Review – GreedFall
If there’s a developer I truly respect, even though they hadn’t developed a lot of fantastic games in the past, it’s Spiders. This team is comprised of just over twenty people according to their site, but they still try to craft large action RPGs with a lot of content and even an engine of their own, even if they don’t have Bioware levels of budget to make them. I knew it was just a matter of them until they released something truly special, even though I’m one of the few people out there who actually really liked The Technomancer. Their time has finally come, because GreedFall is easily their best work and one of the biggest surprises of the year.
GreedFall features an excellent setting. Despite not featuring real nations or locations, this game is clearly inspired by the Age of Discovery, most specifically the 17th Century. A handful of nations from a nearby continent have recently discovered an island for them to colonize; hoping to profit from extractivism and possibly looking for a cure to a plague that has been ravaging the main continent for decades. You play as De Sardet, a diplomat representing one of the three nations colonizing the islands, the Congregation of Merchants.
Even though none of the nations or locales are real, it’s easy to notice who’s who in the GreedFall universe. The Congregation of Merchants is a mixture between France and Switzerland, with their neutral stance in terms of war, as well as general culture and architecture. The Bridge Alliance, a nation of alchemists and scientists, is clearly based on Baghdad from the Golden Age of Islam, while the religious nutters from Theleme are heavily inspired by Spain, even featuring an Inquisition of their own. The Nauts, a clan of talented sailors, are obviously designed after the Portuguese, given the fact some of their members are named Vasco and Cabral. Finally, there’s the natives, a group modeled after Medieval Celtic tribes, as well as Native Americans.
Without wanting to spoil the (fantastic) story, all I can say is that a lot of unexpected stuff will happen, between confrontations with magical beasts, betrayals, coups, and unexpected deaths. There’s a lot of Game of Thrones type of narrative in here, when you think about it. GreedFall‘s first few hours are slow and somewhat boring, admittedly, but once things pick up the pace, you won’t want to stop. I’ve lost a handful of nights of sleep because I just didn’t want to wait until the next day for the next plot twist or main story mission. It’s just that interesting.
The storytelling is handled more or less like you would expect from a Bioware game. Branching paths and diplomatic relations are affected by your actions. There are main missions to tackle (usually more than one at once), as well as sidequests offered by NPCs and your teammates. There are also small missions scattered throughout a few outposts, not unlike the missions you find on notice boards on The Witcher 3.
Most missions are varied, often mixing exploration and combat in decent doses. However, I do have to admit that I got fed up with the overabundance of story and side missions that could be summarized as “go to A, then head over to B, then go back to A, and then finally reach C”. I felt like a mailman or a messenger at some points. Thankfully, things get better once you start unlocking some fast travel points, drastically reducing the amount of time you’ll waste on these errands. Some missions also allow you to teleport directly to a plot-centered location after collecting a macguffin.
The exploration elements are light, but not shallow. The world is divided between provinces that are explored one at a time. Each province usually features a town and a vast amount of wilderness, full of lootable chests, minerals, and trees. Those last two bits provide you with crafting materials for you to create your own weapon upgrades and potions, if you have the required talent points to do so.
Speaking of talent points, I need to talk about GreedFall‘s leveling up system. It sounds confusing at first, given how it has three different skill trees, but you’ll quickly figure out how everything works. The main skill tree allows you to slightly upgrade some of your stats and acquire new abilities. This tree is divided in three sections: warrior, technical, and magic. The attribute tree allows you to upgrade your overall strength, endurance, agility, and so on.
Finally, the talent tree allows you to upgrade your charisma, lockpicking skills, and other buffs that don’t necessarily help you in combat, but help you with solving puzzles and opening new dialogue options. You’ll get a different point depending on which level you reach, with the exception of the skill tree points. You’ll always get one per level, as well as whenever you find a skill altar scattered throughout the map.
Finally, there’s the combat. If the rest of the game feels a lot like Bioware games, especially Dragon Age: Origins, the combat on the other hand reminds me a lot more of The Witcher 3. It’s an action RPG combat system that allows you to do quick attacks, strong attacks, parries, dodges, backflips, and so on. You can use melee weapons, magic, as well as ranged weaponry like rifles and pistols. It’s not very unique, you’ve seen it all before, but it still works really well.
There is a lot you can do when in combat and there’s a lot you can do in order to customize your fighter. I mostly stuck to being a warrior with a gun, always counting on a teammate to heal me whenever needed. The game also features a Knights of the Old Republic-esque tactical pause mode, but I barely used it throughout my playthrough. In summary, the best thing I can say about the combat is that it is a lot of fun. I actively looked for people and monsters to kill because I loved engaging in combat so much.
Given the fact that GreedFall is a AA game, I was worried about it featuring issues related to its lower budget. I’m not going to lie, some of them are still here, but this game is a lot more polished than Spiders’ previous works, like The Technomancer.
The graphics in GreedFall are impressive. Well, parts of them. The landscapes are huge and detailed, with lots of trees, grass, dead leaves, rivers, and so forth. The lighting effects were also impressive, especially whenever I was inside a cave. I could easily see the light coming through a hole in the ceiling. I also need to praise Spiders for the improvement in the quality of their in-game cutscenes. Some of them ended being as good as those featured in The Witcher 3.
With that being said, I have some complaints. The character models, while detailed, feature dated facial animations. Don’t worry, it’s a lot better than Mass Effect Andromeda, but it still feels unnatural. The character animations are also a bit robotic. My main gripe with the visuals, however, lies on the abundance of reused assets, even though I fully understand why this is present. The team is small and the budget is tight, so they had to resort to recycling assets throughout the game. No matter which town you go to, the inside of the tavern will always look the same. The inside of a diplomatic mission will always look the same. Native buildings will always look the same, and so on. It’s a similar problem to what plagued Dragon Age II.
The sound department is also impressive. Even though this isn’t a game with the highest of budgets, GreedFall features a fully orchestrated score, composed by A Plague Tale: Innocence‘s Olivier Deriviere. It also features tons of voice acting. Good voice acting, might I add. Your main character sounds sympathetic enough without being cheesy. Most NPCs also deliver good performances, especially the natives, with their characteristic accent and unique language. There is only one thing that annoyed me regarding voice acting: the lines uttered by your teammates during combat. It’s always the same damn line. I can’t think of how many times I’ve heard my teammate Vasco saying, “a bit of poison on my blade, then let’s go”.
Most of GreedFall‘s issues are related to its smaller budget and staff size. What Spiders has managed to craft with such a small team is truly astonishing. One can only wonder what they would be able to do if they had the budget given to Bioware or Obsidian. GreedFall features a great combat system, fantastic world building, and a very engaging story with way more plot twists than I could have expected. GreedFall isn’t only recommended to those who are craving for a Bioware-ish game. This game is more than recommended to anyone who likes RPGs in general.
The environments are truly breathtaking and the lighting effects are also really impressive. But the game features some issues due to its lower budget, namely lots of reused assets, underwhelming facial animations, and occasional framerate drops.
Despite the excellent combat mechanics and balanced progression system, GreedFall features an excessive amount of missions consisting of going “from A to B to A to C to A again”.
A great soundtrack and surprisingly professional voice acting, especially when it comes to the protagonist and their allies. My only gripe with the sound design is the nauseating amount of repetitive voice clips coming from your allies during fights.
Some dull missions and a bit of jank aren’t enough to tarnish how excellent GreedFall is. Its story is great, its combat system is addictive, and it features more than enough content for you to forget about everything else happening outside.
Final Verdict: 8.5
GreedFall is available now on PS4, Xbox One. and PC.
Reviewed on PS4.