I’ve never been big on hunting games, despite having several friends who swear by Monster Hunter. Fighting giant monsters with equally giant swords looks really cool, don’t get me wrong. But it’s all the other miscellaneous stuff- fishing, resource gathering, and actually tracking monsters in the wild- that turns me off. While I concede this is a bit of a low-brow thing to say, the simple fact of the matter is that I just want to kill giant monsters. Lured by the promise of a more streamlined monster killing experience, I turned to God Eater. God Eater 2: Rage Burst, developed and published by Bandai Namco, to be precise.
God Eater 2 takes place in the year 2071, where a good chunk of the Earth has been taken over by mysterious monsters known as Aragami. While having a similar temperament to normal wild animals, the Aragami are actually composed of special cells called Oracle Cells that render them impervious to almost all forms of attack. To combat this, an organization called Fenrir created the God Arcs, living weapons made of Oracle Cells that can tear out an Aragami’s core, leaving them to decompose. Those who handle God Arcs are called God Eaters. Your created protagonist is a new initiate into Blood, a special God Eater unit utilizing new technology and resources to more effectively fight off the Aragami. With your unit, you are dispatched by Fenrir to investigate a mysterious plague in the Far East being caused by blood red rain, dealing with the Aragami along the way. I confess to not having played the first game (though the Steam version of God Eater 2 came with a free copy of the first game, so I will soon), but from what I’ve seen, knowledge of the first game’s story is not required for this game, so you can feel free to jump right into the second. Some nuggets of exposition are left out of actual cutscenes, but if you’re curious, there’s an in-game glossary with all the jargon you need to know. It ain’t exactly organic storytelling, but it’s better than nothing, I suppose.
Aboard Fenrir’s mobile base, the Friar, you can accept missions, change your equipment loadout, craft and upgrade equipment and skills, upgrade your NPC teammates with new support skills, and purchase new equipment and items from the vending machine. The upgrading system takes a little figuring out, as some of the tutorials went a little over my head, but the basic gist of it is that after each mission, you receive some abandoned God Arcs left behind by dead God Eaters. By gutting those God Arcs, you can transplant their skills into your God Arc’s weapons to boost its power. Skills include things like increased damage, faster recovery time, resistance to poison, and all those good things. You do need to be picky, though; once you stick a skill on an equipment piece, you can’t move it, so if you get a better weapon, you’ll have to start from scratch. You can smelt abandoned God Arcs you don’t want for new skills components, though it’d be nice if you could also dump equipment you don’t need any more instead of letting it rot in your inventory with a bunch of misplaced skills.
In the field, you’ll be accompanied by your team (which are either AI characters or real players, depending on whether you’re playing online or not) as you hunt down either a certain number of Aragami or a specific Aragami. Your God Arc can be fitted with a variety of melee weapons, including short blades, long blades, buster blades, hammers, spears, and scythes. I’m a fan of the hammer, personally, as it has a built in engine that you can rev up and launch yourself around the field, but there are enough weapons to accommodate most playstyles. The God Arc can also be transformed into a gun mode, utilizing a sniper rifle, a carbine, a launcher, or a shotgun, again based on your tastes. Using your gun uses up Oracle Points, or OP, and when you run out, you need to switch to melee and slash an Aragami a few times to get it back. In this way, the game cleverly encourages you to keep an eye on the battlefield and adjust your playstyle and strategy accordingly. You can also customize your gun’s bullets to fire a variety of elemental shots, albeit for an increased OP cost. Using the game’s special bullet editor, you can even make brand-new bullet types from scratch with personally tweaked elements and firing patterns.
When an Aragami is stunned, you can activate your Devour function, revealing your God Arc’s monstrous mouth to take a bite out of the enemy. Doing this restores OP, gives you some crafting materials, and gives you temporary special shots for your gun. New to God Eater 2 is Blood Skills, which can be either special attacks or passive boosts to your normal attacks. Blood Skills start out rarely activating, but the more you level up by fighting a certain way, the more frequently they’ll trigger. Later in the game, you’ll also receive Blood Rage mode, which activates when you’ve dealt enough damage to an Aragami. A menu will pop up, prompting you to pick a small challenge, such as dealing a certain amount of damage in a set time. Complete the challenge, and Blood Rage will activate, boosting your skills. It’s a little daunting to micromanage a menu in the middle of a fight, but the payoff is worthwhile.
God Eater 2 has that distinctive smell of a Japanese PlayStation Vita port. The voice acting’s a little shaky (and no, if you were wondering, there is no Japanese voice option), the draw distances on the monsters are little short, the story feels a little rushed and incomplete, and the UI is messy and annoying to navigate. User friendly-ness aside, though, the goal of the day was to find a more streamlined version of Monster Hunter, and find it I did. There’s far less mucking about in the wild; it’s just you, a monster, and your sword (and gun), and at the end of the day, that, plus a functional and varied combat system, is enough to keep me happy. I do wonder if I should go play the first game before I go any further with the second, though. I mean hey, got the first one for free anyway, might as well do em’ in order.