Adventure Corner: Earth Defense Force 5
Welcome to Adventure Corner, a column where members of the RPGamer staff can give their thoughts, impressions, and pseudo-reviews for various adventure titles that don’t come under our usual coverage. Adventure Corner is aimed at delivering opinions on a wide range of titles including visual novels, point-and-click adventures, investigative mysteries, and so forth.
Today, we dive to the role of an Earth Defense Force (EDF) recruit, sworn to protect the earth from aliens and monsters, as we play Earth Defense Force 5!
Earth Defense Force 5
Earth Defense Force games, along with Musou games, fall into that category that people either love or hate, and it will come as no surprise that those in the first group will find much to love about Earth Defense Force 5. The Earth Defense Force games allow a single player, or a group of like-minded comrades, to take on waves of aliens, ranging from giant ants, spiders, and walking frogs to saucers, spaceships, and monsters that tower over the largest buildings. As players slaughter them in the name of self-defense, they drop loot boxes that expand the available arsenal of deadly weapons.
Players can choose one of four different classes. The versatile ranger makes a great entry point for beginners as he can equip a variety of useful weapons, call in support vehicles, and has decent mobility and health. The wing diver handles the role of the glass cannon, with the most powerful weapons, limited flight, and quick mobility, but very little health. On the other end of the spectrum, the fencer moves slowly, but makes up for this with the highest health, defensive shields, and an array of heavy weaponry. Last, the air raider provides support. He has access to all kinds of vehicle and mechs the he can call in, as well as the ability to request massive air raids and provide laser targeting for other soldiers.
Each of these classes have been upgraded from earlier entries. For example, the ranger can now take a support item in battle. He can also sprint around, automatically picking up all items in a radius around him. Wing divers can now upgrade their power supply, and perform air dodges. The list goes on, but suffice to say, while the timeline of EDF 5 places it years before EDF 4.1, the gameplay feels like a step forward. Players will need these additional advantages to come out on top as the aliens have a few new tricks as well. Huge frog soldiers, roughly 20 feet tall, now lead the assault on mother earth. Unlike foes from prior games, these walking amphibians coordinate their attacks. They will roll around when assaulted, use cover effectively, and work together to flank our heroes. This adds a welcome layer of depth that moves the series in a great direction after many iterations of just mindless hordes.
Do not fear, however, as players contend with massive waves of gigantic insects as well. It would not be a true EDF game without them. And while EDF has never been known for great graphics, both the foes and the heroes look improved with detailed texturing. Cities and backgrounds have a bit more detail than before, but that still means they look empty and sparse compared to most other games. With that said, aliens now show degrees of damage as they spurt out colorful blood, and they explode into various colors of goo when they meet the business end of a rocket launcher. Larger monsters spew out more of the stuff when hit, making the city-scape look like something right out of a particularly vicious game of Splatoon.
While the graphic engine will not win any awards for awesome visuals, it does the job of handling frame-rate rather well. Even when dozens and dozens of insects, frogs, and spaceships attack at once, with weapons’ effects flying around in a wondrous array of color, the game continues to run silky smooth. Frame-rate slowdown does happen on the rare occasion involving an extremely large creatures or spacecraft, however, it does not really hamper the experience overall. The sound effects are great and satisfying as grenades explode and guns spray bullets. Even more entertaining, however, is the banter shared by the other NPC soldiers. Sprinkled into each mission, they spout off lines that fall into the “they’re so bad, they’re good” category. One such memorable quote happens as one of the EDF soldiers attempts to persuade the player character to join the team. He quips, “This is the best job on earth, when there are no monsters.” He says this, of course, as we see a swarm of ants, each the size of a school bus, running towards us.
RPGamers may come for the jokes and the non-stop shooting, but they will stay for the loot. Among the things receiving an overhaul, the loot system got some of the biggest changes. In the past, it was easy to grab a few high level weapons by running an early, easy mission on a harder difficulty level. These weapons could easily carry a player through the game on normal difficulty, invalidating any weapons they would find along the way. Now, the loot tables have a better progression to them. Furthermore, weapons now upgrade. In the past, if one found boxes with the same weapon, they were wasted. Now, they often upgrade the weapon in question, making it stronger. As a result, a level 2 rifle fully upgraded may prove more powerful than a level 12 gun found while doing a hard level difficulty run with a friend. This encourages the player to grind up closer to his ability and skill level rather than farming an easier board at higher difficulty. It also makes repeated runs on normal difficulties feel more rewarding.
This really scratches that kind of itch we see satisfied by games like Diablo, and Borderlands. Yet, here, it feels like a more solid, even progression than ever before. This is despite the fact that some of these weapons cross lines you would never see happen in other games. The ranger has a missile that moves very slowly, but if it hits, does massive damage. The air raider can call a enormous mech that knocks down buildings as it walks, but is too large to hit the bus-sized ants that will whittle down his massive pool of health if left unchecked. The game provide lots of motivation for player to experiment with all of the options on offer. Add in the ridiculous writing, groan-worthy voice acting, non-stop action, and four fun classes to play the game with, and the result is a game that can be enjoyed both alone or with friends for dozens, if not hundreds, of hours. It may not impress initially, but if you give it time, EDF 5 will get its insect-like claws into you and will not let go.