Developed By: Spiders
Published By: Focus Home Interactive
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
Old school RPGs are sorely missed, especially when well-known franchises have come out and fallen short. Mass Effect: Andromeda didn’t scratch that RPG itch many hoped for and the new Dragon Age game is now under immense scrutiny with the disaster that was Anthem. GreedFall by developer Spiders may have caused some worry especially when one has played some of their past games such as Technomancer which was plagued by many technical issues as well as poor execution and lacking any form of polish. I was initially sceptical how this game would actually turn out but after spending some adequate time with it, I have to say that the team from Spiders has definitely come far. Granted, the game still lacks polish and has some technical issues but compared to past Spiders’ games, it can be considered a huge progress.
A Legate in Journey
Greedfall puts you in the shoes of De Sardet (pronounced as ‘the sarday’) who is the Legate of a new city and also the cousin of the new governor of said city. As the Legate of the Congregation of Merchants, your position puts you in charge of many things, earning the respect of many people as well as instilling fear onto those that stepped out of line in the city. With that said, you will feel more like an errand boy with a fancy title in actuality. Nonetheless, the story in Greedfall is actually one that is surrounded by many mysteries with some clever writing and isn’t as straight forward as it presents itself to be. While you are tasked to assist your cousin in governing the city, you are also in a quest to find out more of an affliction that has killed many people from the old city including your mother. With the objective in governing the city in the right way, your journey to find a cure will bring you to many places as well as recruiting characters from different factions to your cause.
As mentioned earlier, one thing that struck me with interest is how many story elements of the game is shrouded in mystery and as you progress, you will slowly uncover many things such as your origin, the source of the affliction as well as the transformation of the world around you. Furthermore, there is a political aspect which plays a huge role which is one of the key elements that drives the story forward. Much like other RPGs, there are different factions that live and breathe in the world of Greedfall. There are altogether 6 factions namely The Bridge Alliance, Yecht Fradi, Coin Guard, Theleme, Nauts as well as your own faction which is The Congregation of Merchants. Each of these factions has their own political views, culture, beliefs as well as rules which many of times go against other factions. So, as the Legate, you need to try the utmost best to solve many matters in hopes to appease every faction the best way you can. A monumental task it might seem but I will get deeper into it from the gameplay perspective further on in this review.
The first thing I wish to highlight is the graphics. Knowing that this game is not on the AAA budget level, the visuals for this game is surprisingly good. In comparison with Technomancer, the world of Greedfall is slightly more vibrant and a lot more spacious. The graphics become a highlight especially when you explore the wilderness and the background with its hues and contrast which at times feel like looking at an oil painting. The game does feature some pretty good-looking dynamic lighting which also cast some passable but pretty shadows on certain parts of the world you move around. The textures on buildings, the ground as well as the flora and fauna are looking crisp and sharp. Furthermore, the game does feature a day and night cycle which gives different sections of the world a different feel and ambience.
Character models themselves are passable. Don’t expect realistic-looking skin but it still looks good without any of the characters looking out of place. They do however look rather rough on first glance but after a while it becomes forgettable. The main protagonist, De Sardet, is the only character where you get to fully customize from gender to the usual choices facially. However, options are rather limited from just a shortlist of different face types to different hairstyles but it still gets the job done.
The team behind Spiders really has done an amazing job in its world building when compared to their previous titles. While the world in GreedFall isn’t as huge as it seems, which you would come to realize as you progress, it still gives a sense that you are standing in an absolutely huge area. This is all thanks to how it makes clever use of space as well as things in the background such as mountains and other landforms. In addition, the game breaks down the whole world map into small sections and each of this section consists of a pretty sizable space for you to explore. Many of these maps consist of hidden paths or climbable walls that opens up more areas that either has a treasure chest or some quest-related item that either can be optional or mandatory to complete a certain quest.
It is also worth noting how this game has a pretty good draw distance which not only creates a large sense of scale but also the game actually ran pretty stable. Most similar RPG games has always had some stuttering or hiccups during gameplay as maps are being loaded simultaneously. GreedFall to my surprise hardly had any of these instances. Granted of course as pointed out that the maps are cut down in sizable chunks but still for the game to run without any hiccups with the lighting, shadow and other visual fidelity, it is pretty impressive. The game does however feature many sections that requires some load times especially during fast travelling although that itself isn’t exactly very long.
