Earth's Dawn Review

By Andrew Ogley, 2 years ago
Originally released in Japan in September 2015 as Earth Wars, the 2D scrolling action-rpg title from OneorEight games is finally brought to the Xbox One by publisher Rising Star Games albeit under a new moniker, Earth's Dawn. The game promises a mixture of monster hunting, loot, crafting, melee and shooting, all wrapped up with a distinctive Japanese style. It's OneorEight's debut on the console and their aim is bring the community a game that they consider 'fun-to-play' and to be fair they've achieved that relatively well.

Earth's Dawn Logo

The game takes place in a post-apocalyptic world that has been devastated by an all-conquering alien invasion force known simply as the E.B.E. Mankind is on the verge of being wiped out because the invaders are seemingly impervious to existing human weaponry. It is only a last minute breakthrough in research that reveals that the aliens can be beaten with their own weapons and technology. The player takes on the role of one the elite A.N.T.I. super-soldiers that is tasked with using the alien tech against the counter-offensives of the E.B.E. Whilst it might not be the most original storyline, it is sufficient to carry the game.

It's as one of these soldiers that the player is thrust into the fray with a campaign consisting of a number of battles across the major cities in the United States. There are free missions that the player can attempt at any time and a large counter-offensive mission that culminates in a boss-battle, but here the game introduces its first little twist with a large countdown clock that appears on the main mission screen. Whilst the clock gradually counts down, players can attempt any free mission to build up experience and collect loot drops from any vanquished foes. Once the timer expires, the player is forced to attempt the counter-offensive mission whether they are ready or not.

Earth's Dawn Review Images

The free missions form an essential part of the game. Throughout the course of the campaign, more missions are gradually added and sometimes it will be in a location that might have already been thought to have been cleared. Missions have a mix of different objectives varying from eliminating hordes of enemies to simply collecting specific alien samples. All of these vary in length; most are around 10 minutes but there are some, such as jumping to collect flags, that only last 10 seconds. This adds to the feeling that this is a title of which you can jump in and out quite easily to while away idle moments.

Generally, missions take place in one location until you are moved on to somewhere new on the campaign map, and this means that you can find yourself continually working through one area, revisiting the area and the monsters that consistently spawn in the same numbers in the same location. Like any metroidvania type of game, it becomes a process of learning the different chambers and how to tackle them. For fans of the genre this is normal, but for those who are new it could feel like a bit of a grind; however, it's not all a waste of time. Each of these missions will reward the player with a permanent attribute boost or unlock a new skill if they are successfully completed. In some cases, the same boosts can be won a number of times when the mission is repeated.

Earth's Dawn Review Images

In general, a level will consist of 2D platforming and a number of skirmishes in a decimated and dark war-torn environment. Colour palettes are deliberately subdued, both for the areas and most of the invading aliens. Locations and backdrops vary widely -- there are abandoned cities, caves, lava areas and poison swamps. Whilst the denizens of these particular areas are well adapted to the environments, it's up to the player to ensure that they have the right weapons and equipment to survive. This means that crafting and selecting the right weapons and armor is essential for success, as often you will be fighting against the environment as well as the numerous foes that you encounter as you traverse the various rooms in the level.

Combat is a good mixture of ranged and melee that uses firearms and swords. It's possible to use one or the other, choose to dual wield, or even unlock larger two handed weapons that are found later in the campaign. Initially it feels like simple button mashing is sufficient to defeat those earlier enemies, but as the game opens up, more combos and moves are unlocked that give the player even more variation during battles. With each major battle being ranked from the lower 'E' through to the highest 'S', combos and skill moves are necessary to achieve the higher rankings that unlock additional skills in turn. Complicating things further, some levels include vortexes that will alter gravity. The player can find themselves fighting on wall surfaces or even upside down on the ceiling, sometimes facing enemies on multiple surfaces at the same time. Given that there are also aerial threats and that enemies can appear in numbers, it can be extremely challenging fighting on multiple fronts simultaneously.

Earth's Dawn Review Images

Replaying the levels and defeating enemies opens up what are perhaps the two most impressive parts of the game: the weapon crafting and the skills and attributes tree. Vanquished foes drop loot -- actually body parts -- that can be used to craft new weapons and armor. The crafting materials inherit properties from their deposed donors, such as fire, electricity, ice, poison and more. As weapons are created with multiple components, there are almost endless possibilities that are similar to those in Borderlands. If you want to create an electrified poison katana of smiting then it's possible if you have the resources. Creating weapons with properties is essential given that the aliens can be resistant to certain weapons and have an extreme weakness to others. Additionally, weapons can be enhanced and 'levelled up', increasing the damage that they can inflict. It's a great system and provides an incentive for farming certain areas for the right crafting materials.

