My experience with the Earth Defense Force series is relatively limited. I first learned about the franchise through the announcement of Earth Defense Force 5 at Tokyo Game Show 2016 and once I found out that most of the series has released outside of Japan, I got curious and picked up Earth Defense Force 4.1: Shadow of New Despair. While I enjoyed the little that I played, I just couldn’t get into it for some reason. Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain* is where everything changed, and had me questioning why I hadn’t gotten into this series sooner.
According to an Siliconera interview with series producer Nobuyuki Okajima, Iron Rain was created with the Western audience in mind, particularly those who are not familiar with the Earth Defense Force series. This included changing the location from Japan to the U.S., implementing a more realistic looking graphical style, styling the game more like a western third person shooter, character customization, more freedom with class and weapon selection, and a PVP mode.
In Iron Rain, you play as a hero known by their codename “Closer,” who fell into a seven year coma after taking down a giant hivecraft. After waking up, you’re recruited by the EDF blast team to go on missions to defeat various insects and monsters sent to Earth by the alien Aggressors. As the Closer you have a special suit called a PA-Gear which includes a special overdrive mode. This mode can normally be activated only once per battle and gives you a temporary power boost and access to abilities you wouldn’t be able to use otherwise.
Closer, Classes, and Customization
The Closer can also take a role as one of four classes in each mission, all with different strengths and weaknesses, but while still maintaining the freedom to use any weapon you’ve unlocked.The first two classes available are the Trooper, a standard class with a special E-dodge ability, and the Jet Lifter: a lighter class with a jetpack and improved mobility. After completing a handful of missions you unlock two more classes: the Heavy Lifter, with improved offense and defense, including a holo shield but less mobility, and the Prowl Rider, a class featuring grappling wires called an E- Needle, similar to the mobility gear seen in Attack on Titan as well as the ability to summon, ride, and command their own giant creatures called G.L.I.A.R.S. when in overdrive mode. All of these abilities — with the exception of controlling G.L.I.A.R.S — use up energy, so they can’t be used indefinitely but they do recharge relatively fast.
Although each class has a default outfit, your character is fully customizable, so you don’t have to stay looking a certain way if you don’t want to. New outfit parts are unlocked through completing missions, and most cost a certain amount of in-game currency to obtain. Personally I made my character look as close to a Power Ranger/Henshin Hero in order to look as cool as possible.
Big, Bad, Beetleb— Enemies
Enemies range from giant insects like ants and beetles to large mechs, UFOs, and even kaiju reminiscent of those seen in more recent Godzilla movies and Pacific Rim. The most common enemies are giant ants, which typically come at you in swarms and can be taken down pretty easily over time, and are a great way to test out new weapons. In later missions, tougher alternately-colored enemies start appearing and provide much more of a challenge than their counterparts. You can also view information about each enemy in the database after defeating a certain number of them, a great bonus if you appreciate monster designs. My favorite enemies so far are the more kaiju-like ones, specifically the Beizal (pictured above). In addition to having a head like a placoderm, this Godzilla inspired “mega giant” creature can also breath powerful blue streams of electricity and send out electromagnetic pulse with its dorsal fins that can temporarily disable PA-Gear. With these abilities at its disposal, as well as a tail that can knock you across the map if you aren’t careful, I’ll be really disappointed if I can’t unlock the Beizal as a G.L.I.A.R. closer to the end of the campaign.
Weapons, Weapons, and More Weapons
So how does the EDF deal with all these different types of enemies? Well, with a large variety of weapons of course! You can equip your character with two different weapons including Assault Rifles, Laser Rifles, Missile Launchers, and even swords. All weapons have different stats which include firing range, ammo, damage, reload time, and shots per second, and all weapons other than those you start with have to be purchased with in-game currency after being unlocked through mission completion.There’s also a practice mode where you can test weapons out.
My personal favorite type of weapon is the sword. Unlike swords in other games, these futuristic weapons actually have range and ammo. This is because they send out pulsating waves of energy until their ammo is depleted and has to recharge. Swords are my favorite weapon to use when appropriate because slicing through a swarm of giant insects with just a sword makes you feel like a total badass. They’re even fun to use against mega-giant enemies when you know what you’re doing, even though climbing on enemies through use of the Prowl Rider’s grappling wires isn’t possible.
Plenty of Items for Additional Strategy
Besides equippable weapons, there are also a large variety of items to use such as grenades, traps, sentry guns, recovery and resurrection packs, and vehicles to fill your loadout with. Like equippable weapons, the majority of these items have to be unlocked and purchased. There’s also a limited amount of slots for these items, which increases over time, and each item fills up a certain capacity so players have to choose wisely. How your character becomes stronger over time isn’t only limited to unlocking new weapons and items, as you can also level up the amount of health your character has when you’ve earned enough money. providing a permanent alternative to recovery devices.
Rewards With Each Victory
After each mission, you’re given a monetary reward — which decreases depending on your item usage — new weapons and items are unlocked. In addition to the in-game gold, there are also four different types of energy gems that can be gained from defeating enemies, with three used as an additional type of currency. Green gems restore health and seem to just be scattered around, while blue, gold, and red gems are obtained by defeating different types of enemies. If you’re trying to get more of a certain type of gem, it’s best to repeat missions that you know feature enemies that drop them until you’ve collected enough.
A Couple of Problems
While most things are straightforward, and tips on loading screens help you to better understand features which you might not, some things are more confusing. Some mission goals are more straightforward than others, meaning it’s hard to get stuck on a mission for a long time as long as you’re leveling up and unlocking new weapons and items as you progress — with the exception of a few later missions. Going along with this, I think the more difficult missions could have weapon recommendations, so players won’t be frustrated if they feel like they aren’t doing enough damage, or if a mission seems like it is taking a little too long to finish and they could just work on unlocking the weapon if they don’t have it yet. The AI allies also don’t always act the way you might like them to. They help most of the time, but other times they’ll just stand around and do nothing. One will fly around like an idiot, and with friendly fire being active on all other difficulties besides easy, you can imagine the trouble that could be caused. Luckily, the campaign can be played two-player splitscreen or online to help get around the indecisive AI.
Always Cheer For The EDF
I’m only a little over halfway through the campaign so far and I haven’t had the chance to try out any co-op or multiplayer modes, but I’ve been really enjoying my time with the single player campaign. I don’t think enough people are playing it due to other games that are out at the moment, and its lack of content when compared to games like Monster Hunter: World and God Eater 3 doesn’t help, but it’s definitely a game you shouldn’t be overlook if you enjoy those titles. It’s also great knowing why fans chant “EDF!” when a new game in the series is shown.
*A code for Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain was provided by the publisher.