By: Quinn Potter
Falling Skies: The Game is a strategy title based on TNT’s popular sci-fi television series of the same name. If you’re unfamiliar, the setup is the fairly standard aliens-have-invaded-the-Earth and humans-are-fighting-for-survival. Now that you know what’s at stake, let’s play some Falling Skies.
The controls are awkwardly laid out compared to other games of this type. “A” is used for attack and cannot be re-mapped, so this might take time to get used to. Other than the layout, the controls are fairly responsive.
The graphics are average. The cut scenes have a bit of a cartoonish quality to them. For missions, there are multiple environments to choose from. All of the settings are different variations of a scorched Earth where aliens have left a wake of grime, decay and destruction. The forest setting has some nice details such as small fires that emit a nice quality of both smoke and sparks. Unless you are actively attacking, the view is usually face-to-face with character cut scenes of wordy explanations or you have an aerial view, which isn’t as helpful as you might like.
In general, there’s a nice matchup of sound effects and actions. The characters have limited dialogue and there are small fires burning in almost every scene, so those can get a bit repetitive. The music consists of muted horn/orchestral notes over and over again.
To start, the tutorial has you destroy the radio tower that is intercepting radio signals so the aliens won’t know your whereabouts. After the tutorial, you go to base camp. Here, you can go to the war room, armory, workshop, infirmary, memorial, or menu.
The war room shows you the available mission sites, such as “tank takedown,” “shipping land,” “diplomatic engagement” or “scrounging for scraps.” (These are just some examples. There are numerous other missions.) The armory shows your units, which gives you stats on all of the characters, their equipment and their skills. The workshop consists of weapons you can buy with metal, which you get from completing missions. The infirmary walks you through those who are wounded while the memorial gives you a list of fighters you have lost.
In most of the missions, it’s almost impossible to know where to go until an alien pops up to guide your choices. There are no clear landmarks, characters, signs, or other information to help you. This aspect makes the open-ended gameplay more frustrating than appealing.
To add to the confusion, there are supposed to be some helpful aliens that show up from time to time – oh, and there are some humans who have been “turned” so they are bad. If that doesn’t add enough layers, you’re not just one character, but a bunch of different ones with a wide range of weapons and abilities.
All these qualities add up to action that can be somewhat slow compared to most warfare games. When the dark scenes, repetitive sounds and limited dialogue are combined with wasted minutes spent running around what looks like the back lot of a movie studio, the effect can be rather mind numbing.
If you’ve been following the televised Falling Skies series, characters and settings may seem familiar and easier to interpret. For those who are not between seasons three and four of the TV series, however, Falling Skies: The Game loses something in translation. The layout and objectives are almost incomprehensible for a true novice to the series.