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Worse Than Death Review – Dooby Scoo

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One of the more philosophical questions here.

 

As we await for the endless void to consume us all, it makes us wonder what exists out there that makes us beg for the sweet release of death. Current world state jokes aside, there’s not much realistic in terms of physical pain or emotional agony that can be truly called Worse Than Death. I know one thing, though: this game! Ho-hooooooooooo!

This is the latest release from Canadian developer Benjamin Rivers Inc., run by one Rivers, Benjamin. This is the third release from Rivers and co., after a successful brace with Alone With You and Home, with the latter gaining some fairly large acclaim. Worse Than Death has also been on the Apple Store since July, but Apple sucks—sue me—I prefer tactile feedback. Let’s go.

An in-game screenshot of Worse Than Death, showcasing Holly reacting to a dead body's gouged eyes.

You play as Holly, a woman who is making big waves in physiotherapy, and she’s returned to her home town for a school reunion. After meeting with her former BFFL Flynn, you learn that the reunion is one with bittersweet context, as Flynn’s fiance Grace died before they were to be married. That’s all irrelevant, however, as there’s someone or some-thing hunting them down, aiming to murder everything.

Right from the get-go, it’s hard trying to figure out what Worse Than Death wants to be. The main menu and its quirky theme imply a Scooby-Doo! angle, but when you get into the nitty-gritty, you have the same visceral undertones as The Long Reach. Then, it’s also aiming to be Stranger Things. At the end of it all, it’s more Whispering Willows meets Twin Peaks, although I don’t think the inconsistent tone is an aesthetic choice for the narrative.

It doesn’t know whether it wants to be an accessible horror game for the kiddies or an in-your-face slasher flick from the 80s. There are mad Slaughter High vibes throughout, but you don’t have the comfort of watching Caroline Munro in her late 30s pretending to be a teenager. Worse Than Death seriously thinks it can handle two completely different angles of horror.

An in-game screenshot of Worse Than Death, showcasing protagonist Holly hiding between two power panels.

Take the actual horror, for example. There’s only one enemy in the entire game: a transparent Venus Flytrap-looking thing that scours short pathways, with said paths being predictable and filled with dim holes you can hide in. Unless you run, chances are you will not alert them in any way, shape or form, so walk slowly, and you’ll be right as rain.

What is the horror behind that? Jumpscares. Worse Than Death absolutely fucking LOVES jumpscares. You can’t go one level without glass breaking, a door slamming, a small music sting, or unrelated imagery popping up on the screen for a brief moment. I wouldn’t mind it so much if they actually had thematic connections to the story, but… they don’t.

I’m not going to go into spoiler territory, but it’s like if, in Claire, the Friendship Bears are what saved her from the primordial horrors. You can practically hear the Care-Bears theme playing as all of the plot threads are quickly tied up to explain as much as possible. It still doesn’t explain enough, but then, I put that on the cumbersome writing.

An in-game screenshot of Worse Than Death, showcasing protagonist Holly running through a school hallway.

Almost all of the …

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Galarian Ponyta Confirmed as Pokemon Shield Exclusive

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Another Pokemon has been revealed for Pokemon Sword and Shieldmore specifically, Galarian Ponyta has been announced as a version exclusive for Pokemon Shield. This version of one of the original 151 Pokemon is found in the Galar Region in the new pair of Pokemon games for Nintendo Switch. The new form of Ponyta was unveiled after a 24-hour livestream that revealed next to nothing. Some fans were disappointed by the lack of reveals on the stream, but others have quickly embraced the new Galarian form of this beloved Pokemon.

The Pokemon Twitter account put up a Tweet with a video showcasing the new Pokemon variant, including details about its typing and abilities. Galarian Ponyta has been confirmed as a Psychic-type Pokemon, which debunks the idea that it was going to be a Fairy Type. It has the abilities Run Away and Pastel Veil, the second which seems unique to Galarian Ponyta.

Another Galarian form was previously announced as a Pokemon Sword exclusive: Sirfetch’d is a Galar Region-only evolution of Farfetch’d. Galarian Zigzagoon, Galarian Linoone, and Galarian Weezing are a few others that were recently shown off. We can expect to see more of these Galarian forms of older Pokemon as more news releases up to the launch of the games.

Pokemon Shield Screenshot of Galarian Ponyta

Pokemon Sword and Shield will be launching exclusively on Nintendo Switch on November 15, 2019. Will you be picking up the new installments in the Pokemon franchise? Let us know in the comments and stay tuned for more information and a review of the games later this year, right here on Sick Critic.

