Since the age of four or so, my son has been obsessed with the venerable Earth Defense Force (EDF) series from D3 Publisher. When I gave him access to the PlayStation 4, he became nearly obsessed with it. I know for a fact he has sunk some egregious amount of time into both EDF 4.1 and EDF 5, with a large portion of his allotted game time going into his ongoing war with giant bugs. He was thrilled when we picked Earth Defense Force – World Brothers up, and has been playing ever since. The topic of today’s review is not, in fact, a “main” title in the series, but rather a spinoff that places the series firmly into the same sort of aesthetic as Minecraft or Lego games. One would think this is a children’s game, but despite the outward appearance, it’s every bit as much of an EDF game as any other.
“An unknown entity known as Dark Tyrant has united the invading aliens from all previous EDF games and sent a mothership from each alien faction to Earth. Together, their power has begun to tear the Earth apart. The EDF must travel to different iconic locations on Earth, rescue every remaining available fighter, and destroy the giant creatures that the motherships release. Curiously, the motherships themselves tend to leave of their own violition when their most powerful creatures are destroyed.“
Aside from the obvious graphical changes, EDF: WB‘s most notable change from the tried and true formula is the squad-based nature of the missions. Rather than fighting alongside some random NPCs that largely do little, the player is in charge of four separate characters in a customizable squad put together from hundreds of possible squad mates. each level generally has 3-5 “injured” characters one can rescue to add to their team, which means exploration and objective management are the key to getting more powerful in the game. These characters are a “greatest hits” of just about every single class that the series has ever had, including the spinoff games, as well as some ethnically themed international characters such as a Viking, Cowboy, Ninja, or even a girl from The Netherlands that fights with Tulips and Windmills.
This tone that is evident with there being cowboys, ninjas and other silly characters in in the entire game, with this game basically acting like an extended “love letter” to the entire franchise. Characters are far more quirky and lighthearted, and there is continuous fourth-wall breaking. Despite the severity of the storyline, this game adds a lot of fun into a franchise that could be seen as fairly bleak on a storyline-basis.
I mentioned rescuing your “brothers and sisters” in each level – this is VERY important because that is honestly the only way to level your characters up. rather than having an experience system or points, you level up based on finding duplicates of characters you already have, with their stats being merged together upon completion of the level. With each level attained, a new weapon category will be unlocked for that character with ten levels being possible. Unfortunately what characters appear in a level is pretty much random, so making a plan to “power level” a certain character is entirely out the window.
On higher difficulties (Hard, Hardest, Inferno etc), more characters are available to rescue meaning more leveling opportunities. There are sixty base levels and DLC (one pack so far) each with up to 5 difficulties available, so replaying is the key to better equipment and leveling. If you are a Trophy/achievement guy, this is also how you go about getting a lot of the trophies.
I only really had issues in levels where a crazy amount of bad guys are on the screen, for example TONS of UFOs, which sometimes crashes the framerate. This is always a problem with this series, as it is generally considered a “budget game” in many ways and lacks the polish of a big AAA franchise. if you are a fan of the series you are largely used to this already so its a non-issue. Otherwise, it’s not so bad that it entirely breaks the game or anything.
In general the game has a few “quality of life” improvements that I’d love to see in future EDF games, especially if this squad-based idea moves forward. There is less of an emphasis on looting which speeds gameplay up a tad, as you aren’t running around collecting boxes the entire time. Characters have noteworthy mobility increases, as well as the ability to switch characters on the fly (they are teleported to your position as soon as you push one of the directional buttons they are mapped to). This means if one character is about to die, you can call another up and hope for the best for the other guy. Finally, unselected AI teammates don’t suffer friendly fire damage and take reduced damage from enemies.
Overall, this is a fun game and a great installment in the entire Earth Defense Force catalog. It preserves the feeling and key gameplay points from the “main games”, but creates its own squad-based gameplay that is unlike anything in the series so far. The graphics are fine for the art style they are going for, and the sound is cheerful and upbeat. I will admit the leveling system is somewhat aggravating due to the random nature of it, but I never found myself in an unbeatable level until higher difficulty levels came into play.
Gathering armor boxes and saving your “brothers and sisters” can be tedious, but with not that much work one can get more and more powerful enough to start challenging for more weapons and more levels. Well worth a purchase for long-time fans and newbies alike. This would be a great way to get kids into the series. if you are like me, couch co-op is a must and it’s a great way to bond with a child into this sort of game.