Housemarque is a little videogame studio located in northern europe and they’re the creators of Alienation. The thing is, looking back at them as developers, I noticed that all of the other games I’ve played from them, from Super Stardust HD to Resogun, but I’ve also played Dead Nation and a little platforming gem called Outland and, honestly, I liked all of them.
So, with that ongoing record I should be pretty confident in this new game, right? Well, in reality, even my favourite developers dissapoint me sometimes so I can’t be sure until I personally try the games. And that’s what I did with Alienation, read my impressions below.
Alienation is a top-down twin-stick shoot ’em up. I guess it could be considered some sort of spiritual successor to Dead Nation considering the wordplay and the concepts of both games. But where Dead Nation had massive hordes of zombies trying to swarm you and eat your brains, this one has massive hordes of alien creatures that will still try to swarm you but they’ll be happy just killing you.
Mind you, that’s not the only difference between the games. While Dead Nation could be played cooperatively with another player, this new game lets you play with three different people online.
In addition, the old game let you upgrade the weapons available for the player but Alienation expands on the whole concept and makes the game lean into Diablo territory making collecting loot and upgrading weapons be a vital part of the experience.
The game also adds classes with different weapon types for each and, more importantly, special abilities. Those you’ll have to improve with skill points as you make your character level up.
Probably the biggest conceptual difference between the two games however is the open world approach of the levels. In alienation, the missions don’t take place in one linear path but in big open maps that you may traverse at your will. You can also explore them and face side-missions like defeating harder boss-type enemies or surviving ambushes. This means though that the game doesn’t feature as many different levels as Dead Nation, but each of them are way bigger and they feel more natural.
The story within the game tells that an Alien race invaded the Earth and quickly took over the whole world. Now, there’s a special group that’s fighting back and you’re obviously will be part of them. That’s the premise and, as the game progresses, it’s pretty clear that it’s not that important.
You’ll be given tasks on each mission and, as you complete them you’ll be helping the goals of the humans but, by the end of the game you won’t feel as if you were immersed in an epic tale or anything. You’re just one more soldier fighting for the earth and after you’ve finished the story missions the war isn’t over.
Alienation’s graphics are pretty eye catching. Even if from the top-down perspective you can see that the enviroments aren’t as detailed as a regular third person shooter, the game really shines thanks to the amount of enemies the game fits on screen and the amazing particle effects that the weapons and the explosions show off.
The only flaw I can find in the graphical department of the game is that, unlike previous efforts like Resogun, the game’s framerate sometimes takes a dip. It’s not usual though, I have only encountered it when playing 4 players at once and in the special horde missions. Those completely fill the screen with pure mayhem with special powers being used, grenades being thrown and hundreds of ragdoll corpses flying all over the screen because of it.
The music for the game is quite good. Not the kind of music I’d listen to outside of the game but it’s very fitting, pumping up dynamically within the game when the AI throws at you the biggest challenges and going more eerie and atmospheric when not.
I should also mention the great usage of the sound effects for the weapons. The game is very noisy visually so they made use of auditory cues to help you like how the sound of the machinegun shots will change slightly as you empty your magazine telling you when you’ll have to reload. Those little details make all the difference.
Things I liked
- Chaotic fun: Massive loads of enemies will try and surround you, press your back against your partners and shoot away. See those hordes flying in amazing neon explosions, use your wits, your big arsenal and teamplay to tackle the bigger foes. It’s all great fun.
- Visual awe: The enviroments are quite detailed but the star of the show are the amazing particle effects displayed in explosions and your bullets (and lasers) flying everywhere.
- Weapons: Your primary weapon will depend solely on the class you choose but you’ll have various options for your secondary and heavy weapons as well as grenades. Then you can upgrade them at your will to tweak their stats.
- Enemies: There’s plenty of enemy types within the game, from simple infected zombie-like humans to gigantic goliath types. Each one has their own attack patterns and weaknesses and you better learn them all. As you progress further though you’ll encounter some color-swapped recicled creatures but even then they’ll behave differently so it doesn’t feel just like a cheap copy-paste kind of deal.
- Update: The game was updated as recently as the 23th of August and this massive update added a ton of new features and improvements like the possibility to play couch-coop, customizing your armor, added new weapons, weekly missions…
Things I didn’t
- Level disparity: As you gain experience points your character will level up, you’ll encounter higher leveled weapons as well but also the enemies will level up and grow stronger. The problem is that the difference between the levels is so big that if you try to play on a match with a much higher level than you, you’ll be just a liability to them. The result is that you have to stick to matches with similar level as you to keep the game fun but, being this game not as popular as Diablo, finding a match that suits you isn’t as easy. Fragmenting a small userbase isn’t a good idea.
- Story: It’s not that Dead Nation had the most interesting story but at least it interested me enough to care for the characters. In Alienation, you don’t even know the character’s name. You’re just a soldier accomplishing missions and that’s fine for a game like this but it’s certainly not an engaging story.
Who’d like this?
If you like twin-stick shooters and you have fun leveling up and looting crates, this game is great for you. It plays very good, it looks amazing and it’s very replayable. Also, the new update gave the game a new breath and I think I won’t be leaving the title anytime soon.
<If you want to have a glimpse at how the game plays in motion. Click here>