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Throwback Review: Luigi’s Mansion

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With Luigi’s Mansion 3 lurking around the corner, I thought it would be apt to revisit the horror game that kickstarted Nintendo’s E-rated horror franchise. I dusted off my GameCube and booted up the original Luigi’s Mansion to see if it still holds up.

Luigi peeking into the mansion

A Ghostly Story

 

The setup is a nice change of pace for a Nintendo outing: In a contest he doesn’t remember entering, Luigi wins a huge mansion in the middle of nowhere. To celebrate, he invites Mario for a housewarming party, but when Luigi arrives, not only is Mario missing, it becomes pretty clear that the mansion is haunted by pesky ghosts. After teaming up with the enigmatic Professor E. Gadd, Luigi is given the Poltergust 3000, a spectral vacuum cleaner with the power to suck up ghosts and he’s cast back into the mansion to face his fears and rescue his brother.

It’s refreshing not playing as a plucky hero in this quest, but rather as the quivering scaredy cat that is Luigi. Though he’s not as agile as his brother, his personality outshines Mario’s. Luigi’s mannerisms are endearing and it’s easy to empathize with this reluctant hero. Little by little, Luigi’s bravery develops and that makes going through the mansion and fighting hoards of ghosts that much more rewarding.

 

Taking Control of the Mansion

 

Though it looks cute and cuddly, Luigi’s Mansion has a structure that’s closer to Resident Evil than classic Mario games. The entire adventure is purely set within the confines of the mansion. You’ll find locked doors, keys to open them, and a fair amount of backtracking to do in between. Progression is all about clearing ghosts out of every room and doing that is as simple as shining your flashlight on them and revving up your Poltergust 3000. Using both analog sticks, you need to simultaneously move Luigi towards each escaping ghost while pulling back in the opposite direction. In action, sucking up spirits has the intensity of a rodeo; you have to predict their next move and learn when to lean into the punch—this system keeps the core act of exorcising ghosts engaging and it’s as fun to play now as it was 18 years ago.

Luigi sucking up an orange ghost in Luigi's Mansion

In addition to standard ghouls, unique Portrait Ghosts are scattered throughout the mansion. Prior to capturing each of them, you need to figure out their weaknesses.  Some, like the eternally bathing Miss Petunia, require you to freeze her shower water, while you’ll have to suck up the yarn of the knitting nut, Nana. The puzzle-like manner in which you unravel their weaknesses and their beefy HP bars means they’re among the game’s most memorable encounters. They also do wonders for giving the mansion itself an identity, lending a sense of context and family history to the ancient building.

 

Pretty as a Picture

 

Time has been very forgiving to the graphics of Luigi’s Mansion thanks to the cartoonish art-direction. Luigi himself still looks sharp and the ghosts, too, are ironically bursting with life, their gaping smiles and glowing eyes compliment their mischievous nature and discovering new enemies and learning their personalities is always a delight. That’s not to say the game is devoid of creepiness. The gothic decor gives …

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Groundhog Day: Like Father Like Son Review – Glass Half Philled

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If you ask just about anybody, they’ll tell you about Groundhog Day, an extremely popular movie from the early 1990s starring Bill Murray in one of his timeless roles. Tequila Works, the creators of Rime, took the movie and gave it a worthy sequel in the form of a virtual reality game, Groundhog Day: Like Father Like Son. As Phil Connors Jr., son of the character originally portrayed by Murray, you relive the day before Groundhog Day, a ceremony commemorating your deceased father. Through the experience, you weed through bugs to solve mildly interesting puzzles, listen to slow and at times unengaging dialogue, and experience a touching story complete with great character moments.

Gobbler's Knob

As is the case with many VR games, Groundhog Day suffers from a lot of bugs with animation and audio. While not game-breaking, they certainly take away from the experience and ruin the immersion, something that can be deadly to a VR title. You might try to grab something and see that doing so applies forces to other objects around it. Maybe you press the trigger to clench your hand and, upon releasing it, your hand stays clenched until you press and release it again. There’s a nicely-thought-out dialogue system where you grab bubbles of dialogue in front of you to choose branches, but sometimes you go to grab them and find that the one you’re trying to grab doesn’t end up being the one you grasp onto. Thankfully you have to hold it for a certain amount of time to choose it, but this makes dialogue frustrating at times. These issues aren’t common or the biggest problems, though.

There’s a clear lack of polish applied to the animations and audio. Bugs range from dialogue being queued too early or late to people sipping at air while their glass stays on the table in front of them. You’ll also find that animations don’t align properly in the 3D world. Most animations start with small jumps to different parts of the world mere inches away from where they were standing prior. Overall, they;re very rough and don’t blend together very well. Body movements are odd and unrealistic, start and stop points between animations are obvious and jarring, and facial expressions are minimalistic at best.

