Earth Defence Force Iron Rain is the next game in the bug and kaiju killing franchise, following Earth Defence Force 5 which released last December. While being next in the franchise Iron Rain takes a completely different tone and setting. Set years after the initial invasion of aliens, you play as a member of Blast Team, a team of American forces that use their PA-Gear to fight back the alien threat. Iron Rain moves away from the normal Japanese setting of EDF games and takes place in what remains of America after the invasion.
Returning fans will find many familiarities with EDF Iron Rain in the mission-based combat, classes, and of course the different enemy types. What's new with Iron Rain is the greater freedom in players have in picking their classes, allowing them to outfit themselves as they want and test out more as they play through the game. In the early titles of EDF, you would pick a class and gameplay progress would only apply to that class. This meant any character upgrades, items, and weapons would be for that one chosen class. As an infantryman Ranger, if you wanted to change the class, you would have to head back to the beginning and start working on Wing Diver from mission 1. EDF 5 improved the process greatly; while you wouldn't get as much equipment,, playing as one class would still earn you class items for others when completing story missions. At the end of the game you might not have as large of an arsenal in comparison to the class you did choose, but you at least won't be starting from scratch.
Iron Rain takes this process to the next level. Classes no longer act as a completely new character, classes just alter stats and movement ability. Rangers movement is a quick dodge allowing them to skirt by danger, and the Wing Diver's is the ability to fly at the cost of energy. Starting out, you have access to the Ranger and Wing Diver and will gain more suit types as you progress. The trade-offs between the Ranger and the Wing Diver are primarily defense for mobility. If you're good at flying, dodging, and gunning at the same time, the lower defense shouldn't hinder you too much, but as soon as your jetpack needs a recharge, you better be sure you're not a sitting duck...
This change also removes the restrictions on what weapons each class is allowed to use. For the first time in series history, any class can take any weapon out on missions. This allows players to have a much wider variety of combinations. You go into each mission with no knowledge of what you'll face so it also gives you more chances to enter a mission with exactly what you don't need. Early in the game as a Wind Diver against large enemies, a sniper allows the use of great vantage points. Unfortunately when the mission is on flat terrain and against large numbers, you can get overpowered quickly. It's smart to keep trying out new combinations based not only on damage output but to match the terrain of the mission. What class you're playing, and the types of enemies you're facing will also factor into this decision.
Items used to be given out on the battlefield in the forms of weapons and health crates. With this new equipment system, a new loot system accompanies it. Now when enemies fall, they have a chance of dropping different colored crystals. While green crystals offer health, the blue, red, and yellow are currency. After killing a bug you'll need to make sure that you pick up its crystal otherwise you won't be rewarded for it; however, at the end of each level you're given 30 seconds to go back for what you've missed. At the end of a mission, your rating, based on the time taken and items used, will reward you with money. It's that reward money, and sometimes the crystals picked up, that will allow you to purchase more weapons.
Change through character creation, development, and outfitting have streamlined character growth giving players the chance to grow with their character. No longer are you a nameless cog in the machine, as you're a hero. The approach of the player becoming the hero of the army plays into its American setting further. The ability to change up your character play style on the fly also cuts out what felt like a lot of artificial grind. For the player who still wants to go in and collect every piece of weaponry, you're still able to do that. If you want the freedom to try out more of the game though, there's no penalty. Hopefully, these are steps that EDF fans don't see as pandering to the wider audience but instead allow more people access to a game series that they love.
What are your thoughts on the new progression system? Did you like having to restart on each class or will you be trying out more combinations with this in place?
Earth Defence Force: Iron Rain was previewed on the PlayStation 4 with a copy provided by the publisher.