In a post-modern world, it’s quite nice that video games have seen fit to turn their attention to real life issues rather than just who has the shootiest gun or which anthropomorphic character is the fastest. But when this is at the expense of a decent piece of action, you create all new issues for yourself. Aegis of Earth; Protonovus Assault is not just a scattergun collection of syllables but also a new tower defence game for the PS4, with a heavily manga-tinged story with big old monsters and a desire to be so much more than the sum of its parts.
Game: Aegis of Earth: Protonovus Assault
(Review code provided by publisher)
As this is a game that isn’t blessed with action, the story is a good place to start. This takes place at some point in the future, where there is an apocalypse as a result of global warming, pollution and the general unbridled, limitless evil of man. For reasons not fully explained, a new resource springs up called Altenite which becomes essential to humans’ ongoing survival. The introductory text also hints at there being a second apocalypse on the horizon. Two apocalypses in one game?! You can’t say Aegis of Earth isn’t aiming high. Either way, clearly not content with potentially causing the end of the world TWICE, mankind seeks to survive and go for a third by mining this mysterious new substance. For reasons even less apparent, monsters called Protonovuses (I have no idea if that’s the proper pluralisation, don’t correct me) are in your area to smash you up and you have to repel them by building cannons and missiles, in the usual tower-defence style.
It’s actually worth pointing out here that tower offence may be a more suitable description of this game; you choose when to go to attack mode by identifying whatever creatures are lumbering around near your city then luring them in. This somewhat begs the question of who is really the aggressor here; the story you’re presented at the beginning, of being the proud and brave last defence against vicious monsters, seems somewhat false when you’re literally the one starting the fights. And how responsible is it to lure towering, building-sized insects to a bustling city full of civilians? Surely they could have set up a different encampment elsewhere, just populated by military types and weaponry to draw the monsters to. It reminded me of the shooting-range scene in Men In Black when it’s revealed that the aliens the hopeful agents were targeting were just hanging out, trying to have a nice time before humans came in and ruined everything; they simply assumed they were up to no good because they look a bit funny.
Either way, you are some random civilian, bumped up to the role of commanding a populated city’s defences. You’re assisted by a team of experts of varying degrees of sarcasm and saltiness to help you on your way. The characters are actually entertaining; they’re voiced well and their personalities form one of the games stronger aspects. The only problem with them is the repetition; even several hours in, the most routine tasks you undertake before and after missions are narrated at every step with the same dialogue. This is fine, even expected, for the opening chapters of the game, but when you’re being told how to usher in new citizens step-by-step for the eleventh time it becomes unnecessary, condescending and a little irritating. The story is also established by speech-bubble dialogue between your team mates, some of which is dubbed and some of which isn’t. These can occasionally go on for a LONG time simply to tell you that there’s a new thing available to build. This is fine if you’re really into bore-fest story games (I’m looking at you, Telltale), but fairly grating if you’re an impatient millennial like me.
As part of the tower defence genre, Algae of Earth has some nice additions. You’ll be familiar with the usual process of ‘get money, build cannons’, but there is a noticeable attempt to add some variation. Your city is arranged in circles of growing size that you can stick weapons on, and you’re able to spin these around so that your automatic turrets face whichever direction the monsters are coming from. This is an original idea, but isn’t hugely engaging as far as action sequences go, and switching between and rotating the circles is fiddly at first. It’s also not tremendously exciting, as combat is reduced to the feeling of using one of those spinning vending machines rather than being at the helm of a powerful military. There’s a certain amount of strategy to be had by positioning your defences to be able to conquer multiple incoming waves at once, though.
You’re not just defending a tower, but a working town and residence for many unseen civilians. The game tries to bring in elements of Sim City here, and it works to a degree. With this in mind, you also have to account for the happiness of your civilians, a nice touch that is one of many, along with the strong character presence, that aims to set the game apart from other tower defence titles. If you fend off the beasties successfully not only will your inhabitants be happier, but you’ll also find more people wanting to come and live in your circular citadel. This is good, because more people means more taxes, but also means you’ll need to improve your power stations, residential areas and other resources to keep everything ticking over.
To the game’s credit, I feel like it’s trying to make some interesting points about immigration, global warming and limited fuel resources, which is admirable in what is essentially a game where you fight big monsters. Furthermore, the deeper you get into the game the more the strategy reveals itself, and moving and creating units becomes satisfying and integral to survival. However, there’s not really a huge amount to discuss in terms of gameplay; the action is fairly limited, with most of your strategy and cunning being employed during the development and building stages.
Aegis of Earth: Protonovus Assault is a game with a strong personality and decent story ideas that is sadly lacking in more important areas. It clearly wants to be so much more than a simple tower defence game, and the elements of city building and resource management are a nice addition. It may be a fine game for younger players or just anyone seeking a minor diversion who’s a fan of the genre, and there is strategy to find if you dig deep enough, but there’s too little in the way of action (and far too much dialogue) to stimulate anyone for long.