EDF: Insect Armageddon

Iron Rain came out the day before yesterday.  It’s the second title made by a Western developer in the venerable-but-very-silly Earth Defense Force series, a personal favorite of mine.  My husband is also really into the series; in fact, he’s the one who got me into it.  He snatched up Iron Rain immediately, and I’ve been watching him play it.  I’d jump in on co-op, but split-screen can be a bit janky and I want him to experience the game with a full FOV his first time through.  Watching him, I’m very impressed by what I’m seeing, but I’m also finding myself oddly nostalgic for that one other Western-developed EDF.  You know, the one everybody hates.

Insect Armageddon is divided up into 3 chapters of 5 mission each, for a total of 15 levels.  That’s a lot less than any other game in the series.  I think EDF 2017 has like a hundred levels or more.  It must be said, though, that the missions in IA don’t really repeat themselves.  A lot of the kind of content on offer in the longer EDF games tends to be pretty repetitive.  The series is part of the “Simple Series” of games, which also includes stuff like Onechanbara.  These are games designed to be made very cheaply and have silly concepts hearkening back to a time when video games had no pretensions toward art.  I’m a big Onechanbara fan also, for what it’s worth.  The Simple Series is great.  In the case of EDF, the low budget was stretched to its limits by recycling content and copy-pasting mission ideas.  By contrast, EDF:IA takes itself somewhat seriously (perhaps too much so), but also the mission design is much more varied.

Where the repetition comes in is in the armor rank grind, instead.  IA introduced the four armor archetypes that have come to define the series in recent years.  You’ve got your Trooper armor, which has access to more weapon variety but no special abilities.  Jet armor can fly and use energy-based weaponry.  Battle armor has the heaviest weaponry and armor, and can use an energy shield to block attacks.  Tactical armor has deployables, such as turrets and mines, with medium-strength personal weapons like SMGs.  There was a small grind in the pre-armor-types EDFs in the form of armor pickups that would boost your maximum health permanently, and finding weapon drops.  There was also only one “armor” type, equivalent to the Trooper armor here or the Ranger type in EDF 4 onwards.  But the armor pickup “grind” pales in comparison to EDF:IA’s armor ranks.

The way it works is that each armor ranks up individually, using experience gained by killing enemies and completing objectives.  As you rank up, each armor gets more of what makes it unique: Jet Armor can fly for longer, Battle Armor’s shield gets stronger, Tactical Armor gets more deployables, slots, and energy, and Trooper gets… troopier.  Trooper sucks, haha.  It’s like a selectable difficulty multiplier, basically.  The thing about all this is that past Rank 3 or so, the XP required to rank up goes through the absolute roof.  It rockets up through the ceiling of the infinite universe.  The time you have to put into ranking up is so ridiculous beyond a certain point that it bothers even me, and I love this game.  If you were only lukewarm on it, there’s no way you’re reaching Rank 5 with even one armor, let alone all four.  It must be said, however, that if you do put in the time, the Jet Armor in particular is really fun at high ranks.  Battle and Tactical are also a blast once you’re up there, but Jet is my personal favorite.

The story of IA is that of a desperate last gasp, a squad kept on the run by overwhelming force, and finally a last resort that ends in failure (unless you’re playing on the highest difficulty, Inferno, where the ending is slightly less bleak).  So, while this doesn’t bother me too much, I can see how people used to the more triumphant tone of your typical EDF endgame might be turned off.  What does bother me, however, is the inability to be any character other than Lightning Alpha, a gruff-voiced male space marine type.  At least they let you tweak the colors of your armor.  The voice acting is a bit higher quality than usual, though EDF’s extremely poor voice acting is admittedly a big part of its charm.  In general, the po-faced presentation does IA no real favors.  EDF as a series is at its strongest when it’s leaning into its sci-fi B-movie feel, and IA goes the other direction, towards something more Call of Duty or Gears of War-ish. They even included a GoW-style “active reload” mechanic.

Another weak aspect is the Survival mode, where you’re locked into only using the Trooper armor for some reason.  Enemy variety is similarly lacking, with only a few types of robotic and creature enemies compared to the usual dozen or so.  However, this game does introduce the idea of the giant creatures being upgraded with Ravager robotics, and the designs of those enemies are pretty neat, I think.

All in all, you could do a lot worse than Insect Armageddon if you ask me.  At its worst, it’s competent but relatively charmless.  At its best, it’s hectic insect-blasting action.  It’s also super cheap if you can find a copy these days.  Check it out if you can!

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