When I first discovered that a Falling Skies game was coming out I couldn’t contain my excitement. I had picked up the series last year when I was between jobs and trying to find ways to usefully spend my time, and what’s more useful than binge watching TV shows right? I instantly fell in love with the show (and a few of the fair maidens contained in it) and I prayed that they’d make a game of it so I could put my alien ass kicking skills to the test. Luckily for me my prayers were answered, I’m not saying that means God is real though because he failed to save a lot of TV shows I liked such as Alcatraz, Lie to Me and Terra Nova, it was more likely just down to plain old luck. What also got me excited was when I saw the trailer and discovered that it was a turn-based strategy game similar to XCOM which was just a brilliant game all round, and since it was combining two of my favourite things I knew I was going to enjoy this.
Now the game follows on from season 3 of Falling Skies which for those of you who watch the show will remember that’s when the 2nd Mass successfully an Espheni communications tower. From then on you meet an engineer who believes he can create a weapon using captured Espheni technology to help level the playing field against the aliens and retake Earth back for humankind. To accomplish the goal however you’ll need to confront enemies of all varieties from the show including harnessed children (which they call harnessed humans on the show, probably as killing kids isn’t a good image) and skitters, or cooties as Pope likes to call them. The further you get in the game the more difficult it becomes, but to help you out you can use materials collected from your missions which are food, metals and medical supplies to help upgrade equipment and craft new weapons.
Now the story isn’t strongly represented in the game as it can be a while between story missions, instead you spend most of your time having to complete a whole host of squad missions which are great for collecting materials used for upgrading, but apart from a little mission brief they aren’t really linked to the main story. Understandably collecting resources would be an important part of surviving an alien apocalypse because without supplies you’d die and you’d have no chance of defending yourself, but it would be nice to have a bit more of a link between the two. There is also another type of mission available known as dispatch, this is where you send one member of your squad out into the field by themselves in search for supplies. This is great for levelling up soldiers who aren’t in your main squad, however they don’t always come back successfully with materials, occasionally they’ll come back injured and have to book a short stay at the makeshift infirmary.
By now you’ll probably be thinking to yourself this does sound a lot like XCOM and you’d be right, in fact it is so much like XCOM it feels as if the developers have just taken Firaxis’ game and give it a paint job, one that doesn’t look as impressive. Don’t get me wrong the graphics are ok in that you can distinguish between characters from the show and they do quite accurately resemble them, but the quality that was in XCOM isn’t found here. There are a lot of pixelated images and poor designs in areas, especially when in missions and you’re trying to rotate the camera to get a better view of the map only for it to be blocked by parts of the environment. This was not an issue in XCOM as walls and other surrounding objects would hollow out when they were blocking your view, Falling Skies tries to do this as well but not as successfully.
So as you can see the differences between the two games are few and far between, even the layout is pretty much the same when it comes to the main command centre. Although one is an underground bunker and the other a makeshift camp there are still the same areas such as a war room to launch missions, an armory to keep an eye on soldiers, a workshop to work on weapon upgrades and the infirmary to hold casualties and provide medical supplies. Where the game differs here is that you don’t have to conduct your own research to unlock new items, they just randomly appear as you progress through the game. Also whereas on XCOM you would build for example a new pistol and then have to buy several for your soldiers, in Falling Skies once it is built everyone who can equip a certain item has it available at no extra cost which is great but takes a bit more of the challenge out of the game.
One thing I do like a bit more about Falling Skies though is that there is a bit more variation in the different type of missions you have. Whereas both have scenarios such as protecting a certain individual or rescuing soldiers, Falling Skies will give you goals like taking out all harnessed humans in the area, while you also have to fight off crawlies, crusty humans and skitters. The area that lets Falling Skies down though is on missions where you have to rescue individuals, if you weren’t quick enough on XCOM then the enemy would begin to attack them and this would affect your overall performance. In Falling Skies the enemy ignores your targets and focuses on you, which makes the game a little easier because you don’t have to worry about time or losing innocent people.
The classes of soldier are another similarity with having heavy classes, snipers and a couple more. The main differences are that Falling Skies has fewer classes and in its fighter class it has combined the Assault and Support classes from XCOM because you have both a fully automatic rifle and a shotgun as your secondary weapon. This is really useful in game as it allows you the option of using tactics to switch your soldier from a more medium to long range shot with his rifle, to getting up close and personal with his shotgun. The second main difference is instead of having implants put into soldiers to enhance them mentally or physically, you can recruit spiked kids. Again those of you who have seen the show will know that these were children who were fitted with harnesses which were removed with thanks to help from our alien ally the Volm. However the spikes somehow make this class tougher and they are able to unlock abilities such as leap which can let them travel a huge distance across the map or up onto buildings.
So if you like Falling Skies and XCOM then you will love this game like me. However, I can’t help but feel that little effort was put into it because they have pretty much ripped off XCOM in almost every area, just changing the environment and story to cover up what they have done. I expect this when it comes to little mobile indie games like flappy bird, as they take no real effort to make and are done by people trying to make a few quick pennies, but for a game like this it just shocks me a little. You’re always going to get development teams copying elements from each other and that’s ok, but to have completely copied another game with not one major change at all…well to me it is frankly disappointing. Still on the games own merits it is worth a purchase, especially for fans of the show.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.