While we wait for EDF 6 to come out this august in Japan, the previous spin-off finally went on proper sale on the PSN some time ago, so i finally got to play (bought the Deluxe Edition on sale, so complete of all Season Pass content, FIY) and review Earth Defense Force: World Brothers, another spin-off of D3 Publisher’s beloved cult series about space ants and giant robots, handled by Yuke’s, which did previously develop another EDF spin-off the year before, the quite solid EDF: Iron Rain.
The story it’s actually a more comedical take, with the aliens invaders from all previous EDF game scoming back (with a mothership each) under the guise of the new villain, just called Dark Tyrant, destroying “voxel earth” into many pieces in a single shot, so what’s left of the EDF has to find a way to put it back the pieces together and repel the invaders, one mothership at the time.
Instead of going for the serious faced ridiculousness played totally straight seen in the mainline titles and even the previous EDF Iron Rain, World Brothers just revels in the sea of clichès, deliberately having a voice acting that’s so ridiculous or “old fashioned cringe” for the also ridiculous as hell dialogues, here more on the zany side, which is further reinforced by the stylistical choice of going “voxel” in terms of graphics.
Usually it doesn’t work for this kind of game being in on the joke this much, but the dedication to the old fashioned or cliched beyond belief accents and voice acting is actually funny, even them having the texan member do the most stereotypical texan accent ever heard, the chinese girl sounding like something coming straight out of a 70’s american dub of a kung fu movie, or the canadian man dressed in a complete bear suit having that cadence and saying often “Ey”… it’s so corny it’s actually pretty entertaining.
Like one of the “subplots” being them convincing the time travelling ninja from the Edo period to join by first promising him meeso soup, then explaining that they need to get back the Earth together because Japan actually needs to import lots of the ingredients for the miso soup from abroad.
It’s that kind of humour. One thing i would have done without it’s the metajokes, like the EDF operator pointing out that in games there are levels when you can’t put down the giant monster right away when it’s first introduced, despite the game letting you shoot it for a while, or pointing out that that’s the Mothership from EDF 3, not EDF 4. At first it’s not THAT grating or too overdone, but it grows increasily annoying as the game doesn’t let up on this stuff, to the point i’d argue it would have been better if they completely nixed the metajokes.
The bit where a livestreamer helps you to distract a giant kaiju (after “prank” bombing its ass to live stream said monster awakening) and even has her insulting the monster it’s great though, so it’s not all bad.
In terms of gameplay, it’s Earth Defence Force as you know it, the main difference this time around being the team element, as even in single player you have a team of 4 EDF Brothers and Sisters, each with a weapon and specific special ability, going from boosting dances, autofire, turrets, healing power shots, geysers of fire and such.
Each character has a main weapon that he “owns/is tied to”, but as you rescue more units of a certain type, they will level up their skill bar, unlocking more types of weapons they can equip, and there’s a good variety both in terms of characters ability, going from sprinting, flying, double jumping, sliding, erecting defensive walls, and in terms of weapons, going from shotgun to rocket launchers, lasers, weird hybrid like the shotgun that launches shot that then explode after hitting a enemy (instead of scattering), and even melee weapons like katanas and boxing gloves.
Also, many of the units/characters come in variants, which have slightly different stats and sometimes different abilities, so it’s really impossible to NOT find units that fit your playstile, and you’ll accrue so many that you’ll want to try them out. Even the basic, classic Infantry unit has many variants, not accounting the appearance and guns they come with, and pretty much all the series it’s represented, with even the classes/types from the other spin-off games, back from Insect Armageddon to the previous Yuke’s EDF spin-off, with the Prowl Rider class.
There are some DLC characters like some of the Dream Club girls, Aya and Saki from Oneechanbara, old faces from the EDF series, but – for example – the melee weapons aren’t gated beyond a paywall or anything like that, and there’s plenty of variety even within those, as come in different guises with some quirk each, and are all pretty fun to use.
You can switch between the soldiers on the fly also to get out of getting pinned by ant or to rescue a fallen ally, but the stages themselves are typical EDF, just kill all the enemies on the radar, then the next wave or waves, with a boss fight or boss-like ensemble of hard and buffed up enemy units every number of mission. There are some efforts to add variety, with some stages requiring you to defend a specific building, which is something new for the series (believe it or not), and it’s nice for some variety, even if these missions kinda feel forced but really easy to cheese, since the IA for most of the fodder ants/spiders it’s set to search for you as the player character, same for attacking (often i accidentally did more damage to the building than the enemies themselves)
Also, they clearly downplayed the presence of cave levels, which – as sacrilegious as it may sound to hardcore EDF fans – it’s honestly kinda for the best, and there is a bigger selection of stages overall, some voxel recreations of the older stages from the series (like the London stage from EDF 2), but there’s also a good amount of new ones based on various world locations, all with the deliberately stereotyped edge that honestly fits into the also deliberate zany tone.
