The God Eater franchise makes the jump to consoles, streamlining the experience in many ways and adding online play, but hanging onto its roots in portable play holds it back from being the all-star in its genre.
When you think of God Eater, what comes to your mind? To the uninitiated you might think, “Monster Hunter…but anime!” and you wouldn’t exactly be wrong with that take. But to those who play it and have come to appreciate it, God Eater represents a different approach to the looter genre we’ve come to love. In particular, God Eater 3 shows us that while it’s made huge leaps for its respective series, the largest room in the world will always be the room for improvement.
Let’s talk about the story first since I feel like this is a strange point to start for newcomers to the franchise. To say the least, the world of God Eater is engrossing. Being set in a post-apocalyptic world filled with creatures called Aragami, these creatures are (apparently) ever-evolving, destruction bringing, nightmare monstrosities that can only be brought down by God Eaters, humans who have been combined physiologically with Aragami to kill and devour them with shapeshifting, gargantuan weapons called God Arcs.
Sounds cool as hell, right? Yes, yes it is.
In God Eater 3, yet another evolution of the aragami has pushed humanity back called the ashborn. Hailing from the ashlands, these particular types are much deadlier than normal aragami due to their ability to devour God Eaters and power themselves up. With that established beforehand, the game begins with a cutscene showing how you (the player character) were turned into an advanced god eater (or A.G.E. for short). From there, you customize your character with a surprising amount of depth at the outset and are thrust into the unappreciated life of being a part-human, part-monster weapon/prisoner of humanity and your ups and downs in that societal limelight. That’s the basic premise up til now without spoiling older entries in the franchise and letting you discover the plot of this entry for yourself.
Completing the main story took me roughly 29 hours of playtime, though that’s partially due to padding in the story. For one, the story is broken into 6 separate acts that have…wildly varying pace overall. The plot feels quite leisurely for most of the first three acts, with you discovering how incredibly powerful/influential your character is and meeting the other NPC squadmates you’ll be partnered with. Jarringly though, Act 4 is when things kick into high gear and the plot becomes frantic in nature. Combine that with a number of (albeit, brief) filler segments in the story, it ultimately feels like it’s a mixed, but satisfying bag by the time the credits roll. Some story segments, particularly filler, fall a bit heavily into cliched anime tropes that might make you groan, but these are few and far between from my experience. I do have to give exceptional praise to the animation studio Ufotable for returning once again to animate the cutscenes and cinematics of the franchise. Their work continues to be exceptional and carry the weight the story is going for in its key moments.
There is one notable issue about the story that has to be addressed: the player Hub. Between missions, you can take missions, customize your loadouts and appearance and such in the player Hub. The issue here is that during the main story, many segments are punctuated with being unable to accept missions unless you scour the player Hub to find all of the NPC’s that require you to talk to them before progressing. This would make sense if they had meaningful things to add story or plot-wise, but with the vast majority of times, you just hear the reiterate something you already know. Requiring this interrupts progression and not in a good way.
With the story covered, let’s talk about the combat and controls which is far less mixed: This game’s combat is fantastic. The core gameplay loop is to gear up, head out on missions, kill aragami for their loot, craft better gear and do it again. You have a plethora of weapon types to choose from and while the move lists for each aren’t gigantic, they all have their own quirks to them and I found myself regularly using all of them at different points. If I were to compare this to a competitor series (which I’m trying to avoid), the move lists are streamlined. Activations of special weapon traits are all the same across any weapon, removing any confusion when you try something new. My personal favorite weapons turned out to be the Long Blade and one of the series new melee weapons, the biting edge, dual swords that combine into a polearm for increased damage output at the cost of increased stamina drain. As for the ranged weaponry, I found myself gravitating towards the new laser weapons just because of the satisfying damage output when I focused fire at a distance.
The primary mechanic of the combat is the constant, frenetic rush to keep your burst art gauge filled at the bottom center of the screen and it’s a blast. While it’s full, you gain empowered attributes with your weapon which you pick before each mission. These can change your entire playstyle with any weapon you use and this is where the streamlined (but shortened) move lists gain their depth. There might be a burst art that lets you hit airborne enemies better or one that lets you capitalize on a stunned aragami more effectively. It’s all down to player preference and customization which is fantastic. You can even tack on “BA effects” which are customizable impact zones and empowerments that each burst art will apply, just further opening up the possibilities you as a player have. The flexibility is truly marvelous and I cannot overstate just how liberating it is that build diversity is at the forefront of gameplay.
With all the good things I’ve said though, there are some flaws that carry over from the franchise’s prior entries. For those unfamiliar, God Eater started out its life on the PlayStation portable and God Eater 3 is the first entry built from the ground up for console play. Because of this, some carryover visual elements don’t quite match up and can clutter the User Interface, notable the Engage buff. This buff links you and an allied teammate, giving both of you a customized buff as long as it lasts. In combat this fast-paced, losing vision of what you’re fighting can lead to you getting killed pretty easily (depending on what you’re fighting) and avoiding to use a key feature like “Engage” because you go blind in critical situations shouldn’t be a thing, but here it is. Additionally, most content can admittedly be killed with relative ease, even for newcomers. The ash aragami are an exception but once you reach the endgame, this is lessened immensely.
Moving forward, I have to talk about the other major feature new to God Eater 3: Online play. While there are few open rooms up on steam at the time of this review, the proof is in the pudding. Thankfully, I am happy to confirm that online play works great! There was no real difference I could find from playing solo offline to playing multiplayer online other than a lack of radio chatter from squadmates as there were up to eight other players working on mauling some aragami to death.
Online play is broken into two functions: creating/searching for rooms and assault missions. creating a room is simple and you can even categorize your lobby as to what you’ll be doing together from story missions, loot grinding, and casual play among others. The other major type of play is Assault missions, which as of writing this review is locked into matchmaking with anyone and not able to be restricted to just your friends (which is unfortunate, but supposedly password locking in assault missions is due in patch 1.20 on March 15th). This hasn’t affected my enjoyment of the game as ultimately, the assault missions are still an exciting challenge online against a variant aragami you may not have fought yet.
Lastly, I’ll be mentioning the upcoming content updates for the game as there are several major updates coming to God Eater 3 over the coming months. Several upcoming patches are adding quality of life changes to the game and cosmetics updates for free overall which is fantastic, including some much-needed adjustments to some aragami attacks that are a bit too much to handle in their current release state. Further down the line, there are new story missions, NPC companions and supposedly a new time-attack mode due in Early Summer. Nothing further set in stone beyond that, but I figured I would mention it here since the game is more than a complete package in it’s current state.
God Eater 3 has its fair share of speed bumps, but it doesn’t hinder the game enough for me to say it’s anything but a blast to play. If the game ironed out more of it’s UI and story progression issues, it would be getting even higher marks from me. As it is, the game does feel exceptional in motion and it’s combat carries it over the finish line.