Similarly, the skills and attributes tree is surprisingly deep for such a title. Skills are unlocked through progression and completing missions with a specific rank. There are attributes that can be linked with certain skills, giving them an additional boost. Given that the player can configure five different complete sets, it allows the player to really tailor their character and skills to match just about any play style. It is a clever system that almost gives the game a true RPG feeling. Putting this alongside the numerous options in weapon crafting, the overall possibilities becomes seemingly endless.

Earth's Dawn Review Images

The artwork is highly stylised, showing the influences that manga and anime fans will probably enjoy. The story further unfolds during the manga style cut-scenes that precede most of the major missions and all of the counter-offensives. Static scenes featuring different characters -- scientist, doctor, and the general -- reveal the mission and story details. The Japanese artistic style carries through to the playable characters in the game, too. Both genders are represented as anime-style caricatures that can be personalised in a limited way at the start of the game. The soldiers in their A.N.T.I. armour look somewhat similar to those in Gears of War, including the pale blue lights, only manga-fied.

The audio in the game is perhaps the most understated part of the title. All of the dialogue is in original Japanese (with subtitles), the weapon sounds are relatively simple and enemy growls feel somewhat non-threatening. Again, it fits in with the art direction of the title and the soundscape has a distinctly anime vibe to it. The background music, too, is really in the background, almost to the point where you'll struggle notice it, although it does provide an audio cue when the player is about to face one of the level's encounters.

Earth's Dawn Review Images

With so much thought having gone into these aspects of the game design, there are a few minor quirks in the title that seem a little confusing. Firstly, you are always accompanied by a squad of three soldiers that seem to serve no purpose other than to clutter up the screen. They follow you around like heavily armored puppy dogs, only to disappear at the first sign of trouble and leaving you to fight your battles alone, returning only after the danger has passed. These would have provided the possibility of a co-op title and yet it remains strictly single player with global leaderboards being the only concession.

Additionally, the camera seems to be too close to the action, meaning that the characters take up a lot of screen space and enemies have a habit of disappearing off the sides of the screen during combat, leaving only their health bars behind as an indication of their position. The camera does occasionally zoom out for the boss fights, but for most of the time you feel that you are closer than you really need to be and a little more visibility would help. Fortunately, these quirks are just that and don't necessarily detract too much from the overall feeling of the title. Whilst it might not have the feel of the premium title, it is solid ID@Xbox game. It feels like this is a title that would have made a good Summer of Arcade offering rather than coming out in the Fall against some of the industry's big hitters.

Earth's Dawn Review Images

There are 20 achievements in the title with a number being unlocked for campaign progression -- essentially after beating the various bosses. There are also achievements for completing certain elements, like unlocking all of the skills or completing all of the free missions. At the time of writing, several of the achievements are still marked as rare, which may appeal to some. Fortunately, none of the achievements are linked to difficulty so a playthrough on the lowest difficulty will still unlock all of the achievements. For those who want to blast through the title on easier settings and go for achievement completion only, the game can be completed in 15-20 hours, although that would be missing out on some of the challenge that the title can provide.

Summary

Earth's Dawn is a solid little title with a few minor niggles that hold it back from being a great title. On the surface, the game appears quite simple and yet the combat, skills and crafting make for quite a deep and intriguing game with many gameplay and combat possibilities. The game design feels like a mission based metroidvania title with backtracking through previous levels, although without the open world feel. The weapon crafting and skills tree are expansive and there are plenty of missions in which to try out everything. Combat is solid and encourages the player to grow from simple button mashing to using more involved combos in order to gain the highest 'S' ranking per level. It's engaging and fun in small doses and makes for a great drop-in type title. It's not perfect yet, but it is a solid ID@Xbox title and does bode well for a potential sequel.
3.5 / 5
Earth's Dawn
Positives
  • Very deep skills tree
  • Great weapon crafting and enhancements
  • Plenty of content and missions to complete
  • Solid duel-wielding combat
Negatives
  • Will feel like too much of a grind to some
  • No co-op
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent around 10 hours fighting their way through caves, subways, power plants and poison swamps, crafting a multitude of weapons and unlocking numerous skills and attributes. A total of 7 from the 20 achievements were unlocked. The Xbox One download code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of review.
Please read our Review and Ethics Statement for more information.
Andrew Ogley
Written by Andrew Ogley
Andrew has been writing for TA since 2011 covering news, reviews and the occasional editorials and features. One of the grumpy old men of the team, his mid-life crisis has currently manifested itself in the form of an addiction to sim-racing - not being able to afford the real life car of his dreams. When not spending hours burning simulated rubber, he still likes to run around, shoot stuff and blow things up - in the virtual world only of course.