- Release Date (NA): September 10, 2019
- Release Date (EU): September 10, 2019
- Release Date (JP): September 10, 2019
- Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
- Developer: Spiders
- Genres: RPG
- Also For: Computer, Xbox One
New World, New Possibilities
GreedFall takes place in a fictional universe loosely based on the Colonial era, putting you in the shoes of De Sardet, a member of the Congregation of Merchants, one of the game's fictional nations. A recent discovery of Teer Fradee, a distant island across the ocean, fueled the world's colonisation efforts by promising untold riches and bountiful land to settle. Your cousin, Prince Constantin D'Orsay, has been named the new governor of the Congregation's colony on the island, New Serene, and you were tasked with accompanying him to the shore and to function as his Legate on this new and undiscovered land. However, you are also tasked with an additional objective. Your people are falling ill to a mysterious disease known as the Malichor, and in spite of the combined efforts of The Bridge Alliance's scientists, the Congregation's merchants and the Theleme's priests, no remedy for the plague could be found. The illness that begins with fatigue and nausea quickly progresses to severe eczema, blindness and, eventually, death. The Old World is dying, and the only hope for salvation is somewhere out there, hidden away on Teer Fradee. With a heart full of hope and your blade at your side, you embark on an adventure of a lifetime. Will you find salvation in these wild, untamed lands? Well, that is up to you, bold explorer.
A Story of Cloak and Dagger
As most games in the genre, GreedFall begins with a character creation screen. After choosing your gender and customising your hero's appearance, you get to pick one of three basic starting classes the game has to offer - you can become a Warrior, skilled in close quarters combat, a Technical, familiar with the latest and greatest advancements in military science, or a Magical, well-versed in the workings of supernatural forces. Don't worry - your decision in regards to your starting class will not permanently affect the game as GreedFall features a "classless" progression system, meaning that any class can specialise in any skill and you're not locked in to a specific skill tree due to your initial choice. You can freely go with your gut and pick what feels right - if you don't like the gameplay style your class offers, you can always develop other skills, or respec completely with the use of a Memory Crystal. Speaking of your statistics, they're divided into three main sections - Skills, which include your active and passive abilities that directly affect combat, Attributes, which refer to your character's physical and mental prowess like Strength or Willpower, and Talents, which are the actions you can perform in the game world, like Lockpicking or Craftsmanship. The build I played personally was a Technical skilled with Rifles and one-handed swords, but his primary Talent was Diplomacy, enabling him to avoid confrontation using his gift of gab.
Once your character is complete, your adventure starts on the old continent, in the city of Serene, inspired by 17th Century Paris. After a short tutorial which introduces you to the basics of combat, courtesy of your long-term friend, trainer and confidant Kurt, you finally get to explore Serene, and this is where GreedFall begins showing off its charm. As you prepare for your voyage the Baroque-style surroundings of the city draw you in, but the appearances of splendor are quickly dashed by the image of poverty that can be seen when you stray off the beaten path. This theme ripples across other environments in GreedFall, particularly the "civilised" cities, where the imbalance of power and wealth is most apparent. It's very clear that society in GreedFall is very divided and while you were born into wealth and privilege, not everyone had the same kind of luck. It's not uncommon to get jumped by bandits in a dark alley or accidentally walk into an area you're clearly not welcome in, further driving the point that even world hubs like cities or villages aren't always safe. Often times wearing a disguise is strongly recommended if you intend to avoid unnecessary bloodshed, and as a diplomat you most certainly do. The streets of Serene are in disarray, littered with corpses of the recently departed, with plague doctors trying to contain the spread of the disease. Every now and then you see a door marked with an ominous white "X" that can only mean one thing - the Malichor has claimed another household. World building is easily GreedFall's strongest point, and although you only spend a short amount of time in Serene, what you do get to see conveys a sense of urgency.
