Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.
A long time ago, in a dark dark land, you didn’t have things like an Xbox. So to play the most interesting games in the world, you would have to venture out into the deep wild world, collect loads of 10p coins and enter the local arcade. These places were smoky, smelly, strange places. Full of pale looking teenagers and old men smoking, whilst playing fruit machines. But here in this strange land you would come across amazing games from Japan; dazzling, bewildering and testing your skills to the limit.
Earth’s Dawn reminds me a lot of those times.
The actual threat of Earth’s Dawn is coming around the corner and the fate of the planet hangs in the balance! You play as a member of A.N.T.I. – a squad of super-human soldiers powered by alien technology – and the game focuses on the fight to reclaim Earth from the alien invasion known as E.B.E… before it’s too late and Earth is destroyed.
It really reminds me of games like “Double Dragon” and DMC in its playing style, mixing gunplay and beat em up gameplay. You’ve a sword type attack, which you can use in a number of combinations from straight attack to jump attack to ”flip in the air madly while kicking your enemy in the air multiple times” attack. You also have the gun attack, which normally breaks an enemy’s armour down before you finish the job with the sword. Then you have a dash attack and after levelling up, many more extra combinations make you salivate at the mouth by the prospects on offer in the fighting.
The mission structure is complicated but you’ll soon be picking it up quite easily. You’re normally put into a level map to explore, where you venture out with three other soldiers. These people don’t do anything to help, and disappear when an enemy arrives; I think they’re just there for lines of dialogue and aesthetics. You’ve a number of missions to complete in that area like “collect this item” and” kill this number of enemies”. Then a timer will count down and you will then have to go and kill a huge boss before moving forwards in the story. It makes you explore the same level quite a few times before the big boss; this can get quite boring as you explore the same small level quite a few times. When you complete a mission you get graded on your skills, competence, and ability. The highest mark being S and E being the lowest – I was getting lot of E’s. You also collect materials on your mission, and this is where things get a bit complicated and more in depth.
Earth’s Dawn has a lot of depth and you can customise your character and weapons, as well as crafting a whole array of new equipment. You can get crafting items from fallen enemies you’ve defeated, as well as special rewards for doing a mission well. There are over 300 unique crafting elements to collect and you can use these across five categories; Swords (one-handed melee), Long Swords (two-handed melee), Guns (one-handed ranged), Bows (two-handed ranged) and Shuriken (melee and thrown). Other craftables can be categorised as amour suits, accessories (iron masks, night vision goggles, berets etc), and “exceed units” (large exoskeletons).
There is also a skill tree system, where by you use experience points to change or specialise the way you play the game. More defence based or more attacking for example, are possible options in how you complete the challenge of the game. From the start of Earth’s Dawn you are provided with 30 points pre-invested across the board of skills, which can be re-allocated as desired into different abilities, proficiencies and stat modifiers. This is very overwhelming and it made me feel very confused, BUT for people who love modifying their play style, weapons and crafting, this game is a dream come true and you can spend hours tinkling around with your toys.
The art style has been one of the strengths and highlights of my time with Earth’s Dawn. It’s hard to describe, but beautiful in its comic book styling and enemy designs. Creatures, weapons and figures look great and very unique. The backdrops of the world hint at an earth ravaged by war and every frame looks wonderful. The camera angles don’t always help though and you can get stuck behind something in the foreground that affects the gameplay. The audio is of a good standard, with a touch of retro effects in the gameplay and a solid score that drives the rhythm that works well with your game playing. The developers haven’t done an English version in their voice work, so you have Japanese’s actors delivering all the dialogue with subtitles for you to read and work out what’s going on. This is not a problem, but I did find the story hard to follow and I think that’s to do with the writing, rather than the voice over.
Overall, Earth’s Dawn is a game that I struggled with, because I can ‘t play games like this anymore. It requires a good amount of skill, RPG type investment and patience. Its looks are beautiful and the frenetic gameplay is amazing. But for me it all gets a bit samey after a while and the story doesn’t grip me enough to keep me interested. For people who want a great Japanese import that has some old-school gameplay mixed with new generation design though, this is the game for you and you should be adding another star to this score.
For me though, my days in the arcade are well and truly over.