Attack of the Earthlings has a cinematic premise, mixing XCOM-style gameplay with Alien-like monsters and Monty Python-esque comedy.
Unfortunately, it’s a game that flops in comparison to its counterparts, feeling more like a straight-to-DVD B-movie than a sci-fi blockbuster.
Tactical strategy games are having somewhat of a resurgence as of late, with varying degrees success – in just the last few months, we’ve had the likes of Wargroove and Jagged Alliance: Rage! among others. Each one is trying to steer its own course in a popular genre – and Attack of the Earthlings from Team Junkfish is no different. It essentially tries to be a reverse XCOM: you are the gruesome and bloody aliens defending your homeworld from the most deadliest of beast: humans!
On paper, it’s an interesting shake-up that certainly piqued my interest. Simply reversing the heroic human survivor genre, letting the player take on the role of the typical “enemy”, is enough for people to take note – and its zany premise easily provides the elements for humour. Attack of the Earthlings throws in as much comedy as it can, adding in silly sketches throughout the game, and soldiers whose animations have just come from the Ministry of Silly Walks. The simple, silly humour is consistent and fairly clever throughout – but sadly it’s the only part of the game that really works.
Despite its humour, Attack of the Earthlings just isn’t particularly enjoyable to play, and it mainly comes down to missing the very basics. Firstly, there just aren’t that many tactical decisions to make. You’re playing as a fictional, deadly alien; the choices available to you should be endless and creative. Instead, your choice of action is more comparable to Pac-Man than most squad strategy games. You can attack, move, overwatch, eat a corpse or hide. Oh, and you can also regurgitate swallowed biomass to create smaller creatures that have the same abilities minus spawning new allies.
The options available to you are definitely on the shorter side compared to most squad strategy games, but they could still serve a purpose. When I first started playing Attack of the Earthlings, I was aiming for both speed and stealth. Could I quickly take out enemies and devour them before being spotted? Would I be helped or hindered by creating more aliens? If I had more, I could take out more than one enemy at a time – but I was more likely to get spotted. Thinking like this initially provided me with a degree of enjoyment, until I realised how poorly designed the humans’ behavioural patterns are.
When a human spots your alien, they will either run or come to fight. What they certainly won’t do is communicate with the person stood right next to them that they’ve just seen their friend being eaten alive. As such, stealth really isn’t that necessary. Yes, you will need to sneak around a few guards occasionally – but if you get caught you can just hide and wait for the enemy to get close enough to attack, knowing that down the hallway the next soldier is blissfully unaware of your actions.
Simply put, you can quite literally get away with murder. While Attack of the Earthlings is aiming to be more casual than its counterparts, its gameplay really is too simple to be interesting for more than a few minutes. This, mixed with the criminally awkward and slow animations, makes the game little more than a chore, broken up a few some decent jokes. Attack of the Earthlings has the ingredients to be a unique entry in the turn-based strategy genre – but it’s missing vital elements that would’ve made the gameplay tolerable.