This all plays to another problem that Tequila Works has with transitions. Transitions between animations, scenes, and dialogue could all probably use another six months of work at the minimum. Loading screens are too long for how frequent they are, which really fragments the game in an unhealthy way. To be fair, the game does give a great option to restart the particular scene you’re in, so it’s important that scenes are divided and individual from one another, but this is no excuse for 10-20% of the game being loading screens.

Groundhog Day Cappuccino

Fortunately, this is a game about a story, characters, and puzzles, all of which hold up at least moderately well. The animations don’t affect these much at all. Most of the puzzles and minigames are appealing and enjoyable, but you have to do some of them too many times, and other ones you don’t get to play enough. For example, the bartending one was enjoyable with lots of different ways …

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Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair Review – Impossibly Charming

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Playtonic Games is back with another entry in the Yooka-Laylee series, because it is a series now. However, this time, instead of giving us another 3D platformer, they decided to shake it up and go 2.5D with a side-scrolling platformer. Was that really a good idea or did they take a huge misstep? Does Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair even need to exist?

I was definitely a skeptic when I found out Playtonic had abandoned the original’s 3D world. To be honest, I never actually finished the first Yooka-Laylee due to the performance issues at launch and I forgot to go back once they fixed them. This time, I played through all of Impossible Lair till the credits rolled, and I can say I had a splendid time, barring a few grievances. 

A Tale of Two Buddies

 

You shouldn’t have any issues jumping into Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair if you missed out on the original Yooka-Laylee. There’s not really a story continuity that matters between the two games. The game will tell you what’s happening pretty early on, so I won’t waste time telling you that Capital B is stealing all the bees. 

This game doesn’t rely on narrative to drive the game forward. There’s some quirky dialogue along the way, but it seems there’s less of it than in the original game.

Jumping, Rolling, Falling

 

When it comes down to it, most of the gameplay mechanics and powerups don’t even translate over from the previous game in the same way. For example, Pagies, which are basically gold book pages with faces, alter the overworld when you complete their challenges instead of being collected to spend on Grand Tomes like in the original. 

Playing through Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is typically a great experience. Movement is fluid and simple, and levels are varied. There’s something new to scale each time you enter a level. 

Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair

Just about every level in Impossible Lair has another version of itself, like a remix. Something in the overworld (different in every case) changes the state of each level, either giving a completely new challenge or rearranging what you had previously played. One level is suddenly covered in sticky honey while another is turned into a fast, auto-scrolling challenge. I’m usually against the idea of developers reusing levels, but this is an example where it’s been done right.

For Yooka and Laylee, most of their unique moveset is gone. They really only have, like, four moves: roll, air twirl, ground pound, and then Yooka can stick his tongue out and grab items. It’s kind of disappointing, but what can you do? Most of the gameplay spice comes from the levels and enemies. The duo doesn’t really gain any abilities throughout their adventure. When you take damage, you lose Laylee and are left with Yooka. Laylee starts to panic and fly around, then you have a few seconds to get her back. She functions as a detachable hit point that you can reclaim. If you lose her, you can use one of the bat bells to get her back. These bells are spread throughout the level. If you get hit and you don’t have her, you die and go back to one

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World War Z Review – Starved Lives

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You remember this film, right?

Yeah, it’s somehow Brad Pitt’s highest-grossing film, yet nobody really knows why. I’ve never met a single person who goes beyond mild acceptance of its existence. If you wanna talk about placeholders, then the World War Z movie certainly fits in snugly as “Just another Zombie film.” How does the video game hold up?

This is the latest title from one Saber Interactive, a New Jersey-based studio who are dedicated to providing AA-experiences to the masses. TimeShiftInversionHalo AnniversaryGod Mode, etc. Aside from their participation in the Halo series, they mostly made games you glossed over while looking for something a bit more known. An oversight if you ask me, as they have always sought to care for their products, and World War Z is no exception.

An in-game screenshot of World War Z, showcasing the character Arnetta Larkin overlooking an underground sector.

You play as one of sixteen survivors, with those sixteen separated into four different parties in four different locations. You’ve all been surviving since the original outbreak, and all four parties now have a chance for true freedom after fighting all this time. Along the way, you’ll discover how others came to fight for their lives and other survivors with bigger priorities.

It’s a co-op, third-person shooter first and foremost, in the vein of Left 4 Dead, as if that wasn’t already obvious. Being the newest in line behind titles like Alone in The Dark: IlluminationEarthFall, and Generation Zero, there’s some stiff competition here. In comparison to the aforementioned three, World War Z stands head and shoulders above the rest and although that might not sound like much, it really does excel.

