Game review: God Eater 2: Rage Burst for PS4

I have mixed feelings about God Eater 2: Rage Burst for several reasons, all of which require explaining what this particular package offers. Like God Eater: Resurrection, Rage Burst is a repackaging of the original game plus two DLCs that add to the story and provide closure in a way that’s more satisfying than just playing the first “episode.” Before I talk about anything else, I will say the story here was just as satisfying as the first game. It’s just that unlocking the story through missions is a lot more of a chore this time around.

Resurrection was repackaged after Rage Burst and features new moves that are not available in Rage Burst. Because of this, playing the second game feels like a downgrade. It doesn’t help that the animation of the aragami feels choppier, with monsters often popping from one pose to another without any fluid animation in between. These two factors often make Rage Burst feel less polished than the previous game, which is kind of weird, but is likely the result of Resurrection being upgraded after Rage Burst.

Some of the things that bugged me about the first game are here as well, and the one I failed to mention in my prior review is the way aragami ignore physics whenever it’s inconvenient for them. My character can’t walk through an aragami or my teammates, but they can walk through each other. They can also park themselves partway through walls, often preventing you from attacking their weak points while getting pummeled by their stronger bits.

And then there’s the aragami who make your upgrades feel useless. Oh sure,if you hit a weak spot, it does massive damage. But if you miss by even a pixel, damage values plummet to such pitiful levels that it can feel discouraging. You can’t control where your weapon hits very well, so you will more often than not see attacks miss their target by a few pixels. Instead of doing 500 damage, you do 65. So, you upgrade your weapon and go back to the same enemy. The attack on their weak point now does 650, very nice, but the attack on an armored bit does…65. Because of this, fighting larger aragami often feels like the improvements you make to weapons aren’t doing anything at all.

Finally, there’s the same problems with the team AI. Against a single target, they’re fine. But as soon as a cluster of aragami arrive, they get all derpy. This was a problem in the first game, but I was hoping there might be some improvement to team AI in the sequel. Sadly, that is not the case.

The story of Rage Burst opens with a mobile city wandering the wastelands. Friar is home to the Blood unit, a team of third generation God Eaters initially led by Julius Visconti. The team includes a ridiculously under dressed “cat girl” named Nana Suzuki who is wearing different clothing in the opening credits. While those clothes are still a bit skimpy, they’re not as nonsensical as her starting outfit, a tube that barely covers her breasts supported by suspenders wrapped around her throat and clasped only on the left side, a pair of shorts so tiny they could be mistaken for panties, and cowboy boots. You might want to change her default outfit to the Blood uniform seen in the opening movie, but you can’t get that option until after beating the whole game. Her fan service outfit annoyed me mainly because everyone else has more clothing on, and even the male characters from the first game who were in skimpy outfits have decided to put on more clothing. So Nana’s questionable fashion choices make her stick out even more.

The team’s other members are Romeo Leoni, a perpetually annoying buffoon who seems to be subbing for Kota’s role from the first game, Gilbert McClane, an accentless Scotsman transferred from the Glasgow branch of Fenrir with a tragic past, and Ciel Alencon, a stock standard tsundere.

While it seemed at first like this game might move in a welcome new direction, taking place on a mobile platform that could offer new locations throughout the game, the story quickly takes the Blood unit back to the Far East branch. There are some new locations to fight in, but the return to the Far East means most battles take place in the same maps used in Resurrection. Similarly, most of the aragami are the same types found in the first game, although there are a few new types. There are also so-called psions who are reskinned aragami with added abilities. In any case, what this means is that just as in the first game, the small variety of the locations and enemies can quickly create a bland game play. So if your preference is for more variety in your games, this probably isn’t a great choice for you.

Another problem for me was the way the upgrade system has quite a few less stages of growth. I suppose this might have been done to encourage more experimentation with other weapons, but I was really annoyed that a weapon I liked had to be set aside for a long, long time because every attempt to upgrade it brought up the message that the upgrade was still being researched. Even after I finally could upgrade it, it was lagging far behind the newer weapons in heft. I didn’t get it up to a usable state until I was damn near the end of the game. Boo hiss.

Getting back to the story, the special gimmick of the Blood unit is that each member supposedly possesses a special blood talent, but each takes time to develop said talents. Your character’s talent is called evoke, and that means they can awaken blood talents in others. In terms of use in the field, it is completely useless, but it remains a strong part of the overall plot of the game.

Julius’ blood talent is called control and it puts other team members in burst mode. Just as in the first game, burst mode grants God Eaters extra attack strength, although this time around it seems like the benefits are much smaller. Juluis’ burst stacks, so if your character was already in burst mode by using a devour move on a live aragami, his bonus will move you up to burst level 2. Julius gets taken out of the team roster pretty early in the game, so this is really just a small help for the first story arc. It’s useful, sure, but not nearly as much as two other teammates’ talents.

