February 13, 2019

God Eater 3 - Review

After the previous two entries on the PSP/Vita (later ported to PS4), the God Eater series is finally console-bound. Free of the confines of the PS Vita, God Eater 3 takes advantage of the beefier PS4, allowing for better visuals and the extra buttons the Dual Shock provides. I have dabbled with the first two games on the Vita and they were fun enough fast-paced hack and slash action games, heavily inspired Monster Hunter. God Eater 3 seems like a perfect opportunity for the series to really spread its giant monster wings and take off.

It’s hard to talk about the God Eater games without mentioning the Monster Hunter series, with God Eater very much inspired by the longer running franchise. In the time since the last God Eater game there was Monster Hunter World. That series saw a return to consoles, taking a risk at opening up the game world and making it more accessible to new players. With a similar opportunity for the God Eater franchise, however it seems they went the path of least resistance. If you haven’t seen let alone played a Monster Hunter or God Eater game they fall under the action RPG genre. Within a limited playing field there’s monsters called Aragami. You are tasked with hunting and salvaging their bodies for parts, to create or upgrade your weapons, to in turn kill more Aragami. You are a God Eater, in game more often called an Adaptive God Eater (AGE), tasked with fighting the Aragami using hack and slash combat.

You’re armed with flashy over the top weapons called God Arcs. When you’re not out in the field you’re in a hub where you can craft or upgrade your weapons and shield, customise loadouts, and upgrade your team mates. Usually one or two people on the ‘dust crawler’ will want to talk, and you can have a short conversation with them. Then you choose your next mission and head out. Like Monster Hunter, you’ll be revisiting the same areas more than once. The missions themselves are often grinds. The first few hours are spent beating the crap out of smaller low level Aragami, and the odd encounter with a bigger and more time consuming Aragami. Later the bigger Aragami are more commonplace and there’s even worse than them. You begin to feel the time limits that all the battles have on them. The bigger fights is what the series is mostly focused on, most of the proper missions being the equivalent of boss battles and they feel it too.

In the third game the world has been ravaged by the Ashlands, a calamity that devours everything and turns it to dust, Aragami and human alike. The group of God Eaters your customised character has been imprisoned with live out their days locked in a subterranean base called a Port. It’s nothing more than a prison cell where God Arc users are treated like trash, sent out to fight Aragami and locked back up in the cell at night. After a turn of events your group of God Eaters wind up with a travelling caravan, lending their help as they continue doing what they do best and that’s killing Aragami with style. From here the story twists and turns and runs its course. If you’re an anime fan there’s likely little real surprises here for you, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. Although one part that is less fun is running around the hub world looking for characters with conversation bubbles. You can’t take on any missions without clearing these conversations first, and it gets boring quick having to find them.

The story is alright, it does a good job of introducing the basics and all the different systems without being overwhelming. Although if you’re new to the series, you’re going to have a lot of terms and information thrown at you in regards to lore which is less approachable. There are consoles within the game hub where you can look at the database, to keep up to date on the lore that unlocks over the course of the story. While the story works, like the previous God Eater games there’s some questionable design choices in regards to female characters. This game leans into the anime stereotypes, right down to the lady with the way too big breasts, with the top that reveals way too much of them for no reason. Or a female character having the camera linger on them, moving upwards way too long to be seen anything as trying show her off. That's not to say you’re bad if you like big mostly exposed breasts, but if ‘fan service’ is something that isn’t for you be aware it’s present here to some degree.

From the change from portable to console, there is so much potential with more resources and power. With Monster Hunter, they used the opportunity to overhaul what a Monster Hunter could be and make the world and monsters in it look so good. God Eater 3 does not achieve the same impact. It doesn’t change nearly enough and its handheld limitations still show. Each area remains fairly basic, and outside of the Aragami they feel empty and lifeless. Not in a ‘it’s a desolate post-apocalyptic wasteland’ way, but in a ‘we needed a big open space to drop Aragami into’ way. The quick drop in nature of missions also feels less grand when most of the areas feel interchangeable and you’ve seen enough of the smaller basic Aragami. The game looks decidedly better than previous games when the larger Aragami show up. While the smaller disposable beasts are fairly bland, the proper Aragami get plenty of detail to distinguish them from one another and feel like a force to be reckoned with. Something else that didn’t really change are the missions. Besides picking up items and killing Aragami, there is nothing else. Thanks to this, missions become increasingly repetitive. Even early on it can be a chore, hoping to get to a change of pace. The missions would be fine for a portable game like the first two, but on console when sitting down for an hour or more it feels like you’re doing busy work, hoping the game gets more fun. While the combat is still enjoyable, the structure around it isn’t and hopefully God Eater 4 finds a way to really change things or it risks becoming a relic.

Something I’ve always liked about God Eater over Monster Hunter was the combat. While Monster Hunter was more slow moving and more deliberate, God Eater is about moving fast and doing so with a lot of different moves at your disposal. There’s quite a selection of over the top forms of God Arcs, from the more basic swords to the more exciting rocket hammers and Heavy Moon. With the press of a button your Arc also turns into a gun, used to fire elemental bullets to help do extra damage to an Aragami’s weakness. Defence isn’t forgotten as with another button press you can transform it into a shield when you’re not going to be able to dodge out of the way. I really like this aspect about the game, I never felt going into a mission that I am at a proper disadvantage favouring one weapon over another. It’s also enjoyable being able to move around so quickly. The amount of customisation and ability to upgrade moves is pretty good. Another mechanic that God Eater uses to great effect are Burst moves. One of the notable things about the God Arcs is their ability to transform into an Aragami-like creature and bite the other Aragami. This is called devouring, and it is used to build up a burst meter. This fuels your burst moves (or bursted as the game says) and is also used to harvest parts from the Aragami. The moves you can perform in Burst mode do more damage and are also flashier. Thanks to the ‘quick devour’ move it was easy to keep the meter filled more often than not throughout battles as you’re all powered up and zipping around. There are also ‘Engage’ moves between partners where fighting close to a companion builds a meter that allows you to activate buffs, like with the Burst moves every advantage helps especially later in the game.

However, the controls could have done with some more work. Having more buttons at your disposal, there’s a few combination button presses that get messy. The game gets a bit confused about what you’re trying to do and instead of a quick devour you’re all of a sudden lugging the Arc in gun mode. Picking up items out in the field is annoying too as you have to be right on top of the item for it to even consider collecting it.

If you play God Eater 3 solo the game thankfully provides you with competent AI companions to fight the Aragami with. If you’ve got a friend or even multiple friends who own God Eater that you’d like to hunt with there’s also cooperative multiplayer. If you’re after a much more time limited experience there’s also the 8 player Assault missions, where you have five minutes to take down the Aragami. It worked fine enough, which is good if you intend to spend a lot of time online with the game. But as cool as it sounds to have 8 people fighting together, the Assault mode didn’t have enough to make it worth going back to over any other mission.

God Eater 3 has benefitted from the move to the PS4 (and PC). If you’re looking for another game that plays like the previous two then you’ll find plenty to enjoy here. Even better is that combat is still a load of fast paced fun, and there’s a decent variety of monstrous Aragami to hunt. Unfortunately the game still holds onto its portable heritage with empty feeling levels that are over quick enough, like you should be playing them in a short gaming session on the Vita. If you’re looking for your Monster Hunter fix God Eater 3 might just have enough to chew on in the meanwhile.

Review copy provided by Bandai Namco

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