The missions have that Left 4 Dead feel, albeit as close to the Hollywood experience of OTT-action that the 2013 film provided. The first mission in New York is a great example of this, as the infamous “Zombie Pyramid” scene is recreated on a smaller angle. The environments are large, the numbers are plenty, and it’s all bloody impressive.

A cut-scene from World War Z, showcasing zombies being neutralized by a purple nerve gas.

Part of this is thanks to some fairly beefy combat. There’s a fat handful of weaponry to choose from, and almost all of them feel fantastic in your hands. The shotguns predictably devastate in any close-quarters situation, with penetration being a huge help in tenser fights. Assault Rifles and their DMR counterparts make their presence worth thanks to their power and previously mentioned penetration capabilities. SMGs also give a helping hand thanks to being great crowd control, despite lack of penetration.

That only leaves pistols and heavy weaponry to judge, and to be honest, they’re both a bit crap. All of the pistols are pathetic in every factor, from handling, to damage. The heavy weapons do get the job done and they frequently spawn, but you only get one clip and switching to them mid-combat is always a faff. They’re usually in the way or hidden somewhere in these surprisingly large maps.

The level design couldn’t be closer to Left 4 Dead if it tried. You know the rodeo: Small and tight engagements, followed up by a heroic standoff in a large playground filled with environmental payoffs, repeat one more time, then boom, next level. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that since it’s supposed to function …

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Red Dead Redemption 2 Coming to PC on November 5

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Rockstar Games is pretty notorious for ignoring the PC market. The publisher recently got in the habit of porting their current marquee titles to the platform at least a year after its original launch with Grand Theft Auto V reaching Windows PC nearly two years after its September 2013 release. Now, Red Dead Redemption 2 is finally gracing the PC market on November 5th first on Epic Games Store and then Rockstar’s own launcher. Steam fans fortunately have to wait until December to enjoy RDR 2 on their platform. Google Stadia will also have the game in November.

Rockstar simultaneously announced some special promotions for their new launcher to incentivize consumers. Until October 22nd, the publisher is allowing gamers to download two games of their choosing from this selection: GTA III, GTA Vice City, GTA San Andreas, Bully: Scholarship Edition, L.A. Noire: The Complete Edition, and Max Payne 3: The Complete Edition.

Image result for red dead redemption 2

Pre-ordering Red Dead Redemption 2 on the Rockstar Games Launcher discounts the upgrade to the Special and Ultimate Edition by $20. Pre-ordering RDR2 on the launcher will also come with the Outlaw Survival Kit, which provides players with a nice set of goodies to start their journey.

If you haven’t already installed the Rockstar Games Launcher, you can still do so while acquiring a free digital copy of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas until October 8th. Unfortunately, there has been no word on a Red Dead Redemption PC port, let alone a PS4 or Xbox One one from Rockstar. Technical specifications have not yet been disclosed by the publisher; however, you should be fine if it’s above the hardware capabilities of either home console.

What do you think of this sudden news? Will you begrudgingly install Rockstar Games Launcher to reap the rewards the company is providing? Let us know in the comments below!

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Bring to Light Review – It May Come

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SPOOKTOBER 2019 Entry #1 – Next Entry: World War Z

 

It’s back! The 3rd installment of Spooktober!

 

The great jack- o’- lanterns in the sky know that I need this special occasion. All around me, people are more fascinated by the prospect of Christmas coming up than they are Halloween. Various shops already have their reindeer ready. It’s absurd, and I refuse to stand for it until after November 5th, so let’s get these creepy festivities out of the way, starting with Bring to Light!

 

This is the latest title from Canadian developers, Red Meat Games, and– Now that I think about it, any developer with “Red” in their titles usually has a stab with horror. Red Barrels with Outlast, Red Hook with Darkest Dungeon, Red Limb with Rise of Insanity. In that case, the “Color meets adjective meets horror” attempts are 1-1-1 in terms of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly at the moment, so let’s see how Bring to Light breaks this tie.

 

An in-engine screenshot of Bring to Light, showcasing one of the monsters; Specifically the Ghoul.

 

You play as Guy Guyverson, or rather Lady Ladyperson. It’s unknown exactly who or what you play as, but that’s irrelevant, as the subway you were riding on has derailed. Inexplicably, you are the only survivor from this wreck, with bodies nowhere to be seen. A lack of assets could be the easiest answer, but for the game’s sake, let’s just say that it’s because the monsters in the subway have eaten everyone else and are looking to eat you. Who or what are they, and what are their origins? That’s unknown… it will continue to remain unknown, as I stopped playing halfway through and with good reason, but we’ll get to that.