Sniper Ciel develops a talent for altering regular bullets into Blood Bullets, which are eventually unlocked for your character to use and edit. The most useful of these for me was the piercing bullet, which made it possible to fire a single bullet through multiple targets. In a sniper rifle, this particular flavor of hot sticky death was VERY useful in dealing with the inevitable clusters of monsters that choke up narrow corridors.

Gilbert’s talent is the next most useful upgrade in the field, as his blood art will give everyone a short boost to attack strength. He can do this several times in a fight, and that can often make a tougher enemy much easier to dispatch.

Nana’s talent is not useful, and in my experience, it’s iffy whether or not it even works as intended by the game makers. Supposedly, her blood will call all the aragami in an area down on her, but in practice, even after it was evoked (as noted by the team operator announcing it over the radio) the monsters don’t pay any more or less attention to her.

And then there’s Romeo, who doesn’t get a blood talent during the initial phase of the game, and who is removed from the vast majority of the three episodes for plot reasons I won’t spoil. It’s only after completing the last episode that his blood power is applied, and like Nana’s I could never tell if it had any useful applications in the challenge missions that make up the end game.

I need to talk a bit about devours and how they lack the options found in Resurrection. The added devours found in the upgraded first game allow for fast devours, step devours, and flying devours. As it is possible to use one of each devour style in Resurrection, the first game gave players more freedom in movement. For instance, it is possible to get around the lack of an air step module because one of the flying devours propels your character forward by roughly ten yards. This is very handy in getting out of the clusters of aragami, and used properly it allows you to completely dominate entire groups of monsters by literally eating them to death.

In Rage Burst, the only devour available is always slow. There is the possibility to perform a fast devour by arming the larger buster sword, but it’s a trick of sorts that involves pressing the heavy and light attack buttons at just the right tempo to cancel their animations before activating the devour, and thus canceling its animation as well. I was able to do this and confirm that it works, but I could never do it consistently. What’s more, there are all kinds of missions where you will want to use a different weapon, and the buster swords are always hampered by their long windup animations.

This translates in the game play as a significantly lowered amount of devours, and as such much less time is spent in burst mode until your teammates develop enough of a connection to you to begin sending burst bullets your way. Certainly, I tried to use the devour as often as possible, but with such a long charging time, I frequently got hit by aragami before my weapon had finished charging for the attack. Even in situations where I could get the charge finished, I often got hit by enemies, and that cancels out the burst mode before it could activate.

I forget exactly when the option for blood related weapon skills are unlocked, but these are skills applied to each weapon type, with more frequent use of each skill unlocking higher levels. To list some examples, there’s a short blade skill that allows for unlimited light attacks without having to pause at the end of the standard combo (VERY handy for hitting aragami after they’ve been knocked to the ground), a long blade skill that sends out arcs of energy related to the element your weapon is infused with (fire, ice, electrical), and a buster sword skill that adds additional elemental oomph to the already impressive damage they do on their own.

(I need to apologize for how rambly all this will seem, but the way this game works, new abilities and characters unlock with each of the three episodes, and despite just playing it, I’m already fuzzy on some of the order of the unlocks.)

With the changes in the game play mostly out of the way, I want to talk about the first episodes story arc and how it felt to play. As I mentioned earlier, Friar travels to the Far East branch to assist the first and second gen God Eaters in dealing with their many problems. The older units cannot fight with psions because these newly evolved aragami resonate a type of energy that makes the old arc weapons ineffective. So whenever a psion is detected, the Blood unit is the only option. In between those missions, Blood members can also fight the more standard variety of aragami and may choose to bring along members of the Far East branch. Among these are some interesting surprises.

Kota, former moron who couldn’t shoot straight to save his life, is now the captain of the first unit, which your character was leading in Resurrection. He can now shoot with reliable accuracy, and time has tempered down most of his goofiness into a mellower character. There were missions where I had him locked as a teammate, but the improvement in his skills made it much less frustrating to bring him along.

Then there’s Erina. In Resurrection, she was just a little girl who spent a long part of the game in denial over the death of her brother. In the final episode of Resurrection, she vowed to become a God Eater to keep people safe, and in Rage Burst, she’s made good on that vow. While she can be a bit irritating in her headstrong nature, she’s fairly effective with her spear and shotgun skills, and I think it’s kind of cute that she named her arc Oscar.

There are other teammates new to the branch, but I won’t spoil those. I will say that one is ridiculous in his delusional view of the world, and another is just…weird. Also, I feel like asking what happened to Annette and Frederico. Most of the old teams show up or have an explanation for where they moved on to, but the two next-gen God Eaters from Resurrection just vanish. My only guess is that like the added devours in Resurrection, Annette and Frederico were part of the remake and as such weren’t part of the story canon.

