But is it better than Monster Hunter?
That’s probably the question in a lot of people’s minds about God Eater 3. To say that the God Eater franchise has frequently — and at times, unfairly — been compared to the Monster Hunter series is an understatement. It’s also unavoidable given the six-year headstart of Capcom’s monster franchise, pun so totally intended.
Just like Phantasy Star begat Monster Hunter, you could say that Monster Hunter begat God Eater and Toukiden. While Monster Hunter has managed to chart its own separate course from Phantasy Star and thrive, however, the same can’t be quite said of God Eater. Even as it sports a different look, different mechanics and a much faster-paced flow compared to the apex predator of the genre, it often still gets described as a Monster Hunter clone, usually in a derogatory manner.
As someone who can appreciate both games for what they are, I think that’s a mistake. Both are so different in their approach to the genre that I can legitimately see people liking one much more than the other. It’s like the difference between snowboarding and skiing. Monster Hunter is like the former, a bit tougher to learn at first due to its unnatural positioning but an incredible hoot once you get the hang of it. God Eater, on the other hand, is like skiing. It’s easier to pick up but still provides plenty of nuances that you can learn the more you play it.
Now in the interest of full disclosure, people who follow me regularly know that I absolutely love Monster Hunter. I even named Monster Hunter World as my 2018 Game of the Year, although it is my first time picking a game from the series as my GOTY (that’s how much of a game-changer World was). That being said, I’m not averse to playing so-called Monster Hunter “clones.” I actually gave Toukiden 2 an 8.5 out of 10. That’s the same score I gave Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate. Admittedly, I’ve scored God Eater the lowest out of all these monster hunting games. I’ve given the last couple, including God Eater 2; Rage Burst the equivalent of a 7 out of 10 (3.5 out of 5) back when I was using a 5-point score system instead of the 10-point system I use now. Personally, I consider a 3.5 out of 5 an above average game.
I also like how God Eater combines the feel of two of my favorite action games. It basically feels like a combination of Phantasy Star and Monster Hunter.
Like Phantasy Star, the visuals in God Eater adopt an anime style but Bandai Namco’s game takes it to the next level. I’m talking anime eyes and hair as well as anime, um, physics. Just do a Google image search of Hilda Henriquez if you don’t understand what I mean. The monster designs also lean more toward fantasy, which I thought was a nice way to set it apart. I especially loved the lion-style Aragami monsters of the game, which I thought looked incredible, but its monster designs overall have this wondrous ethereal look to them. And while I also love Monster Hunter’s more “realistic” style, I thought God Eater gained the upper hand in visuals when the Monster Hunter series moved to 3DS. The return of Monster Hunter on consoles as well as the arrival of its mainline game on PC has since changed the graphics equation. That being said, God Eater 3 still looks great. While its environs are starting to look a bit dated, the models for its characters and monsters still look good while exuding that unique God Eater style. The weapon and attack animations, meanwhile, are over-the-top in a good way, not shying on the use of all sorts of effects to fill the screen.
One thing I’ve always thought God Eater also did better than Monster Hunter traditionally was storytelling. We can debate whether the stories were actually good. But at least God Eater games had a story, which the series deserves props for. God Eater 3 continues that tradition with a narrative that focuses on several hard-luck protagonists who grew up in prison. The game takes the inhumane view against God Eaters to a whole different level, as the protagonists continue to be shackled and thrown in a cell every day after doing dangerous missions for the Port that they work for. A particular incident, however, causes these downtrodden souls to cross paths with the aforementioned Hilda, granting them a new chance and opportunity to chart their own path even as Ash Storms continue to devour the world around them. Despite the story’s tendency to use some well-worn anime tropes, I admire God Eater 3 for continuing the series penchant for addressing uncomfortable topics. These include prejudice, discrimination and slavery and the horrors they entail. It’s just sad when you see people resign to their fate and accept being treated less than human. While storytelling in most games in this genre is either non-existent or disjointed, God Eater 3 serves up a chunky narrative that benefits from constant exposition. It’s one of the things I like about the series.
The gameplay, meanwhile, will be both familiar and new to God Eater fans. And if you’ve never played the series before? Well, if you’re one of those folks who feel that Monster Hunter’s deliberate combat is a bit “clunky” for your tastes, then God Eater’s faster-paced combat will be more to your liking. And if you’re a Monster Hunter lover who’s trying God Eater for the first time with God Eater 3, my advice is to not think of it as a Monster Hunter game. I still remember transitioning from Phantasy Star Universe to Monster Hunter and just feeling out of sorts from Monster Hunter’s slower combat, which I didn’t enjoy as much as Phantasy Star’s at first. Once I treated Monster Hunter as its own thing, however, that’s when everything clicked and became fun. Ironically, I had the same problem transitioning from Monster Hunter to God Eater. I thought God Eater felt a bit spammy at first. But once I started treating it as its own thing, once again, it became a lot more enjoyable. I liked, for example, how the God Eater series gave you the option to use AI partners when playing by yourself. God Eater 3’s crafting and upgrade system, while different from Monster Hunter, is also pretty expansive, giving you reason to run missions and tinker around with stuff.
