|Earth Defense Force: World Brothers
|May 27th, 2021
|Third Person Shooter
|PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC
|T for Teen
Earth Defense Force: World Brothers is the second EDF title from developer Yuke’s, the first one being Iron Rain, which I also reviewed. This EDF is a little bit different than what you might be used to. A blocky aesthetic and character swapping mechanic sets this apart. It’s also much more lighthearted and self-aware than other EDF games. Initially, World Brothers seems like it’s doing its own thing — a far cry from Iron Rain for sure, with an identity unto itself. However, the key word here is “initially.” Once you get into it, a lot of the same problems that held back Iron Rain still show up here, with some of them being worse.
World Brothers starts out with the world being destroyed and split up into fragments, and it’s up to you and Urthda Fender to reform the EDF and save the world. Aliens invading earth is nothing new to this series, though the earth being split up into fragments provides context for one of this game’s new mechanics: there are edges to each map that you can fall off of. This doesn’t really add a whole lot to the game, in fact in some missions you might not even ever see the edge of the map. It’s something you will, occasionally, have to be aware of, and that’s about it.
The new mechanic that’s a much bigger deal is the character swapping. In previous games, you had to select one character class and play as only that class for each mission. You might think this gives you a ton of freedom and options, but it’s not quite as it appears to be. Rather than unlocking weapons, you unlock characters, done by finding them in various missions, and they’re generously marked on your mini-map for you. I do think this beats farming for weapon drops any day. However, characters are inherently limited. They have one weapon, a unique ability of some sort, and a big SP move that does a ton of damage or provides some passive benefit like healing.
Rather than getting the character classes you know and love, you’re getting basically a small slice of them in each character. You do have wing divers and fencers, but they feel like simplified copies. In addition, World Brothers has a bunch of its own unique characters, hailing from all different regions of the world. Unfortunately, I found a lot of these characters to be very gimmicky. It reminded me of how many Iron Rain weapons felt like they were focused more on being goofy and weird than actually practical to use. Most of these characters you’ll try out once, and immediately decide to never use them again. The worst types of characters are ones with melee weapons. For starters, the camera will ensure that when you get close to an enemy, you won’t be able to see much of anything at all, as your own character will obscure large parts of the screen. They also just don’t have the range or the damage output to be anything more than a liability, and are completely unusable against flying enemies. The Fencer doesn’t have this issue as much, as he typically hits really hard and even has his boosts from previous games, but it doesn’t change the fact that you have to deal with just not being able to really see what you’re hitting.
Earth Defense Force: World Brothers brings in a hodgepodge of enemies from across the series, which in some way feels like a celebration of everything EDF, but also feels like a step back from EDF5. I mentioned in my review of that game that I thought some of the new enemies were a big step forward for the series and were a lot more fun to fight than older enemies like the Hector, giant lumbering robots. Including them in the game isn’t a bad idea, but putting them in pretty much unchanged was maybe not the best. It just feels like I’m playing EDF 2025 again, except it doesn’t control as well. The major issue comes from when enemies from different games all show up at once. Or Iron Rain enemies show up.
I’m not sure on what the exact differences are between how Sandbox designs AI and missions in the mainline games and how Yuke’s designs theirs. What I do know is that in EDF2025 or EDF5, no matter how many enemies the game threw at me, I always felt like it was manageable with whatever weapons I had on hand. In Iron Rain and World Brothers though, it’s very easy to feel overwhelmed and even be just stun locked by nonstop enemy attacks. The first mission involving flying enemies will make you aware of this. You can’t help but be surrounded and constantly pelted by attacks, and the only thing you can hope to do is kill everything before your health gets whittled down. This issue gets compounded when you have characters that mostly feel like they’re just lame gimmicks. The normal movement speed just doesn’t feel fast enough to actually avoid enemy fire, and only a couple characters have reliable ways of dodging. Almost all of the unique characters lack this, so using them felt more and more like a liability. I spent the vast majority of the game just using classes from older games rather than anything new.
The controls also aren’t as good. Earth Defense Force 5 is snappy, fast, and shooting guns feels satisfying. Something about World Brothers just feels off. Everything feels slower, perhaps to make characters that can fly or sprint more appealing. Guns don’t feel as good to use. Assault rifles feel like pea shooters, shotguns don’t have any punch to them at all. It’s hard to articulate in words. There’s probably subtleties in the animations and sound design that I don’t even notice. But, if you play both this and EDF5 back-to-back, I think the difference is readily apparent.
The gimmicky weapons also play into this. There’s things like crossbows that shoot out explosives, except the explosives travel in an arc, and you have to hold down the trigger to charge it up to make it shoot further. Only, predicting where the explosives will land is basically just a whole lot of trial and error, as you get nothing to indicate where they might end up. There’s another character with a shotgun that shoots in a completely horizontal spread, meaning you can either do a tiny bit of damage to a bunch of enemies, or you have to get right up in an enemy’s face to do any respectable damage.
Characters are meant to fill in one niche, I suppose that’s why you choose a team of four; however, the result of this is that most characters just feel bad to use in all but the one very specific circumstance that they might be good for. They’re too specialized and missions are too varied. It’s entirely likely you’ll have to retreat from missions and start over because you’re put in a situation that none of your characters can really deal with. There were more than a couple missions where I felt like a flying character was a necessity and the game does nothing to communicate what types of characters you might want to use in a mission.
It’s hard to say if Earth Defense Force: World Brothers is better or worse than Iron Rain. If you stick with tried and true EDF characters to play as, it’s probably better. If you try to use its weird gimmick characters, it’s probably worse. While some missions in an EDF game can be a bit frustrating, I definitely think they do their best to make each mission fun. Even at its worst, it still controls and plays well. In both of Yuke’s Earth Defense Force games, I feel like frustration is the status quo. Enemy placement seems less thoughtful and even when the enemy design isn’t something you have to struggle against, you’re still left with the controls not feeling very good. Between that and so few characters feeling good to use, the times in which I had fun in this game are few and far between.
Review copy was provided by the publisher.