Housemarque know their stuff, with a couple of decades in the industry they can pull off playable and exciting titles consistently and Alienation just adds to that catalogue.
Taking a leaf out of their smash Dead Nation the game is a top down, twin-stick shooter throwing the player into a world fighting against an embedded Alien threat. What follows is a nerve jangling stew of action, loot crawling and some spectacular graphic effects.
As far as the narrative goes the game follows a pretty set path, throwing the player into a large map where a number of missions are generally played out. Ranging from Artic to Tropical the levels offer nice graphical variety and all shine in their own account. Particularly fond of the overgrown city levels where there is plenty of neat extras to notice, not to mention a significant amount of parked cars to blow up.
Each sortie has a number of objectives that the player can complete, often this amounts to pressing a button or holding out for a set amount of time. Sounds pretty simple and yes it is, what adds to the tension are the swarms, yes swarms of bloodthirsty aliens all vying for your attention. You soon come to understand the variety between the creatures and develop strategies for dealing with each of them. Then on top of all that there are the random events where a horde of zombie like humanoids will swamp you, dealing with a horde of hundreds of bad guys can be hit and miss. You get a couple of seconds warning and the difference between surviving or not will depend on the terrain your are in. Sometimes a dead end will be helpful, others not so much.
There is one word to describe the combat experience in Alienation and that is ‘relentless’, there is barely a second to catch your breath and the action doesn’t stop if you hit pause to check your inventory either. Speaking of which loot matters a lot in Alienation. If you start thinking of the game as a live action XCOM coupled with some Diablo loot hunting you’ll be on the right track.
Weapons and equipment all come in various levels which scale to near your current level, there’s nothing sweeter than seeing a bright orange legendary weapon drop in the middle of a firefight. They can also be slotted with a variety of Weapon Core tokens to expand their function, whether that is bigger clip size or more damage. It’s a nice system that allows some customisation to suit your play style. On top of these buffs the actual weapon stats can be rerolled by using up metal types harvested by scrapping useless items. With perseverance it is easy to take a new item from be on the good side of average to being a weapon of mass destruction.
Playing through the twenty or so missions isn’t the end either, you can up the level of the world and play again, developing your character further and trawling through all the random encounters looking for special keys that will allow access to Alien and Ark Ships. These are intense combat missions that will offer more opportunity for better loot, they should also not be tackled solo.
Playing alone is a tense experience, but the game encourages co-op and it does so very well. Choose your mission and you get a list of other players currently in the same place so you can drop into there game at a seconds notice. This works well and I have had nice experiences with random players, fighting tight levels, reviving each other and getting our avatars to shout ‘Nice!’ Which is as close to a high five as you can get. Of course once four levelled up players get going the pyrotechnics are spectacular, even so you need to keep a bead on what’s happening as the aliens can still bite back. Thankfully there is no friendly fire, as much I loved Helldivers for having it.- there’s no way it would work here.
Overall for what is essentially a budget game Alienation delivers bucket s of playability. For some the limited campaign may be off putting, but for any seasoned dungeon crawler it’s all about the replayability and the loot ensures that. Also there is the opportunity to invade other players games and antagonise them, I don’t have a great record against incoming invaders, but hey it’s all fun.