Inside Pulse 12

Review: Aegis of Earth: Protonovus Assault (Sony PlayStation 4)

aoecoverAegis of Earth: Protonovus Assault
Publisher: Aksys Games
Developer: Acquire
Genre: Tower Defense
Release Date: 03/15/2016

Aegis of Earth attempts to be more than a simple tower defense game. It offers you a story full of characters, multiple cities to defend, a mechanic wherein you rotate your city to get the right guns pointed at the right enemies, and an RPG style level up system. It offers hours and hours of gameplay and cut scenes. It sounds like a fantastic time, and it probably should have been a fantastic time.

Where did it go wrong?

Okay, so some sort of big bad event called “The Silent Apocalypse” essentially destroyed the Earth and most of its resources. What few humans remained discovered a miraculous new element called “Altenite”. This material let them build fantastical new structures and survive the wasteland. However, tapping into this resource also called forth legions of giant monsters. They too, it seems, hunger for altenite. Because of this, the cities themselves had to become weapons that could both house the population and fight off the monsters.

aoe1As a setting, it’s odd but interesting, I’ll give it that. You’ll play as a new commander moving to the city of Kimberley. With your ragtag crew made up of boring anime archetypes, you’ll defend the city, get resources, watch boring scenes, and defend the city some more. The game has about twenty different characters, all of which fight for screen time and all of which have little to no character apart from one defined trait. For example, Towa, your second in command, is a woman who very much wants to meet a man. The others make fun of her for this, and… that is all. It leads to groan-inducing dialogue where the game thinks its being funny and instead it’s being a nuisance. What do we care if they’ve decided to practice cutting lettuce? How does that deal with anything?

Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad if there were some sort of overarching plot here, but instead, you simply move around a lot and fight monsters. The story revolves around introducing new characters, most of which get a few lines in so you know which cliché they are, and that’s about it. Oh look! It’s the arrogant playboy that no one takes seriously! How wonderful! There’s eventually some sort of plot about the world ending again, but it’s really left in the dark. It’s also hard to care too much when the characters shrug off bad news with lines like “Oh well. We’ll just keep doing our best!”.

Visually, it’s clear the PS4 was not the primary system for this game. It’s available on Vita and PS3 as well, and it’s even been designed to cross save between all three of them. So, this is basically a technically average Vita game that got bumped up to PS4. The characters are nothing more than 2D portraits with a few different poses, and the art isn’t even appealing. There are strange facial expressions and tacky outfits galore. During gameplay, the cities and enemies are fairly bland blobs. A few of the buildings look cool, but that’s about it. This game looks like a ten dollar digital title, but you’re actually being asked to pay forty dollars. That’s also ten dollars more than the other two versions, despite there not being a noticeable uptick in performance.

aoe2That said, it’s the sound that will drive you insane. The voice acting isn’t all that bad, as the characters are lively, if somewhat one-dimensional in their deliveries. However, you’ll end up hearing the same handful of lines countless dozens of times in a single play session, and these lines aren’t even useful. For example, every time you upgrade a building, your engineer will say one of two lines, like “Unit fortification starting now. Please wait a moment for it to finish, sir.” Buildings in the game can be upgraded up to twenty times, and you’ll likely want to upgrade a lot in between battles, especially when you’re revisiting older cities. You have to hear the character say this line each time, and you can’t skip it, so if you want to fully upgrade a building, prepare to to hear it a lot. There are other examples of this. Each battle has an after battle report, and whichever second in command you’re using will go through a checklist. They say the same lines every damn time, and you’re going to be doing close to two-hundred missions by the time you’re done. During battle, your team will yell and scream, usually responding to repetitive stimuli. For example, there’s an enemy type that will heal itself. One character will say “this is so annoying” every time it happens. I couldn’t agree more. Beyond the voices, you have generic fanfare for music and tinny sound effects that are usually drowned out. By all means, listen to some music when you play.

