My enjoyment of Falling Skies on TNT is my TV diet dessert; it’s entirely unnecessary, filled with empty calories, and I know I could be doing something else far more efficient with my time, but I still enjoy it nonetheless. This was why I was surprised to see that this same experience was being morphed into the video game world via a console game based on the series. As we have seen in the past, video game tie-ins to other media seldom do well, almost always settling into the same bins with all the other shovel-ware. While Falling Skies: The Game fares better than most spin-offs, it is still a mundane rip-off.
For those without cable (or the interest in average sci-fi TV shows), Falling Skies is a TNT show about a post-alien invasion world where rag-tag bands of survivors and soldiers fight to survive the insect-like invaders and eke out some kind of life amidst the ruins of the old world. The game, which takes place between seasons three and four, focuses on militia-men and women forming four-person squads that face down the alien menace in turn-based firefights.
If any of this sounds a little too familiar, it’s because it is; the game itself is almost a carbon copy of XCOM: Enemy Unknown by Firaxis. While it isn’t to say that’s a bad thing, there is very little innovation or uniqueness for Falling Skies to make it seem worthwhile. If you have been starved for turn-based games, this will slake your lust for a time, but anyone looking for something builds on what Firaxis did in 2012 will be disappointed.
Missions are based on 4-man teams that must repel the alien forces while managing resources at your home base. Afterwards, soldiers that survive the fight can be upgraded with better weapons and higher ranks in damage, accuracy, and the like. Returning victorious will also net you valuable resources, which can be used to strengthen your forces, keeping them fed and healthy. Resources also can be used to stock your soldiers’ inventories with items such as medkits to ensure they come back alive. These concepts are all present in Firaxis’ 2012 reboot of the XCOM franchise, down to the blue-and-yellow color scheme of the user interface.
The graphics and adequate controls scheme prevent this game from being another terrible rip-off of a product from another medium, but players and enemies still look far from impressive. Falling Skies: The Game rings dangerously close to the video game studio equivalent of ‘phoning it in’ to appease publishers and media executives who thought such a tie-in was needed in the video game world. Sadly, we are left with another generic and formulaic strategy game that tries (and fails) to capture some of the success of better kin.