Fans of monster hunting have been spoiled in recent years by a bevy of titles that allowed them to come together with a few friends and enjoy the slaughter of some giant mythic beasts. The apex predator currently at the top of this pile of oversized skulls is obviously Monster Hunter: World – a game I’m still playing today – but the third game in the God Eater series has arrived with the hope of taking a bite out of its popularity. While Bandai Namco’s offering is doing something very different to Capcom’s opus, at times it feels like it’s more of a nibble than a full mouthful.
As in the previous games, you’re cast as an Adaptive God Eater – or AGE – but in the time since God Eater 2 these special troops have had more experiments done to them, making them even more powerful than they were before. They’ve also become more like commodities to the state (think A Handmaids Tale, but with supercharged blade-wielding warriors) and you start off in a pretty downtrodden state. Things do improve for you, if not for humanity, and you’re soon taking your voiceless protagonist off into the wilderness to fight Aragami.
Aragami are mutated creatures spawned by the apocalyptic conditions that now roam the Earth, and while you’ve fought them off in the previous two games this third outing ups the stakes further by introducing even more powerful Ash Aragami, who have more than a touch in common with your God Eaters. At this point, it should be clear that God Eater 3 isn’t trying to reinvent the series and has instead gone for the slightly bigger is slightly better style of sequel.
In a world where Monster Hunter: World didn’t exist there’s every chance that would have been more than enough, but for those looking for a monster hunting fix the difference between the two franchises isn’t so much a gap now as a gaping chasm. Still, instead of focussing on what God Eater 3 isn’t, let’s talk about what it is.
You take your character – the character creator disappointingly has even fewer options than the previous game – accompanied by three AI companions to do battle with those lethal and increasingly large Aragami. Just as with Monster Hunter you can hop online and tackle them with a group of friends as well, which is just as fun as it sounds, but fighting with the computer backing you up through the campaign is surprisingly solid.
Combat is fast, frenetic and often lightweight, but in the heat of battle you hunker down into a great rhythm of melee, ranged attack, evasion and consumption. “What’s consumption?” you might ask. As a God Eater, you wield a weapon called a God Arc that is capable of morphing into a demonic shark-like entity and devours elements from your foes, making you more powerful in battle as well as gathering parts from the fallen that you can then craft into new weaponry.
There’s plenty going on during combat to keep things exciting beyond just wildly swinging the sharpest thing you have to hand, which you’ll only be able to get away with doing for some missions. There’s eight melee weapon types to choose from, and four ranged, but one of the great things that God Eater does is give you constant access to one of each type, with your God Arc able to morph between the two.
Returning players will appreciate the addition of the speedy Biting Edge melee class, which switches from dual blades to lethal staff, and the very descriptive Heavy Moon blade, while the ranged side of things gains the Laser which allows you to deal constant damage until you’re out of juice. There’s tons of crafting components to find out in the field and by slaughtering the Aragami, all of which you can then use to upgrade your weapons or craft new ones. Worn out Monster Hunter fans keen to try this anime-inflected cousin will be pleased by the overall lack of grinding to find the necessary pieces.
Combat gets interesting when you factor in your AGE’s abilities, and Burst mode is primary amongst them. When your character devours cells from an Aragami they’re able to use them to enter a more powerful state and unlock an extra set of attacks, all of which can be changed out in your widely customisable loadout.
Besides that every character has a further Engage ability which activates when two characters are acting in sync on the battlefield, as well as an Acceleration Trigger powerup that activates when you meet a certain quota of actions such as devouring an enemy five times or successfully guarding three attacks. These are then joined by yet another thing to tinker with in the form of Burst Control Units, all of which amounts to not just making you a unbelievably formidable fighter, but also giving you a huge degree of customisation so that you can tailor your character’s abilities to your own playstyle. It’s all relatively well explained and laid out, so you can really dig into things with little hindrance.
Some annoyances make a return from the previous games though, and the main culprit is being forced to talk to a set number of characters back at base before the next mission is unlocked. There’s no indication which of the several levels or rooms they might be in, so you have to wander backwards and forwards just to advance the narrative a tiny bit before you can do the next thing, and you come to fear the mission operator saying “please just wait a while.” It feels completely forced and there’s no reason that the same information couldn’t just be in a cutscene between missions instead of needlessly drawing out the experience.
God Eater 3 won’t be winning any awards for character design either, though things have improved a fair bit in the unnecessarily scantily clad lady stakes. It’s mainly Hilda, the large bosomed leader of your God Eater community, whose design still hangs onto the old ways, but everyone else tends to be wearing clothes, even if future wardrobes feature an excess of randomly applied masking tape and pleather. It’s still undoubtedly a Japanese property, but one that’s been tempered by a more worldly and modern outlook.
The central characters are all a pretty likeable bunch, even if they are a little on the ardent side. There’s less of the humour that was present in God Eater 2 which is a shame, but the world and the game’s ongoing narrative have enough about them to remain interesting between the hyper-intense battles. It’s all presented in the best visuals the series has seen to date, and the move to focussing solely on current gen hardware has had an obvious effect on the Aragami, but its anime-infused look isn’t particularly distinctive and sadly there’s nothing at all in the various battle locations to provide any real wow factor to hang onto amongst the top-draw combat. Add in a slightly wayward camera and you’re looking at a God Eater game that’s just shy of greatness.
Version tested: PS4 – also available for PC