By Gabriel Jones 25.10.2016
In the year 2071, the world is all but destroyed by Aragami. These atypical monsters are composed of thousands of Oracle Cells. Due to their unique nature, they are all immune to traditional weapons. Mankind's only hope lies in the hands of the God Eaters. They are the wielders of the God Arcs, powerful weapons designed solely to combat Earth's greatest threat. During the training to become God Eaters, men and women alike undergo procedures that bond their genetic make-up with that of an Aragami's. The only safeguard is an armlet. If it happened to be tampered with or damaged, then the person would become infected, losing their humanity in seconds. Well… at least the pay is supposed to be good. God Eater 2: Rage Burst follows the story of the special forces unit "Blood," and their struggle to survive this wasteland.
As with previous entries in the God Eater saga, the players take on the role of Captain. It's their duty to lead a squad of God Eaters through hundreds of missions. The only task is to destroy Aragami. Upon completion of a mission, the Captain is awarded items, materials, abandoned God Arc parts, and points for customising their partner's abilities. The materials are used to craft and upgrade equipment, while the parts confer various stat-boosting skills. When not slaying fell beasts, the God Eaters are at their base. This is where the Captain can further the plot, strike up conversations with their friends and allies, and customise their loadout. After all of the business is settled, it's time to take on another mission. This cycle continues for dozens, maybe even hundreds of hours.
Anyone who is familiar with Capcom's Monster Hunter franchise will immediately grasp the basics of this game. There are six classes of melee weapons, and four types of guns. All of them are available on the outset, giving players ample opportunities to experiment. The Aragami have various weaknesses and resistances, so choosing the right weapons is important. Also, succeeding is a matter of reading the situation, learning how foes behave on the field, and effectively balancing offense and defence. Trying to handle everything by staying in their face and repeatedly jamming the attack button? Well, that's probably just going to result in disaster.
Due to the Captain being more of a unique snowflake than most God Eaters, he or she is capable of learning Blood Arts. These skills augment the attacks of melee weapons, granting them new moves and other unique properties. This lends melee attacking a bit more of an identity. Rather than merely swinging a sword around, or stabbing away with a spear, the Captain can summon shockwaves, fling blades of energy, or even deflect minor attacks. Since there's no cost tied with Blood Arts, there's a perfectly valid reason to use them extensively as possible. On the flip side, only one can be equipped at a time. Blood bullets are another neat feature. Simply put, they're bullets that can be customised. It's probably better to consult a guide in order to figure this system out though, because it's a little convoluted.
There's also the Blood Rage, which is learned much later in the game. In order to trigger this incredible ability, an Aragami must be targeted, and a set amount of damage has to be inflicted upon it. While it is risky, the Captain can strengthen the potential Blood Rage by taking on extra conditions, such as achieving a set number of hits, or breaking a piece of the monster (also known as their "bond"). If all of these conditions are met in thirty seconds, then the player will gain super speed, amazing strength, and invincibility. Needless to say, it's really awesome. However, this power is governed by the evoke meter, which rises at a very slow rate. Up to four charges can be held, so save them for the especially troublesome monsters.
There's safety in numbers. No matter the odds, there's little reason to go it alone. Even though most fights are against one to three Aragami, even one of them can be more than a match for all but the most seasoned God Eaters. Up to three AI allies can help out in nearly every mission. While their damage output isn't nearly as high as the Captain's, they make up for this by having decent survival skills, and performing various tertiary functions such as healing or triggering ability-enhancing bursts. If nothing else, they can draw an enemy's attention for a second or two, which can make all the difference in a close fight. Allies have their own side-quests, which are unlocked via bonding. In other words, take everyone out on missions as often as possible. While these friends have more issues than Sports Illustrated, they contrast nicely with the protagonist, who is a complete void in terms of personality.
If relying on AI buddies simply isn't getting the job done, then it might be time to seek help online. Cooperative multiplayer is a great feature in God Eater 2: Rage Burst… when it works. While there is a friendly and dedicated player base, the bugs currently present in the PC version make it difficult to play together for extended periods of time. Connection drops are constant, and there are even bugs that can cause the game to crash, which results in lost progress. Apparently, this crash occurs whenever the host attempts to play with more than one other person. The faulty online mode is a definite shame. It's fully featured, allows players to join up for everything from story missions to special endgame fights, but it doesn't work well at all.
For the most part, the difficulty is fair. As the Captain works their way through missions, they gradually learn the ins and outs of how combat works. These aspects tend to be equal parts rewarding and challenging. However, there is one fairly late section of the game that can be a bit of a brick wall. One of the features in this game is the survival mission. It requires players to complete multiple missions in a row, and they're only allowed whatever items they started with, with no possibility for restocking. Endurance is also limited, and that's required for God Eaters to respawn, if they lose all of their health in battle. To compensate, the Aragami tend to be a little weaker. However, one survival mission requires the Captain to defeat four monsters, the last of which is the very tough Chrome Gawain. What makes this endeavour frustrating is that the there is only has one ally available to them. Failure means starting over, and that means replaying three fights, just to get another crack at a never-before-fought Aragami.
If Captains find themselves stuck at this brick wall, then it's back to the drawing board. Figuring out the solution for some quests can sometimes require more than just being able to block and dodge. Sometimes it involves putting together an entirely new loadout, or choosing a different Blood Art. There are a handful of overpowered Blood Arts, such as Scythe-friendly Death Harvest, that trivialise a hefty number of Aragami types. When coupled with Blood Rage, it can even devolve a potentially thrilling battle into a mindless slaughter. Now that's not to say the toughest missions can be this easily trounced, but it's something to keep in mind. The alternative to finding the right Blood Art is crafting better equipment, which despite the game's best efforts, can still feel like a slog. Granted, this is endemic to the genre, but does there really need to be a hundred thousand kinds of materials? It wouldn't be a huge loss if the average monster didn't have fifty or so parts that can be collected.
In short, God Eater 2: Rage Burst is a brilliant game for fans of monster hunting. While the post-apocalyptic storyline has a surprising lack of death and suffering, the characters are interesting and decently written. The dealings with adversity are fun, and taking down an exceptionally large and dangerous foe is always satisfying. The PC version's poor online is easily its biggest failing, and experts might scoff at the abuse prone Blood Arts, but there's still a lot of enjoyable qualities. This game perfectly captures the addictive "one more mission" aspect, and for anyone it manages to suck in, free time is guaranteed to become a thing of the past.