The niche RPG genre with deep character development and world building has begun to disappear in this most recent console generation. Many examples still exist, of course, but the heavy hitters remain deep in the background at this point. A small French development team, Spiders, has sought to fill that gap since their release of Bound By Flame at the end of the PS3 life cycle. GreedFall stands as their eighth game, and it follows them with a ton of charm and its fair share of flaws.
Does GreedFall learn from its predecessor’s mistakes?
GreedFall PS4 Review
The Malichor, a mysterious disease of unknown origins, plagues the land. Very little is known about the Malichor, but you must take on an expedition for the Congregation of Merchants, a colonial-esque collective, to figure out where the disease started and how to cure it. You play the role of de Sardet, and recruit different people along the way to help you on your journey. While the main objective at hand is very specific, you encounter so much along the way that your directive begins to quickly spread to different groups and ideologies.
First off, I want to talk about GreedFall’s presentation. In previous projects, Spiders used straightforward camera shots and relied more on voice actors to deliver the minute details (which they did in spades). In GreedFall, the team puts a more cinematic approach to their delivery. It doesn’t always work to perfection, but it adds a wonderful dynamic to a longer action RPG such as this.
GreedFall just evokes narrative. You can’t talk to everyone, but everyone you talk to has their own motivations and characteristics. Whether their details are intricate or subtle, you get a sense that they each have lived a life and have circumstances based on the world around them. What makes each character so believable is the out-of-this-world voice acting that each and every character has, and that’s whether they’re crucial characters or just tertiary ones.
Immersive world building
The choices you make really do affect how the narrative plays out. However, many of the interactions you have only affect a small group of circumstances or people, with the main quest interactions being the major contradictions to this concept. Even so, these little interactions add so much to the world in one way or another. It’s not quite to the depth of world building found in The Witcher 3, but it might be the closest contender in that department.
Most of these small interactions come from side quests, and they never stop coming. To add to that, each of your companions have their own quest lines to do, all providing more depth to your party. These quests have a very similar feel to what you would find in Mass Effect or Dragon Age. In fact, these two games act as good comparatives to GreedFall’s character-driven narrative.
In a sense, combat gets the job done. It offers just enough to fight almost anything you come across with simplistic dodge-and-attack methods, and you have plenty of different weapon types to use as well. Magic also plays a strong part, but its execution is also quite simplistic and streamlined. You have some skills at your disposal, but most fights will consist of you spamming the standard attack and dodging.
Character customization takes the cake when it comes to combat. GreedFall permits a tailoring of gear sets, while talents and skills can be employed to ensure that you defeat the next batch of foes with relative ease. The best feature comes in both customizing and recycling–breaking down gear for components–simply because it allows you to further control your stats for added effects and aesthetics. You will need a skill in crafting before you can adjust your gear like this, or you’ll have to hit up a blacksmith.
The same goes for the rest of the talents: You can’t really lockpick without knowing how. At the same time, nothing keeps you from doing what you need to do. If you don’t have Science skilled up enough to blast down a wall, there’s another path elsewhere for you to find. Talents make your life easier, since most alternative ways through obstacles generally costs gold in some way.
In the grand scheme of things, this simplistic, classless approach to progression allows you to more easily consume the world around you. That’s why the combat here is great for GreedFall. This game puts such a focus on both exploration and narrative that combat acts more like a refreshing break from the world, resembling something of an adrenaline shot. In many cases, you don’t even have to fight anyone; as I mentioned before, there’s usually a different way to handle any situation you come across.
Where GreedFall staggers
Enemy types lack much variety, though. Many monsters differ from each other, but most of them follow the same attack patterns and tactics. Human enemies offer up the most challenge, since some will attack up front while others fall back with ranged attacks. Even bosses lack much difficulty, as they come across as basic enemies with more health and an extra attack or two.
The game from time to time lacks a visual refinement and variety. I can recall one such male face that has been used as a potion vendor, a native representative, and a drunkard. Many venues look gorgeous and deeply detailed, but graphical integrity isn’t always there. In some places, a log will look well-rendered but the rock formation around it will look blended and foggy.
There is no minimap. For such a geographically large game, this proves a significant inconvenience. I often had to jump back into the menus to see where I needed to go. In defense of GreedFall, you spend a fair amount of time in menus anyway, looking through objectives and adjusting skills, but a minimap would have saved a lot of playtime in the long run.
To top it off, I encountered uncommon glitches from time to time. My cape would look pixelated as I ran, or loot icons would render bright upheavals of light that look like lightning. Invisible walls also exist in many different places, sometimes keeping you from getting a dodge off while in combat.
GreedFall shines despite its hiccups
GreedFall offers up a hyper-focused narrative experience with wonderful characters and engrossing themes. Much like all Spiders games, GreedFall stands alongside other action RPGs with a charming poise unique to itself. Issues aside, I cannot stress enough that GreedFall needs to be played by anyone looking for a storyline to fall deeply into. The issues won’t go away, but the issues pale in comparison to the game’s strengths.
For an added taste of the game, we included a clip of the character creator. As a bonus, we also included the first few minutes of gameplay. You can really get a feel for GreedFall’s overall presentation, even in the early moments.
GreedFall releases on PS4, PC and Xbox One on September 10, 2019.
Review code kindly provided by publisher.