Spiders definitely did a phenomenal job for GreedFall in the graphical aspect and I was happy with what I have experienced so far. Kudos to the developers.
Legate of Many Talents
Being a classic action RPG, battles are also part of GreedFall’s many features. The battle mechanics here are rather straightforward, there are 4 actions you can press which consist of attack, secondary attack, dodge or parry and a sidestep maneuver. There is also a tactical mode which pauses the battle and allows you to choose other actions such as casting spells, drinking potions or setting up traps. You also can bind some of these on the directional pad for quick access to them. The battle pace in GreedFall is one of the few things I really enjoyed. It is fast, snappy and feels flexible. Connecting attacks while setting up traps or throwing bombs just feels awesome. While you don’t actually get to set up things strategically like in Mass Effect or Dragon Age, the fluid and fast-paced action is enough fun to encourage you to keep pounding on your enemies while making timely use of the dodge and parry movements.
There are a variety of weapons which you can equip on De Sardet such as one-handed blades, long swords, hammers, maces, pistol and rifles. Furthermore, De Sardet is the only one that can equip two melee weapons. While it may seem odd but there is a reason for it. The game separates two kinds of damage on many of these weapons. There are Physical Damage and Armor Damage. The former means damage dealt towards the main health bar and the latter deals damage on armour. Many enemies you encounter will have a health bar and on top of it is armour level in the shape of a shield. This armour level absorbs part of the physical damage which means you are not able to deal full damage until you manage to take out the armour. That’s where Armor Damage on weapons comes into play. Certain weapons deal more Armor Damage and thus this is where you will be switching weapons back and forth. If melee weapons aren’t to your liking, De Sardet is also able to wield magic. You equip magic rings which opens up access to shadow and light magic. Even if the default attack button allows you to shoot out balls of magic, it still uses up the blue meter and again this is where switch weapons comes in handy as hitting physical attacks actually builds the blue meter by a bit. Firearms such as pistols and rifles are actually treated differently as it is being used as a means to interrupt or to destabilize enemies.
While it may seem like there are plenty of weapons to be spoiled for choice it is limited through the unlocking of required levels of skills. Living up to the Role-Playing in RPG, you can unlock a variety of skills for De Sardet as you gain levels. Character Development as the game calls it, divides those varieties of skills into three categories. They are Skills, Attributes and Talents. On the Skills tab is where you unlock the use of certain weapons, passive bonuses as well final active skills that either gives a huge buff on your stats or my personal favourite, throwing bombs that causes a huge area of damage. The second tab Attributes consists of Strength, Endurance and Accuracy just to name a few. These attributes give passive bonuses of its own as well as requirements to equip better quality gears. The last tab Talent is for intricate skills such as Charisma which opens more dialogue options, Craftsmanship which allows you to upgrade your armours and weapons and of course Lock picking which is self-explanatory. There are also specific areas on a map which can only be accessed if the required level of skill in this tab has been unlocked.
The character development does seem to open up some theory-building opportunities for some players but in my 40-hour playthrough, that doesn’t seem to be the case. I chose certain talents, unlocked attributes and skills which I foresaw myself using the most and I was still able to breeze through the game even at some tough boss fights. I am unsure if there is a possibility to unlock the entirety of the whole Character Development trees but there is a way to maximize certain Talents without the use of points. As you progress in the game, you will meet and recruit 5 companions to your cause with each of them being from the respective factions. These companions have a personal quest which upon completion raises their relationship with De Sardet and as it progresses further, you will be able to unlock the innate bonus that each of these companions comes with. For example, raising Kurt’s relationship would allow you to unlock one level of Craftsmanship when he is in your active party. This thus making those companions really worthwhile to invest your time in. Furthermore, you can also equip them with better gears which also changes their appearance accordingly.
Quest of Quality
It ain’t an RPG if there are ain’t any side quests to do and GreedFall really delivers. I was surprised as many of these side quests are actually very closely tied to the main story. This is not your typical fetch or kill quests either as they actually have a story to tell. While many of them aren’t exactly lengthy but the amount of dialogue and story that the developers put into each of these side quests is definitely a worthy mention. Not many other RPGs I have experienced these days actually put in this much thought since the Witcher 3.
That said because each quest is of such quality, it also means the quantity of these side quest isn’t a lot. On my personal take on this. I would rather have few but good quality side quests comparative to one that is overblown by the quantity and falls very short on delivering a good quality experience. Once again, hats off of to Spiders.
