I’ve been a fan of the Earth Defense Force series ever since I first laid hands on it. The mix of an absurd setting, over-the-top weaponry, and the sheer thrill and brainless nature of shooting at uncountable numbers of insects, robots, and whatever else the games throw at you (sometimes frogs that look just like us), is something I can’t resist.
Earth Defense Force: World Brothers feels like a love letter to the series as a whole, but also an attempt to draw in younger players and make the traditionally dark series a little bit lighter in tone. If you’re not aware of why EDF is dark, EDF 5 has most of humanity wiped out by the end of the story and is a stark tale of how messed up a military can be when it needs more bodies to throw at a problem.
World Brothers changes a few things to make it more accessible and a little easier on younger gamers. For starter, you’ve got the voxel art style, which is absolutely beautiful in motion. It also fits the world really well, because the Earth is a cube that’s been split into sections – sorry Flat Earthers, turns out it was a cube all along. You can still destroy buildings as well, which looks far better in voxels than it ever has with a more realistic art style.
There’s also a lot less to worry about when it comes to your loadout, at least initially. Each class you find has a weapon, a special ability, and an ultimate ability. While you can change the weapon if you find ones in the same group (assault rifles etc.), the other two things are static. This means that you’re not hunting for new weapons in each level, and it takes away some of the grind that has always defined long-term play of an EDF game. You can upgrade units to allow them to use more weapons, and you do that by rescuing more of the same unit in each mission. That’s still a grind if you want it to be, but it’s not a necessity here.
World Brothers is also just a bit easier than previous games. It feels as though the enemies still deal the same amount of damage, but with no weapon drops to worry about, there’s more health lying around. Also, you’re no longer controlling just one character, but four. You choose your preferred team before entering a level, and then you can swap them in and out whenever you like. This makes your survival far more likely, and it also means you can use a Wing Diver unit to fly up to the top of a building before switching to something with a heavier weapon to lay waste to everything below you.
There are a lot of different units to choose from. I’m not sure how many there are in total, but it’s a lot more than long-time players will be used to. Some of these are simple reskins of others in the game with slightly different stats, but it’s all worth considering if you’re seeking perfection in your team.
The characters include those returning from previous games, all of which are kind of a joy to see, and then the World Brothers and Sisters themselves, which are all shoutouts to a myth of some kind or taken from a different culture. This is where my first issue with the game comes in. Some of these are purposefully absurd, like the idea that all British people are Royal Guards, for example, but others are a little bit culturally insensitive, like Amigo Brother, who wears a sombrero and poncho, throws tequila, and is always hungover.
The voice acting is along a similar line. Having previously interviewed the devs for our preview, I know that they didn’t have someone from each country doing the accents, which means they’re all approximations. There’s no malice in this and the intention is certainly to be tongue-in-cheek, but it comes off as a bit awkward in some cases. It’s not ideal, and while I got around it by simply turning the audio dialogue to Japanese instead, it’s still in the game and it’s a bit of a shame.
There’s also the fact that there’s no local co-op in this game, when it feels as though it was built for it. For a lot of people, playing EDF on the same couch with someone is a huge part of the appeal, and it’s a shame to see it go. The online is good, for sure, but it’s not quite the same.
Outside of those issues, the game is a blast to play and has tonnes of both character and characters. The graphics are really quite stunning in motion, and the music is consistently outstanding too.
Earth Defense Force: World Brothers is a genuine joy to play and an interesting spinoff from the main series. EDF is a silly series even with its dark undertones, but World Brothers is a lot more light-hearted, and could well lead to a lot of new players looking forward to Earth Defense Force 6.