On the E.B.E. of destruction.
Humanity is all but eliminated. With, perhaps, 20-30% of the population remaining, waiting for its ultimate demise, Earth is on the brink of annihilation. Why? An alien race, dubbed the E.B.E. by the United Earth forces, invaded and cleared out chunks of the world population. In an effort to stave off extinction, the United Earth forces created the A.N.T.I. unit – a group of elite and uniquely powered soldiers equipped with the skillset necessary to destroy the E.B.E. Sent on missions across the continental U.S.A. (and further), or what remains of it, the A.N.T.I. attempt to clear out sections of E.B.E. and their Baron class Overlords.
This is the world you’re dropped into as an A.N.T.I. unit soldier. Before the game begins, you can briefly ‘customize’ your soldier, choosing what gender and features (hair, facial) that you’d like. Once that’s completed, you’re catapulted straight into the action. To begin, your soldier has a limited skill set with your basic attack, shoot, jump (or double jump), and boost buttons, which is more than enough to clear out that first level of E.B.E. And in that first level, you’re also introduced to the difficulty of the game and its basic setup.
Yet all of that comes second to noticing the beautifully barren hand drawn aesthetics. Ranging from the characters, to the setting, to the ‘cinematics’ (which consist of vaguely American looking people speaking Japanese in the form of F.Y.E. standees), everything in Earth’s Dawn is hand drawn. For me, this artistic choice is always a winner, as it’s still nice to see the unique flavor it brings to any given experience. It also – at least in my opinion and in this situation – gives a special look to each weapon or piece of equipment.
Once past the tutorial/first story mission, you’re introduced to a handful of characters – the commander of the United Earth force, a soldier, a scientist, and an engineer. These four characters will be the entire supporting cast, but the only real characterization we get is from Billy, the soldier. Between the main story missions, Billy leaves a video recording that allows players to get a very small glimpse into the narrative. It doesn’t always make sense, and the side missions don’t particularly contribute to his story, but it’s something; if it didn’t exist, we’d have very little written exposition.
If you can get past the weak and tired narrative, however, you’ll be rewarded with a challenging (yet beatable) experience that rewards skill, strategy, and resource management (to a point). Earth’s Dawn’s simple set up (your hub, or home base, has three options on it – excluding the options menu – that consist of mission selection, gear production and upgrades, and skills) allows the player to quickly gear his/her character, choose which skills to keep active, and decide on the next mission. A timer sits at the top of the hub and reminds you how much time you have to complete side quests before you must embark on your next counter-offensive.
Even in its simple design, Earth’s Dawn offers a deep and, for its less-than-full-price tag, lengthy experience. You can choose the type of character you want to play as (your skills are broken up into offensive, defensive, balanced, etc.), and completing missions with certain rankings helps to unlock the more interesting or useful abilities (for example, attaining an S rank on a side mission might unlock an attack +2 skill, which is always useful). These skills, too, can be linked with each other, thus creating a complex strategical skill tree. For example, you can choose to link that Attack +2 skill you just unlocked with the first, second, or so on attack of your regular melee combo. Likewise, you can pop it into your ranged attack or directional attacks, too. It’s all up to your play style and what works best for you. Additionally, you can link more than one skill to each attack, enabling you to have serious control of your character growth.
Weapon creation and upgrading is similarly complex (yet altogether simple). By killing E.B.E. in any given mission, you can collect crafting or upgrading materials. As you progress through the game, more weapons, armor, accessories, or even ‘look’ upgrades become available – each with its own requirements and costs. Each recipe allows for the addition of rare versions of each material that adds elemental, strength, defensive, etc. add-ons to each piece of equipment. Upgrading equipment simply requires upgrade materials, each with its own set of ‘experience’ that must add up to a new equipment level.
Finally, Earth’s Dawn comes replete with over 60 missions (though, really, only a handful are ‘main’ missions). Each mission can be ranked, with each mission having skills available as rank rewards. Missions can be selected from the mission screen, where you can then choose what location to complete missions in (for example, about halfway through the game, you can battle in New York or Wisconsin). Each mission – whether it be a main or side – has unique objectives, though many of the side missions end up repeating quest types.
And that’s Earth’s Dawn’s biggest setbacks – its repetitive nature. Of the 60 missions, too many were “find a variable amount of any given item” or “race to the end of the mission in a set time” or “destroy a variable amount of this particular E.B.E.” The main missions offered more variety. One mission saw me battling a seemingly endless number of E.B.Es, where another had me hunting and battling a Baron class E.B.E. known as Lorelai (that was a pretty enjoyable battle). Still, for its initial price tag of $29.99 (I got mine for $19.99), the game gives gamers ample amount of gameplay.
Unfortunately, even that gameplay can grow stale. For me, Earth’s Dawn was a game best played in short segments. I never could sit down with it for more than an hour (if it even took me that long to shut it off). It’s not because the game isn’t fun; it certainly is (I love the execution kills of the E.B.E.). The repetitive combat (really, you just smash square in different directions and shoot at enemies with shields before smashing square some more) and limited number of E.B.E. variations (there are about five base models for the E.B.E. and a few attack/defense variations of those) damage replay value. While the boss creatures add some spice to the overall mixture, the final product, on that front, anyway, resulted in a rather bland presentation.
Still, Earth’s Dawn is an entertaining game for those who enjoy a bit of a challenge mixed with hand drawn visuals in a 2D side scrolling-ish adventure. The gameplay is fun if limited, but the repetitive nature of the game, enemies, and combat kills the longevity vibe. For $30 max, the game is worth your money, and the challenge of receiving an S rank on every mission makes the game a bit more challenging for a completionist. Overall, however, the experience is lacking – though as Oneoreight’s first console Earth’s Dawn game, it’s not all negatives.