A Good But Not-Quite-Great RPG
Greedfall is a game I want to love. On the surface, this semi-open world, action RPG feels like a patchwork of different ideas and concepts, all of which executed acceptably but never quite brilliantly. With elements of The Witcher, Dragon Age, Elder Scrolls and The Council, this politically-charged title gets a lot right but it does so in a manner that’s not quite as effective as it should be. With a development team of 35 or so people, Greedfall is an impressive AA title but some constant issues with the combat and environment hold this game back from greatness.
Jumping into this rich and diverse world, you play as De Sardet, a noble of the Merchant Congregation on the verge of travelling to the island of Teer Fradee. The opening few hours of the game see you grow accustomed to this world, and after choosing your desired look and associated skills, you complete a tutorial area full of missions. At the perfect time, you then jump over to Teer Fradee itself where the story really kicks into high gear.
Once there, the narrative sees Constantin become infected with a deadly disease known as Malichor. Desperate for a cure, you travel the world and try to win the trust of different factions in a bid to find out more about this disease and claim a cure to save Constantin. All of this builds up to a dramatic plot reveal where the narrative branches into different choices with wildly different consequences depending on what you choose to do. Without giving too much away, the plot evolves nicely over time and the organic quest structure does well to slowly tease the twists to come later on down the line.
From sneaking through alleyways following suspects to engaging in epic boss fights with your team of companions, the writers here have done a fantastic job diversifying what you do through your time with Greedfall. While the gameplay and combat doesn’t always follow suit with these expectations, the writing absolutely does, delivering an absorbing, in-depth story that’s well worth experiencing.
Aesthetically, Greedfall does well here, given the resources available, and while there are glitches and a few bugs through the game, each city and town feels unique in its design, at least on the outside. Walking over a large hill to see the outline of a new city on the horizon is such an invigorating feeling and easily one of my highlights of the game. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the interior design of the various buildings. Now, I understand that a team of this size couldn’t possibly hope to design each house individually, the rate at which environments are repeated is a little concerning. Even flipping the assets or changing the colours would be enough but with each major city repeating the design of taverns, your diplomatic headquarters and main throne-room, this does become problematic early on and really takes you out of the world.
Although Teer Fradee itself isn’t quite as vast or diverse as it perhaps should be, props to the writers for the lore here, which is fantastic and really gives off the feel of a living, breathing world. The different factions all have their own history and grudges, the various NPCs dotted around have vast dialogue options that delve deep into different facets of this beautiful world and various diaries and books dotted around the landscape help flesh this out further too.
Traversing the world plays out similarly to Dragon Age, with interconnected areas broken up by an impromptu camp that allows you to buy items from a caravan vendor, talk to your companions or take a short breather before continuing on your adventure. While a nice idea in theory, in practice the game features an awful lot of running through similar environments and these camp sections only exacerbate that problem.
This is something that spills over to the combat too which feels devoid of variety with its bestiary. The same five or six creatures pop up throughout the world and most follow the same sort of attack patterns. Combined with the lacklustre combat, fighting is ultimately the biggest problem with the game. Although this is certainly a step up for Spiders who have always struggled with this in previous titles, it’s ultimately one of the biggest hurdles that Greedfall fails to overcome.
Armed with magic, guns or melee, the game attempts to add some variety to proceedings but if I’m honest, most of the time you’ll wind up spamming the same moves repeatedly once you find an attack pattern that works for you. Equipment is upgradeable though and there’s plenty of loot to plunder which helps bolster out your statistics, but out of all the elements of the game, combat is likely to be the act you engage in the most and ironically it’s one of the weakest. It doesn’t help either that the AI for your companions in battle is woeful, to say the least.
Gaining experience points from battle and completing missions allows you to level up your character and here Greedfall has done a great job adding some diversity. Leveling up consists of three different skill trees to tackle and allows you to craft your perfect character to play through with. The first is a skill tree that allows for simple stat buffs to be applied to your character and works in much the same way as you’d expect if you’ve played other RPGs before. ‘Attributes’ sees that taken further with things like melee or revolver power increased by a percentage while ‘Talents’ offers up unique enhancements like lockpicking or blowing up walls in caves to be added. All of this combines to create a deep skill tree that caters for a whole range of different play-styles that encourages you to go back and play through differently on repeat playthroughs. Whether you’ll be willing to pick this up and play through it again when the final credits roll though, remains to be seen.
Overall then, Greedfall’s patchwork of different ideas and concepts sometimes shines but oftentimes fails to live up to expectations. There’s certainly some stand-out moments though and the quest design overall is excellent, allowing the main story to breathe and grow as the game goes on. The side quests are equally as appealing but unfortunately the meat of the game falls short of what we’ve seen before in this genre. Combat is a little clunky, the lip-syncing is poor during cut-scenes and the AI of companions in battle is woeful, to say the least. While the game itself is a fantastic achievement for the small development team, Greedfall is simply a good but not-quite-great RPG that ticks some of the boxes but fails to stand out among the plethora of other titles in this genre.
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