Housemarque; synonymous with quality if you ask those in the know. A presumptuous statement to some, but the quality of their games speaks for itself and Alienation, their latest foray into the twin stick shooter genre is another notch on that near perfect game play and pacing post.
Alienation is, at its core, a cross between Diablo 3 for its ‘loot game’ and a previous Housemarque game, Dead Nation from 2010, for its aforementioned twin stick top down shooter mechanics. As a criminally boiled down explanation, this alone should get you excited as that combination of difficult shooter with the loot aspects of a dungeon crawler sounds pretty damn awesome, however that only begins to scratch the surface of this games secrets. Left 4 Dead makes an appearance, as taking too long in one area and the horde is unleashed upon you in a mass of bodies stream from all corners of the screen to crush your armoured frame as well as the smattering of Borderlands with its character power sets to assist you on clearing the planet.
Speaking of our glorious, armour bedecked hero’s, let’s go over the options you can choose from. Does the heavily armoured and armed tank class fit your play style? Wielding a pair of energy gun’s as primary weapons the Tank is generally your front line fighter. Massive damage output not only in weapons, but has an electrical ace literally in his sleeves with a Tesla Charge that obliterates anything in close proximity to him and a ground smash (stomp really) for those panic moments when you are surrounded by a bunch of mutants.
Dismayed at being punched in the face? Sneak around the back with everyone’s favourite techno rogue (who can be a Rouge colour if you wish) with the Saboteur. This sneaky bugger sports a sub machine gun as his, or her, primary weapon and zips around the field with a short-range teleport as a dash. All of you dagger rogues will enjoy the ability Plasma Sword, which gives you two high damaging melee attacks, which is in a cone in front of you. To boost your melee combat ability you can also put points into Camouflage so you can. . . well you know what you do. Lastly, in a strikingly non stealth skill, you can also summon an Artillery Strike, which pings your teammates, the ones taking those punches in the face we were talking about earlier, and then bombards the enemies within a small area around them, thankfully you cannot damage your teammates with your attacks.
Or you can be the backbone of any great party. You go by many names, but are officially known as the Bio-Specialist. Stand proud as you blast down Leapers with a full auto Xenorifle and support your team with your devastating technomancy and summon swarms of nano-machines called Wraiths! If you start to get overrun don’t fear as you channel your inner Nurgle and lay down a trail of poison to damage those following you. Of course, your real power is what your teammates crave, and that is the ability to lay down a healing AoE to keep you and your squad in the fight. Along with these specific powers, all characters share a set of passive abilities. Athlete: allowing you use your melee abilities while dashing, Warrior: increasing your melee damage and the arc you swing in, and finally Survivor: which gives you a passive heal when you are below 25% and increases the bonus from health orbs.
While our heroes are fantastic, the enemies are vast and as you progress through the game, they can become quite punishing. With save points scattered throughout the level, there are points in each section which seem easy, and then you turn the corner, sometimes literally, you run into a wall of enemies who quickly burst you down. This peak-valley-peak game play might be the place where players find themselves struggling initially, especially if you jump directly into the highest difficulty, but as you progress through the game you learn the ebbs and flows and should have no issues progressing through the game if you play smartly. If you leave your game open other players can join you, as it is a 4 player online co-op, and that can also cause a difficulty spike as more players = more/harder enemies.
One thing I do have to say that can be legitimately irksome is the Leader system they have in place. If you are familiar with other top down shooters, such as Helldivers, your team has a somewhat limited radius that they can travel from. While not normally an issue, once the frantic nature of the game kicks into full swing teams, especially those not on mic’s, can easily get split and when you have two members get snapped back across the map to their teamlead, it can be quite jarring. This is doubly frustrating when your team lead is down as your team cannot make a full retreat to regroup, and for that extra bit of salty sauce, wait until the leader dies in an area where your revive attempt keeps getting interrupted by getting damaged. I have seen this online in a couple of videos and had it happen to my own team when we were fighting under mortars.
Those small aggravations aside, this game is a fantastic foray into the looter-shooter genre/game type and has a lot of area’s to mess around in. I am currently 10 hours in on my main ‘normal mode, 3 hours on my secondary ‘normal mode’ I mess around with when my buddy isn’t on, and just died on a 8 hour hardcore mode, which caused me to almost throw my controller across the room, so have to restart.
For trophy hunters, this looks to be pretty reasonable, just putting that time in to grind, which is nothing new to those who are looking for them plat’s. Out of all the games from the Launch party 2016 sale on the PlayStation Store, this one takes my top vote. Great buy, great game, great time so go out and get it people.
Thanks for reading.