What is it about the Earth Defense Force games that makes them so darn special? Well, to me, it’s the mixture of vintage sci-fi goofiness with the sheer audacity of charging you, a single soldier, with saving the world from aliens, giant bugs, spiders, dragons and whatever the hell else wants to conquer the planet. Whether you’re a squad soldier on the ground with a missile launcher, or a winged angel with sheer firepower (and, of course, no pants), you’ll have to get the job done.
Earth Defense Force 5 was a triumph; and even the more serious spin-off Iron Rain wasn’t too shabby. So that indicated we weren’t exactly in a rush to get a new game in the series right away. However D3Publisher delivered anyway with the voxel-designed Earth Defense Force: World Brothers, a game that takes the series and makes it more accessible to all ages of players. It’s still about saving the world, but with a Minecraft-ish voxel approach and some genuinely silly characters that feel right at home in the EDF universe. It loses a bit of its challenge along the way, but the end result is just as delightful as any of the other bug-blasting games in the series.
The world – surprise, it’s square – is in peril, and it’s up to the EDF to save it, traveling across the globe in an effort to stave off the alien invasion that’s following. What’s great about this game is how each of the characters offer something different in combat style, from a sword-slashing ninja to a Hispanic musician who’s actually rather handy with a machine gun and the healing power of music.
What’s more, you can actually acquire hundreds more soldiers to choose from over the course of the game. All you have to do is find downed soldiers during your fight, revive them, and they’ll automatically join your ranks. Some are better than others – a Dutch girl with grenade flowers and a devastating windmill packs a shocking punch – but the ability to mix and match your team and switch between them at any time is a novel touch.
With that in mind, World Brothers is slightly less difficult than previous games. This was probably a design choice, mainly because the devs probably didn’t want to see kids frustrated by the game. Except it does pose an interesting situation for die-hard players. Oh well, the idea of blasting hundreds of enemies to kingdom come still remains, so no biggie.
The gameplay feels about right, basically on the same level as other EDF games. Some characters are slower, but have a better arsenal of weaponry at the helm. Meanwhile, the faster moving characters can get around the field of battle quicker, and rescue downed soldiers in a much easier fashion. Again, being able to switch off is a novel touch; and blasting the baddies, as always, is excellent fun. And yes, you can blow up buildings too. Wouldn’t be EDF if you couldn’t, right?
World Brothers’ brickish design is outstanding, moving at a fluid pace and offering even the smallest of details on enemies. They look a little weird in Minecraft form at times, but it really fits the motif of the game very well. And did I mention that the frame rate is pretty high throughout, even in split-screen mode? That makes jumping in with a friend far more useful than you might expect. So don’t be afraid to recruit a buddy locally, you’ll enjoy it.
The sound’s alright, but annoying in spots. While the character voices add a great deal of variety, they repeat way too often, like with the wing diver’s continuous complaints of being afraid of heights. The devs should’ve mixed up the quotes more, or, at the very least, calmed them down a bit. Or maybe added more lines…?
The core EDF game will take some time to get through, but it’s fun to play through to see what each of the soldiers can do, and find all the hidden secrets. Plus, as stated above, it’s wonderful in co-op, so you can bring some buddies along.
While Earth Defense Force: World Brothers doesn’t quite top the might of Earth Defense Force 5 (that’s just too dang fun to pass up), it does fit in the top five games of the series quite handily. Its new art style is versatile and fun to look at; and its gameplay continues to entertain, especially with character swapping and unlocking hundreds of different soldiers. It packs on a staggering amount of variety while also being a treat for players of all ages. If you’re going to introduce kids to a game in the series – and one you can have fun with, to boot – this one clearly won’t “bug” you.