To say GreedFall is a bad game wouldn’t entirely be correct. It’s a cohesive world that matches perfectly with the U.I. and other small details show it was made with love. Developer Spiders isn’t very well known, with its previous two titles Bound By Flame and Technomancer not exactly being hits. This makes GreedFall a pretty big achievement for such a studio. The Action RPG manages to be a competent title with a consistent style and some good ideas. Unfortunately, I often found myself grappling with the good and the bad, wanting to like GreedFall a lot more than I did.
Onwards! To Teer Fradee
GreedFall has you take on the role of a legate, a sort of diplomatic messenger responsible for helping maintain relations between countries. It has a somewhat basic character creator, but it works fine enough. Once you have customized your look to that of a man or a woman, you begin the game as a member of the royal family named De Sardet. I personally prefer it when your character in an RPG has a preset name, hearing NPC’s say it gives the player a sense of belonging in the game world. You travel to the newly discovered island of Teer Fradee, a land covered in forests and natives with mysterious connections to nature. You travel between cities on the island and try to help maintain peace between the natives and the people from the continent, a not so subtle allegory of real-life events. This comparison persists due to GreedFall’s setting being heavily inspired by colonial America, as well as European artwork from a similar time.
Thematically, GreedFall fits in with the fantasy greats; racism, rebirth, and greed take the helm as the narrative’s main issues. Unfortunately, it struggles to represent both sides of the story because of its neutral approach. This isn’t always important, but the role you take on sees De Sardet trying to sit on the fence for a lot of what goes on, and even though there are plenty of forks in the road, I didn’t really feel like they changed much. I sided with the natives whenever I could because, in truth, that was the only faction that wasn’t full of complete bigotry. However, the final consequences of your actions fall flat in the end. Choice isn’t always important to me in RPGs, especially considering how hard it is to really make the player feel like they are making a difference. I understand that, at the end of the day, you are just one person. Making world-altering decisions sometimes isn’t realistic. The problem with GreedFall is that you play as someone who is tasked with uniting the people of the island, but it never seemed like all my decision-making led up to anything significant.
GreedFall’s biggest problem comes with its dialogue. Characters seem to just dump information on you and don’t have much personality. Even your more fleshed out companions leave a lot to be desired, mostly talking to you solely to tell you where to go next on their quest. I found myself bored during a lot of the character interactions. It takes itself very seriously and every moment is filled with some conflict here and there, but it doesn’t leave room for NPCs to seem human, which is a real shame considering how much time you spend with them. While personality is scarce, there are some more interesting plot threads towards the end involving the natives’ mysterious rituals. These rituals largely explore life cycles and human symbioses with nature, which I would have loved to have seen more of.
While GreedFall succeeds in mimicking its contemporaries, like Dragon Age and The Witcher, in some ways, it just lacks the personality that really makes those games stand out. For example, party members will occasionally chat to each other and to the player, but there’s a distinct lack of chemistry between any of your companions. GreedFall also tries to avoid pointless sidequests like Dragon Age and The Witcher but this is a bit of a double-edged sword, because, GreedFall rarely gets creative with its world or story. You won’t find nuanced tales about the human condition like in a lot of the greats, instead, most quests involve you solving some sort of conflict between the natives and the colony, or finding someone who has gone missing. It makes De Sardet’s various escapades feel very samey, and that’s so sad when you take into account GreedFall’s clear ambition to move the player with its narrative.
“Move Away, Things Are About To Get Dicey!”
GreedFall is at its best when you’re exploring native caverns and fighting the giant monsters, known as guardians, while you’re at it. Sadly, these moments are few and far between, and in the gaps, you see very little action for long stretches of time. There’s a middle point where I found myself quite enjoying GreedFall; enemies were becoming more varied, my party members were becoming a lot more useful, and boss fights required me to use all of the items at my disposal. The boxy U.I. and chunky weapon impacts make the fighting good fun, and there’s enough variation in abilities to let you experiment. One thing I really like here is that you can respec really early in the game, and it allows you to use all the different weapons and abilities until you find a build you’re happy with. I ended up specializing in one-handed blades and using alchemical preparations to coat my weapons and throw bombs at enemies. I’m not sure there’s enough to merit a second playthrough, but it lets you have fun with the combat system.
