Developed by Spiders
Published by Focus Home Interactive
Available on Xbox One, PS4, PC
Reviewed on Xbox One X
It wasn’t too long ago that Bioware was seen as the predominant developer when it came to story and character driven Western RPG’s. But their decline over the last few years has left a void in the genre. Apart from the phenomenal CD Projekt Red, there are not many other developers putting out games of the same pedigree. French studio Spiders has put out adequate games over the years, such as Technomancer, but they had yet to produce a truly great game. The release of Greedfall, a fantasy RPG that tackles some interesting and thought-provoking themes, catapults the developer into the limelight. Despite being rough around the edges, it delivers a fresh and strong experience that leaves me excited for what comes next from the studio.
You play as De Sardet, a diplomat for a faction known as the Merchant Congregation. A fatal sickness known as the malachor grips the continent and you must travel to the recently colonised island of Teer Fradee, to try and find a cure to save the people. Along the way, you will have to weave around the many different factions on the island including the various differing groups of native people. The game is full of narratives set around the political struggle of the different factions, where you can choose to aid or ignore them, broker peace or cause chaos. While it may have a typical fantasy story, it’s layered with this theme of colonialism that is rarely touched upon in video games, making it stand out from others in its genre. Going around helping or sabotaging the various factions is made interesting, due to the engaging storylines that accompany the missions.
Throughout my time with the game, there were plenty of moments that left me speechless and wowed. The first time you encounter one of the large creatures from the island was an exhilarating introduction that was expertly done. Or when an inquisitor from Theleme brutally kills a native in the courtyard of San Matheus because of his faith, moments like this stick with you. Its handling with these themes of colonialism and religious extremism are adequately done, however it left me wanting. While it does broach the issues surrounding colonialism, bringing these to light, it doesn’t do enough with them.
For most of the game, you spend your time settling disputes and trying to bring peace between every party. Despite allowing you to make decisions on a variety of topics in quests, in never gives you the option to properly side with one faction or help the natives reduce their takeover on the island, only right at the end. For example, I hated the religious faction of Thélème, but there is no way of really going against them, accept avoiding their quests and making minor decisions against them in others. There is a feeling of missed opportunity in this regard. It may give you minor decisions and impacts, but these don’t really have that big of an effect on how everything plays out. The ending is adequate, however it is a bit abrupt with limited payoff. I would have liked to have seen some cutscenes of the aftermath, perhaps what the characters did, rather than just some paragraphs of text telling it. However, for the most part the storyline kept me hooked, where I wanted to find out how everything would conclude in this interesting world.
A story driven game needs to have a well written cast of memorable characters if it wants to flourish and leave an impact on the player. Greedfall succeeds in many respects, but there were still some issues I had. There are 5 different characters that you can have as party members. For me personally, only a couple really stood out, which were Kurt and Siora. The former being a long-time friend and member of the Coin Guard (mercenaries) and the latter being a native of the island. I also quite liked Vasco, but the other two, Petrus and Aphra are pretty dull. The protagonists brother, Constantine, is pretty annoying at first and quite hopeless, but I actually came to see his charm and he became an engaging character with an integral part in the plot.
Your party members all have 3 personal side-quests for you to complete to strengthen your relationship with them, and these are mostly quite compelling. Kurt’s missions in particular, and his overall storyline was excellent. It is worth noting that if you put off their requests for help long enough, they will leave your party, so make sure to make them a priority when they come up. Characters will chime in and offer their views in missions if you have them out. However, I do wish that there was a bit more party banter when exploring the maps, as it can get quite quiet and lifeless when they only ever really speak in combat, shouting out the exact same phrase over and over again. This would also be helpful in providing a bit more personality to them. But overall, they are a good set of unique individuals who I did grow attached to the more I played.
The game is a decent length, but not as long as I thought it would be. It took me 33 hours on normal difficulty to finish the game, explore every inch of the maps and complete all quests except one quite tedious fetch-quest. It will take you a bit longer if you play at a higher difficulty, but not by too much. Nearly every side-quest has some real thought gone into them and their accompanying story threads. One example includes uncovering that certain individuals of a faction have been kidnapping natives and using them as slave labour in a hazardous mine. Another one involves an alchemist and his questionable potions that supposedly cure anything, but there is more depth to the mission than we first think. Quest structure is also a well handled, where there is often multiple ways to complete your objectives. These differing paths require certain efficiency in a number of talents, such as lock picking, alchemy, etc. This means that depending on the distribution of your skills, you might have a number of options available each mission. However, there are quite a few quests with backtracking needed, sometimes needlessly to pad out the length. Apart from the side quests, there is an arena to test your mettle against a variety of ever increasingly difficult waves of island creatures. You will also find scattered across the world, monuments that grant you extra points to develop your various skills. The great quests with well thought out stories meant that I never got bored completing them.
