Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Pushed to the brink of extinction after only a few days, Humanity had very little options left against the strength of an invading alien horde that could not be reasoned with. Outnumbered and outgunned, they did what it needed to survive even if it meant giving up what made them human in the first place. Gene splicing alien DNA into armor and then fusing those into soldiers willing to become something more in order to save their planet, those that survived the process now have a chance to push back against the aliens and take back what was theirs.
Earth’s Dawn’s introduction sets a heavy stage for the player but sets a stage in which everything “makes sense”. Essentially being genetically modified with alien DNA in order to become super soldiers allows for the imagination to take a break as you really don’t need to think of how all the rest is possible. Upgrades to strength, defense, and a variety of other attributes are done by adding in extra modification to your armor which is now really your body. Need one thing above another? Switch them out. You are no longer human and no longer subject to the natural laws of nature.
Taking to the field it doesn’t take long in order to get a hang of the system. Earth’s Dawn is a faster paced Side Scrolling Brawler that keeps controls simple and instead evolves the battle system over time with different weapons and skills. Starting off with both a sword and a gun, the basics are essentially covered even if it is possible to get a two handed sword, a bow, or even a shuriken later on through a crafting system which will be more important to explore than even leveling up.
Attacking can be done on the ground or in the air as both follow combo patterns depending upon how your skill tree is set up. Attack skills instead of being set to specific buttons are instead set to combinations such as “Down Down Square” in order to leap forward in a buzz saw attack. With these attack skills being an extension of the normal attack button it’s easy to keep track of where your fingers are on the controller while it can take a bit of getting used to in order to remember the combinations. Attack skills aren’t necessarily needed in order to progress forward but they are useful and do make combat a lot simpler than going through the regular attack patterns.
While melee combat is fun, ranged attacks don’t take a back seat as they have their own importance. Just about every enemy has a barrier that protects them from physical damage and while attacking them head on will wear it down over time, most physical weapons are designed for reducing an enemy’s health. Ranged weapons do what is known as technical damage which is designed to reduce these barriers in order to help you damage the enemy faster. Like the additional attack skills, these aren’t “needed” but using them will definitely simplify combat. Putting these elements together makes for some rather interesting gameplay though all of it would be nothing without the skill system follows along the idea of genetic modification as upgrades can be added or subtracted as needed along the length of your soldier’s spinal column.
Upgrades can be acquired by completing stages with specific rankings or by using specific weapon types in battle. When they become available, each upgrade is originally turned off by default as there is a limit to how many units can be active at one point in time. Each upgrade counts as a unit but from the very beginning these can be turned on or off in order to customize your play style. There is no fixed route, there are no classes, and there are no penalties for trying out different loadouts. Need more health and defense? Turn off the sixth or seventh ground attack for swords in order to activate more hit points and defense. Using different weapons is easy as there are five loadouts that can be saved making it easy to customize on the fly instead of having to reset everything every time you want to switch to try something new.
Upgrades are more than adding additional defense or extra attacks as they can also contain modifiers which can simplify combat if you’ve been having a hard time. Attack and Technical boosters can be attached to any step of a combo pattern in order to increase the damage to an enemy’s health of barrier. Putting the technical boosters onto your physical attacks will reduce the frequency that a ranged weapon is needed but will not overwrite it. Having these alongside the rest of the options allows for further customization that is welcome as it means that specific attacks in a pattern can become more useful especially if per say the first and third attacks always hit while an enemy dodged the second.
With how far humanity has been pushed and how far they’ve gone in order to create super soldiers, conventional weapons are essentially useless in this fight. To make your own weapons, you’ll need to pick up materials taken from the corpses of the alien hordes. As important as skills are, crafting is essential in order to make it further by creating new weapons, armors, and accessories in order to give yourself an edge in which to come out the other side alive. Once an item has been crafted, it can be further enhanced in order to keep it relevant before creating another one is resources seem to be a bit scare.
Crafting new gear can be a bit hard at times especially if the materials and the money needed to pay for the process are lacking. Earth’s Dawn in one way thankfully plays out in a very short and sweet mission structure fashion in which certain missions can be finished in under ten seconds while others may take up to five minutes. Each mission has a briefing that adds a bit more to the lore of what is going on as well as the rewards that can be obtained for completing the mission with a certain rank. In a lot of cases the rank rewards will be additions to your spinal cord skill tree so making sure to hit “A” or “S” should be the utmost of priorities.
Because of the quick and easy mission structure, you’ll be doing these missions, a lot. In order to get better weapons, better armor, or better accessories there is going to be a lot of rinse and repeating. Alleviating this somewhat is a clock system that has been put into place as a D-Day counter. Doing missions will take up time and you are free to do whatever missions you want until that clock hits zero. Once it does, a story mission will pop up that is mandatory to continue forward in the story. Being properly prepared for these events is important as the difficulty can be higher than what you were getting used to.
Where things don’t quite work in the favor for the player are Elite enemies that can kill you faster than you can ask why they aren’t dying. These enemies have specific locations but it isn’t until an eerie music starts to plays that you know something is wrong. They look only slightly different and do not actually need to be engaged unless the mission has you do it which will generally result in failure, or a VERY long battle of attrition if you don’t get hit. They honestly didn’t seem to fit into the overall and they are always in the same place on each map. If these had been random occurrences or they moved around it would have been better but most of the time they were sitting on top of materials needed for a mission and promptly send you to your grave.
Earth’s Dawn is a good Side Scrolling Brawler. With the freedom to evolve your character as you see fit for the missions ahead, the mission based structure can be useful even if it is repetitive allowing you to quickly go in and out of missions in order to obtain materials for new gear or to simply waste time for the next large scaled mission.Score: 7 / 10