To help freshen things up, God Eater 3 adds a couple of new weapons that can also transform. One of the new options is the Biting Edge. It’s basically a set of fast-hitting dual blades that can be joined together at the handles to form a staff that sacrifices stamina regeneration for more power. The staff also can be used to vault in the air against enemies. The other new weapon is the Heavy Moon, a giant mezzaluna that can also transform into an axe that can cleave and saw through foes. Returning players also will notice God Eater’s re-tuned Burst system as well as a focus on mechanics such as Burst Arts and Acceleration Triggers. While slotting in passive skills and buffs remains an option when designing builds in this game, they’re not as impactful as the boosts that you get from entering Burst mode and leveraging Burst Arts, Burst Units and Burst Plugins. As such, entering Burst, raising your Burst level and staying in Burst is basically going to be your main focus in God Eater 3.
The easiest way to enter Burst is by using your God Eater’s Devour move. A regular Devour gets your Level 1 Burst meter to 100 percent and also gives you three Link Bullets that you can use with teammates. The caveat is that it takes longer to perform. A Quick Devour fills your gauge less but is safer. An Air Devour is even less risky but fills your Burst gauge even less. Both Quick and Air Devours net you one Link Bullet. In addition to getting to Burst, you’ll also want to raise it to Burst Level 3 while fighting in order to get the best boosts and buffs. You can do this by either linking with teammates who are also in Burst to share your Link gauges or by using the aforementioned Link Bullets to shoot your teammates. Since you want to stay in Burst, you’ll need to make sure you weave in devours in between your attacks so you don’t power down. On top of that, you get Acceleration Triggers that grant you even more buffs for a short amount of time if you meet certain requirements on the field. This could include killing a certain number of foes or blocking a certain number of times.
All in all, there are a lot of mechanics to learn and keep track of so it can be overwhelming for newcomers. While Monster Hunter has pretty technical weapons like Charge Blade and Switch Axe, the main things you need to learn to do well are timing, bread-and-butter combos and monster behavior. In God Eater 3, I feel that the timing is more forgiving but you also need to keep in mind all these other mechanics such as entering Burst, partner links,?and Acceleration Triggers. All of these make God Eater pretty much a totally different game than Monster Hunter as opposed to being just a simple “clone.”
All that being said, I have some fundamental issues with God Eater, especially now that it has reached its third generation. Its environments, for example, while graphically improved, haven’t really seen as much change mechanically. They seem to be, well, just there. You don’t really interact with them as much outside of actions like gathering, for example, and even that is an issue due to its use of the same button for dashing while moving. Fights with singular monsters, for the most part, also don’t feel as challenging. The game is more forgiving of bad habits and its fast pace means it’s easier to run circles around monsters. In fact, it seems like the main way the game increases its difficulty is by simply increasing the number of monsters you fight. In Monster Hunter, monster AI is so fine-tuned in relation to hunter mechanics that fighting multiple monsters at the same spot is typically rare and can be untenable when it happens (unless they fight each other, which is awesome to see in its own right). In God Eater 3, singular monster fights aren’t quite as punishing and you’re actually expected to be able to deal with multiple foes. Then again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just different and there’s nothing wrong with that. I also find it funny that the game added Assault Missions that increases the co-op player count to eight. Because if you can’t beat them, join them — with twice the party size to even up the odds against multiple foes.
The 8-player missions can be mindless, hilarious fun but admittedly a bit chaotic at times. Still, this kind of tinkering and experimentation is something I applaud. That’s because what takes down God Eater 3 a notch for me, ultimately, is its lack of significant evolution or progress from the games that came before it. No doubt the base gameplay and mechanics are fun. But God Eater 3 does not feel like a big jump from God Eater 2: Rage Burst. This is especially obvious when you see the evolution from Monster Hunter 4 to Monster Hunter World. Even the jump from Monster Hunter 2 to Monster Hunter 3 felt bigger from a visual and mechanical perspective. (Lack of notable evolution, by the way, was the reason I seriously considered giving Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate an 8 out of 10 after giving past Monster Hunter games at least a 9.)
Honestly, I wanted to do a review of God Eater 3 without turning it into a Monster Hunter comparison because it deserves to be judged on its own merits. At the same time, Monster Hunter is like the big elephant — ?or Gammoth — in the room and I’m sure there are some folks who seriously want to know how it compares, especially given the huge changes that Monster Hunter World brought into play. Personally, I would also like the series to show some notable progression and evolution the same way Monster Hunter has.
Having said all that, I still think it’s a good game and I actually enjoy playing it. As such, I’ve decided to give God Eater 3, the same score I’ve given the last two games I’ve played in the series. If you like faster-paced action games and can’t stand Monster Hunter combat, I would add a point to that score. If you’re a Monster Hunter purist who likes more deliberate combat and don’t like faster-paced games, I’d deduct a point instead. God Eater 3 certainly isn’t a bad game by any means. I just think that it could be better. Heck, I want it to be better as I actually have fun playing this game.
It’s definitely no Monster Hunter. But I think that’s actually a good thing.
The latest God Eater swoops in with a re-tuned Burst system and increased emphasis on literally fighting for your boosts and buffs on the field. I wish it showed more risks and attempted to evolve the franchise instead of just polishing it as the series is starting to show its age a bit. At the same time, it boasts its own unique mechanics and fun, fast-paced gameplay, making it more than just a mere Monster Hunter clone.
Rating: 7 out of 10Cost: $59.99, PS4https://en.bandainamcoent.eu/god-eater/god-eater-3
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