Oh my gosh, y’all. I don’t even know where to start gushing about this game. From the moment it first got announced, I was excited, but I said it needed to do two things to make me truly happy. One, it needed to get the story away from the Fenrir Far East branch and into some new territory; and two, it needed to fix the AI on companions so they weren’t such a problem in missions where the monsters got together in clusterfucks. (That’s a scientific term, by the by.) I am happy to report the team working on God Eater 3 did both of these things, and so much more.
When I first started the game, I wasn’t sure how to feel about the story, with my character’s crew being slaves viewed as subhumans, sent out to die by ungrateful masters. Taking place roughly ten years after the second game, the world has gone even farther down the drain, and in these desperate times, people began forcing orphans into the God Eater program. These new breeds of Adaptive God Eaters (AGEs) are viewed as more monster than human, and they are treated like disposable resources by the ports that imprison them.
Just a few missions into the main story, the crew is taken on by Hilda Enriquez, the owner of Port Chrysanthemum. Hilda is apparently one of the few port owners who feels like treating AGEs as people and equals, so she hires my character’s crew in a temporary capacity to help her deliver some precious cargo. The cargo turns out to be a humanoid Aragami, someone very much like Shio from the first game. At this point, I thought I knew what to expect from the story, and at every turn, I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong.
The first two games followed pretty much the same formula for their plots. The crew is introduced before the original leader goes MIA, presumed dead, leaving my character to become the new leader. A bad guy shows up and makes plans to reboot the whole planet, even if it means killing a few million people in the process. Their plans are thwarted, and the crew goes about trying to survive in this harsh monster-filled world.
The third game eschews most of this formula. The established leader never dies, so my character effectively becomes the co-captain of the unit. There were characters I pegged as bad guys who were arrested and sent away early on with little else to add to their stories. Their exits left a vacuum for someone to fill the role of the super evil big bad, and yet the remaining actors in the story wouldn’t take that role. They do horrible things, but it’s because they think it’s the only right path left open to them, and they fight with each other because no one in this escalating war can afford to be wrong. It’s so much more complex and nuanced than the previous two entries with their obvious shades of good and evil, and I loved every new revelation that shed light on both sides of the growing conflict.
There’s more I’d like to talk about in the story, but it’s all spoilers, so I’ll move instead to the much welcome change of locations. The whole story takes place in Northern Europe, with Fenrir now being a distant memory. A new threat known as ash storms have swallowed up Fenrir HQ, and in the absence of the old government, a new organization made up of military forces rises to power. This new group, called Gleipnir, hopes to one day locate Fenrir HQ and use the lost technology inside to save the world. (Maybe.)
What this means is that all the same areas used in the first two games are retired in favor of new areas. Yeah, I admit, there’s still too few of them for my liking, but the new areas are gorgeous, and there’s quite a few new Aragami added to the lists from the previous two games. Psions, the big bads from the second game are spread out more evenly along with many new arrivals, called Ashborn, and so there’s a great deal more variety to all the missions. The added variety meant that when I ran into series staples like Hannibals and Chi-Yous, it was a welcome sight because they’d been used so sparingly.
That said, I did find it a tad annoying how sometimes optional missions used similar enemies to the kinds used in the story missions. I’d just got done fighting a certain kind of Aragami, and now I can fight the same monster, only this time with a different elemental attack. In that respect, it sometimes got a little irritating. Not so much that I’d take off points from my final score, though, because even those repeated fights were fun, if slightly repetitive.
Before I move on to other major points in the game’s favor, I just want to say that there were many times when I would find myself drawn out of the action of a fight because the new areas were just so beautiful. You’d never suspect the apocalypse could be so pretty, but somehow, God Eater 3 manages to do just that.
Now it’s time to talk about the two biggest improvements in this third installment, both of which made me deliriously happy. First is the improved movement options, and the fact that those options are available right from the start of the game. The previous two games doled out movement options, sometimes at a crawling pace. I went back to play those games over again before the release of the third entry, and the early missions ended up frustrating me because “Oh right, I can’t do that until I hit rank 6.” But right from the start, I can double jump, provided I’m in “burst” mode, and there’s an added air dash that allows for closing the distance between my character and the latest giant monster. The result is that there’s no early level frustrations about not being able to move quickly. From the very first level, I felt like a super-powerful bad ass.
