Artificial Extinction is a unique take on the tried-and-true genre of tower defense games. The game is most definitely an “early access” indie title, but it already introduces innovative mechanics like first-person perspective and RTS elements to an otherwise stable genre. Not only that, the visuals are remarkable and the game has a respectable level of polish for a one-person development team.

While the game is off to a great start, there are a few areas that fall short. Artificial Extinction is extremely thin on story, and it relies heavily on outdated themes like sentient AI, the singularity, and war between man and machine. Moreover, it boasts several outdated mechanics — strange for a game on the cutting-edge of tech. 

But what happens when you take a tower-top view of the game as a whole? Read on to find out.

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Zoom In

  • What is Artificial Extinction? It’s a tower defense game first and foremost, but with elements of FPS and RTS games mixed in. AI is coming to get you, and you must blow it up with guns, lots of guns. Mine resources, build and repair various turrets, think strategically, and use the terrain to your advantage.
  • Reviewed On: PC
  • Developer: 100Hr Games
  • Release Date: March 13, 2020
  • Website: www.artificialextinction.com

Destroy All Humans

Artificial Extinction 4
George Tasick / High Ground Gaming

The story of Artificial Extinction is straightforward and a little disjointed. Humans build a general AI, it turns on humanity, so you spend five years exploring space to find a habitable planet to retreat to. After running out of fuel, you’re forced to land on a barely habitable planet that’s infested with thousands of armed drones and arachnid battle tanks. The AI has already downloaded itself into these machines and detects your presence as you land, sending every unit to your location in an attempt to destroy you. Better get moving!

The good news? You do have your own AI companion (though it’s significantly less advanced than the opposition) who serves as your guide in-game and provides limited support, helping to mark resources and repair your defenses.

The Lone Ranger

Artificial Extinction 1
George Tasick / High Ground Gaming

The creator of the game is UK native Chris Dawson, who also serves as co-founder and creative director for Robot Squid, makers of the excellent mobile game King of Crabs. Visuals are clearly Mr. Dawson’s forte, as the artwork in Artificial Extinction is near AAA level and the strongest element of the game. The environments are also solid, and the levels are well designed to take advantage of the more strategic aspects of gameplay.

A moment that I thoroughly enjoyed came right after setting up a wall of sentries. It was the heat of battle, and I looked on in fiendish delight as the sentry’s tracers locked on and annihilated enemies left and right. Suffice to say, when it comes to portraying a grand battlefield experience, Artificial Extinction delivers.

Will it Blend?

Tower defense games grew from RTS games like Command & Conquer and Warcraft, where towers were used as base defenses, mowing down enemies that tried to invade. Unfortunately, Artificial Extinction ignores all cues from its predecessors, failing to blend its various genres into something functional. I’m reminded of Command & Conquer: Renegades, which suffered a similar fate when it tried to translate the well established RTS franchise into an FPS format.

Artificial Extinction 2
George Tasick / High Ground Gaming

In Artificial Extinction, I feel trapped in the first-person perspective, continually wanting to get above the landscape to gain increased situational awareness. It might be a little more realistic from a first-person view, but I can’t determine anything about the battle from that vantage point. I don’t know how many enemies there are, where they’re coming from, or how to use the landscape to my advantage. And the fact that I’m given a rifle in the first-person view is a little comical as well. It’s like bringing a knife to a gunfight.

Artificial Extinction 5
George Tasick / High Ground Gaming

The act of repairing defenses is tedious and frustrating because my movement speed is too slow to traverse the distances required. My assistant tries to help with repairs, but it moves just as slowly, so there’s little hope of staying on top of things when the battle gets heated. It’s so much more useful to build new sentries than repair damaged ones, that it makes me wonder why repairing them is even part of the game.

The resource gathering elements are another point of contention, more a hindrance than a help. The tower defense genre eliminated resource gathering long ago, replacing it with resources earned through enemy kills. Being able to gather debris around the battlefield as resources is a nice thought, but again, the player movement speed is so slow that it’s not really worthwhile.

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Zoom Out: Verdict
Overall
5/10
5/10
  • Audiovisual - 8/10
    8/10
  • Gameplay - 5/10
    5/10
  • Story - 2/10
    2/10

Summary

While I respect the indie developer and their valiant attempt, Artificial Extinction is simply too haphazard and disjointed to enjoy. It has potential, but it needs to be heavily modified before I would consider it a good game. That said, I do think there’s some merit in making a first-person tower defense game. But consideration must be put into compensating for the loss of situational awareness and travel distance within the game.

Pros

  • Solid graphics
  • Fun battlefield mayhem
  • Respect for the lone developer

Cons

  • A wispy story that lacks motivation
  • Mixed genres that clash with each other
  • A first-person perspective makes it hard to play