Gods Eater Burst Playtest: Being a Post-Apocalyptic Exterminator is Hard
In the 2050s, a predatory, intelligent amoeba-like entity called “Oracle Cell” suddenly appears on Earth, devouring everything that they could get their pseudopods around. They then grow, taking on the properties of what they ate, evolving at a startling rate until they began threatening the human race. These beings are called the Aragami.
One of the last barricades protecting the remaining humans is God Arcs and their users — people who can accommodate to Oracle Cells and use them as weapons. These are usually either in the form of guns or swords. As the first “New-Type” user, you can use and switch between both types.
At the start of the game, you get to design your character as you want. Don’t worry too much about the clothes or hair style, as those are changeable on the fly in-game (although clothes need to be bought). I’m one for simplicity when it comes to the character design in games where you can design your own, but I do know that some people may be disappointed in the lack of fine detailed tuning. For example, instead of being able to change the nose, eyebrows, eyes, etc., Gods Eater Burst gives you a stock choice of faces you can use.
Broken down, the pace of the game is simple. Missions are either “Free” or “story-based; the first can be taken on at any point in time, while the second are necessary for advancing the plot. They involve defeating a certain set of monsters and sometimes come with hints on how to defeat them. In between taking on missions, you’ll occasionally get a lesson from Sakaki, who loves to lecture and provides you with all the background information you’ll ever need (as well as a good amount of foreshadowing). You’ll also get all the time you want to talk to others, organize items and equipment, and visit the terminal for mail and information.
As a New-Type user, you’re able to switch freely between a gun and a sword. The controls even handle differently for the two styles. For example, you can’t block with a gun. You can only devour enemies with a sword equipped (and thus, can only gain power ups and special bullets in this form). Your lock-on camera is only available when you’re using a sword, but you have a sniper-type camera with crosshairs when you “lock” when using a gun. Each bullet costs you a certain amount of Oracle Points (OP), and when you run out, you can’t do anything except run up to the enemy and slash at them with your sword to regain OP. Luckily, transforming weapons is as easy as the press of a button.
I found the battles in Gods Eater Burst to be hectic. It’s to be expected, with so many actions and so many enemies running around, but even with only one Kongo (a fairly weak ape Aragami) to face, I find myself constantly reminding myself which action is which. Sometimes I accidentally perform the wrong one since holding a button is different from pressing it, which is also different depending on which weapon I’m using, and then there’re combinations of different buttons that do different things.
I did get somewhat used to it after a few missions, but I still found myself running around like a headless chicken because I would, say, accidentally transform my weapon, and then not be able to block because it was in gun mode.
Each mission requires a different strategy. The hardest ones are those with several enemies because they tend to mob you and your party. If you try to take them on one at a time (the best strategy), the others in the field eventually hear the battle and join in. Plus, when an Aragami feels weak, similar to Monster Hunter, it will actually break from the fight and flee. In addition, the angle of the camera is such that keeping all the enemies in view is nigh impossible, often leaving your back open to attack, and everything happens so fast that the automatic cancelling of your targeting system as you get hit only adds to the problem.
Things are only made harder when you realize that each monster can only be effectively damaged in a certain area, making aiming troublesome. After all, while there is a lock-on feature, it’s not one that makes you automatically attack in that direction. Instead, it just rotates the camera around so you’re always facing whatever you’re locked on to.
The camera itself presented a problem for me. The controls for the camera are different depending on which weapon you’re using. However, either type of lock-on is immediately cancelled the moment you get damaged, so it’s often disorienting during battles. You do have the ability to manually swing the camera around with the D-pad (veteran Monster Hunter players call this “The Claw”), but it’s not convenient and often, the enemies move too quickly for your fingers. They like to charge past you, jump over you, and generally be agile little dingbats as they rip a dent in your health.
In addition, the targeting system for the lock-on is finicky, and you’ll find yourself swinging the camera around a bit to try and get the camera to focus on the right enemy.
Because there are no levels, everything is determined by your equipment and your preparation for the battle by bringing in the correct skills that make defeating your opponent easier. Thus, a heavier emphasis is placed on strategy rather than brute forcing your way through.