Those feelings are then further encouraged by the return of burst arts after a few ranks into the main campaign. These enhancements are dependent on the weapon class you choose, initially starting with an upgrade for the weak attack. But that quickly opens up to new options for aerial and “step” attacks, and leveling up one type of each burst art further unlocks other new techniques. As if this wasn’t enough, unlocking new levels of burst arts also unlocks new oracle bursts that are unleashed at the end of your combos. For instance, you might finish a combo of weak sword slashes and unleash a tornado of oracle energy that continues to deal damage for several seconds after you stop swinging your weapon.
Once this system is introduced, the game begins offering incentives to try more weapon classes. Each time you level up a new burst art in another weapon class, you unlock new oracle attacks that apply across most weapon classes. This in itself becomes a very satisfying loop of unlocking a new oracle energy pattern and then applying it to every weapon just to see where it becomes most effective. Some patterns might not work with a long blade, but they’re fantastic with a hammer, or a spear. At that point it’s up to you to experiment until you find a combination that makes you declare, “Ooooh yes, this is my jam!”
The second improvement is something I’d longed for after playing the first two entries. The problem was that in those games, if a mission brought in two or more monsters, the AI for my crew would go wonky, and they would run around without committing to attacks or defense. That’s no longer a problem, as even a single teammate can hold their own against multiple monsters. There have been times when we all got separated because of a massive clusterfuck of enemies, but I was able to draw off a few and fight them safe in the knowledge that my crew was doing their part somewhere else on the map. The few times I got overwhelmed, it was because I had “kited” too many high level enemies while my AI teammates were occupied culling the smaller riffraff. Even then, I could hold out and play dodge ball until help arrived in a few minutes, and that is a massive improvement over the derpy AI of the previous games.
Something else to praise is the way the monsters now respect the laws of physics. They no longer pass parts of their bodies through walls, and they no longer run through each other the way they used to. It feels like a massive improvement, although there are still rare times when smaller enemies will launch an attack through another Aragami. But it’s now rare, where it was previously the norm, so I’m happy with the change.
There’s so much more I want to gush over, like the new Heavy Moon and Biting Edge weapon classes, or the very satisfying conclusion to the main game. I want to praise the makers for announcing upcoming FREE DLC with 100s of new story missions. I could easily triple my word count with all my gushing, and all of it would amount to the same thing: buy this game; it is worth the money.
In fact, there’s only a couple of things I want to complain about, and the first is purely superficial. Someone decided that the new fashion for all outfits was “electrical tape everywhere.” I’ve lost count of how many uniforms I loved, or I would have if they didn’t have random pieces of black tape added for “fashion.” It’s a stupid thing to obsess over, yes, but I hope that one of the later updates offers clothing completely free of tape. It’s nothing to make me quit playing, but it is annoying nevertheless.
Another complaint is more substantial because sometime enemies will spam the same attack over and over. One might keep firing homing missiles, for instance. This might not seem so bad until you find yourself in a position where you get knocked down, and as soon and your character stands up, they’re knocked down again and again and again without you being able to do anything except hope the spam ends before you run out of health. (There have been times where I got knocked out and had to wait for a teammate to revive me. Trust me, the spam is salty and aggravating when it happens.)
As for my final gripe, several upgrade options got removed from this game. In the first two games, it was possible to craft two “control units” that had many useful functions. You might upgrade your health and stamina, or reduce the energy cost of ammunition for your gun. But those options have been taken away, and even the slots on your weapons have been crippled until very late in the game. Worse still, the skills offered by each completed mission are usually crap. I’m now 60 hours in, having repeated many side missions multiple times in the hopes of scoring some helpful skills, and at every turn it’s the same four skills, all of them level 1 or 2 when I need a level 5 bind, venom, or oracle. All the good stuff seems impossible to access without grinding for a ridiculously long time.
Even with these complaints in mind, I’m going to give God Eater 3 an enthusiastic 5 stars. It’s everything I could possibly want in a video game: great graphics, fantastic music, satisfying controls, and a gameplay loop that keeps me chanting “one more mission” hours after I should have gone to bed.
That said, it’s not for everyone. You might not like the story if you aren’t already a fan of anime plots. You might get tired of the same maps and enemies used over and over. You might want more weapons or clothing options that don’t involve electrical tape everywhere.
If you don’t like God Eater 3 for those reasons, I can’t argue with your decision. But if you’re willing to look past those minor speed bumps, this is a fantastic game that will give you easily 30-40 hours on your first play through, and that to me means it’s well worth the asking price.