Now, I’ve been pretty harsh so far, but surely there is some good news, right? Yes, there is! The mechanics and basic gameplay work! They’re even kind of fun! During the planning stage, you can build a variety of different defensive structures in your city. Each has their own uses, and are effective against different enemy types. Cannons do great damage to single targets, missiles offer splash damage at long range, and lasers can hit multiple enemies at once at the cost of sheer firepower. Buildings you lose are replaced at the end of battle, excepting some temporary structures that offer defense boosts.

aoe3In order to build structures, you have to make use of resources. Cash is needed of course, and is given to you via taxes after each battle. Then there are various crystals that are dropped from enemies. Each building also has power needs that you have to be able to fulfill. If you don’t have enough power, you’ll either have to demolish something else or give up on the new building. Housing is also an important concern, as refugees will flock to your city as you do well, and you need to have room for them. This means some of your buildings will need to be residential zones instead of giant cannons. Any building can be upgraded, and you’ll unlock more powerful versions as you go along. There are also super weapons that charge during battle and can be fired to give you the boost you need to win.

The real hook of the game is rotating your city. Each city is actually made up of a series of four rings that surround your command center. Each ring houses various plots of land for structures. The innermost ring offers the fewest strips of real estate, and the outer ring is only for temporary structures. During battle, you can rotate each ring in order to get the right guns pointed at the right enemies. This is a fun mechanic to be sure, and it allows you to experiment with every weapon type instead of committing to a particular one. The trick is that you can’t upgrade buildings or move them to different spots, you can only rotate the rings.

Another nifty mechanic involves merging like buildings to create super versions of that same building. You do this simply by lining up two buildings of the same type from two connecting rings. For example, you point a cannon in the first ring in the same direction as a cannon from the second ring. They will combine to create a more powerful cannon. This doesn’t lock either of the rings in place, but does give you one more thing to consider when placing your structures.

aoe4It all sounds good, and it is at first. However, you’re often forced to halt progression in order to fulfill story objectives. Sometimes the game simply won’t move forward until you’ve beaten a boss or built a certain number of a certain type of unit. This might mean a dozen battles in order to get the experience you need. Bosses also only randomly show up after you’ve built a meter up. Even when things are moving smoothly, you have to deal with the repetitive nature of it. Fight a battle, get taxes, take in refugees, upgrade existing units, hear the same spoken lines repeated, realize you don’t have enough of a specific resource, fight battle, you get the idea. The new buildings and types stop being new and start being just better versions of what you already have pretty quickly. There is some break up in the action by having you move to different cities. These cities have different starting layouts and offer different resources. You can also take your choice of any tone of three different battles per city. Then there are special requests you can take that offer more challenging levels. It does offer something, but it doesn’t offer enough to keep you going for how long the game will take. Add in the terrible nature of the rest of the package, and enjoyment quickly turns to annoyance. The game simply wears out its welcome.

Short Attention Span Summary

diehardjack1-150x150Aegis of Earth tries to take the tower defense genre to the next level. Instead, it buries it’s solid concepts under an avalanche of bland and boring accessories. The story is the worst of anime archetypes and jokes, the repetitive voice clips become grating immediately, and the game simply goes on too long. It stops having new things to throw at you quickly and then simply assumes you enjoy what you already have enough to play for hours upon hours more. The end result is a boring, overpriced mess of a game. Steer clear from this unless you can find it for dirt cheap. At least then you can try the nifty parts without having to feel obligated to continue.

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  • asdasd

    Well, if it makes you feel any better about having to play it, I enjoyed the review! Shame that the game doesn’t hold up. That ring-rotation mechanic sounded kind of fun.

  • Alexander Lucard

    I’ve been playing the PS3 version. Just got my city to Level 5 and oh man, am I totally bored with the game. It’s even slower and duller than most other tower defense games.

  • Aaron Sirois

    It needed to be a hell of a lot shorter. It’s weird to say that about a game, but that’s the truth.

  • I don’t think that’s weird to say at all. I think a lot of games are needlessly padded out. But this one takes the cake.