All quite good and it helps since they still get reused during the many missions the story mode is comprised of, fully expected out of a EDF title overall.
Speaking of the stages themselves, now you can actually fall out of borders (as you fall off the floating piece of shattered “voxel earth”) and you can’t swim. The latter is a thing hard to notice in itself, as very few stages even have pools of waters, and you can stand in shallow water, but now immediatly drown when going into the sea or not shallow water. But again, since there is very little water in the stages overall, it’s mostly a nitpick.
In terms of streamlining touches, now you don’t have to go collect manually all the armor boxes and weapon boxes from the battlefield, as armor is given to the each character after completing a mission (with bonus for the MVP), and weapons – as pointed out before – are “owned” by a specific World Bro/Sis character, so it makes even more useful to go and rescue the 3 fallen bros/sisters in each level of story mode, as unlocking more characters also its bound to lead you gathering more weapons.
You still need to pick up the health and “SP fuel” boxes left by enemies manually, but it makes more sense and it eliminates the tedious having to run around the map leaving just one enemy to make sure you collect all the possible armor pieces/boxes and weapon drops. It also means you don’t have to always put a character that can fly in the team for the purpose of reaching the boxes that will inevitably get stuck/dropped on top of trees, inevitable when fighting flying enemies.
Now you can also zoom/precision aim in a modern fashion without a weapon needing a “zoom” feature, regardless of weapons… well, aside from character that wield melee and close range guns, in which cases it works as “shield button” if the unit or weapon itself comes with a shield (see the viking with the close range gun and shield).
And – low and behold – now the occasional vehicles availaible in some missions are actually useful instead of the dead weight they’ve been for most of the EDF series since its beginning. This IS a surprise.
An added benefit of the voxel graphical style is that it does help in making the enemies more easy to spot on the fly during the action and keeping the framerate stable due to them being less taxing for the engine, i think, so the performance it’s pretty good overall, with some slight but tolerable hiccups, i played this on a PS4 Pro but i’d figure it runs pretty much identical on a base PS4 model.
The main campaign is comprised of 60 mission total, which took me 9 hours to finish on Normal, which isn’t as big as a mainline EDF game, nor Iron Rain, but i don’t feel “cheated on”, as in, this amount of missions it’s sizeable enough and an actually the tolerable quota, as it helps a lot to keep it feeling less like a slog, due to the repetitive nature of missions typical of EDF games.
It’s definitely way more approachable for a newcomer that isn’t entrenched in the series and so expects-wants a lot of missions to get through, despite the recycled locales and various enemies appearing now in recolored variants, etc.
Expecially since this one rewards the player in a way to bypass the usual grinding for armor and weapons required to get through the later missions, which i feel it’s for the best, and there’s a lot of grind for the already converted EDF fans to unlock and level up everything by also playing at the harder difficulty settings.
I feel it’s a good solution, an excellent compromise, the main campaign still feels sizeable enough, thought there could have been more missions as an aside thing to do, NOT so much another campaign sold as part of the DLC/Season Pass contents.
That i can honestly lament, since it picks up after the defeat of Dark Tyrant, so like for Oneechanbara Origin, it feel like the Season Pass contents should/could have been in the base game, as they feel cut by design to make you pay more, but it still remains that you’ll have the harder difficulties to tackle through for both a good challenge and to level up your EDF Brothers and Sisters.
High replayability, as always, and there’s also local and online co-op.
Overall, Earth Defense Force: World Brothers is another solid EDF spin-off title by Yuke’s that makes the series formula a lot more approchable by new and old players alike, delivers on the classic cheesy fun with solid gameplay. Sadly the “so bad it’s good” quality of the story and dialogues are partially lost due to World Brothers going for deliberate cheeseballs of “bad dubbing”, metajokes, etc, and it’s the smaller offering in terms of content, probably the smaller in the EDF series overall, but that can blamed on D3 Publisher cutting for paid DLC stuff that previously would have been in the base release, as in, even going back to EDF 4 (and it’s 4.1 port-upgrade).
If you like EDF you will enjoy it more, and more EDF it’s always a good thing, though it will be “funny” to see EDF 6 most likely go back to ancient design decisions these later spin-offs already improved upon, but what the heck, i like “classic” EDF with all its warths too, so yeah, i’m ready to blast new types of alien monsters and robots to bits alongside the very cities i should be defending!
Especially since among the new types of enemies there are knock-off Ghizoras, with some luck we might even get giant crabs and finally suppress Genji: Dawn Of The Blade’s market cornering supremacy on the matter.