In terms of character customisation and development, this is where Greedfall comes into its own. The character creation screen itself isn’t anything to write home about, it is quite limited, with only a few choices for a number of aspects. More could have been done to be honest. The skills, attributes and talents is what really makes the overall experience better. There is no classes to choose from, allowing you to fluidly develop your character’s build however you want to. If you are someone that wants to have a jack-of-all-trades character, you can do this. However, it is more ideal to select just a few skill trees to focus on as you might find it more difficult later on, this also applies to attributes and talents. For me, I was a sword wielding mage, alternating between magic and melee attacks when my magic bar needed to replenish. Putting points in attributes that correspond to your build is also crucial, as weapons and armour require different levels of attributes. Talents on the other hand feed directly into exploration and quests. Where there might be a pathway available if you have enough points in vigour or alchemy for example. This allows for greater variety in how to complete the different quests available to you.
Depending on what play style and type of character build you make, combat can be either challenging, or a breeze to get through. It’s an adequate system to say the least, where at times it felt very satisfying and at others it was a slog. The variety of attack magic was a bit disappointing, where I only ever used the basic shadow missile attack and area push back. The support and defensive magic, other than healing, are pretty useless and I never felt the need to utilise them. This was mainly due to the fact that magic will make you become an unstoppable and near un-killable monster. The magic skill trees are really overpowered, particularly when you obtain the ‘Lightning Dash’ ability, you’ll rarely get hit. The combat in general is quite fun at first, but about half way through, it gets very repetitive, especially using magic. The boss fights though, are always thrilling to do, they are much more unique in their attack patterns and deal heavy damage if hit. But like every other fight in the game, can be easily defeated if you’re a mage, it might just take longer. A lot of the time, my companions would die very quickly, leaving me to fight the monstrous creatures on my own. However, with a bit of patience, I was always able to defeat the enemy on my first try.
Looking at the graphics and the world is a bit strange. The environments often look quite stunning, which surprised me a lot considering the small budget. Exploring each semi-open world area never fails to impress me, the dense forests, murky swamps and carefully crafted towns/cities are all exceptional. It was clear that a lot hard work went into bringing this world to life. The amount of times I would stop and just take in the view, particularly at sunset was staggering. There are only a few criticisms I have. While the environments are pretty stunning, I would have like to have seen a bit more variety, as a number of areas felt way too similar, also transitions between time of days could be a bit jarring and sudden. But nonetheless, Greedfall is definitely a gorgeous game, the environments at least.
If the only thing you saw of this game was the character models, then you’d probably think this was a game from early last generation. The majority of characters you meet in this game look quite bad, the textures are poor, particularly a lot of clothing and armour. While some look decent enough, it is quite distracting when the characters are supposed to be an important aspect, being front and centre in the game. The lip sync is honestly terrible, as if no effort went into it at all, and it sticks out quite a bit. It is a bit baffling that the world and environments can be so great, while the character models look so mediocre, to the point that it feels like they are from 2 different games. The voice acting on the other hand is mostly pretty good, the protagonist especially. This goes a long way to bring out the personalities of each character, which the very limited facial animations fail to do. Performance is also very stable, it was quite uncommon for the frame rate to drop, usually just in large fights or in the cities. Furthermore, apart from a few visual glitches here and there, such as people’s eyes staying closed while in conversation (quite horrifying), or a few people floating in the air, there wasn’t anything game breaking or causing it to crash.
When looking back at my time with Greedfall, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. While I believe the story could have been so much more than it was, I was still hooked right till the end. This interesting world and a few stand out characters really helped in creating an engaging narrative, alongside the memorable and well structured side quests. The fact that the budget was quite small doesn’t really show in the gameplay for the most part. However, the contrast between the beautiful environments and the mediocre character models is pretty jarring and can be very noticeable and a distraction in cutscenes. Overall, while Greedfall never blew me away, and doesn’t come close to the likes of similar, reasonably bigger budget games, like The Witcher 3, it packs enough punch to hold its own. It provided an RPG experience that has been mostly lacking in the industry today.
Score = 7.5/10
Thank you so much for reading my review, I hope you enjoyed it. Let me know what you thought in the comments. For all things gaming, stay tuned to Honest Gamer.
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