Here is my review of Earthfall, a new indie co-op alien shooter by independent studio Holospark who are a small team of veteran developers. They have previously worked on many AAA franchises at big publishers in the past and Earthfall is their first project after setting up their own studio. The developers have dubbed the game as “Left 4 Dead with aliens” and its true this game plays a lot like Valve’s classic coop zombie shooter games. I am playing on the Xbox One X where the developers have had some issues at launch with that version of the game where they have stated that they need to update the engine for the game to play at it’s full potential in full 4K HDR and with all the other visual enhancements afforded by the more powerful platform. At the time of writing this review the graphics are quite muddy and low resolution than say comparing to videos I have watched of the PC version and whilst Xbox One X is locked at 30fps it is no where near where it should be at present in terms of visual fidelity.
That being said what I can tell you about is how much fun the gameplay is. It really is quite a similar setup to Left 4 Dead or indeed the zombies mode in the Call Of Duty games are quite similar if you’re not familiar with the Valve series. You go through a varied range of fairly large maps towards your next objective marker with aliens all around to shoot you’re never short of some action. Since the game offers co-op play for up to 4 players online (no offline multiplayer here unfortunately) the objectives are often designed as such. There might be 4 switches that need activated in a room, or two of you will have to go and get gas cans to refuel a van whilst the other two fends off the aliens or sometimes only one objective needs to be activated like a winch on a truck to pull open a door and you all have to setup barricades and turrets to defend it while it does the job.
When you come to any objective you’ll usually find a load of guns, ammo, health packs and tools like the barricades and turrets I mentioned, with the turrets coming in automatic variety and ones you can mount and shoot from yourself. So you go setup all these defences then activate the objective will trigger waves of aliens for you to defend against until the task is complete and you can progress. This is the basic gameplay loop in Earthfall and it works a treat. It’s a lot of fun and the levels are fairly short and sweet it might take between 10-20 minutes to complete a missions with the game offering 10 missions in all set across two story campaigns with 5 missions a piece. The story does it’s job to keep the game going and add a little context to proceedings but is fairly inconsequential the main reason for playing this game is the fun gameplay loop. Although it should be said the voice acting here is well done in the story intros to each missions that happen in-engine and throughout gameplay the squad will talk to each other although it’s fairly limited saying where weapons and equipment are which is handy for locating them and quick quips that provide a little humour to the frantic shooting action and it all works just fine.
Although online matchmaking is now fixed on Xbox One in a patch a few days after launch at the time of writing, it is still quite difficult to find a group to play with and is quite a lengthy wait time to get into a game. But online worked well for me once I was in it was very stable with hardly any lag. I have been mostly playing the game with a friend, which is what I would recommend playing this game with friends is a lot of fun and I’ve played some solo with the rest of the characters controlled by the AI. Starting with solo play there are some issues. As far as them shooting aliens there is no problem at all and you can adjust their skill level which determines how proficient they are at killing aliens. They will also revive you or other AI team mates when they go down. However, when it comes to objectives you are on your own so if there is 4 things to do you will be humfing them all across the map or activating all the switches yourself. This isn’t a deal breaker I have still enjoyed the game solo but it does mean I am doing all the donkey work instead of letting them do it some times while I go on a mad alien killing spree, it would be nice to mix up my role in completing objectives sometimes.
Another thing that for me is somewhat of a misstep is that, every level the game throws all of the 6 different enemy types at you and also every weapon and equipment type. Which to me they would have been better rolling them out across the campaign to keep each level feeling fresh with new enemy types and toys to dispatch them with and also encourage replayability if you only got certain enemies or weapons on certain levels that you like. Each level kind of plays out the same with a different backdropped and something different to hold down B to activate or things to collect to make the other thing work. The maps are well designed though and although not at their visual best as Ive mentioned until they update the engine the environments are good looking and detailed and fairly varied from a rail yard, junk yard, underground complex, jungle environments and streets with houses. I just feel if they rolled out the enemy and weapon types more sparingly it would make them feel different gameplay-wise.
There is no levelling or progression system either which I think would have really helped with the long term replayability of the game and there is only the campaign mode to play through where I think even a time attack or score attack mode you could compete with friends with would have added a lot more to the package that seems not too difficult to implement. Granted, Earthfall is not a full price AAA title by a big studio. It is a £24.99 title by a small independent team and for me there is enough here to warrant that price tag at the moment with 10 great campaign missions taking into account the flaws that I’ve mentioned it is a good package for the price but if they added simple things like time and score attack with leaderboards and dolled out the enemy types and weapons as I’ve said it would add a fair bit more without being overly complicated or expensive to implement. That said visuals and matchmaking, at least on the Xbox One X version, are not where they should be at the moment. I plan on waiting until the 4K HDR patch and matchmaking fix arrives before delivering my final review pending it arriving within the next week or so. Only the Xbox One X version has been mentioned by the developers as having issues however, not sure if normal Xbox One is affected only the X was mentioned on the developer’s reddit post. The developers have announced they will be supporting the game with free add-on content including new missions, modes and weapons. Hopefully some new enemy types and the things I’ve mentioned that I think will improve the game’s longevity too.
At the moment I would recommend Earthfall if you have read the above and it sounds like a game you would enjoy. I am having a lot of fun with it so far and for me it is worth the reasonable asking price of £24.99 and that will include additional content released for free in the month’s ahead. The game is at it’s best when played with friends but I have also enjoyed it very much playing solo too when my friend wasn’t online. But, as I’ve mentioned, the game lacks longevity and you can go through the 10 missions available in a few hours with no real reason to return to them. No levelling, progression system or other modes to give you reason to keep playing. The developers have said they will release free DLC adding more levels and other content to the game in the coming months but right now there’s not a lot to keep you coming back.