When I first got EDF: Insect Armageddon, I quite enjoyed it. I personally find it rather good value for money, and the core gameplay loop satisfying and engaging. I was rather surprised to find out that a large portion of the EDF community are rather dismissive about it.
After playing EDF 4.1 for quite a while, I begin to see their point. EDF: IA is rather lacking, even when it is technically a better-made game. It has had a lot of great design decisions that should really be in the latter, as a lot of them made the game much less frustrating and more welcoming to players.
For example, IA has the sprint button. Considering how large the maps can be for both games, and that you might not always get a vehicle to ride in, the sprint button is basically a godsend.
The importance of the sprint button becomes much clearer when you play as the slowest classes, the Battle Armor and the Fencer respectively. Lumbering around at the base movement speeds of these clumsy steel towers grinds the pacing of the game to a stop. Yes, you can perform dash-cancelling as Fencer and end up being the fastest ground unit in the game, but that is essentially exploiting a bug so that the game becomes tolerable. The sprint button is something that 4.1 should really adopt from IA.
Aside for that, the active reload system is also something IA used to great effect and is absent from 4.1. In IA, if you tap reload at the right time, you’ll reduce the reload time by half. It’s a mechanic that rewards timing and reduces the downtime in the game when you are waiting for the guns to reload. Why this mechanic isn’t in 4.1, I don’t know.
Another thing that IA did well is to differentiate the different pickup types on the minimap. Unlike in 4.1 where everything is represented by a green dot, in IA the health and weapon pickups are actually differentiated. I cannot express how frustrated I am when I limped half-dead over a swath of giant ants only to find a weapon pickup instead of a health pack I so desperately need. Or the times I rushed over to what I though was a weapon pickup only to find a health pack instead. And I already had full health.
And speaking of weapon pickups, IA implemented a credits system where you can use them to unlock new weapons, as opposed to how you need to rely on RNG drops alone in EDF 4.1. I mean, look at what it took for me to unlock one particular vehicle in EDF 4.1. There is nothing more disappointing in EDF 4.1 than to finish a level and saw that you got nothing new to play with.
Thing is, IA did a lot of things right. It smoothed over a lot of the annoying bumps and spikes in EDF’s gameplay. However, IA is not as good a game as 4.1, and it could never match up to it even when it is technically a better-made game. IA simply does not have the reckless abandon, the willingness to not take itself as seriously, and the scale of the main series games, and that is why it suffers as an EDF title. EDF 4.1 may be a game of petty little annoyances, yet overall it is still a lot more fun to play than IA.
Insect Armageddon doesn’t have much gameplay variety. The second last level of IA features the fight against the Queen Ant, where she pretty much just sits in her lair and send out ants (giant ants for non-EDF folks) to fight us. And in the last level, there is a big Mothership in the sky, and a bunch of regular enemies in a city square for one last fight. Before that, it’s mainly just fighting in various parts of a city and at a small offshore island in one level.
Meanwhile, in EDF 4.1, the Storm team is pretty much on a field trip across Japan. From fighting on a beach against a bunch of Hectors attempting to make landfall, with airstrikes on your side, to fighting across a quiet suburb, to being trapped inside underground tunnels surrounded by ants and spiders, to duking it out in a meadow, there is a lot more varied environments in 4.1 than IA could ever have. Not to mention, so many different things can happen in it. From being trapped in an underground cavern with a small platoon of EDF troops and bugs raining down on all of you, to tearing through giant spiderwebs to rescue trapped civilians and Wing Divers, there are more mission variety in 4.1 than IA can ever dream of having. Even when accounting for IA being much shorter, what 4.1 shows in its first fifteen levels blew IA’s own 15-level campaign out of the water.
And 4.1 is not afraid of going all out when sending in enemies, even when they know you can’t defeat them. For example, the Quadruped Fortress that appears in Mission 14 is there just to stomp through the whole city and establish its power, while all you can do is to beat up the Hectors that it dropped to attack you. 4.1 is not afraid to show you the strength of the enemy forces that you will need to bring down ahead, which both establishes the strength of the forces you are up against, and to give you an idea of how much you progress by letting you bring down what was invincible to you before. This gives you the feeling that you are up against something far larger than what you are supposed to be fighting all the time.
Meanwhile, IA’s enemies never gave me that feeling. They never felt that large or overwhelming. Even the biggest enemy you can fight, the Queen Ant, never felt that threatening. She’s just chilling in her cave while I shoot at the giant glowing weak spots on her abdomen. I never felt as challenged in IA as I did in 4.1. It just felt so small.
Comparing the two, it became rather clear to me what EDF: Insect Armageddon is missing. It lacks variety. It lacks scale. It lacks the guts to really overwhelm players and impress them.
It is a shame, in fact, that Insect Armageddon bears the Earth Defense Force name, simply because that name piles so much expectation on it. In no way is Insect Armageddon a bad game. As I mentioned earlier, it did a lot of things right. It made a lot of right decisions that made me felt that 4.1 should emulate it. Yet it didn’t do enough to really establish itself as an EDF title. Insect Armageddon is the guy who brought an ornate jewel-encrusted revolver to a cannon convention. Yes, you have a really pretty and well-made gun there, but you just really lack the punch.
In the end, Insect Armageddon is a good game. It is just unfortunate that it is in a franchise that is out of its league.