Earthfall Early Access Feature

RUN OUT IN THE STREETS SCREAMING AND PANICKING THERE ARE ALIENS ATTACKING.

Well, that’s what I would do at least. There are few games from my past that have stayed with me, managed to sit in the nostalgia centre of my mind yet also stay near and dear to my heart when I pick it up again.  One such game was Left 4 Dead. It was the first game of its type that I had played and really enjoyed. I played it to death, every level, every way and I loved it. The team spirit, helping each other when necessary, the silence and the threats. Many people will remember the annoyance at that one teammate who seemed to always disturb the witch or the fear you felt when you accidentally set a car alarm off, had low health and no one was around to help!

I never thought there would be another game like it, then Left 4 Dead 2 came out and I was in love again. I think it’s fair to say that I like this type of game, I enjoy co-operative titles that challenge you to play together. Why am I talking about L4D? Well, I am sure you will have guessed by now but Earthfall is practically the same game with aliens instead of zombies as the antagonists. I am not even close to joking. In fact the CEO of Holospark, Russell Williams has been quoted on Steam as saying  “We are big fans of co-op shooters and knew that we weren’t the only gamers craving that kind of action, so we decided to build it ourselves, but at 2017 standards with 4K graphics, new weapons, new defense tactics, and more” and he certainly wasn’t wrong.

Here is the information directly from the Steam pages:

The end of the world is here! Emerging from the devastation of a global meteor strike, aliens swarm the landscape and ravage the planet. Everyday people must stand together and fight back with a wide variety of weapons, supplies, and defences as they battle through the towns and wilderness of the Pacific Northwest.

Earthfall is a co-operative shooter for up to four players. Using team-based tactics to fortify holdouts and complete objectives, players must work together to survive EARTHFALL!

Features:

  • Co-operative Survival For up to Four Players – Team up with friends to survive the alien infestation. Robust multiplayer support and A.I. teammates stand ready to ensure a full team at any time regardless of available players
  • Build Your Defences – Strategically deploy barricades to block the enemy hordes and install turrets anywhere to create perfect alien killing zones
  • Print Your Weapons – Use advanced 3D printers to print more than twenty different weapons to use against the vicious alien enemies
  • Multiple Campaigns – Each campaign tells a story across several missions, allowing players to dive in and experience diverse settings and mission types across the Pacific Northwest (one campaign available in initial Early Access release)
  • Close Encounters of the Brutal Kind – Deadly aliens come in all shapes and sizes, from massive drones armies attacking in waves to towering behemoths spitting plasma, every experience is different, each time you play
  • Battle Unpredictable Enemies – Earthfall features a dynamic spawn system providing a constant set of new challenges lurking behind every corner
  • An Unfolding Story – Every campaign reveals new content and secrets behind the world of Earthfall and the cataclysmic alien invasion

 

Well, I am pleased to say that Holospark has done a great job so far. They have captured the essence of what made Left 4 Dead great, improved upon it where necessary and have delivered a game that is shaping up to be a classic.

The basic gameplay feels very much like Left 4 Dead, the gunplay is great and exactly what you would expect and even though the aliens look a bit, well, shit, they are great canon fodder. Obviously, this isn’t a review but it has to be said that if I were reviewing this game right now in its current state it would score pretty well in every area but the aliens. I just don’t like them, they don’t feel menacing enough. Sure, when there are lots of aliens swarming towards you, it can get a little tense but there is never any real fear.

Another reason this isn’t a review is that I would also have to mark down the AI for constantly standing in my way. I have only played a few matches in solo but the weapon stealing bastards masquerading as AI are so irritating that if I had no friends I would suggest that you wait to play until this is sorted.

What you can’t see from a picture is that as I was shooting at the alien, Maya ran in front of me and Danny closed in, to my right, I was backed up against a wall and so I had to jump and shoot them to get them out of my way, it’s not an issue this is an early access title so I expect this sort of thing and you should too…….but not for long. This isn’t a piece of advice, prophecy or even a suggestion, the developers at Holospark do something pretty rare nowadays. They listen to their players!

Take a look at the games road map or Steam forums and you will see a dev that is very involved with its community and is making changes based on feedback. In fact, the AI issue is being addressed because players have mentioned that your companions have a retardation. In a recent Roadmap update Kells (the Earthfall community manager) states:

 

Here’s what you’ll see in the next update:

· Your AI companions will sprint to keep up with you, rather than strolling behind you while you race ahead.

· They’ll prioritise nearby health stations over precious med kits.

· They’ll reload proactively.

· They won’t attempt to shove a whiplash.

· They won’t repeat themselves as often.

· They’ll give you first crack at the good weapons.

· They’re polite enough not to stand in your personal space as often.

They’re learning other lessons, and the full academy curriculum will be listed in the patch notes. We hope you are as excited as we are, and looking forward to fighting with your new improved AI companions!

WOW, the community wanted the AI fixes and Holospark deliver. This is how modern game development should work. In the past games companies had to hope they were doing the right thing based off of a very limited pool of people, now you can actually ask your customers “what’s wrong with this?” and they will tell you.

Overall the game is very polished for a title at this level of development, the maps are varied enough to be interesting and there are some fabulous mechanics. Barricading doors is excellent, you can buy yourself a reasonable amount of time, protect your rear, create a kill zone, force the aliens to path a different way all with this simple mechanic of placing a metal barricade/door. You can place these barricades anywhere that highlights green when you equip the barricade. I was so used to only being able to add things like this in certain areas that it was only when I pressed a wrong key that I realised I was able to put the barricade between a truck and a fence, it was a revelation and allowed me to create a choke spot for my napalm.

The replay factor is important in a game of this ilk, I think Earthfall will score highly here. I am struggling to complete the very first mission on single player with the difficulty set to easy. The reason is that unlike Left 4 Dead the assault is relentless. There are few breaks and quiet creeping moments. I think the game could do with some of those for tension, however, the crazy rush, lack of ammo and as I alluded to before those bastard AI nicking the best weapons all the time adds up to a decent replay factor.

Whilst I am not impressed by the antagonists of the piece they do give me fond memories of Left 4 Dead. There are the standard aliens called Drones, some slightly tougher aliens, Heavy Drones, and then there are the special aliens. These buggers do special things, things I have seen before but I loved them then and I love them now. I won’t make the comparisons here for you but if I said there was an Alien called a Sapper that if you shoot it, it blows up and there is a green gas field that damages you and your teammates. How about an alien called a Thresher,  that pounces on you from afar and pins you down, or Whiplash, a horse/giraffe-like swine but its specialness means it grabs you and gets you away from the group. Come on, you know that is straight out of the L4D book right down to the big boy, the Beast, a fireball throwing brute.

All in all, this is a solid start to what I hope will be a favourite game for years to come, the more I play the more I like it, the extra mechanics with a positive and negative to weigh up like printing a weapon if you are willing to fight a swarm or the time to add barricades vs just fighting, it all adds up to fun and I know I spent a fair amount of time comparing Earthfall to L4D it’s not a bad thing, in fact, it’s high praise indeed.

I will, of course, bring you a review as soon as the game has released and will be interviewing the devs in the near future so if you have any questions for them why not drop us a line by clicking here or alternatively just stay tuned to MinkiSans YouTube and Twitch channels for gameplay and more.

Earthfall is available now on Steam early access priced at £10.99 or $14.99, €14.99

 

 

 

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