Between Politics and Intrigue
After some trials and tribulations involving excessive consumption, kidnapping, unexpected cargo and a long sea voyage you land on the island where you officially take up your responsibilities as a Legate. Your job consists of being a diplomatic envoy between the old world factions and the native tribes, and the way you approach this task is entirely up to you - you're welcome to use your sharp tongue or your sharp sword so long as you get the expected results. In your quest to find a cure for the Malichor and strengthen the position of the Congregation of Merchants you will meet, converse and run errands for the biggest power players on Teer Fradee. The quests themselves are another strong point of the game, particularly in terms of quest resolution. Nearly every task you undertake can be approached from a number of angles and the outcome is both dependant on your playstyle and has consequences, which the game is keen to remind you about whenever discretion is advised. This applies from matters of international importance like brokering a peace treaty with a native tribe to small issues like compensating an innkeeper for a table that was inadvertently broken during a bar brawl - using your speech and heavy coin purse is equally valid to using violence and intrigue. I personally chose to invest my skill points into Diplomacy, trying to opt for non-violent solutions wherever possible, and by doing so I've managed to either avoid most major fights altogether or to at least make them much more manageable than they would've been had I gone into them guns blazing. Being able to do so is more important than you might assume - maintaining strong relationships with the various factions is recommended, and if there's one thing they don't appreciate, it's killing their members needlessly or betraying their interests. The aura of colonialism and cutthroat politics is ever-present and while you may think you're the one in charge, some quest givers will attempt to take advantage of you, so you must be careful and make decisions that you won't have to regret later. One thing I did find truly innovative was how the game handles the conclusion of a quest - if a long journey would've been required in order to report to your quest giver, the game automatically skips it, taking you precisely where you're supposed to be and sparing you from a long and unnecessary voyage. Brilliant! Why won't more games do this?
An adventure of swords, sorcery and intrigue is a dangerous one, and one that's best enjoyed with a team of companions. GreedFall delivers on that front, allowing you to recruit a team NPC's and travelling with two of them at a time. The cast is pretty varied, with each team member representing a different faction or nation in-game. It's worth noting that all of your team members are not permanent allies and are only in for the ride so long as they find you worthy of their loyalty. Much like the factions they represent, your companions gauge your actions in-game and can either become your close friends or betray you at a moment's notice, so doing their personal quests and keeping an eye on your reputation is a must if you intend for them to continue following you. Their presence in your team alone affects your playthrough as they have a tendency to butt in your conversations, particularly when their own faction is being discussed. I was personally fond of constructing teams using NPC's from opposing factions - while this is naturally not optimal, it did lead to some interesting banter. As the leader you can change your party's equipment, but unlike in most games of the genre you have no control over their progression or actions - your followers are completely autonomous.
Hell is Paved with Good Intentions
All of the above is what GreedFall does well, now it's time to address the areas where the game falls short, which frankly, is almost everything else. From a distance the game looks stunning, but upon closer examination you start noticing cracks in the picture. The bold vision the developer had was clearly a little too much for a small team with limited funding. From graphical glitches to big problems with banance in combat the game is littered with issues that spoil some of the enjoyment I drew from its novel and more old school approach towards role-playing. The first thing you'll notice when you start playing the game is the fact that the camera has a mind of its own - it's effectively unusable without adjusting the sensitivity. This may be a result of the camera being developed with a mouse in mind, but on a PS4 controller it overtook the speed of my character every time on default settings which was quite uncomfortable. The next problem that stands out like a sore thumb is the less-than-ideal lip synching, almost as if the facial animations were originally made for a different language altogether - they don't seem to correspond with what the characters are saying, which is a bit of a shame given how much effort went into making them so varied and unique.
Gameplay-wise the game takes cues from titles like The Witcher 3, Dragon Age and Dark Souls, blending elements of the three titles into a uniform mix. Combat mostly takes place in real time, but you're allowed to pull up a tactical menu which pauses time in-game and allows you to select spells or items you want your character to use, from potions to a variety of traps, bombs and grenades. Your selection of weaponry is also varied, ranging from one-handed and two-handed bladed and blunt weapons through pistols and rifles to magical rings. You have a lot of freedom in customising how you intend to fight, but in practice the balance between weapons isn't well thought-through. There's almost no reason to play as a close-range fighter - regardless of your equipment, you will always do more damage as a rifleman, and obtaining ammunition is trivial, especially if you also invest into your Science skill which allows you to craft items and upgrades at workbenches. A single bullet does so much damage that it's not uncommon to see firearms consume half of an enemy's health bar, and in addition to that they also have the ability to stun lock your foe, giving you ample time to reload, even in crowded encounters. To make matters worse, while you can avoid getting shot fairly easily based on visual cues, your enemies seem to be unable to block shots or dodge them - you will hit every single time, so long as you're in range and either locked onto an enemy or simply looking in their general direction. Alternatively, you can opt to use magic instead, which gives you an altogether different advantage - the ability to put your enemies in stasis. Your opponent can't hit back if they're frozen in time, so you're free to just flail them relentlessly without a care in the world. Knowing that these two approaches are grossly overpowered, I opted to only occasionally resorting to cheesing the game in this way and primarily used my short sword. In comparison, it was no easy task - having the ability to occasionally stun or throw your opponents off-balance with kicks was handy, but nowhere near as effective as the alternatives. It doesn't help that swordplay is clunky and you don't seem to do much damage until your Fury meter fills up, allowing you to pull off powerful flourishes which actually deliver the hurt as intended. This is particularly noticeable before you drain an enemy's Armor bar - before it is fully depleted, hits seem to do little to no damage, but after it's gone almost any light tap is lethal, and this applies to both your foes and your own character. In other words, the game gives you plentiful options to engage the enemy head-on, but disincentivises you from doing so at every turn given how much more effective long-range attacks are.
