Sunday, October 8, 2017

Review: Earth Atlantis


There has been a global catastrophe, leaving the vast majority of the world submerged and apparently the oceans are now inhabited by mechanized versions of sea life that are bent on your destruction… or something like that. Welcome to the world of Earth Atlantis where your quest is to pilot your submarine through the labyrinthian wreckage of the former surface world and to slay the lethal and formidable boss monsters that prowl these depths. If you’re up for a challenge, and can endure some (for now) seemingly needless grinding when you’ll inevitably fall to one of these creatures, Earth Atlantis delivers boss battling bliss (and a bit of hell as well).


The first thing anyone would notice about the game is its art style, which is stunning. There’s a hand-drawn look to everything and overall it works well to convey the action as well as lending a certain amount of added menace to the creatures you’ll find yourself in battle with. Moreso than what is happening in the foreground with the action I think it is the background scrolling by, allowing you to see the wrecked cityscapes and some massive creatures swimming in the distance that are truly remarkable to look at whenever you get a chance to take a break from the action, though that won’t happen often or for long.

The ocean is swarming with creatures and the rate they spawn at can be quite aggressive. You may think you’ve cleared the space behind you but it isn’t unusual for you to suddenly see a missile or bolt of electricity go by from behind. The lack of a safe space to retreat to helps encourage you to just constantly be aggressive and it keeps the pacing of the game quite brisk. Thankfully for the most part if you’re able to dodge and weave through your enemies and their various forms of projectiles health is dropped at a reasonable rate to help you stay alive. Power-ups for your primary weapon will also drop with some regularity and you’ll need that firepower in addition to one of the secondary weapons available at random drop points peppered around the map. Each one of them, whether the electricity, homing missile, dumb missile, or bombs can be very effective and as you play you’ll likely find that different bosses have vulnerabilities to certain ones, or that there are some bosses that have defenses of their own that will do things like nullify the value of the electricity because they have a similar attack themselves. You’ll only have one specific sub as a choice early on but as you get much deeper into the game you’ll get the opportunity to unlock additional powerful subs once you’re able to defeat them in a battle, which is often quite hectic and potentially lethal if you’re not one top of your game.


The boss battles in the game, and there are 35(!) of them, vary quite a bit and the majority of them will test your skills and as well as sometimes you patience. While you may feel like you’ve got an arsenal going and that nothing can stop you a sudden one-hit kill death delivered by one of several bosses who have attacks that do precisely that will put that theory to bed in a hurry. All bosses are ultimately able to be beaten, but you’ll need your reflexes, the right power-ups, and a heaping helping of luck at times to take these things out. You’ll find that your sub is only so fast in some situations so you’ll need to get very observant and look for the patterns of attack so you can anticipate and begin avoiding them a little early to be safe. This takes time and practice, as many bosses have multiple mathods of attack you may need to account for.

The difficulty of the bosses does lead to a problem, though my objection isn’t really about the one-hit kill bosses or that several of them are simply brutal to successfully take down. Give me hard boss battles all day, I’ll figure the pattern out at some point and get by, the issue is the time-consuming process you’ll often encounter after dying of trying to get yourself into battle-ready shape. When you continue your kills will all still count but you’ll be reduced back to your original pea shooter single-shot weapon and you’ll need to build yourself back up again. If this was just challenging (and it often is, depending on where you spawn) it wouldn’t be so bad but most of the time the game almost seems to go out of its way to place the secondary weapon drops as far away from where you’re starting out as possible. When you mix this with the very confusing maze of the destroyed structures and caves you’ll need to maneuver through it does create some legitimate frustrations. Fortunately the developer is already at work on a patch that will help address some early concerns and where the power-ups spawn in relation to your last checkpoint is said to be getting a tweak. I think this change alone will make the game far more accessible and result in far fewer people throwing their hands up the third or fourth time they die after taking a solid 15 minutes (or more) to prep for the fight.


Overall, especially once the grinding issue is properly addressed, I believe that Earth Atlantis has a place and is actually pretty unique among shooters I’ve played. The game is literally swimming with challenging boss battles, and while there are some that are easier than others the false sense of security the game lulls you into having will just make it sweeter when you take the bait and get surprised when one of them puts up a formidable challenge and kills you in an instant. For the moment I’d recommend starting in Easy Mode and getting the lay of the land, spending time backtracking is difficult enough with the way everything is laid out, you may as well take the opportunity to learn where things are, how the map flows, and roughly how the different boss monsters attack and behave so you can be more successful even before you hit the ground running on Normal difficulty. While Earth Atlantis can be frustrating at times it is also a well-executed shooter with loads of challenging content. If you’re not afraid to die quite a bit on the way to your ultimate victory I’d say it is worth giving a try.

Score: 7.5

Pros:
  • 35 boss monsters who are generally diverse in their attack strategies
  • 3 unlockable ships that each play very differently than the base sub
  • Has a very distinctive art style and the depth of the backgrounds you’re playing on is amazing


Cons:
  • The game abruptly lets you know when you’re facing a boss with a one-hit kill attack when you’re killed very suddenly by it… and that can be jarring
  • The grind to get your gear back up to snuff is far too long and forces players to spend worthless time not enjoying themselves (though a patch is on the way to address this)
  • A combination of the mini-map, which provides very limited details, and confusing foreground art, can make it hard to find or remember the location of specific passageways at times. This leads to needless meandering as you learn the layout of things

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