Over the last few days, I've devoted an unhealthy amount of time to God Eater 3, the latest installment in the cult-favourite series about slaying monsters with hilariously oversized weapons. Having only dabbled a bit in God Eater 2: Rage Burst - and binged the messy anime adaptation - my knowledge was fairly limited on the series as a whole, but the more I played God Eater 3, the more invested I became in its unique RPG elements, creatively designed monsters, and overall fun factor. Flaws aside, there was something about the game that kept me coming back for more; a kind of addictive loop that rewarded my time and patience as much as it did frustrate me with some odd design choices.
God Eater 3 puts you in the role of an AGE (Adaptive God Eater) whose mission is to slay monsters called Aragami. These monsters range in difficulty depending on huge ash storms that sweep the dilapidated ruins of what was once civilization. The world, now a wasteland for Aragami to thrive, are hunted down by the AGE in order to save humanity. Without delving into too many story details, it does a decent job of keeping you invested in certain character's plights, while also serving as a framework to get you from one mission to the next.
Sadly, the story and its characters aren't particularly well written. Most of your teammates end up being stereotypical good guys with motives to protect their loved ones. Your character also happens to be so disjointed from the main plot, that you could've easily been rewritten as another, more important NPC without much thought. The meat of the story - and its character development - comes in the form of the higher-up leaders. The leader of your crew, for example, is a headstrong female sergeant with flaws that make her stand out. These character flaws ultimately become a huge plot point later on, but it doesn't diminish the impact of her importance to the story. Another NPC, who just serves as a vagrant that occasionally sells you items, appears randomly with interesting backstory to flesh out his arc. The same can't be said about the main team of AGEs, who all demonstrate the emotional range of unripe fruit.
However, the story does have its high moments filled with genuine tension that elevates the missions. As an AGE, you have access to a wide range of melee weapons that transform into both shields and guns. The weapons are so large, though, that they're comedic in most cases, but they do pack quite a punch. The combat and gameplay is where God Eater 3 truly shines. Each weapon class operates differently - some are faster, dealing high DPS with flashy moves (like the awesome Moon Blade), while others are intentionally slower but hit harder (like the Buster Sword). Usually, I'm a high DPS guy and naturally gravitated towards the Moon Blade, but I found myself using the slower, larger weapons like the Scythe and Buster Sword because of how incredible they felt to play with.
Slaying Aragami is the name of the game in God Eater 3. When you first breeze through the tutorial, you'll find yourself fighting smaller foes. They aren't tough at all, and usually go down in a couple of hits, but they only serve as a distraction to the larger Aragami fights. The most violent Aragami, lovingly named Ash Aragami, provide the most challenging battles in the game. Being prepared for a fight is crucial, which means packing all the necessary healing items as well as compounds that help you counter some blight damage like poison. The Aragami fights, above all, are spectacles that consist of flashy, high-octane combat and quick reflexes. Some of them are slow, but make no mistake, God Eater 3 is not a slow game. Each major Aragami encounter can take anywhere between five to fifteen minutes, but the fights are a test of endurance, timing, and precision the likes of which I've never seen in a hack and slash action title.
Backing you on your missions are a team of up to four trusty allies. I can't stress enough how important these AI teammates are. Not only do they provide you with constant healing and attack buffs, but strategically work together depending on their weapons (called God Arcs) and what skills you assign to them. You can mix and match most allies after around 10 hours of play, and quickly learn how they fare in combat. They aren't merely distractions for the Aragami, but integral parts of the story missions with solid team work - the signs of a well thought out AI system. Yes, they do have their moments of idiocy, but I found them extremely helpful in most cases.
The RPG elements are surprisingly complex, but not quite on the level of, say, Monster Hunter. After each Aragami hunt, you unlock various weapon blueprints that, once all the components have been gathered, can be crafted at your base terminal. I was initially surprised at how many weapons were actually thrown my way in the opening hours of the game, but while some of them may be locked behind ludicrous gathering materials, they can be crafted at a later stage. Switching between your melee weapon to the gun always helps change the pace of the fight, but I never really found myself using the shield except for quick blocks while healing. If you're attentive with your chosen God Arc, mastering its intricate moveset is always a rewarding affair.
However, this brings me to some of the negatives. For all its worth, God Eater 3 is an insanely entertaining game, but is held back by some daunting and repetitious optional missions that, quite frankly, should be main missions because of the loot and valuable Aragami insight. Environments are also poorly stitched together, feeling like large, open vacuums of space for Aragami to roam around rather than feeling like natural areas. They're ultimately just basic arenas placed next to each other to fight Aragami in, but nothing really affects the way they fight - save for some well-placed healing fountains.
Dialogue is also stilted, resorting to boring exposition dumps by characters who seem to have no clue how to summarize scenarios. Thankfully you can skip some of these poorly paced cutscenes and dialogue interactions, but even then, your dialogue choices do nothing to the story but serve as moment-to-moment reactions. Unlike the varied upgrade tree for weapons, customizing your character is a bit of a missed opportunity. Since they're quite prominently in major cutscenes, you're only limited to a handful of cosmetic outfits - even after a few dozen hours of gameplay - that unlocking them is either too costly or just not worth the grind.
With all that said, I'm just surprised that God Eater 3 was able to hold my attention for so long. The obvious comparisons can be made to Monster Hunter, and while it does play like a B-grade version of Capcom's beloved series, it does have its own merits. Combat is immensely satisfying, the upgrade tree is quite rewarding, and the loop of grinding for better God Arcs is a captivating, addictive experience. There are some bizarre design choices, like poorly thought out environments and horrendously paced dialogue interactions, but I can forgive most of them if it means I get to hit Aragami with my ridiculous transforming, soul-eating weapons in the next mission. Onward we go!
Writer. Enthusiast of all things geek. Legend has it he completed Final Fantasy VII without a memory card.
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