Earthfall Review
Holospark Games ambitious alien arcade action shooter is out. Will it survive our autopsy?

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Earthfall is an ambitious project from indie developer Holospark Games. Inspired by cooperative arcade shooters like Left 4 Dead, the game pays homage to a sect of the FPS genre that has seen very few quality titles in the past few years.


Is this alien invasion worth fighting, or is best left on the operating table? Let’s find out.


 

 


Story


Humanity is on the verge of extinction following a mass invasion by an alien race. You play as one of a group of four survivors who are looking to uncover the mystery behind the invasion while surviving the challenges presented before you.

One of the things that differs Earthfall from Left 4 Dead is the cohesive story, instead of episodic arcs. You’re trying to uncover the mystery behind the alien’s origins through the story. The characters are likeable enough, and there are pieces of lore scattered through each level which help flesh out the world that Holospark has built.

 


Gameplay


The narrative that Earthfall is a Left 4 Dead clone has been beaten to death. Upon my first few playthroughs, I instantly felt as though I was playing a game that plagiarized one of the great cooperative action FPS of all time. It’s true that Earthfall draws a lot of inspiration from Left 4 Dead, however, it does try to differentiate itself in certain aspects of the game, which I will get into.

You can play solo or cooperatively, however, a solo game is a fairly unappealing prospect. Cooperative AI does an okay job following your lead, but really can’t be relied on for helping complete missions or objectives. Whether you play solo or cooperative, once you’ve passed the lobby and enter a level, you’re tasked with reaching or completing certain objectives – with progressively challenging enemies as you traverse the level.

The enemies are challenging enough, but I noticed some making some bizarre choices during several playthroughs – attacking fortifications beside open windows, taking the long way to get to the player, etc. It can’t be denied, however, that the drones are fun fodder, and if there’s anything we can see from years of progressive hardware advancements in gaming, we are treated to large-scale hordes during some of the more tense moments in the game. As mentioned, there was a sense of plagiarism throughout Earthfall, however perhaps none more egregious than the special enemy types you encounter. While there are minor differences, there are special enemies that pin you down, drag you away and even a large tank like brute who is difficult to take down and will likely end your play session.

There are a number of interesting weapons in Earthfall, though most will be quite familiar to FPS players. Assault rifles, shotguns, and submachine guns are the typical fares for players, and I found myself really enjoying the dual pistols when I managed to find a second pistol in the game. There are some specialty weapons like gatling guns and flamethrowers, but I found these to be a little more cumbersome, especially during the mayhem of a firefight with a horde. While I enjoyed most of these weapons, it felt as though there wasn’t much differentiating one from the other during the playthrough – that is, each gun felt as though it did similar damage, and the only true difference between them was fire rate and ammo capacities.

Some of Earthfall’s distinct features include the ability to fortify areas housing special 3D printers that can craft weapons – definitely helpful for moments in the game where the horde has you cornered. There are also mounted guns and automated turrets, but I found them to occupy random areas of the map, where fortification wasn’t necessarily the main objective. This was one of the challenges I had with Earthfall – it touts the fortification aspect of the game, but you’re constantly moving through the level, and when it comes time to hunker down, it was usually in areas that may not have the same amount of fortifications.

There are removable barriers meant as the main means of protection from the horde, perhaps drawing inspiration from Fortnite. The idea was good, however, the execution left quite a lot to be desired, as most times these fortifications did little in the way to prevent enemies from entering fortified areas. You can modify some of these barricades, but I felt it would have been nice to be able to 3D print or repair these barricades. The idea seemed like a good one but likely needs some more development to truly impact the game.

I would have liked to see more use of modern gameplay mechanics within Earthfall. For instance, obstacles at waist height were impassable without first taking a sprint towards it, and even then it was hit and miss. When downed, there are no means of self-reviving, which arguably makes the game a true test of team play, but it would have been nice if there was a way to bring yourself back into the fight. I also would have liked to see more customization for weapons in the game, perhaps by completing challenges either solo or as a group.

But, with all that being said, to find true success in Earthfall, you need to work together. My playthroughs with different groups saw different outcomes – usually more favorable when everyone was focused on the objective and many more deaths when everyone was spread out. Earthfall is a great game for a group of friends.

 

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Graphics and Sound


Earthfall has been designed using the Unreal 4 engine, and it does look very polished for an independent title. I found some of the textures within the game to be a little underwhelming, and in certain areas the game looks a little dated, graphically speaking. That being said, the game runs very smoothly, even during larger wave attacks and Holospark should be commended on the polish they’ve managed to achieve.

The game sports a cinematic score, which pipes up when the team is under attack, similar to another arcade shooter that Earthfall has been compared to. The sound effects are robust, especially during the horde sequences.

 


Summary


If there’s one thing I take away from Earthfall it’s that it hasn’t done enough to differentiate itself from Left 4 Dead. There are good ideas within, however, they haven’t been fully developed. Developer Holospark has stated that all post-launch content will be free, and hopefully, they will tweak the game enough to add some replayability. There’s nothing inherently wrong with Earthfall, it’s a fun romp – especially with friends – and it will provide enough variety that I would recommend it as a good arcade shooter, especially for those who have been spending their days playing Left 4 Dead.

Earthfall

7.8

Gameplay

8.0/10

Graphics

7.0/10

Sound

8.5/10

Campaign

7.0/10

Multiplayer

8.5/10

Cool

  • If you like Left 4 Dead, Earthfall is a spiritual successor
  • What Earthfall does, it does well
  • Challenging cooperative require good teammates to overcome
  • Good soundtrack and dialogue.
  • Fun with friends!

Not Cool

  • Fortification system doesn't seem fully developed. Worked in some maps, not others.
  • Unable to leap over waist high obstacles.
  • While it runs smoothly, the graphics at times left something to be desired.
  • Solo AI could use some tweak options.
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