The Earth Defense Force series has been one of my favorite ongoing franchises since I first discovered it through EDF 4 and 5. The franchise’s focus on silly B movie tropes along with its emphasis on local and online coop have made it a favorite among my family when we decide on what to play for game night. It would not be inaccurate to say the franchise is stuck in the past, it has always looked and played like something you would find on the PlayStation 2. But I think this is a strength of the series. It allows players to go back to a better time, when gaming was just about pure fun.
With Earth Defense Force 5 having come out in 2017 and EDF 6 still being 6 months away at least, World Brothers seems to want to give fans something to tide them over in the mean time. EDF World Brothers is definitely one of the most unique entries the franchise has had up until this point. Trading the franchises 6th generation looking graphics for a more blocky approach along with changing the formula in a lot of interesting will likely be controversial in ways. EDF World Brothers is a fan letter to the franchise. It tries to appeal to both hardcore fans of the series while also trying to be a jumping on point for new players. Does it succeed? Well let’s find out.
This is a review coupled with a supplemental video review. You can watch the video review or read the full review of the game below.
Earth Defense Force: World Brothers
Publisher: D3 Publisher
Platforms: Windows PC (reviewed), PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: May 27, 2021
Price: $59.99 USD
One thing that will be clear from the get go is that World Brothers is not trying to be taken seriously, this is saying something considering the cheesy B movie inspired plots and dialog of the previous games. World Brothers isn’t just a game with a block aesthetic, the developers really embraced what it meant to be a block.
You see this from the very beginning of the game, with the game opening by showing us a blocky earth getting destroyed and scattered into multiple pieces. As the player it is your job to magically reconstruct this LEGO earth by defeating the six motherships scattered throughout the pieces of the world. Most of the games charm comes from this aesthetic choice.
For starters, the developers clearly spent a lot of time and effort making sure each enemy and class from the previous games are both charming and instantly recognizable to fans of the series. The scattered earth plot has also given the developers the excuse of having each floating piece represent a unique country and culture within earth.
Unlike in the mainline EDF games that would give you around 4 classes to choose from, EDF World Brothers gives the player over 100 different characters to collect and choose from. This ranges from returning classes from within the EDF franchise to dozens of characters that represent a particular country or culture.
It is frankly fun seeing Texas represented by a cowboy, Japan represented by a ninja and Mexico represented by an hombre. Each character is hilariously caricatured from the perspective of a Japanese developer.
It is fun listening to a ninja try to describe what tofu is to a cowboy, it is fun seeing Romania be represented by a vampire. I know some random reviewer out there will try to call it offensive but to me it feels clear that the developers put thought into making sure multiple cultures were represented and each with the same level of silliness.
For those that haven’t played an EDF game yet, the franchise revolves around protecting the earth from alien invasions. These aliens generally take the form of giant insects. Up to 4 players complete missions which require them to rid the level of invaders.
What allows the franchise to stand out is its emphasis on having lots of enemies onscreen at once along with giving the player a load of destructive and creatively designed weapons with which to defend earth with.
Despite the changes Brothers has made toe the formula, this core aspect of the series has not changed with Brothers. Which is good since this formula has in the past lead to some of the best co-op experiences in the history of gaming, and no that is not an exaggeration.
This core gameplay shines in EDF World Brothers. Just like the rest of the series, blowing up loads of enemies is as satisfying as ever. Thanks to the voxel based approach World Brothers brings to the table, both buildings and terrain now posses a level of destruction not seen in previous games. The biggest change to the franchise however comes in the form of the many dozens of colorful characters I described earlier
Each player picks up to four characters to bring with them into combat. The player is able to at any one time switch between these 4 characters with the push of a button. However unlike in EDF 5 where each class gets multiple weapons to switch from, in Brothers each class can only hold one weapon.
It’s worth pointing out this weapon can be changed between missions. Each character is also given an ability on cool down and an ultimate ability which requires you to collect points or pick ups to use.
Also, instead of having multiple NPC allies tagging along with the player like previous games, the four characters you chose all follow each other. I like this because it makes you feel like you are in an army but unlike in EDF 4 or 5, they don’t all die within the first 5 minutes of gameplay.
As to be expected though, compared to the 4 extremely unique classes in 5, a lot of the characters you find in World Brothers start to feel quite similar after a while, especially since many of them are simple stat differences. Despite this, I still find it fun looking for the 3 new characters scattered throughout each level.
