It doesn’t feel like all too long ago that the hunting genre became a popular and mainstream addition to gaming’s diverse roster. Although they’re generally categorized as action-adventure games – probably because “hunting genre” sounds like some kind of wildlife-shooting simulator – theirs is a genre that has exploded in popularity since Capcom’s Monster Hunter franchise showed us how to have fun risking life and limb against massive, deadly beasts. God Eater 3 is no different, though it eschews the fantasy setting of many other hunting games for a more dystopian world.
Unlike many of its peers, God Eater places great emphasis on fast-paced, all-out combat. Its impressive assortment of weaponry, from standard swords and spears to ominous-looking scythes, each come with their own combos and techniques, allowing a lot of room for experimentation in finding what works best for you. In addition to your primary melee-based weapon, the God Arc, your character and others like them (Adaptive God Eaters, or AGEs, but we’ll get to that later) also come equipped with ridiculously large firearms, comprising the usual suspects like shotguns and rifles et al, and shields for defensive purposes.
God Eaters also come equipped with a selection of game-changing abilities. As you battle alongside your companions, your bond with them will strengthen, eventually allowing you to execute the Engage ability with them. This activates the special skill of both characters and may very well turn the tide in a dire situation. There’s also the Burst state, enabled through devouring parts of living enemies using your God Arc; conversely, this can be used on defeated foes to harvest parts from them, which are crucial to crafting and upgrading gear. Eating your enemies – it’s in the name, after all! – can be done with a swift and snappy attack for minimal gains, or you can risk remaining stationary to charge the ability for better results. Either way, once the bar is maxed you’ll enter Burst mode, enhancing your abilities and allowing the use of special Burst Arts.
Burst Arts change the way your God Arc of choice functions. For example, though a scythe’s inherent attacks will always be the same, you can equip different Burst Arts to adjust how each move works: its aerial slam attack might be enhanced to create an explosion on contact, or long-range wave bursts can be added to standard slashes. Guns can support different ammunition types, including different elements, and all of your equipment can be imbued with skills to enhance your playstyle e.g. reducing damage or causing special abilities to charge quicker.
For all its potential options and depth, the actual combat doesn’t feel particularly engaging. No matter the enemy I was fighting, it never quite felt like I was doing any damage. I was, of course, or the enemies never would have died. Aside from the occasional stagger or outright knock-down, enemies tend to just stand there as you smack them around. It certainly looks good, your blades raining down brutal blows on the Aragami amidst torrents of blood, but it isn’t actually all that fun. Against basic foes, combat never really gets a chance to shine before everything has been eliminated. When you encounter a boss, everything happens at once: the screen is immediately filled with AGEs hurtling around, enemies firing off weapons or tunneling underground and the button prompts for your abilities popping up. Fights rarely hit that sweet spot of simply being compelling and balanced.
That said, tinkering with God Eater 3’s many parts is one of its greatest draws, and it’s easy to get lost in all the potential loadouts you can create. It’s a shame, then, that actually getting to the point where you have that freedom takes as long as it does. The game’s hour-long tutorial chapter feels like a giant waste of time and, worst of all, a barrier between you and the actual game. Those early missions consist of nothing more than being told basic info, directed to kill a creature or two and then heading back to base. For each new tutorial, there’s another mission, and none of them involve the player doing much at all beyond reading boxes of text that take up most of the screen and can’t be manually dismissed.
Between tutorial missions, you’re introduced to your fellow AGEs. Here, you’re not just a God Eater – a warrior capable of fighting hostile Aragami monsters – but one capable of resisting the debilitating and eventually fatal effects of the Ashlands – hence “Adaptive”. After completing a fairly basic character customization section, you meet the residents of your Port for the first time. In the Ashlands, Ports are the only safe haven for people. You and your fellow AGEs are kept in a single gloomy cell with insufficient room or beds, muttering amongst yourselves about your plight and enduring regular mockery and admonishment from your guards. It’s a tedious introduction on all fronts, forcing players to sit through an hour of long-winded, repetitive content that easily could have been streamlined into a single mission or two.
When the plot mercifully decides to get going in earnest, it doesn’t hold back. An Ash Storm throws everything into disarray, giving you and your companions the chance to do more than endure a nameless guard’s jeering over the radio. Missions play out in groups of four, and you’ll quickly meet enough God Eaters to fill your ranks. The story does occasionally force certain characters into your party, but for the most part, the choice is entirely yours to make. Your allies differ in their weaponry, abilities, and behavior, and picking a healer over someone whose aggression might get them killed could make all the difference.
Although the world and story of God Eater 3 are compelling stuff – I’m a sucker for a good post-apocalyptic adventure – the characters are weak and uninteresting in comparison. They run the gamut of stereotypes from the brash, loudmouthed young man to the plucky girl whose large chest the camera can’t seem to stay away from. Your main companion Hugo is the typical idealist, constantly spouting lines about destiny and the like. The dialogue, often cheesy in its writing, is saved to an extent by fairly believable voice work, only to be undermined again by impressively hit-and-miss lip-synching. Characters will often stand in complete silence, their mouths moving freakishly after they’ve finished speaking.
God Eater 3 doesn’t look all that impressive, either. Until I finished playing the game and looked it up for myself, I assumed it had been developed with both current- and last-gen consoles in mind, but the reality is that this is a title built for the PS4. Environments are bland and lack any real detail or color, even for a lifeless dystopia, and your characters’ facial animations are almost non-existent. They’ll stare at one another with their huge, soulless eyes, their faces betraying little to no hint of emotion even in the direst circumstances. Ironically, the developers clearly found time to give most of the female characters absurdly large breasts that jiggle absurdly if they take so much as a single step.
That said, though, the Aragami themselves look incredible, to the point that they seem almost out of place. From the arachnid types to strange pixie-like flying pests, there’s an otherworldly sort of wonder in their designs. Aggressive monstrosities they may be, but there’s no denying that the Aragami look the part. This is especially true of the game’s biggest bosses, the Ash Aragami. Presented as a counterpoint to AGEs, the Ash Aragami thrive in the Ashlands and can use similar powers to your characters. They’re a real threat, able to overpower a full team of AGEs with ease, but I was more impressed with their designs than anything else. The moment one first appeared, I immediately thought, “Well, I’m screwed.” This is enemy design at its best. It’s just a shame the rest of the game isn’t quite as enticing.
The prevailing problem with God Eater 3 isn’t its disappointing background visuals or uninteresting characters. The more I played it, the more I began to feel like it had been streamlined to the point that it felt empty. Mission locations are small and get reused constantly, and many of the supposedly story-based outings serve little purpose. On the other hand, characters and their interactions are the very opposite. A lengthy cutscene sees the same sentiments and ideas being repeated ad nauseam as your silent protagonist nods along. With few exceptions, all that awaits you on the other side of these conversations is another 90-second mission where you do very little at all.
I went into God Eater 3 hoping for a rich and rewarding hunting adventure. The disappointing truth is that, despite a few moments of greatness, the experience is often bland and hollow, offering players little incentive to see it all through to the end. God Eater 3 is sometimes good, and there’s certainly fun to be had here, but it never manages to go beyond the trappings of a halfhearted and lackluster game. If you’re a fan of the genre, or especially if you have friends to play with, this may very well be something work to sink hours into. For the most part, though, I’m loath to recommend the game to anyone but the most die-hard fans of the series.