Despite some rough edges and a modest budget, Greedfall delivers a blockbuster RPG experience.
Developer – Spiders
Publisher – Focus Home Interactive
Release Date – September 10th, 2019
Platforms – PC – PS4-Reviewed, XBOX
It’s been a long time since Bioware has graced us with anything resembling their old selves. KOTOR, Mass Effect, Dragon Age, titles like these were one of a kind and delivered some of my favorite stories and characters in gaming ever.
Usually when a style of game bubbles up and proves successful, other games spring up trying to replicate that same style. Their blend of action, character development, memorable casts and choice driven narrative really hit a chord with the wider gaming audience. Nobody else has truly stepped up to fill that void since.
This is where developer Spiders enters the fray. They’ve been slowly working up to a title as ambitious as Greedfall. Games such as Technomancer showed promise and ingenuity, despite the much smaller budget and some technical limitations. Greedfall is them at their finest, with a clear step up from their previous games and the best RPG I’ve played this year.
Greedfall predominately take place on an island called New Serene. A 17th century inspired port town with many different factions at play. You will create and customize a character you create known as De Sardet. Moments after you create your character, the game wastes no time introducing the player into it’s fascinating world.
On the surface it seems straightforward. Pirates, cutlass’s and blunderbuss’s almost make it seem like it’s gearing up to be a massive pirate RPG. The truth goes beyond it’s initial impression. Soon after beginning the game other elements such as magic, alchemy and a race of druid like folks living on New Serene set the table for a great story.
Even the obvious trope of civilized colonial forces clashing with a tribal native race might come across as too on the nose. However the actual game develops in interesting ways and moves beyond the cliches you’d expect from the setting.
Spiders has elements that made the Bioware games so special, but they aren’t afraid to go in their own direction and carve out their own path. The armor and skill system is vast. A unique web of skills, traits and powers truly feel diverse. Having to balance environmental and dialogue skills really help the choices pop. Each tree feels empowering when you start down them, but the RPG aspects are deep enough to make the choices you make impactful. Many RPG’s fail to allow for true specialization and Greedfall succeeds in letting players who invest in their play style all the way reap the benefits of committing to their choices.
The armor and weapon system also separates it from the pack ditching the played out gear score system and calling back to the good old days of levels and straightforward stats actually benefit Greedfall. Layers of armor, detailed but easy to read stats and plenty of easy to use sorting and control options make it easy to play on PC or console. The game also has a some really unique sets to use. From standard pirate garb or much more fantastical robes and staffs. Everybody will have a completely unique style and preference to their look and weapons of choice.
Complimenting the deep customization is the aspect so many other RPG’s fail at, and that’s the companions.
By the end of Greedfall’s thirty hour campaign I had amassed a modest crew. Memorable characters such as Kurt and Siora can accompany De Sardet. You may not know those names now, but everybody will once they get their hands on Greedfall. These companions have so much variety and depth. No matter what style of you gameplay you may prefer, Greedfall will have somebody who can compliment that style.
These companions all come with their own unique stories, history and behaviors. The way the story can change and shift their allegiances based on your choices is Greedfall’s best feature.
Combat is probably Greedfall’s biggest improvement from spiders previous titles but also where Greedfall shows the constrains of it’s ambition. Combat is in real time with a very useful, and almost necessary tactical pause. A decent dodge, parry, and a handful of shortcuts allow you some diversity in combat approach.
The limited budget shows itself in combat, and despite big improvements from Technomancer it still has a lot of rough edges. Animations can appear wonky as physics and clothing can give Spawn a run for their money when they fly out for no apparent reason. The camera when fighting indoors can frequently be a problem. Locking on to enemies is vital, but when the camera gets stuck on a wall or random objects in the environment it’s no good. In most games these problems are minor but Greedfall is actually difficult at times. Often times a clean hit or two or a missed parry can get you killed outright.
Thankfully the tactical pause comes in handy during the bigger battles, but these issues and some outright bad animations can frustrate more than elate.
Those issues are where most of my issues with Greedfall start and end. The game has some rough visuals, and some of it’s stories threads don’t always live up to their initial promise but Greedfall more than makes up for it with confidence in it’s world, story, and gameplay systems.
Greedfall fills a void in character driven RPG’s, and delivers an experience worthy of comparison to some of the genre’s best.