The crux here is that enemies don’t really vary much aesthetically, or in terms of their abilities. I respect the decision to go for a more realistic take on a mystical island (if that’s a thing), and to do that, GreedFall keeps its creatures looking pretty similar, making it believable that they are indigenous to Teer Fradee. While it’s a good idea to keep a consistent world, it fails to be interesting because of it. Enemies resemble mostly bears and lizards and don’t do much aside from swing their tails and claws at you. The guardian boss fights have some pretty cool designs – the large beasts take on a Lovecraftian aesthetic mixed with the naturally occurring plant life of the forest. Overall the combat is still one of the best parts of the game, and it’s aided by some gorgeous environments.
Scaffolding, Greenery, and Lots of Grain
GreedFall’s environmental design is a shining point. Much like other parts of the game, it doesn’t have much in the way of variety, but what is there looks quite beautiful. The cities look straight out of the 17th century, with subtle differences between each one depending on the nation that built it. One of the cities, San Mateus, is full of smooth stone structures and cathedrals, making it a sight to behold from afar. New Serene is another city that’s just being built, and this shows in the muddy streets and wooden scaffolding all around. My favorite architecture has to be that of the natives, with their domed huts of stone with patterns and houses covered in roots. Despite the strange, fantastical look of native homes, they don’t look out of place in GreedFall’s world. They have clearly been crafted from various strangely patterned rocks you will encounter when exploring Teer Fradee. When you’re outside, you’ll mostly be exploring tree-covered landscapes and ravines, reminiscent of the coast of Ireland, but with less miserable weather. This is all accompanied by a grainy filter that’s present throughout the experience. It sounds rather annoying, but I found that it adds to the game’s atmosphere and has an overall positive effect. It would have been nice if the areas in the outside world were more varied. There’s the occasional marsh here and there, but it’s nothing to write home about.
There’s a good amount of customization in GreedFall, with a simple but satisfying crafting system that allows you to add attachments to your armor and weapons. Equipment comes with slots for you to add things like a new pommel for your sword or some shoulder pads to your gambeson. It’s a good way to make De Sardet and company look the part without sacrificing their defense stats. As well as crafting, you have other talents like lock picking and charisma, which help get you out of sticky situations without causing bloodshed. You can sneak or talk your way out of most encounters with humans, and when that doesn’t work, you’ve got your trusty pistol to gun them down with.
Something really intuitive about GreedFall is the way loading works. The open-world is split off into smaller areas, and between each one, you get the chance to customize and barter for equipment while you wait. It makes getting between areas hassle-free, something that’s really important when you have to do a lot of going back and forth. I wish more modern RPGs would adopt this, honestly. I never felt like I was waiting on the game when I wanted to do something.
It took me around 35 hours to finish GreedFall. In that time, there were many highs and lows, and I felt conflicted about the game for a lot of it. The first 10 hours or so are mostly set within city walls, and I was enjoying the story to an extent. I was waiting for the characters to grow and become more interesting, but that never really happened. That’s what GreedFall is really: a game where you’re waiting, waiting for monsters to get more interesting, waiting for the stakes to raise, waiting for the game to click. For me, it just didn’t.
I appreciated GreedFall’s consistent world. It’s clear to see what this game wanted to be: an action RPG in the same vein as its peers from BioWare. On the surface, it manages to pull this off, the way the areas are split up, the focus on companion relations, and the more grounded worldview of its inhabitants. There’s just a lack of escalation in this game. I never really felt the game getting harder or more exciting. The plot tries to take some twists and turns which I won’t spoil, but most of them are pretty predictable.
Maybe as somebody who plays a lot of RPGs like this, GreedFall is just too much of the same for me when it comes to storytelling. Considering it has you spending so much time with its characters, I was just hoping for a little more personality. Possibly pick this one up on a sale if you’re craving the genre and like the look of the gameplay.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game.
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