A Diet of Deities
Note: Sort of like a lot of games these days (I’m looking at you, Homefront and Seven Days To Die), this review isn’t finished yet. It’s an ‘in progress’ review because I’ve only had it a few days so far, so check back every now and then and I’ll update it as I keep playing over the next few days.
Game: God Eater 2: Rage Burst
Publisher: Bandai Namco
(Review copy provided by publisher)
Question: What’s better than swords?
Answer: Really big swords.
Question: But what’s better than really big swords?
Answer: Swords that turn into guns, obviously.
This, I assume, was the train of thought that lead to the God Eater series, JRPGs with such genre-crashing ideas as big monsters, levelling up and gravity-defying hair. It is with these familiar touchstones in place that you create your hero and enter the world of God Eater; a squad selected for their special skills who trek about slaying big monsters (‘slay’ in the old sense with swords, not in the way girls on Twitter say it). Credit where it’s due, it’s hard to ignore a game with the title God Eater 2: Rage Burst. It raises some questions, such as which gods would be the tastiest? I’m pretty sure some cultures have fish as gods, so probably those ones.
Either way, GE2:RB is a version of a 2014 game for the Vita that now finds its way onto PS4. Unfortunately in some areas this is painfully clear; while graphically it’s not the sharpest thing you’ll see this year, or indeed over the past few years, but the sound quality is bordering on horrendous. Dialogue from your fellow deity-chompers sounds like it was recorded in a shed using a cassette recorder, then played back and recorded onto a different cassette recorded over the other side of the shed under a pile of mouldy blankets.
The sound situation doesn’t get much better, either. One of the additions that has been made by Bandai Namco for this edition is the use of the speaker in the PS4 controller for team communications. However, this is less than helpful and tends to just be repetition of stock phrases, warning you of things you had already figured out, over and over. Basically, just turn the sound off. Listen to a nice podcast or Classic FM or something.
Providing something of a pre-emption to recently delayed Final Fantasy XV, the game follows a bunch of popband-looking types as they engage in some real time combat against outsized demons. It is considerably more limited than that, as environments for combat are closed-in arenas rather than taking place in an open world, and you get pulled back to your base after every sortie to regroup and generally sort yourself out.
As a result of this lack of exploration and environment, much of the game relies on the third person combat to hook you in. Happily, this is more than enjoyable enough to ground the game. As aforementioned, you’re gifted a variety of weapons so large that they must be trying to overcompensate for something. These begin as swords and hammers, but in another reference to the FF series, can transform into guns and shields. These are your God Arcs, and switching between projectile and melee modes keeps a nice flow to the combat. Both weapons are customisable with different abilities, and throwing combos together is pleasingly simple. Similarly, you’re also granted an attack called Devour; not content with having a sword that is also a gun and a shield, upon request you can launch your own demon from the end of it either as an offensive move, or to harvest items from a fallen foe. The foil for your Transformagun (trademark pending) are called Arigami; purple crocodiles, plants with teeth and so on that will eventually fold if you throw enough attacks at them (sorry).
At some point you’ll need to dip into your inventory to dig out the usual health restore potions and so forth. Doing so in the midst of battle isn’t the best; what’s even more bizarre is that you can’t change any of the game settings, such as inversion of aim or sound options, while the game is paused. There’s a menu to do so, but it fucks off when you hit pause, so you’ve no option but to put yourself at risk of some nasty monster bites if you want to change the controller configuration or something. I have no idea why this has happened, it’s just an occasional annoyance and massive oversight rather than lending the game any extra feeling of difficulty.
You’re not alone in bringing down these frankenstein titans. You can customise and create your own protagonist at the beginning, but perhaps as a result of this they’re pretty devoid of personality, like an F1 driver but with better hair. You can have your player look however you want, as long as you like pointy faces and mad hair. Dialogue options appear but they serve to do nothing to give your own player any sense of individuality or character. Luckily, this is more than made up for with your team mates. You’re able to select from your fellow elite fighters, who all look about 12 years old and I’m not sure should really be defending anything except homework from dogs. There’s the perennially underdressed Nana, perennially Scottish Julius and perennially fabulous Emil, amongst others. These are an entertaining bunch, not intricate or layered but certainly amusing and with enough good dialogue to keep things interesting.
On the other side of team-based takedowns, there’s also a multiplayer game available. As a game that knows what it does and does it well (especially when you realise that this is basically identical to its predecessor), it should be little surprise that this is just the main combat sequences reproduced with human players instead of AI. And it’s great. One of the single games’ minor flaws is that your team tend to bunch up behind you, following you around like so many ducklings in a very small grouping. Having a team that think move independently and less like lost labradors is a definite plus.
It’s clear in other areas besides the sound that this game originated from a more limited platform; the nature of the short missions is perfect for the sporadic play patterns you’d find with a handheld like the Vita, but could get repetitive if you settle in for a long session on your PS4. Conversely, there’s also a fairly involving set of stats for leveling up you, your team mates, weapons and abilities that becomes overwhelming at some points. Everything is thrown at you at once, and there are more options than you can easily get to grips with to begin with.
The history of the God Eater franchise is frankly more complex than the story of most RPGs. It’s a seriously long stream of releases and re-titled remakes. By way of some assistance with this, God Eater 2: Rage Burst comes with a download code for the remaster of the original game, titled God Eater: Resurrection. This is a 2015 enhanced version of a 2010 game, and is essentially good news if you like this title, as it’s pretty much the same. I played Resurrection after putting several hours into this new release, and essentially felt like I was playing a DLC prequel with different weapons, characters and environments. This is no bad thing, as you can see from the score at the bottom of this page, and an excellent addition by the publishers.
To be frank, JRPGs aren’t exactly my thing. I find endless screens of stats and upgrades something of a nuisance, seeing as when I turn on my PS4 I’d rather play a game and not fill out a spreadsheet. However, if this is very much your thing you can probably add a .5, or maybe even more, to the score at the bottom of this page.
God Eater 2 is therefore a curious entry to the JRPG genre, perfect for short blasts due to it’s brief mission structure, yet similarly inviting you to get involved in the wealth of stats and strong plot. While it bears the marks of a game that has been brought onto a platform larger than that which it was intended for (the sound quality really is fucking awful, guys), it manages to fill the space left by the lacklustre presentation with fun, punchy gameplay and a surprising amount of depth.
Unexpected, much like a sword that can transform into a gun.