God Eater 3 is the latest in the Bandai Namco produced action RPG series, and the first to not be developed by Shift who have helmed development of each entry to the franchise since its debut in 2010. Development for this instalment was instead handed over to Japanese heavy hitters Marvellous, the guys and girls behind series such as Rune Factory, Senran Kagura, and the Harvest Moon franchise since 2012.
• Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
• Available On: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Windows PC
• Release Date: Available Now
Knowing this I was a touch sceptical going in. My experience with Marvellous developed games has always been a mixed bag. None have ever been truly awful, but the developers reliance on fan-service and titillation, especially where it isn’t needed, has ruined several gaming experiences for me, so I always become cautious when I see their big orange logo appear on a splash screen.
This time, however, my caution was for nothing as God Eater 3 is one of the best games the studio has developed in recent memory. That’s not to say it’s one of the best games I’ve played in recent memory, there is still enough wrong with it to keep it from hitting those heights, but it is still a highly enjoyable game nonetheless
The story begins with the main character going through their Adaptive God Eater (AGE) Aptitude Test, where they are injected with with something known as Oracle Cells containing Adaptive Bias Factor which give them the ability to wield any God Arc. They are then inducted into what is essentially a Suicide Squad of other AGEs and forced into dangerous missions in the Ash Lands for Port Pennywort. Shortly after the Pennywort training missions begin the MC and other Pennywort AGEs are picked up by another Port, the Chrysanthemum, and God Eater 3’s real story begins.
Confused? I was too and had to spend a good 30 minutes to an hour reading through the in-game Database to bring myself up to speed on the world I was about to invest 10’s of hours of my time into. I was conflicted about this; on one hand I have a heavy dislike for forced exposition, so appreciated the “It’s here if you want it” approach to world building, but on the other hand I had to halt the ‘action’ part of playing an ‘action rpg’ and take part in what was essentially an abridged history lesson.
Luckily for me, I found the story to be one of the most enjoyable parts of the game. On the surface it is bombastic anime nonsense with attractive teenagers in poorly fitting clothes swinging weapons the size of large cars at monsters the size of small houses, but under the surface there is a surprising amount of heart touching upon things such as what it means to be human and the definition of family. It isn’t going to win any Best Screenplay awards, but it managed to get its hooks in and before I knew it, I was completely invested in these characters and their world.
The main gameplay loop of God Eater 3 should be instantly familiar to anyone who has played any Monster Hunter-like game. You go on a mission and fight monsters (named Aragami) of various sizes, collecting items and materials before going back to the hub to see what you need to make a more powerful weapon or armour, then repeat the same mission a handful of times until you have said weapon before moving onto the next mission to repeat the process again.
It’s a tried and tested system, and for the most it works, although bizarrely farming new God Arc’s and Shields (this games version of armour) doesn’t ever feel essential, especially for the first few hours. I’d cleared several missions before I felt I should probably create a new weapon, and even then it was mostly because I was bored with the one I had rather than the necessity of dealing heavy damage.
I started creating elemental weapons to use against the Aragami they would be most effective against purely because I’ve played other games in this genre and my brain is wired into thinking this is how they are supposed to be played, but there was no indication from the game itself that this is what I was supposed to do, and there was certainly no punishment for not creating new weapons and armour every few missions like there is in, say, Monster Hunter or Dauntless.
Another area where God Eater 3 loses points with me is the gameplay itself, which seems to be both overly fiddly and far too simple at the same time. Standard combat is simple and familiar; the Y button is quick/normal attack, and X is the slower/heavy attack. Holding R causes you to sprint, which depletes stamina, A lets you dash to move out of the way, and B is jump. It’s fast, it’s responsive, and it’s a lot of fun if a little brainless.
Things become fiddly with the introduction of Burst and all the wonderful additions that brings with it. Holding down R and pressing X will cause your God Arc to form into a giant monster mouth and take a bite out of the Aragami you’re facing, devouring its Oracle Cells and activating Burst Mode which increases a characters attack and defence for as long as it is active. Burst Mode also unlocks Burst Arts for use. Burst Arts come in three flavours; ground, aerial, and step, and are used by holding down the R button and pressing Y when on the ground or in the air for different stamina draining attacks. Burst Arts also level up the more they are used so spamming them is essential.
There’s also Engage which is activated by pressing ZL and ZR together when your characters and a team mates “mutual resonance” reaches maximum. Mutual resonance is gained by staying in close proximity to each other and the effects vary depending on who your character engages with, so it’s a nice little incentive to stay together as a team and stop people wandering off on their own.
These systems themselves aren’t overly complicated, but the controls become a needlessly fiddly, especially taking into consideration the fact you need to hold down R and press A to bring your shield up. This doesn’t sound too bad until you factor in Form Changing, which allows a God Arc to switch between Melee and Gun Form, which is activated by tapping R.
I lost count how many times during my time with God Eater 3 I’d take a devastating hit when I didn’t need to because the constant holding and releasing of the R button would sometimes cause my God Arc to transform when I didn’t want it to and instead of bringing his shield up my guy would just be stood there like a deer in headlights holding a sniper rifle the size of a small country as an Aragami barrelled into him with the speed and ferocity of an out of control freight train.
The only damage feedback you have is the colour of the numbers that spring from the Aragami when you hit it. You God Arc doesn’t bounce off an Aragami when you hit a protected area, you just see a grey number, and there’s not flash or crunch when you hit a weak spot, you just see a gold number, which is a real shame. The God Arcs slice through every part of every Aragami like a knife through butter and that leads most, if not all encounters to quickly spiral into mindless button mashing. Remembering an enemies weak spot and focussing on that can add an element of strategy to fights, but most encounters can be won by swinging your God Arc with reckless abandon.
My biggest issue with God Eater 3, however, is the sheer lack of variety on offer. There are only a handful of Aragami to fight, with only palette swaps on offer to keep things fresh. The same maps are repeated time and time again, and are made up of little more than corridors and small rooms decorated with copy/pasted tile sets. It felt like I was being constantly being funnelled toward the boss Aragami to get the mission over with as quickly as possible, which worked great on my commute when I switching trains every couple of missions, but at home without interruption if made the game feel like a dull grind.
Despite the button mashing simplicity of the combat there is still a lot to enjoy in God Eater 3. It runs incredibly well on the Nintendo Switch, even in handheld mode, and I never experienced frame rate drops even when the action was at its most manic. The character creator is one of the best (and simplest) I’ve used in a while, and my character fit perfectly into the world. The English voice acting is great too, and the option to switch to Japanese VO has been included for those of you that prefer it.
There are hundreds of God Arcs to forge and missions to tackle, including a vast amount of endgame content and online Assault Missions, and the latest update that launched shortly before I finished my playthrough has added Time Trials missions giving even the most obsessive God Eater plenty to do long after the credits have rolled.
God Eater 3 is far more accessible than the Monster Hunter games so if the hunt-em-up genre is something you’ve wanted to try out it’s a great place to start, similarly if you’re already a fan of the God Eater series you’ll no doubt enjoy this one too.