Earth Defense Force World Brothers Preview: It’s a Hard Block Life

The long-running alien bug series is back in an adorable new form with tons of ways to destroy with friends both online and off.

Earth Defense Force has a long history of explosive action from the days of 2D side-scrolling shooters to fully-realized 3D shooting worlds full of alien bugs. EDF has gained a fair following over the years for fans of pure, mindless arcade shooting. These aren’t deep or complicated games, but they were never meant to be. 

World Brothers, the latest in the series, is releasing on May 27 for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC. We took time recently to sit down and check out a live demo of the game with EDF series Game Producer, Nobuyuki Okajima. This spin-off from the main series features an incredible visual change, while still retaining the classic shooting action. 

Attack on the Block!

It’s a distinctive voxel graphic style that certainly makes World Brothers, at first glance, seem more in line with Minecraft, Roblox, or other more kid-oriented games. That’s not to say that any of the previous EDF games were particularly kid-unfriendly, so while the graphics look different, the core gameplay of the series remains firmly intact.

We asked Okajima-san about the new look since it could be jarring for long-time fans of the series.  

“For the spin-offs, we always try something new,” he said. “For this one, particularly, we wanted to focus on a different audience: younger and casual gamers. There are people who kind of avoid EDF because they just hate insects. So to introduce it to anyone, we tried so many different types of looks, but ended up picking [this] design because we could work on more details than just round or square [graphics].”

He’s not wrong. Everything is made of tiny blocky particles, but the overall models look just detailed and colorful enough to be impressively, well, cute. There are still giant insect aliens, but the new style may well help those bug-phobic gamers sit more comfortably in the Earth Defense Force universe.

Better yet, players won’t be sitting alone while battling against the odds. Whether in single-player, online, or all in the same room via local play, World Brothers has a dazzling array of team-based action. Once you’ve rescued a crew member, they can be part of your personal team of four. You can switch between characters on the fly, while the AI controls the other three members.

All three platforms will support up to 4 players online and locally via splitscreen. That means every player brings in their own team of four characters to potentially allow for 16 alien fighters total in a match. There will be hundreds of characters and character combinations to find and customize. 

Since the game lets you mix weapon styles with character archetypes, the options for creating your perfect team are vast. With flyers, heavies, brawlers, infantry, air divers, and scores more of character types, the variety is extreme. There are hundreds of weapons to cover every kind of play style. As mentioned, this isn’t an RPG by any means, but individual weapon levels increase and those can be used by different classes. 

Beyond that, players will be able to wreak havoc with giant mechs and vehicles. The developers showed off a building-sized mech that wreaked absolute destruction on both aliens and the city-themed level. It was magical.

Faster, Blocky Guy! Kill! Kill!

Despite the blocky look, it’s important to enunciate there’s no crafting here. EDF is all about destruction, which is as true in World Brothers as it’s ever been. That said, it’s hard not to be impressed by the sheer scope of the game’s explosive sensibilities. You can literally destroy everything in the game —buildings, scenery, aliens. Everything. 

World Brothers starts off with a hilarious video game concept. The blocky Earth has been blown apart into blocky segments by the invading aliens. So, EDF must get each piece, clear it out, and put the world back together. While the overall world map is about finding and connecting pieces of the map, the actual game is played in a traditional level-by-level way. There’s no ever-expanding open world here.

Despite the more casual and kid-friendly focus of World Brothers and its voxel graphics, fans of the main series shouldn’t be too put off when the game hits. The action and absurd level of character and weapons variety EDF players have come to expect looks firmly intact. There’s a definite joy in the levels of destruction the game will offer and nearly endless ways to blow up those damn alien ants. Stay tuned for more later this month. 

Contributor

Jason D'Aprile has been writing about games and technology for a very long time. His bylines have appeared on and in countless sites and magazines over the years, including Paste Magazine, Playboy, G4TV, Indie Game Website, UploadVR, Techhive, Lifewire, the Brick Moon Fiction podcast, United Front Gaming, and others he's mostly forgotten about. Jason lives in a house in the woods and does not twit.

Published May. 17th 2021

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