World Brothers reminds me a lot of the LEGO parody games you would see during the 2000’s and I am not just saying that because of the blocky aesthetic either. For one and this is sadly the games biggest flaw, it is far to easy.
I played the campaign with my friend switching between the games medium and hard difficulties. We beat the entire game without seeing a game over screen once. This is so sad to me because EDF 4 and 5 were so difficult for me and my friends to get past.
When we beat EDF 5 on hard, there would be points where we would get stuck for hours. Creating the right strategy and picking the right equipment was 100% necessary in order to beat many of the harder levels in EDF 5. Yet in World Brothers it didn’t matter who I picked, what equipment I put on or even if I went to battle with just 1 soldier.
To beat the game I could turn my brain off and just mow down enemies. I think one reason for this is that the enemies in World Brothers seem less aggressive than the enemies in 4 and 5 were. There also seems to be a bit less as well.
Instead of fighting what feels like 50 or more enemies you are fighting maybe 30 at most. I think this is because despite its blocky aesthetic the game is definitely graphically more impressive than the other games.
This typically means you can’t place as many enemies into a level do to processing demands. Now EDF not being hard isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I loved LEGO Star Wars when I was in middle school after all, but it would bore me to sleep today.
The games difficulty along with its humor and dialog at first made me believe this was a game intended for children. There are a few issues with this line of thinking however. For starters, I was surprised to find that the game was rated T for Teen.
I’m not exactly sure why. The violence is there but it comes in the form of destroying robots and LEGO ants. Though I do recall a few minor swear words being shouted from time to time so maybe it’s that.
Secondly like a LEGO game, World Brothers also tries to appeal to the long time fans of the thing it is spoofing. World Brothers is chock full of references to the old games and not in a subtle way. Characters from the previous games return, both as playable characters and as important points of the plot.
The game even has a section where you ride in a barga and despite the game not telling you the combos, if you remember them from EDF 5, you can execute the exact same moves through muscle memory.
This puts World Brothers in a strange situation, it’s lack of difficulty makes it seem like an appeal to children, while the constant call backs make it seem like it is trying to appeal to long time fans despite it being laughably easy to veterans. As a non-hardcore fan myself while I enjoy the references I caught thinking about other things while playing due to the lack of challenge.
While I found the lack of difficulty to be the games biggest flaw it isn’t it’s only flaw. During my playthrough I found a few annoying glitches. My friend who was connected to me would often have his HUD randomly disappear and reappear. That’s an issue because it means he couldn’t see his mini map nor could he see his characters cooldowns.
On top of that the mouse controls could use improvements. Rather than directly translating mouse movements to crosshairs, this game emulates a gamepad thumbstick. This means no matter how quickly or far you move your arm, your turning speed is capped just like if you were using a controller.
Finally there is an issue of price. EDF5 was 60 dollars and gave players over 100 missions. EDF World Brothers on the other hand give players around half that for the same price. Though the only reason this is an issue is because of the previous games spoiling players with content along with being difficult enough that you could levels 10 times do to difficulty.
Even despite only having half as many missions as 5, the games content is still high however. The campaign will take a competent player about 11 hours to complete. But after that you are encouraged to play it again thanks to more unlockables to find and higher difficulties. Completing the campaign for the first time will only have you unlocking around 20% of the games content.
In conclusion there are two types of people I recommend Earth Defense Force: World Brothers to. Parents wanting to give their child a fun game to sink dozens of hours into and I think the games emphasis on different cultures could even be educational. I would also recommend the game to hardcore EDF fans who would be able to enjoy the first play through thanks to its ant killing gameplay and fan service.
After that, you can replay the game a few more times after unlocking the harder difficulties rewarded to players for completing the campaign. I will also mention that the game will have an even harder difficulty setting in the form of DLC called Armageddon mode. Having these post game difficulties available from the start would have done a lot to make my first play through a lot more enjoyable and I hope the developers patch the game so that that is the case.
Besides those two groups Worlds Brothers still has good qualities and is worth picking up after it reaches a discount price sometime in the future. I feel I would have been a lot less harsh on the game if I didn’t have the series’ previous games to compare it to but for most players I would have to recommend playing 5 instead if you haven’t gotten the chance to experience the series yet.
As for me, Earth Defense Force: World Brothers will have to suffice until Earth Defense Force 6 releases later this year.
Earth Defense Force: World Brothers was reviewed on Windows PC using a review code provided by D3 Publisher. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.