By Jason Quinn / May 6th, 2019
|Title||Earth Defense Force 5
|Release Date||December 11th, 2018|
|Genre||Third person shooter|
|Age Rating||T for Teen|
Earth Defense Force 5 is the latest mainline entry in the Earth Defense Force series. As such, this comes from the same developer as all the others, Sandlot. Despite this, this game starts an entirely new continuity of events, rather than being a direct sequel to EDF 2025. It’s understandable, since that timeline has seen the earth ruined about three or four times now. The new continuity stays pretty true to the stories of past games. Aliens are invading, and it’s up to the EDF to stop them.
Shaking things up slight, this game starts you out as a normal civilian in the process of joining up with the EDF. Unfortunately, you joined up right when an alien invasion started, so you have to shoot your way out of a military base. The first 10 or so missions of the game follow a loose continuity of introducing the alien threat, ending in you properly joining the ranks of the EDF. After that, most missions are fairly episodic in structure. Some aliens in some place are up to no good, and you have to stop them.
There is a loose continuity throughout some missions. Such as discovering and eventually taking out a massive ship that serves as an outpost. Or re-taking the military base that you were at in the beginning of the game. These are nice and offer a good sense of progression. Most missions are fairly self-contained affairs though. There are also 110 missions, which is the most in an EDF game by far. It sounds like a lot, but I do think the game gets the most out of it, which I’ll talk about why in a bit.
As usual, it’s an arcadey style shooter in which you fight hordes and hordes of enemies. Shooting in this game feels a lot better than it does in Iron Rain. Weapons have a satisfying punch to them in how they sound. Enemies visually react to being shoot, and blood sprays onto the ground and any nearby buildings. They also ragdoll when they die, leading to some situations where a whole group of enemies will get sent flying after being hit by a rocket or grenade. All of this makes the simple act of shooting up enemies feel really good.
There’s four different classes you can choose to play as, each with their own playstyle. The Ranger is about as simple as you can get. He has your standard arsenal of assault rifles, shotguns, rocket launchers, sniper rifles, etc. He also has some support capabilities, with being able to heal allies and call in a limited selection of vehicles. He can fit a variety of playstyles from being up close to staying at a distance. Probably the best option to choose when you want to come to grips with the game, as he doesn’t have any weird secondary mechanics to learn.
The Wing Diver is the second class, and her main draw is she can fly. She has an energy meter that she uses to fly, which also serves as a resource for her weapons as well. So getting good with her will depend a lot on how well you can manage this resource. Her weapons are a bit weird, often requiring you to charge them up before letting them loose. Still, if you want easy mobility, she’s not that tricky to learn at all. She’s a bit more suited to fighting up close than at a distance though. She also has a lot less health to balance out how mobile she is. Probably my favorite class to play as, flying around is just too much fun.
Air Raider is mainly a support class, primarily focusing on calling in artillery strikes, aerial bombardments, or calling in a vehicle. Calling in these things utilizes a “credits” system, and you gain credits by killing enemies. Your allies getting kills also counts towards this. He’s fairly powerless on his own, but he can wipe out swathes of enemies pretty effectively. Tough to play as alone though, he’s very much geared towards multiplayer where friends can draw the enemies attention.
Fencer is the last class, and it’s probably the most robust class with the highest damage output, but has quite the learning curve. Simply moving around with him can be a challenge. You’ll want to rely on his dashing and boost jumps to really get around. His weapon selection is also highly situational. I found myself having to switch around my loadout with him a lot more than the other classes. He requires a lot of work, and can appear weak and unwieldy at first. Stick with him, and you’ll have a lot of fun.
There are a handful of welcome quality of life changes for these classes. Specifically, you can get weapons and health upgrades for other classes even when playing as a completely different class. So if you feel like just playing around with one for a little bit, you won’t have to start at the beginning of the game with them to build them up. You’ll get more weapons and health for the class you’re playing as, of course.
Weapon drops are picked up throughout the missions, and after the mission is cleared, you’ll see the loot you acquired. An interesting change is that the stats for your weapons now have levels. Something like a weapons reload rate can range from level 0, to the highest I’ve seen at level 8. Higher level means faster reload time, increased damage, increased range, accuracy, etc. Higher level means a better gun. If you get a duplicate weapon from a mission, and the duplicate has higher level stats, those stats get transferred to the weapon you already have. So no longer will you get bummed out by duplicates, as getting the same weapon again means a potential significant upgrade.
The sheer amount of missions works because of the weapon loot system. 110 missions means a lot of opportunities to upgrade your weapons and get new ones. Playing through the game on normal, I didn’t have to stop at all to go grind for more weapons. Between getting new ones and getting upgrades on old ones, I always felt like I was adequately prepared for each mission. I never felt the need to kick the difficulty down to Easy or to farm for weapons on Hard mode.
The enemy design is probably the best in the series. Most of the enemies are exactly the same as in past games, but with one key difference. The giant robots in EDF 2017 and EDF 2025 have been been replaced by two separate enemy types known as Colonists and Cosmonauts. The Colonists are these giant bipedal frogs that actually have some level of intelligence. They can take cover behind buildings, sidestep out of the way of oncoming fire, dodge roll to evade attacks, even flank you. If they can get behind buildings, they’ll try to come up behind you or to the side. Certainly a lot smarter than most EDF enemies.
What makes them more interesting to fight is that you can shoot off their arms to temporarily disable them. Their legs can also be shot off to prevent them from running away. These are pretty hardy enemies, so it’s really nice you’re given these options to make them a little bit easier. Then there are Cosmonauts which are armored aliens that function much the same way. Only they’re a lot faster, and deadlier. The armor soaks up damage, and you have to shoot their armor off first in order to do anything to them. Between these two, fights can be a lot more dynamic. All of a sudden you have these relatively intelligent enemies thrown into the mix. Some of the weapons they use can be a bit annoying, but overall their inclusion is fantastic and demonstrates a real growth on the developers part.
There are some minor problems in the game though. Even though there is a net improvement in enemy and encounter design, some maps really seem to push the limits of how many enemies are reasonable to fight at once. When the entire screen is a giant mess of enemies piled up on each other, I tend to think it might be a bit much. Whenever flying enemies are used, it almost always feels like there are just way too many of them. It doesn’t help that your NPC buddies are just really bad at dealing with flying enemies.
The other issue is just the translation. Now, I’m fully on board with weird, awkward dialogue with equally awkward delivery, and this game has that in spades. The problem is when mission descriptions and weapon descriptions seem borderline machine translated. A shield for the Fencer that can reflect attacks is described by the game as “reversing physical motion by 180 degrees”. This is a bit less than ideal. There’s a fine line between a game feeling like a low budget sci-fi movie and a game just being poorly translated. The quality here is legitimately on par with poor Playstation 1 translations. What’s even more baffling is that EDF Iron Rain seemed totally fine in this regard, even though in both cases it was handled by D3 Publisher.
Despite some quibbles and the now trademark EDF performance problems, this is a very solid arcade shooter. It builds on the strengths of past games while addressing some of the issues that have cropped up. Less of a grind for a normal playthrough with the introduction of some very engaging enemy types. If you love EDF, you’ll be sure to love this. If you’ve never played these games before, this is basically as good as it gets, so feel free to jump in here. I sunk in about 100 hours into it, though it should take probably around 40-50 to beat it. It’s $60, which is a bit on the pricey side. If you’re a fan of past EDF games, I can recommend it at that price, if you’re a newcomer, waiting for a sale might be a good idea.
Review copy was provided by the publisher.
D3 PublisherEarth Defense forceEDFPlayStation 4sandlotThird Person Shooter