Establishing camps gives you access to your chest and workbench on the go, which is important if you want to stay on the "bleeding edge" of technology, pun inteded.
Be on the lookout for relics as well - they will reward you with free points to spend!
Speaking of balance, the level progression and character stats most certainly needed more work. Gaining skill points, attribute points and talent points to spend on your character takes forever, so it's not uncommon to find yourself in a predicament based solely on your character being unable to perform a task. I learned this very early in the game as I attempted to sneak into a building without spilling blood and unnecessarily losing my reputation with both a faction and and one of my companions. This was easier than you would suspect as the NPC's seem either blind or willfully ignorant of your presence - their cone of vision is so narrow that your biggest enemies in stealth are the clunky hitboxes of the environment - getting stuck on the odd branch or box is par for the course. Sadly, as I've reached my destination, I found out that my Lockpicking skill was a little too low to open a chest containing the item I was supposed to obtain, so my entire plan was for naught and I had to start killing guards anyway, which struck me as odd as this was an environment early in the game. I fully understand the reasoning behind this, certain builds should have their own unique ways of progressing through quests, but a lot of times the skills required far surpass what's available to you at any given time, leading to some annoying hiccups.
As far as the visual presentation is concerned, I've already mentioned that a lot of attention went into crafting interesting environments for you to visit, and it shows - they're very well-detailed. The problem is that the earthy colour scheme chosen for the game does them few favours, by which I mean that GreedFall feels like a callback to a bygone era of "brown" video games. All of the environments begin feeling samey in a hurry, to the point that enemies quickly begin to blend into them. The fact that, outside of main world hubs, they also feel fairly empty and underutilised doesn't help, as most times there is little to do on your journeys despite admiring the scenery. Your adventure on the island quickly starts looking like . A shame, as these issues detract from all the effort that went into crafting the world of Teer Fradee. I can understand that the island mostly consists of wilderness, but given the fact that it's also a new and untamed land was an excellent opportunity to distinguish it from the Old Continent with more lively colours. Even if just the character outfits were more colourful and lively, it would make them stand out and give the visuals the punch they truly needed to "pop" - without something to break the monotony everything feels and looks old, dirty and tattered, which looks impactful in stills, but somewhat muddy in motion.
GreedFall left me feeling conflicted. I love the fact that the game allows you to play it however you want and that engaging in intrigue is just as much, if not more effective than being a brute. Being able to determine the fate of the island by either being a peacemaker, a cutthroat coloniser or a religious fanatic one step removed from an inquisitor plays in the game's favour. The title gives you the freedom that many games in the genre lack nowadays, simplifying role-playing for the sake of uniform gameplay at the detriment of storytelling possibilities. Unfortunately, the myriad of flaws in GreedFall prevented me from truly committing to it - it didn't "grip" me as much as I had hoped and perhaps many of the things it had to offer escaped my attention, obscured by the technical shortcomings. I drew plenty of enjoyment from what the game does well, so if the idea of being a coloniser deciding the fate of the world as you navigate the raging seas of diplomacy and warfare sounds appealing to you, GreedFall will deliver a compelling narrative in one of the more interesting and novel settings I've seen in recent memory. However, in order to truly enjoy it, you have to overlook many of the problems that spoil the broth, and that's a tall order when they're staring you in the face. It's clear that GreedFall was an ambitious project for Spiders and is easily their best title yet. It bravely touches upon the ethical implication of colonisation and the tragic events that it can lead to, which is a subject that few developers have explored so far, but in spite of all its writing, it fails in the one respect that makes or breaks a video game - the gameplay. The technical issues, visual flaws, somewhat slow progression and balancing issues downgrade it from a great title to a game that's simply "okay". I fully intend to give the game a second playthrough to see how matters change if I opt for being a ruthless invader as opposed to a benevolent visitor, but as it stands today, GreedFall falls short of entering the Action RPG hall of fame.
- Novel and interesting setting
- Engaging story that touches an interesting and controversial subject matter
- Richly detailed environments
- Interesting companions with unique allegiances and personal stories
- Large degree of freedom in problem solving
- The game automatically teleports you to the quest giver upon completing a quest, which is the most innovative time-saver since pre-sliced bread
- Earthy colour palette lending to the game's "muddy" visuals
- Clunky and unbalanced combat
- Comically small cone of vision of the NPC's
- Slow character progression that quickly becomes restrictive in gameplay
- Technical glitches and shortcomings which, in aggregate, spoil the experience