By William Haderlie / March 25th, 2016
|Title||Aegis of Earth: Protonovus Assault|
|Release Date||March 15, 2016|
|Genre||Real Time Strategy, Tower Defense|
|Age Rating||ESRB T|
Innovation in the Real Time Strategy genre is a strange thing. It seems to happen in fits and starts. You will have very similar games (like Command & Conquer, Warcraft, etc) but then a game will come along to change the dynamic in the direction of different units with different powers but still balanced (Starcraft). And then the genre spent a period mimicking that design. Then Warcraft 3 comes along and introduces hero units. Not only does that change RTS games, but that also spawns the MOBA genre. Tower defense games, such as Plants vs. Zombies, were then a new take on the RTS formula. And here we have a game that tries to provide yet another take on the RTS formula that is slightly innovative and certainly interesting.
There is not that much to the story. It is there more as a function to get you into the action and to give you some motivation for replaying the levels, gaining upgrades, and to hop from one place to the other. That’s not to say it’s bad, some of the characters are rather charming, but it’s just fairly bare bones and not really the point of the game. Basically after an apocalyptic event humanity is on its last legs, these alien creatures are invading and humanity has access to a new type of energy source called “altenite”. In some ways humanity is far more technologically advanced then we are in this current era, but there is also a savagery to the state of the world due to the wanton destruction. You are the new commander (unnamed, unseen and unvoiced) of a small crew in charge of protecting a small city. Over time, and with performance, you will gain access to more crew and even new cities to protect. Along the way you will also find some clues as to what is really happening to the world and where the monsters are coming from.
The invading monsters will attack your city from the surrounding area in a straight line from their origin, always coming in towards the center. There are a couple boss exceptions to this rule, but you get the idea. So those are the routes that you will have to defend, in the tower defense model. However, you cannot build anything during the actual fights; you are stuck with the buildings that you created before the fight began. The major innovation is that during the fights you can alter your city by rotating the four tiers of your city in a circle. So you can rotate a part of your city to face the enemy in question with the weapon that you built on that part. However, in the first 75% of the game, you cannot build anything on certain portions of the city terrain that is”quarantined”. And even after you gain access to those other parts of the land, you will still be limited by power supply. Another aspect to the strategy involved is that weapons of the same type are able to combine when they are right next to each other across a tier. Two missile turrets next to each other will combine together to form a much more powerful missile turret than the two were separately, and with greater firing distance. This also applies to when 3 of them are together, but you cannot have 4 because the outer ring is for only temporary defenses such as shields. So you can move your rings freely, but you might be breaking up your huge missile or Gatling gun installations. You can move all 3 rings to make your large installation face the direction you want, but it does take it a few seconds to reform your large unit and then reload your guns. So there is strategy to be had for when to move your rings and how often, and that is the crux of the game.
Most of the game, however, relies on resource management that is typical of most RTS games. You earn credits and crystals from enemy kills, and then you turn those into building materials and upgrades for your cities. You also have population as a concern for your city. If your buildings are damaged, people can die, but this is pretty rare. What happens more often is that, after every battle, the happiness of your city goes up and more people want to move there. So you have to accommodate those unwashed masses by building or modifying structures to house that new population. As your city’s population grows, you will have access to new upgrades as well. One of the major city upgrades you will be able to access are the USWs (Ultimate Strike Weapons). They are large weapons set into the center of your city that you, as the commander, take personal charge of. They vary with their uses, but most of them are used similar to a gun that you just point at an enemy and fire. However they are limited use during a match and have a significant recharge time (other than the drone). You also must manage the fatigue and focus of your 6 command center staff. They each have special abilities, but honestly the abilities ended up not mattering that much to me and I just switched them out whenever they were at risk of exhaustion. There are quite a few characters and they are very anime in nature, but none of them were particularly memorable to me. If push came to shove, probably Towa was my favorite.
There are a few negative experiences that I had with the game, and most of those revolve around two issues. One issue is that, other than the rare bosses, the game is a bit repetitive. The fights all happen in basically the same manner. A small change happens when the enemies can start teleporting in, instead of just walking in from the fringes. But other than that the boss fights are all that breaks it up, and even they only have a few varieties. This issue comes to the fore with how long this game is. I’m not one to complain about a game being overly long, as some might, but if you are going to have a long game then you do need some variety to make it interesting. Part of the length was due to my second issue, resource availability. When you get to the end of the game, you need to start collecting colorless crystals to make upgrades that you need. This is an extremely rare resource and added at least 4-8 hours of grinding to the end of the game. The only way to get them is to get a bunch of other colored crystals, and then modify them into another resource, and hope that they will randomly turn into a colorless one. This effect was extremely rare for me, and only happened 5 times over about 20-30 hours of play. So making me grind for a random drop like that, especially for a story mission, is not my idea of a good game design.
The graphics on the PS4 are pretty serviceable. They aren’t bad, but you can tell that this is a game that was developed for the PS Vita, and the enemy designs are a bit bland. This applies to the sound as well. The music is not great but is also serviceable, it did get repetitious enough to cause me to turn it down and listen to something else while I was grinding away resources. A few of the character scenes are fully voiced, but very few of them. Mostly a character will say a small snippet that will give an overall emotion to the dialogue that is written. But the voice actors themselves are pretty good, and they made me want to boot up BlazeBlue (another Aksys title) due to their familiar voices. I would suspect that the lack of full voices may have something to do with keeping the size down for the PS Vita as well. Really, all around, this is a title that I would advise to pick up on the handheld as the primary choice.
The battles are quite short and it’s made to be consumed in small doses, with the ability to pick it back up and play the next time you get a few minutes. I think this game would be better received in that manner, rather than the quite long and complex story missions of Starcraft 2 making that a more viable long play session. But at 23 Chapters and around 20 hours of gameplay, it certainly is more meaty than other indie games, especially on the handheld systems. Combine that with it’s innovative take on RTS combat and I think it justifies it’s $39.99 MSRP price tag. I would have probably waited for a sale, though. Overall, this is a title that I would like to see a sequel for. They have some great ideas that could use some more time in the cooker to develop deeper iterations of its combat systems and a much better story. When it comes to a city transforming it’s structures to prepare for large scale combat, the only place that does it better than Aegis of Earth: Protonovus Assault is Neon Genesis Evangelion (a comparison that I couldn’t get out of my head the whole time playing).
Review Provided By The Publisher
ACQUIRE CorpAegis of EarthAksys GamesPS VitaPS3PS4RTSTower Defense