Not even the power of god and anime can save this Monster Hunter clone.
The God Eater franchise is brand new to Nintendo systems, but it’s been appearing on PSP and Vita for nearly a decade. The series’ debut on Switch also marks its return to handhelds after a brief stint on traditional consoles; when God Eater 3 came out on PC and PS4 earlier this year, it was the first entry in the franchise not to be released on a handheld system. God Eater’s formula lends itself incredibly well to the short bursts of play that a portable console allows for, but it also unfortunately showcases how repetitive and unfulfilling the core gameplay loop can be.
In God Eater 3, you fight large monsters called Aragami with a team of three NPC party members. After each mission, you’ll receive loot drops that can be used to craft new equipment or upgrade your current equipment to be stronger. Each mission puts you against a new, unique form of Aragami with its own strengths and weaknesses. Combat is snappy and responsive, and there’s great variety in the different weapon types you can use. As a plain action game, God Eater is pretty fun, and mindlessly cutting away at Aragami whenever I’ve got some free time on the bus or over a lunch break can be satisfying. Unfortunately, the structure of play in God Eater is so similar to the Monster Hunter series that comparisons to Capcom’s best-selling franchise are impossible to avoid, and it’s not a favorable comparison for God Eater.
Monster Hunter has a higher barrier of entry than God Eater does, but it also brings a lot more depth and flavor. It’s incredibly rare for a fight to last more than five minutes, so the core loop of fighting Aragami, upgrading your gear, and going back to take on even more Aragami feels all the more monotonous. Each Aragami encounter feels more like a chore than a real battle, and they’re all so ubiquitous that I can’t remember any given fight in the entire game. A single creature in Monster Hunter is more memorable than the whole batch of Aragami on display.
God Eater 3 has what appears to be a fleshed-out multiplayer co-op mode, but less than a week after launch I wasn’t actually able to get into a match to try it out with any other players. I tried four or five times to queue into a group of up to eight players to hunt Aragami with other Switch owners, but I didn’t actually connect to another human even once, with the lobby being filled entirely by generic NPC players in every attempt. A full eight-player lobby may have been a good way for God Eater to carve out its niche, but it’s a feature that seems to be a total non-starter on Switch.
The biggest way that God Eater sets itself apart is through its focus on story, but this is also an area where the game fails to impress. I’ve noticed a recurring trend of long-running series making their Nintendo debut on Switch with stories that are impenetrable to newcomers, and this is no exception. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where a strange calamity known as the Ashlands are threatening the world, turning anything they touch into ash. You play as an AGE—a new type of God Eater that is capable of surviving for long periods of time in areas affected by the Ashlands.
Everything I just went over is crucial to understanding the plot of God Eater 3, but absolutely none of it is explained in the story itself. If you want to find any of this information in the game, you’ll need to dig into the database hidden away in the upgrade terminals. Even once you’ve done your homework to make the plot at all comprehensible, the story itself still isn’t very good. Characters are all totally one note, and the opening animation by the anime studio Ufotable does more to make these characters memorable than anything in the story proper. A dodgy localization and oddly poor voice acting from the talented cast of established actors only serve to make each cutscene all the worse.
I’m not totally sure who the audience for God Eater 3 is. Obviously, there’s a certain appeal to an anime artstyle, but that can only carry you so far when every aspect of the game is at least slightly worse than the extremely similar Monster Hunter. God Eater does so little to carve out its own niche that it’s nearly impossible to recommend. I enjoyed slashing away at Aragami enough to have a good bit of fun with the combat, but I could never escape the feeling that I could be having so much more fun by playing a better game in the same genre.