As the eighth overall installment in the series, Earth Defense Force 5 has quite a bit to offer for fans of the franchise and is an excellent starting place for those who have never experienced the series before. But, now the question is evident, how much of a step forward is this entry for the franchise? Let’s find out.
+Multiple performance upgrades across the board
+Classes have received minor upgrades
+Online multiplayer lag almost doesn’t exist
-Finding a multiplayer match can be difficult to do
-Mission types have little to no variety
-Mission difficulty scaling can be slightly problematic
Games are growing as a medium when it’s all said and done. As it grows, so does the inspiration that developers find in order to deliver the stories they want to tell. As a fan of movies that are B, C, and D rated films, I can’t help but somehow adore the Earth Defense Force series. It’s one of those franchises that has somehow mastered the art of being a B-Rated series, one that you were sure came straight out of a movie.
Just like with previous entries, your story is pretty straightforward: You’re a new recruit in the Earth Defense Force and – as you might have guessed – the aliens and their invasion force of bugs have once more turned to invade Earth itself. But, shouldn’t it be expected at this point?
Stories, timelines, and uh… Is there a continuity by any means at all?
Now, one thing I want to briefly discuss, but not in-depth for what little story there is – I’ve already remained a bit confused by the timeline of the series as a whole. Whether it’s Earth Defense 4 and Earth Defense 4.1, it’s hard to figure out exactly what the story is, where the games take place and if the story even really matters all that much.
If you’ve ever played any games such as Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors, and any of the spin-off titles of the Warriors series, then you know what to expect as far as continuity goes. There’s not much and it seems that each game is a stand-alone title offering its very own unique story in its own unique timeline for fans to enjoy.
The downside? We still don’t have a solidified story and we ultimately, could have used one and even enjoyed one, but as we all know – good things come to those who wait.
Performance has been improved upon rather greatly
Since our last entry into the series, we’ve seen a few solid improvements across the board. Firstly, the team isn’t going for cutting-edge graphics by any means. You aren’t going to find Godzilla-sized ants to actually have the level of detail games like Monster Hunter World have. But, there is one major difference, which comes out to rather smooth framerates and quality of sound and graphical stability – something you don’t see often in games aiming to be in a class of their own uniqueness.
What seemed like what would be considered a slow framerate game actually turned out to impress. Even in some of the most intense moments of Earth Defense Force 5 – namely hordes of gigantic ants coming out of the woodworks – framerates never dipped nor did they stutter by any means necessary. A major improvement over our experience with Earth Defense Force 4.1.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few moments here and there when graphical assets load in doesn’t drag for just a second or two. It’s not frequent, but it happens and it’s noticeable enough it could become irritating for those enjoying their buttery smooth experience up to that very point.
If that’s a deal breaker for you, it does happen, but it’s not frequent enough to write home about it.
Missions have little variety, which is okay if you don’t mind the lack of change
One of the only problems I’ve ever had with this series – and I do enjoy this series – is the lack of change between mission types. There are very few missions outside of the “eliminate the alien threat” appeal. There’s very few that even try to do anything outside of that, which normally, would be okay in most cases; except here it’s not.
With more than five games in the series, you’d expect a bit of variety. Enough-so that you could actually watch it change as you play. It’d have been nice to see some “defend this point until the time runs out” to add a bit of variety. While escort missions do happen, they’re rare and by rare, I mean I recall one in my entire twenty hours with Earth Defense Force 5.
Had they included missions such as “escort the caravan” and a “eliminate this special target” type of missions; Earth Defense Force 5 would have heavily benefited from that very approach. Heck, it might have even been a much better game than it already is since its release. The downside about this thought? It may not happen, even in free content drops.
It’s a third-person arcade experience
While it seems that things might be grim for this B-Rated style game, it’s not all that bad. The classes themselves stand out from the rest as you have four to choose from with a variety of weapons at your disposal. While there’s only four of them to choose from, each is quite different from the other and each of them all approach combat entirely different from the other.
For the sake of the review, I used a mix of the Wing Divers and the Air Raiders. Both of which I found were best for the single-player mode as they got around the quickest and allowed me to eliminate my enemies as quickly as possible. The Wing Divers, for example, are the most advanced class in the game that focuses on the use of their flying capabilities and their energy-based arsenal.
The Air Raiders play quite differently than the Wing Divers. They’re a support class that can utilize items such as healing towers and air strikes, which makes them more dependent on their usage in cooperative play. On the opposite end of things, you have the Ranger, a standard starter class for all intents and purposes of it being a starter class while the Fencer is a heavy infantry class with a massive allotment of weapons at their disposal, but their tradeoff is their sluggish movement that feels slower than molasses.
But the classes have been improved upon since Earth Defense Force 4.1. for example, the Rangers have a new dash skill that allows them to move about even quicker than before and even a vehicle to use. On the other hand, Wing Divers can also upgrade their plasma cores, making them not depend on energy management as near as much as before. Another change that has been made is the collecting of both weapons and armor.
In previous games, when you collected these items, they were distributed only to the class you had chosen. Instead, now, they can be for any of the classes throughout the game and will allow you to gear them up for whatever progression you’ve already made and carry it over in order to continue your campaign either offline or on. Unfortunately, it still doesn’t make the more advanced of the classes, i.e. the Air Raiders and the Fencers, more accessible than before.
They still take a lot to master and they are almost as equally as hard to master, but nowhere near as hard as learning how to group invite people in the multiplayer menus.
Online play isn’t bad, but it could use a bit of work
One thing I’ve always had an issue with when it comes to the Earth Defense Force series is multiplayer. Unfortunately, multiplayer as always almost seems dead on arrival with it taking more than twenty minutes or so to find a group. Sometimes, even requiring me to go out of my way and search online for others to group with from around the world.
The downside to this is clear – multiplayer is dead as a doornail, which is a shame, as I loved my experience with the previous entries in the multiplayer components. But when you can find a match – they are amazing and they are absolutely fun when playing with up to three other people.
While lag was intermittent in the few matches I did get into, it wasn’t as horrible as previous titles – another improvement made by developer Sandlot.
No matter what way you look at it – it’s hard to deny that Earth Defense Force is a series in a league of its own. It’s literally a franchise that has established itself as the B-Rated video game franchise we want to know and love. It’s the corniest of the corniest, but somehow, just somehow, we still enjoy it the way we do.
Earth Defense Force 5
Platforms: PlayStation 4
Version Reviewed: PlayStation 4
Publisher: Marvelous USA Inc.
Release Date: Available Now
The only thing we hope is that we can see more mission types in future entries in the next installment. After all, you can only destroy so many things before it begins to grow a bit stale.
Our review is based upon a retail version that was provided to us by the publisher of the game. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
Final Score: 6.5 out of 10
About the Writer(s):
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.