 

It’s a walking simulator. Don’t let other reviews fool you into thinking that this may be some sort of tense game of cat-and-mouse. This is a walking simulator first and foremost, except once in a while when the pots in your kitchen will fall. You have a cracked phone working as a pathetic flashlight, and as you continue forward, you’ll come across random underwritten notes addressed to nobody.

 

First impressions weren’t strong. Your first taste of horror will be when a door slams right in front of you while in complete silence. Your second taste is– and I’m not kidding here– a random pixelated .jpg of a fucking skull with glowing eyes. What is it, and how does it connect thus far? It doesn’t! I may not have finished the game, but in all honesty, what chases you strays from the path of this .gif with a Photoshop edit.

 

An in-game screenshot of Bring to Light, showcasing one of the monsters; specifically a humanoid creature in a crypt.

 

The cover the game uses has this sort of red-eyed ghoul on it, but then some others use what looks like concept art for the Licker from Resident Evil 2. Then you also have to deal with these weird spider variants, both their child and adult versions. There’s possibly more, but they don’t come across as much of a threat, mostly due to some uncaring A.I.

 

Every once in awhile, you’ll be stuck in a space where one of these various monsters are patrolling the area. You’ll usually have to find an item, like four goddamn …

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Borderlands 3 Review – Deathconciousness

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**SIDENOTE: This review of Borderlands 3 and its content is based entirely around a playthough with Moze. This may make an impact in whatever critiques I have to say about the gameplay.

 

Also, beware of minor/major spoilers. They’re necessary to talk about.**

 

This series that needs no introduction, I believe. Gearbox’s unprecedented hit saw unimaginable success in 2009, with its second entry only multiplying in fame. Aside from those, Gearbox has on other projects and franchises, including the recent Battleborn, Duke Nukem Forever, and Aliens: Colonial Marines.

 

An in-engine screenshot of Borderlands 3, showcasing a Tink, a masked Fanatic Bandit, and a Gale Hog.

 

You play as one of four mercenaries who have come to Pandora once again for the promises of vaults. Right away, you are treated to contempt by one God-Queen Tyreen, a former streamer on the ECHOnet who has managed to create a planet-wide following by the name of “Children Of the Vault”. Together with her parasite brother Troy, they’re both planning to open several vaults dotted around the galaxy– with a final “Great Vault” being rumored to open after all that– and you have to gather a “Best Of” team to stop them.

 

Now, something about this plot seems almost… similar? I dare say one would get a certain sense of déjà vu emanating from this plotline, because it’s the same thing as the previous three games, including Tales From The Borderlands. One would say, argue, and defend that narrative isn’t Borderlands strong suit, but that’s a point I want to come back later.

 

Before all that however, there’s the gameplay to talk about, in all of its generic flavors. If you came here looking for the Borderlands experience to end all Borderlands experiences, then you came to the right place. Borderlands 3 is full of slightly visceral violent combat with a hint of strategy and insane frame-rate drops when you decide to panic ult .

 

An in-engine screenshot of Borderlands 3, showcasing Amaru the Siren riding in a one-wheeled vehicle known as the Cyclone.

 

This is not without slight innovations made, despite their cynical execution. Sliding has finally made its way into the last AAA FPS franchise, but it’s not really something you’d use in any context. Borderlands A.I. is fairly accurate, and since you’ll mostly be dealing with hitscan weaponry, it’s just going to be another way you get hit. That is, however, unless you use it to find cover, which… no. I wanna feel like the righteous bad-ass the press kit promised I’d be.

 

Weapon manufacturers have also seen a massive overhaul, which tends to over-complicate what was originally a simple procedure. They’re all still here– Atlas, Vladof, Maliwan, Hyperion, Jakobs, etc. — but now they’re dedicated to making specific weaponry designed to add several thin tactical layers. For example, Atlas only makes inaccurate weaponry that needs a tracker dart placed on the enemy in order to hit properly. Maliwan only makes elemental weapons that you have to charge up with each shot or burst in order to gain their full potential. Jakobs only makes coachguns, single-shot repeaters and revolvers that rely on critical hits for their best outcomes, so on and so forth.

 

An in-engine screenshot of Borderlands 3, showcasing FL4K, The Beastmaster, with his pet Spiderant.

 

In truth, this is a genius way to actually flesh out the weapon manufacturers, which have a much stronger placeholder in the world of Borderlands than you’d think. If you …

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GreedFall Review – Not Quite There Yet

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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.

A character from GreedFall is depicted strangling another man who is out of frame.

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.

 

Awkward Diplomacy

 

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 …

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