hand and a sword in the other. The developers did attempt to add variety to battle. For example, guns do not do a ton of a damage but enough shots can stun enemies so they can be hacked with the player’s sword without fear of retaliation. Using the analog stick with a melee attack can punch and throw an enemy across the screen, and using an aerial dash pesky flying enemies can be hacked down from the sky. The variety of attacks, which does go beyond what is discussed in this review, do make combat more interesting but ultimately the battles are simple enough that button mashing is an acceptable approach to reaching victory. The three companion soldiers that go into battle with you are strictly for decoration, they do give the player a badass on screen presence but vanish at the first sign of trouble.
The plot point about how the E.B.E. can be defeated with their own technology does factor into the weapon construction game mechanic. When enemies are killed they sometimes drop random items that can be collected and used to construct new weapons and armor or upgrade the current ones in the arsenal. Rare items can grant special bonuses to the equipment, so even though pretty much any item can be used in construction or upgrading weapons the rare items would be wise to save up for preferred weapons.
There are two types of missions in Earth’s Dawn, the main counter offensive missions and free missions. Counter offensive missions are where the game advances and the plot is discussed and free missions are opportunities to do some level grinding and collect materials for equipment construction. The game is structured where after each counter offensive a timer starts until the next counter offensive happens. While the clock runs down the player is able to complete free missions. This approach sounds alright in theory but in execution it feels like a way to pad out the time it takes to complete the game. The free missions do get repetitive rather quickly, and waiting out the clock can get tiresome. If a free mission is failed the clock resets to where it was before the failed mission started, which is a double edged sword. It is great if the player wants to grind for materials and experience but annoying if the player just wants to advance through the game.
The graphics are the highlight of Earth’s Dawn. They do not push the current gen hardware limits by any stretch but they do have a pleasing and interesting style. The cutscenes feature drawn portraits of the characters talking to you in a more realistic anime style and the in game action is interesting to observe. While the art direction is very different, the animation has an animated construction paper quality where the movements and dismemberment animations are reminiscent of the animation seen in Monty Python productions.
Earth’s Dawn has many good ideas going for it, but unfortunately doesn’t execute them in a way that brings excellence to the action RPG genre. It’s a good game but doesn’t reach any level of greatness; it is entertaining but not enthralling. The story and artistic direction makes it appealing to sci-fi fans, but while the mixture of action and RPG gameplay elements do work, the combination doesn’t exceed what one would find in a great action title or great RPG. Like many sci-fi movies, Earth’s Dawn could develop a cult following, and if how this game is described seems like your cup of tea chances are you will enjoy it.