Aside from regular attacking, there are several other actions you can take. One of the highlights of the battles is the ability to “Devour” your enemies, which can only be done with your sword out. Your sword takes about three seconds to grow jaws, so you can only do this if the enemy is down or if you’re willing to take a risk. If the process is interrupted in any way, you don’t get the Burst (a boost in stats and abilities) or the special Aragami bullets for your gun. Boost is almost always worth the trouble and really helps speed a battle up. You can also use Devour on a defeated enemy to scavenge materials.
Items play a huge role in battle, although I haven’t really explored them. There are traps for the enemies, as well as stat boosters for yourself. I suspect later, harder missions will rely heavily on strategic item use. I know there are some that prevent detection by the enemy or allow you to sense the Aragami earlier. There are also stun bombs, which are handy for a few free hits (or a Devouring).
Working in a party definitely adds a different flavor to the battle. In general, each member takes care of himself, and most of your items only affect yourself. However, medics with long-range weapons can shoot healing bullets that recover some health, and it’s also possible for you to give commands to your party members through a menu connected to the item menu. With the computer AI, your orders sometimes aren’t followed as well as you’d like, but they do respond.
When you have Aragami bullets, you can shoot your party members with one to put them into a Burst state called Link Burst. (On the other hand, friendly fire with real bullets is a common occurrence, and even if the characters apologize to you afterwards, it doesn’t make it any less annoying, especially in such small stages.) If one of your allies is down, you can also run up to them and heal them by splitting your HP in half. Luckily, they’ll do the same for you too. This means that battles can go on for a long time. You can struggle for quite a long time before you’re forced to give up or die.
I really like the characters in GEB. They’re all quirky and interesting from the get-go. Great voice acting helped immensely too. My bias also influences my party choices; on missions, you have the option on choosing your 4-person party (including yourself) for free missions, so I tend to use story-related party members. Not to say the others don’t have any personality, as they each even have their own entry in the terminal. Even their AI fighting style is based off their personality, so using different characters could let you match up better to your playing style.
Terminals are computers tucked into a corner of the main hall in Fenrir (the building in which you live). They contain information on everything you need to know to play the game and more. Here’s just a small smidgen of info: all of the skills you can get from different equipment; all the possible status changes in the game; different types of bullets, what they do, and how to use them; background information on anyone you’ve met thus far; a list of all the salvaged materials you can pick up from any of the maps you’ve visited thus far; background information and weaknesses of any of the Aragami you’ve encountered thus far; specific jargon from this game and their definitions; and general gaming jargons.
(Phew, try saying that in one breath.)
In fact, one trend I find in this game is that it tends to throw a lot at you at once. Sure, in the beginning, there’re a few tutorials that ease you into battles, but otherwise, you either get no information or lots of information at once. For example, you have the ability to fiddle around with bullets from the start of the game; however, nowhere does Gods Eater Burst explain to you what any of the traits of each bullet is in-game. It never even tells you that you can create your own bullets or what the special effects of each of the ones you already have are. Instead of waiting for a tutorial, you have to do your own research and look it up in the electronic encyclopedia.
On the other hand, if you read the terminal too early, you’ll quickly get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information provided in it. I mean, there’s no way I needed to know all hundred or so status effects and buffers. (This is a rough estimation with a dose of exaggeration. Don’t quote me on the number!) Instead of a step-by-step approach, GEB likes to throw everything at you. “If you’re curious enough, you’ll look it up yourself!”
This is one of the primary differences between Gods Eater Burst and Monster Hunter. While it may seem like Gods Eater is the more accessible of the two games, that isn’t quite the case, as simple touches in Monster Hunter’s design — like never having to look at a single Gunner equipment menu if you don’t want to — make it a little easier to digest for a newcomer. Furthermore, the initial Aragami in Gods Eater Burst are far more agile than Monster Hunter’s introductory beasts, and will constantly jump over you, stomp on your dying corpse or disorient your perspective somehow.
Despite its fairly straightforward “kill this one opponent with these X party members” at the beginning of the game, GEB quickly escalated to being one of the hardest games I’ve ever played. Missions with multiple monsters require a strategic approach that is hard to pull off because they tend to stick together. Even when separated, they find a way to mob you. The game gives you a lot of options in terms of items and offensive and defensive tactics, and allows you to develop your own style, perhaps in hopes that you find the way you’re most comfortable with. In this sense, Gods Eater Burst may be strangely accommodating rather than daunting.
Food for thought:
Despite the change to “Gods Eater,” the characters all still say “God Eater” within the game.