The Earth Defense Force series is the archetypal cult classic. We all know the story by now: a vastly ambitious, puddle-shallow, superbly fun series comprising of blasting giant bugs (and more) in de-structible cities the world over, which started life as a budget series and somehow carried on for 15-plus years now.
What doesn’t tend to get mentioned is the little things that make EDF so genuinely, heartwarmingly quirky. Singing a single line from a song in the vain hope your online squadmates would carry on the tune, say. Hearing one of your AI squadmates saying “We’re on an exciting underground adventure!” while heading straight into the certain death of an underground giant ants’ nest, perhaps. Blowing up an entire city with absolutely no repercussions just because you really hate those giant spiders, may-be.
It’s a franchise with a lot of genuine affection showered on it, so it’s always nice to see a new entry make itself known.
EDF: World Brothers actually looks to be making a real attempt to raise its head out of the world of little-known cult attraction games. Now this has been attempted before, most recently with EDF: Iron Rain from 2019 – but these previous efforts all leveraged a more serious tone and an attempt to take the series in a banal, military-themed direction.
World Brothers turns its heels on what came before and heads off its own way: bright colours and voxels are the key here, and it’s all been done with the express intention of lowering the game’s age rating and thus broadening its potential appeal.
“We’ve done our best to ensure that our fans would continue to find fun with our series,” explains Nobuyuki Okajima, series producer on the EDF games. “However, this required time, and we’re very sorry that we’ve had our customers wait for so long between each game release.
“We wanted to thank our EDF fans out there with an event that would offer something that would bring out the fun throughout our series, and thus began our plan to create EDF: World Brothers. EDF is very easy to get into, so we sincerely believe that the game is meant for a broad range of audiences, from our younger gamers to seasoned players, both genders alike.”
But catering for the series’ hardcore fans meant a push to more immersive battles and graphics, Okajima goes on to say, meaning these titles received higher age ratings. Then, of course, there was always the issue of ever-more realistically rendered insects and arachnids putting some play-ers off. Accessibility is a big thing for the team: “We wanted to attend to and address such issues… we wanted to bring about a game that reached out to a broader range of audiences,” Okajima says. “And after deep deliberation, we came up with the voxel design for EDF: World Brothers.”
The voxel design of World Brothers doesn’t make for changes to the core EDF experience: you’re still dashing about large open city spaces blasting invading creatures and having a whale of a time doing it, but the artistic flourish does mean the game moves away from the (sort of, kind of) more realistic tone of previous entries. The voxel planet has been attacked by six alien motherships and, as such, has broken apart into cubes.
“In the real world, that would mean doom for humankind,” says Okajima, “but in the voxel world, it just means that the world, broken into parts, is floating in space with everything in it, from cities to landmarks and more. These broken parts are where the battles take place.” Meaning one level might see you in your usual vague cityscape, while another will see you battling in front of a cube-y Big Ben as you blast alien beasties by the dozen.
Adding to this is the fact EDF: World Brothers is a celebration of sorts for the series – plenty (though not all) enemies from past games appear, the world introduces those real-life landmarks, and every soldier class from previous titles is included – wing divers and heavies for the win, and all that. Building a four-unit squad, you’re free to swap between your troops at any time – this real-time selection is actually a new feature for the series and could genuinely add to the depth of things, as in previous games you were indeed limited to the single class you chose for the mission.
Balance has been a challenge for Yuke’s, Okajima explains, but the hope is everything’ll be alright on the night: “The game systems employed were different between each game,” he says. “Hence, we did our best to keep what elements were well received, while merging them into EDF: World Brothers in a way that made the game feel natural and organic, and this was quite a challenge to overcome.”
Edging closer to 20 years in the business is a feat for any series – but it’s certainly more so when said series started as a budget game, and has never really achieved worldwide superstardom. But, as Okajima says, there has always been a fanbase for EDF, and that’s what’s helped it continue: “I didn’t expect it to be as popular as it is today, back when EDF was introduced as part of the Simple 2000 series,” he says.
“When EDF2 was released, we noticed it already had a strong fan base, which brought more play-ers into the game, so we sought to make EDF3 and beyond into a unique line-up of third-person shooter games. We really appreciate and thank all our fans who joined themselves as EDF mem-bers to help support the series!” As for World Brothers? Well, Okajima is keeping his hopes mod-est… relatively: “I wish I had the brazenness to say it would do magnificently awesome,” he says.
“What I can say is that I hope we have as many players possible join themselves into the voxel world of EDF. The more the merrier, and of course the more [there are] the safer it will be on voxel Earth.”
Genre: Voxel blaster
Format: Switch, PS4
Publisher: D3 Publisher
Release: Early 2021 (EU/US)