Scroll down to read the review, or watch it in video form here!
The world has no shortage of Monster Hunter clones. And, to be fair, why should it, when so many people gain such high enjoyment from that series. Of course, as would be expected, many of these clones are unable to hold their own against that which they are duplicating. Few are able to break far enough out out of conventions to truly do their own thing or take a fully different approach to gameplay, enough to make a new, fresh experience. God Eater is one of the few that succeeds.
Set in the distant post-apocalyptic future, a mysterious race of monsters known as aragami have driven the human race to near extinction, forcing the survivors into walled off districts and mobile cities in order to survive. Your player created character is a member of the God Eaters, a group of specialized soldiers whose sole purpose is to eradicate the aragami menace and ensure the safety of humanity. The basic formula of the game is that of a standard monster slaying game, where you will undertake missions from a hub base to eliminate a variety of different beasts in order to obtain materials to craft new weapons and gear in between missions to slay even tougher monsters. Rinse and repeat.
Now as difficult as it may be, I’m going to avoid any obvious comparisons to well known monster hunter series. One because while they are excellent games, I’m not exactly a big fan of monster hunter. And two, despite how popular that comparison has been, it’s not very accurate. It’s a lot like comparing Dark Souls to say God of War. It’s really easy to say that Dark Souls is a far more intelligently and cleverly designed game, and fact that few would argue with, but the comparison is kind of missing the point of the later. Apples and Oranges situation, really.
Instead of the more grounded feel that the majority of monster hunting games tend to go for, God Eater instead takes a different approach. The combat has a much greatly emphasis on speed and reflex, going for a more flashing and stylistic approach, evident in it’s heavily anime influence. In combat you have two different weapons to choose from, blades and guns. Both have several different sub types that alter how you play the game. What I like about this is how by only have a few different weapons types, 6 for blades, and 4 for guns, each weapon type feels special and unique and each forcing you to completely alter your style of play in order to use them most effectively. Additionally each weapon type has different special attacks and abilities they grant the user, such as the scythes long slash, the sniper’s stealth mode, being able to same reserve ammunition for the blast gun, etc. This is all before we get into things like Blood Arts which add special effects and new attack types depending on which weapon you’re using, bullet editing, or using items in combat to gain an advantage
There is an absurd amount of depth the customization available, and while some people seemed to think this is dumbed-down, I disagree. Like I said, by giving only a select number of options for each element of the game to the player, the devs made each element far more meaningful and allow for a huge variety of customization with how you play. And that’s where I think the main draw of God Eater is. While the likes of monster hunter or Toikoden tend to put their focus more on the actual hunting and slaying of the monsters, God Eater is first and foremost a proper roleplaying game. The focus is far more on your personal character and playstyle making you feel like you’re an actually unique member of the God Eater’s, growing and becoming stronger alongside your teammates.
Now that’s not to say the actual monster fights aren’t fun. Far from it, as with with increased speed of combat, a lot of these fights especially late game can be quite exhilarating, helped out the the creative monster designs. That said, the fights themselves aren’t quite as complex as some of God Eater’s peers. Typically combat amounts to repeatedly striking at the enemy’s weak point with whatever element they are vulnerable to until a bond break occurs providing a proper opening for finishing them off. But the ferocious unpredictability of the monsters and the faced paced action are still enough to keep you on your toes and constantly switching between weapons for the most effective way of fighting.
If you’re going to enjoy God Eater you need to understand what exactly you’re getting into. While it has monster hunting and multiplayer features, this is first and foremost a character driven single-player action RPG. And this is made no more apparent than by the large emphasis placed on the other biggest draw of the game, it’s narrative. Now the actually plot of the game is merely decent enough, but that’s not quite what I‘m talking about. The closest comparison I could make is to Mass Effect 2, where the plot is overall a loose framework with only a few key standout moments, and the meat is found in the characters. Since you’ll probably be doing a lot of single player, the number of character you have to take into combat with you is quite massive. And while a lot of them do give off a feeling of trope familiarity when you first meet them, as time goes on you do start to learn more about each one of them as people. Similar to Mass Effect 2’s loyalty missions, in between the main story you will unlock what are known as “Character Episodes”, mini side-story missions you go out on with a specific squad mate. And it’s these missions that so much more depth and realism to the characters, so that the feel more like real people, rather than the simple archetypes that you might initially take them to be.
The combination of the exciting combat, deep customization and likable characters are more than enough to hold God Eater 2 up. But that’s not to say the game is by any means flawless. As I said the plot while, good, isn’t anything too special, but it’s hampered even more by some really bad pacing. The game doesn’t really hit it’s stride until a few hours in once you team transfer’s to the Far East God Eater Branch. And while it’s fun enough to keep up up to that point, the fact that you may have to do a good 3 or 4 or more story missions before actually getting a part of the story that is actually interesting can be a real test of patience. The fact that most combat missions can be completed in under 15 minutes, (at least until later on) does help alleviate this fact a little, but it also brings up the other main issue with God Eater. And that’s to repetition. By its very nature, you’ll being fighting a lot of the same enemies in the same locations over and over again. And while they’re never not at least fun, and honestly ideal for portability if you’re playing this on the Vita, it can get a bit tiresome when you’re only real reason for continuing is for the plot and character episodes which are if not few, still a bit far between.
There’s also the fact that, being stuck at the base the whole time, you don’t really do much to do outside of combat. I think what would have added a ton more personality to God Eater was if it had world building on the level of something like Attack on Titan. Instead of a dull military base, how about Persona style city with different districts you can explore. It doesn’t need to be much, but just focusing on fleshing out a few key areas and giving you some fun things to do or just everyday normal people to talk to would do wonders to making you feel for this world you’re supposed to be protecting.
(In fact while we’re only the subject of persona, why not throw in a day-to-day schedule system to. Knowing that a major story mission is approaching a certain date, you give the player a limited amount of time to choose how they want to prioritize spending their time, whether with team mates out out on missions gathering more materials. This, admittedly is less a complaint, and just some ideas for what to do in futures games, if there are any, but it’d be no less cool to see.)
When it comes to the aesthetic design, I’d say that God Eater 2 holds up pretty well, though it being a port of an older gen games is noticeable. While the environments aren’t particularly interesting in anyway, the character and especially the monster designs are a true thing of beauty. It’s quite a feat to make a color palette of predominantly browns and red produce something this stylish and attractive, so major props are due there. The music, while only having a couple of stand out tracks, does it’s job well enough to fit the tone with a balance of heavy orchestrated tracks and a mix of vocal electronica and dub through into the action set pieces. And as someone who has generally loathing of dubstep, that’s something to be said, even if some of the music played in certain scenes didn’t always fit the tone of the moment as well as it should. As for the voice acting, while the lack of a Japanese audio track will disappoint some, the English dub isn’t have bad. It may not be Xseed or Atlus levels of localization quality, but it’s well acted enough and a few lines did manage to get a laugh at...(by which I mean about 90% of everything that came out of Emil’s mouth got a laugh.)
Again I feel I need to reiterate that the key to getting the most fun out of God Eater 2 is knowing exactly what you are getting in for. If you are a Playstation owner that is just looking for a monster hunter clone, then this is serviceable enough, but it’s not exactly what it’s about. If you’re wanting a stylishly designed, fast-paced character driven action RPG with tons of customization and ways of personalizing your experience, then I think this should do You very well. There were more than a few occasions when playing where I was this close to ranking this game up with the Best-of-the-Best in the genre. And while the sluggish pacing, repetition, and lack of world building do hamper it to an extent, as far as pure enjoyment goes, this is without question among the most fun I’ve had with a game this year.