Oh, and I cannot forget Kanon Daiba. Despite years of service, Kanon is still a lousy shot known for her ability to hit her teammates more frequently than she does the enemy. Time has made her grouchy though, and so instead of apologizing profusely for hitting them, she now growls “STAY OUT OF MY LINE OF FIRE.” Her story missions have you taking her out on training missions that do nothing for her skills. BUT, after you completely beat the game, she gets a special skill module that improves her accuracy. It’s annoying because she could have been an asset if that module had been available after her training missions, and instead she’s a liability whenever you’re forced to take her along. Sure, she’s great for the challenge missions at the end game, but those are only a fraction of the content, and…buh, never mind, my rant is just sour grapes, I guess.

In Resurrection, it was fairly easy to pick out the character who would later become the villain, but in Rage Burst, the writers introduced a similar character, only to reveal that they were just another pawn to the real villain, and the reveal of the villain was genuinely surprising to me. (Although in hindsight, I should have seen it coming.) Less shocking was that the villain’s master plan revolved around the same plot to initiate a worldwide “devouring apocalypse,” the same goal of the first villain. Their reasons for doing so are different, and the villain of Rage Burst has a plan so complex that it even takes multiple failures into account. But despite their cleverness, the Blood unit manages to thwart the apocalypse and kill the villain. So cue the credits and the world can at long last….suffer more tragedy.

Ahem. So, despite having a lot less movement options, the first episode’s missions felt easy to me. The first episode tosses in some aragami who were late game bosses in Resurrection, but in Rage Burst, they’re lacking some of their moves and abilities, making them less threatening. Even the final boss of the first episode was easy to defeat on my first attempt, so it was something of a disappointment.

The second and third episodes are where the challenge comes in, but it’s because so many missions have multiple parts that all must be cleared on the same supply of items. It can be hard to play perfectly enough to make healing items last for three consecutive missions, but there’s also four and five part missions, and some of these multi-part missions will limit you to taking one teammate. This makes the game much, much harder, and several of these missions stalled my progression through the story for several days at a time. Which I suppose is okay, but with the multi-part missions becoming more and more common in the later stages of the game, it can feel even more like a tedious slog.

In the second episode, most of the story focuses on using your character’s evoke ability to awaken blood talents in the various members of the Far East branch, and this was a HUGE pain in the ass because most require doing missions with that one character as your only teammate. Missions that might have been easy with a full crew become unbearably painful when you have to fight multiple aragami and play babysitter to a weaker teammate. It’s even worse when you have to watch over a first gen gun user because they will run out of ammo and be unable to do anything besides run in circles and try not to become some monster’s lunch. When everyone is finally trained, the second episode ends with a multi-part mission with each phase bringing in a different set of teammates. Every phase of this assignment is damned hard, so it took me three days to finally hit upon the right strategies for dealing with the waves of enemies.

The third episode introduces a new Blood team member, Livie Collette, and her special ability is being able to use other God Arcs, although doing so causes her intense physical pain. (In the story lore, handling someone else’s weapon is supposed to cause a fatal oracle cell infection, but in the first game, your character manages to handle another God Arc without becoming infected.) Livie has been referred to by other players as Little Red Riding Sue because her power does feel a bit Mary Sue at times. Her back story reveals a connection to Romeo, and her use of his God Arc is what builds the third episode up to what should be the final battle.

Buuuuut first the game adds in a twist where the other Blood unit teammates are captured by the villain, and to free them, you have to endure a series of multi-part missions that each end in a boss fight with newly reskinned aragami who mimic the blood powers of the team member you’re rescuing. What makes these frustrating is that until you’ve fought and defeated these new aragami, you have no idea what element to use on them. Even if you’ve somehow guessed the right weapon to bring, your supply of healing items by this point will often be so low that you have no choice but to quit and start over. Or lose and start over if you feel that winners never quit. Either way, it’s a major pain in the boot.

To be fair, once the new Aragami become part of the free mission cycle, they can often be some of the most fun and challenging single mission targets. But placed at the end of multi-part missions as they often are, they can wreck even the most perfect runs. And again, because there’s so many of these kinds of missions, the end game is painfully tedious.

But so at long last the team is all assembled and ready for the final fight, and the last boss is really, REALLY cool. It’s a huge new aragami that has all kinds of attacks, a few of which can inflict poison damage. Beating that giant beastie felt truly epic and led to a final cut scene that made me shout “Wow!”

In reaching a score, I have to take into account my desire to replay the game, which I do not. I uninstalled the game to save space on my PS4, but I kept Resurrection. It’s not so much the increased movement and upgrade options Resurrection provides as it is the slog that Rage Burst’s late game turns into once multi-part missions become the only way to create a sense of challenge. Resurrection is to me far more challenging from the start, and the late game creates challenge in a more satisfying manner.

I did enjoy the sequel, but not nearly as much as the first game. That’s why I’m giving God Eater 2: Rage Burst 3 stars. It’s not a bad game, and I loved the story. But the second and third episodes are a long slog that I wouldn’t want to repeat. I’d still recommend it to fans of action sci-fi games, provided those fans don’t mind dealing with grinding monotony at times.