Earlier this year I ended up really enjoying Odin Sphere Leifthrasir due to its combination of gorgeous visuals, an interesting story and skillful combat. It really won me over, and I’ve been looking for another 2D action RPG that could scratch that itch ever since. Due to this, my interest was immediately piqued when I heard about Earth’s Dawn, a similar brawler made by Japanese studio OneorEight.
Basically combining a 2D brawler with Monster Hunter‘s structure, Earth’s Dawn puts players in the shoes of a soldier who is tasked with eliminating groups of violent monsters. Missions tend to be on the shorter side, some especially short ones being less than 30 seconds long, but there are dozens upon dozens of these quests to make up for it. There’s a decent amount of variety between rescue missions and having to collect items, but this is almost always achieved by killing a bunch of baddies. This means the player is essentially doing the same thing every time out, just for slightly different reasons.
Upon starting Earth’s Dawn, the game’s zoomed-in camera really stood out. The game is uncomfortably close to the action, which makes it nearly impossible to see what lies ahead, above or behind the player. This decision caused a weird sense of claustrophobia, but I assume it’s this way so that the gorgeous artwork gets seen by players. This makes sense, and it’s certainly a cool visual when a boss takes up literally half of the screen, but it’s not great from a gameplay perspective when enemies that can’t be seen are attacking.
Speaking of the game’s style, I think that the playable characters look like a horrific amalgamation of Gears of War characters mixed with a generic action manga. Despite this, I actually really dig all of the other artwork in the game. The monsters were always interesting to look at, even if they weren’t something I would want to take home as a pet. There are also some really nice touches such as finding enemy variants in the game’s different locations (such as Reptiles wearing protective glasses near lava). I may have found the humans to be the ugliest creature of all, but this is still an impressive looking game.
While the view was constantly annoying due to later stages requiring more platforming and boosting to higher areas, it’s something that I eventually got used to. It’s not a deal breaker by any means, and it does serve to make the battles seem a bit more intense. Combat largely revolves around using the character’s dashing maneuver to avoid telegraphed attacks by the enemies, and then mashing on the square button to unleash combos. There are different moves depending on what way the left analog stick is held, which keeps it from being a completely mindless affair.
Players are also equipped with a projectile weapon (such as guns or arrows) that can be shot by pressing triangle. Ammo isn’t a concern, but reloads do occur and keep players from just spraying from a distance. Typically these attacks aren’t super effective (although I got a pretty sick missile launcher later on), and players will want to battle in melee-range since they can trigger brutal kills that give them extra health.
While the combat starts off relatively simple, Earth’s Dawn does a solid job of introducing new mechanics over time. After my first few missions I was introduced to a powerful weapon that was charged over time, and essentially served as a get out of jail free card. I could typically use this to get out of dicey situations, which is good since dying means having to replay the entire mission over again. This usually isn’t a huge issue, but boss battles in particular are super annoying since they tend to take place after 10 minutes of exploration, so dying feels like a major setback.
The player is also constantly leveling up, earning materials to upgrade their weapons, and learning new skills. I was able to make combos I use often more powerful, and I even learned a guard ability after about eight hours of gameplay. It’s really cool that Earth’s Dawn lets players customize their own style, and my fighter was definitely made more powerful due to it.
Ultimately, the biggest disappointment is that Earth’s Dawn doesn’t give the player any reason to care about saving the world. The story is presented through text-heavy, boring dialogue sequences that don’t manage to tell anything resembling an interesting story. There are mysterious invaders, and the player has to kill them. It works as a plot device, but there needs to be more substance in between mission after mission of combat. It also doesn’t help that the game acts like the player is just one member of a huge army, and yet nobody else helps out during combat exchanges. Talk about terrible teammates.
This leads to OneorEight’s action RPG feeling repetitive despite its best attempts at keeping gameplay interesting with varied mission types and new skills. It starts to feel like the missions will never end, and defeating a boss at the end of an area wasn’t much of a triumphant since it always just led to even more levels. If the story was stronger, the game could have at least given players some satisfaction there, but every accomplishment here leads to 10 more tasks on the to-do list.
There is plenty to like about the combat in Earth’s Dawn, but the game doesn’t manage to reach its full potential. A boring story gives players very little reason to care about what they are doing or reason to progress, and the game ultimately becomes monotonous due to this. Those who enjoyed Odin Sphere will find an intriguing game here, just one that isn’t nearly as special or polished.
Review code for Earth’s Dawn provided by publisher. Reviewed on PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.