The God Eater series has always been good about putting names and faces to the people around you when you head off to fight big and intimidating monsters. Even if you opt to play with other actual people whenever you can, there are always these NPCs with personality who could be filling out your party and fighting by your side. With God Eater 3, the game is even better than ever at establishing camaraderie with virtual companions. The game does its best to make you care about who you’re working with and achieving a common goal, by showing progression instead of just telling you the people around you matter and having actions some might find meaningful.
A big part of this is because of the opening moments in God Eater 3. Adaptive God Eaters, powerful God Eaters resistant to the ash are treated like prisoners in this period of history. Our avatar is a prisoner in Pennywort Port, one of the few bastions of civilization in the Ashlands who uses and abuses its AGEs. (Naturally, the player’s avatar ends up being a Grade A AGE.) You are trapped in a small cell with six bunks, three AGE children, and three other young adult AGEs. One of the children is sick. The guard is abusive, valuing the God Arcs over the people using them and being responsible for abhorrent acts. The player’s character and their closest friends are all underdogs, abused by the system and yearning for freedom. They are determined to prove themselves, find a way out, and to get the youngest among them to a place where they can be healthy and safe. Right away, it is showing us the conditions our characters are forced into, letting us see why they are so invested in the health and welfare of their fellow AGEs.
Everyone is incredibly sympathetic in these early moments, a trend that continues throughout the game. Between missions, you can speak to everyone. Some of these conversations are required, as indicated by speech bubbles with exclamation points in them, forcing you to talk to people to advance the story. Everything else is optional and builds up character. Some conversations offer insight into what is going on in the area and with the people around you. (When you are still in the prison and Sho seems unwell, make sure you always check in with Lil.) The best ones allow you to actually make a choice and voice an opinion about things, allowing you some sense of agency. Again, players get to make these choices, choosing how often they interact and, in turn, how much they get to know. The more initiative someone takes, the more often they will be rewarded with insight into the situation.
Getting out into the field with people makes things even better. Characters will speak to one another, offering flavor text as they go on experiences. Engage opportunities will allow you to connect with one of the other God Eaters near you, boosting abilities and making it feel as though you have a close enough relationship that actually working together makes you both better fighters. The event scenes occurring during missions tend to have these human touches to them, with the AGEs working together, finding a way to survive, and coordinating efforts to come out on top. I don’t just “know” Hugo and my character work well together. Any time I choose to Engage and see something like Shared Supply Lasting Bonds show up, I see exactly how they complement each other.
The relationships between the early members of a player’s crew are especially amazing, due to the time spent together. For a long time, it feels like it is a player’s avatar, Hugo, Zeke, and Keith against the world. (Though Keith won’t become a party member until an after launch update.) Hugo especially makes a major effort to act as a true partner to the player, making plans for the future that include the two of them and the other Pennywort Port AGEs. Each one clearly cares for one another, looking out for supplies, offering advice, and having conversations in the hubs that show a level of trust and intimacy. As other people join the ranks, we gradually see the friendship extend to them too. Except with them, we get a chance to see these relationships grow. Though people may be friendly, the level of trust and intimacy with people like Lulu or Hilda takes some more time.
Speaking of which, it is important is that it isn’t like Hilda is some sort of savior to the AGEs. She is to the children and Keith, yes, because at the time she came along they were still captive and needed her assistance. But for characters like our avatar, Hugo, and Zeke, they essentially saved themselves. They were out in the field at the right time. They had the strength to clear the way and make themselves valuable. Once they are on board the Chrysanthemum Ash Crawler, they negotiate a fair wage, find roles for themselves, and use their skills to become capable and respected. We get to see them acknowledged for their abilities and proving themselves. We get to see that Hilda is a trustworthy employer/partner to work with who isn’t like the people the group had to deal with before.
There is a great sense of progression in God Eater 3. The people in our party and their allies grow in terms of personality, maturity, and notoriety as we go through the adventure. This means their relationships with one another also develop more, providing more insight into who they are and what they mean to each other. We see them boost each other’s skills in battle, connect through conversations at hubs, and display a sense of self that makes it feel like we’re not alone in a battle, even if we don’t have an actual other person joining us. The bonds between these people who met at their lowest and are on their way to what they hope is a brighter future is a definite highlight.
God Eater 3 is available for the PlayStation 4 and PC.