I recently rented the Falling Skies video game without knowing what to expect. I liked the TV show, at first, then I felt it stopped being very interesting. Also, everyone knows licensed video games are rarely any good. However, it is a grid-based, strategy RPG, and anyone who keeps up with my posts knows how much I enjoyed Xcom: Enemy Unknown, and that I tend to like those kind of games. So, I decided to give it a chance.
The first thing I noticed was how bad the graphics are. They are ugly. I played it on my 360, but the graphics would have been subpar for the original Xbox. There are plenty of times you are supposed to put explosives to building and when they go of the building is undamaged. Gun barrels with go through solid objects or character will aim in opposite direction of the target and still hit it, There isn't a lot of detail so it is hard at times to make out things such as enemies or where cover is in forests. But, I've said plenty of times that I'm not a stickler for graphics. I care more about how the game plays than how it looks. How does it play you ask, okay?
It plays a lot like Xcom: Enemy Unknown (no I have yet to play Enemy Within so I can't make those comparisons). You have a squad of soldiers who go out and complete missions to bring back resources. Those resources can then be used to upgrade weapons, personnel, or medicine. The personnel are different classes that earn experience with missions and can be upgraded with each new level bringing a different class specific perk. Just like Xcom. Even some of the perks are the exact same perks available in Xcom. Movement is grid-based, but instead of being able to only move a certain number of tiles you seem to have a radius you can move. This means if you need to backtrack because of an obstacle that you can't hurdle, which there are plenty of those, you character doesn't seem to lose ground. The environments are not destructible. The only destruction that happens is if a car is near an explosion it will catch fire and then explode about a turn later causing damage to anyone in the blast radius. The car doesn't appear to become damaged, it just loses it's paint. Boxes, trees and walls all provide an inexhaustible amount of cover, they never get damaged or destroyed. There is no legend or key on the map that shows you how to do everything. You end up having to play around with the buttons to see how to do what, like manage the camera.
The camera is a major annoyance. The only way to rotate it is to use the bumpers, so it gets rotated 90 degrees at a time which makes it hard to know exactly where you are going at all times. I counted over 35 times that I missed the tile I wanted because of the bad camera (I could tell from the start it would be a problem). I don't understand why the right stick couldn't rotate the camera, instead it performed the same task as the left stick. Also, you can't zoom the camera. Also, because of the bad camera angles sometimes you couldn't see what the enemy was doing in its turn which was unfortunate. Luckily it never came to be a major problem during any mission.
The gameplay, with all of it's problems, was still better than the story because there really wasn't much of one. They assumed anyone who played the game would be fan of the show and up to date with it. If you aren't, the game does provide spoilers. But to start, the story is basically non-existent. There wasn't even a pittance of one to give the player some early direction. After the tutorial you are on your own for some time. The voice acting from the random characters you recruit to carry out the missions is horrendous. The game does feature voice acting from some of the stars of the show, and they do a pretty good job, but the game created ones are very bad. And the lack of story affects the gameplay. I am one who doesn't like game with complex storylines and cut scene after cut scene; I find they slow the action down too much, but this game had basically no story to start. It wasn't very engaging because it didn't feel like I was fighting for anything. But, as you start completing more and more missions you get a few snippets of story thrown in. Finally, near the end, the plot appears and you understand what is going on, but that happens deep into the game.
And I mean deep. The game is very long. I played on easy to get through quicker and it still took weeks to beat. There are over 95 missions to complete, and each one can take awhile. The maps tend to be fairly linear which is a good thing, but when you are on a hunting mission, say a mission where the objective is to eliminate all of a certain type of enemy, like say crawlies, it can be hard finding ones that are hiding in a little nook. Those missions can drag on. Other missions can go fairly quickly. Most have a clear objective and once it is reached the mission ends. For example, if the mission is to kill all the crawlies and you kill the last one but two mechs are firing at you, the mission ends immediately without the team even needing to fall back to an extraction point. It can be very convenient. What is inconvenient is when the game glitches out.
The game lagged a bit. Anytime an enemy crossed the path of one of the characters you had laying down cover fire the game slowed, especially if there were multiple characters in the cover fire area and one kills the enemy before the other fires at it. There were multiple times I had to reload the game during a mission because it glitched out. It didn't freeze. I could still control the camera and pull of the home screen. I just couldn't do anything else. I noticed it happened mainly when I tried to collect items as soon as I got control of a character, almost as if I acted too quickly, or when I used a harnessed kid to take control of an enemy mech and attacked an espheni character with the mech. In fact, this happened every time I tried to do the last mission, so I never ended up beating the game, which was very frustrating.
Other than that it was easy. Maybe it was because I played it on easy mode, but there was no friendly fire. I rarely missed if my hit rate was over 50% and hit quite frequently when it was below that. The enemy mechs, which are their most elite units, where fairly easy to destroy even with a sniper rifle or assault rifle. They did do a lot of damage to characters though. However, in my entire playthrough I only lost three characters and two were very early on. There didn't seem to be any noticeable difference in elevation, so when I got ambushed by enemies on rooftops, it wasn't a big deal. The missions did get a little harder later on, but nothing bad. There were some cool perks too. The "take control of enemy mech" perk you can train from elite spiked kids is great. Also the "Molotov cocktail" perk you get for berserkers is amazing. It's nice that once you discover a new technology there is an infinite number available in the armory unlike in Xcom where you have to keep using resources to make more if you want more than one. These make the game more enjoyable. If you love games like Xcom and you want to put hours into a game check this one out, however it is hard for me to recommend a game that stopped working on me so many time like this one did.