Missed Political Opportunity
One of the key highlights of this game was its political relationships that revolve around the factions as well as the people you encounter throughout your journey. Playing as The Legate of the Congregation of Merchants means I should be able to influence the opinions and beliefs of people I met especially the leaders of each faction in this game. However, this is actually where I felt the game is truly limited in its capabilities as the further I went along the more clearer it became that I would not be shifting any tides for any faction. De Sardet holds an important position but yet the game makes you more of an errand boy to everyone you meet. Considering the fact that De Sardet himself seems to love saying his title to everyone he meets yet the game from time to time proves that title alone means almost nothing. All it felt like was I am someone that is trying to get on the good side of everyone regardless of different beliefs and opinions.
In my one and only initial playthrough, I was able to improve the relationship of the factions in the game to its fullest without resorting to any guides online. I was rather surprised as I thought some of the choices might cause some dire consequences. I was hoping I would be allowed to mould my De Sardet according to what I want in terms of political belief and opinion. However, the game seems to enforce the idea that De Sardet is a full-on good person and will not stray in any way from his core beliefs. Granted there are occasions where you can choose to kill someone however it doesn’t make much impact in the long run. Don’t expect any change in dialogues or voice tones in De Sardet if you think you made a choice that could make an impact on character development. The only thing it ever affects is just cutting out relationship points from certain factions and even that itself is not as severe as I expected them to be.
What I Liked
The number of things you can mix and match in this game is rather astounding. The upgrades you can give to your gears also gives more customizable options on how you want your De Sardet to look like. The visual options aren’t a lot but at least it is still something any player would feel proud of making. I was actually feeling mighty proud how my De Sardet turned out aesthetically.
The story in its entirety was never a bore to me. There is this mysterious element that the game tends to throw hints at many times and it always pulls me in to venture further without taking a break because I actually wanted to find out more. The side-quests even lent itself to further expand the lore and the mystery that surrounds the main story.
Graphically this game is considered very good. It is easy to compare GreedFall to the likes of Witcher 3 or Mass Effect and Dragon Age. However, those would be an unfair comparison considering this game is running on a smaller scale team and budget. I am actually quite happy how the game turned out visually. Admittedly, I do notice there are some rough edges on some of the textures or even the hair on characters. However, they don’t stick out like a sore thumb.
The battles are one that I feel most satisfied about. While it lacks depth and strategic elements, it makes up with its fast and fluid flow as well as snappy and responsive controls. I actually enjoyed this very much more than Witcher 3’s battle gameplay.
The amount of skills, talents and attributes to choose from is great and how each of them actually plays a good role in shaping your character as well as affecting how you advance certain parts of the story in the game.
For a game of this scope and budget, the voice acting is surprisingly very good. The voices for both the male and female De Sardet are very well acted with appropriate emotions as well sounding very natural. Nothing awkward or artificial can be felt at all. This quality even expands for the other characters as well. This is really a job well done.
Another thing I really like is music arrangements in this game. This game actually has fantastic musical arrangements especially for a non-AAA title and that is because the composer is none other than Olivier Deriviere. He has done numerous work for other video games such as Vampyr, A Plague Tale: Innocence as well as the upcoming Dying Light 2. Each music that was composed and arranged for GreedFall fits perfectly in every place, situation and even the battle music sounds amazingly epic which again fits perfectly with the fast-paced action.
What I Didn’t Like
As far as I can accept and I think Spider has improved a lot in the graphical department over their past games, one of the most jarring things I see in GreedFall is the lack of diversity in the art style. There are different factions in the game with each of these factions having their own culture and beliefs yet as you enter their towns or cities nothing reflects on that with the majority of them looking almost identical. The biggest crime I have seen thus far is how the faction leaders seem to have the same interior decorator as the textures and the layouts of each room are exactly the same. It is rather disappointing to look at.
Would you believe if I told you that this game actually has a stealth mechanic? For an action RPG, it is rather odd to see the inclusion of it. While there isn’t anything wrong with it but the execution is done fairly poor. While I am initially alright with its light implementation of stealth with the use of the crouch button, utilizing the idea of changing armours to suit certain factions in order to sneak past or even gain entries to certain guarded areas as it really feels weird how immediately all NPC guards will already be accepting you based on the armour you wear as one of them even if you have an extra cape or your hat is different. Hilariously your companions don’t need to change as the NPCs are programmed to only watch De Sardet and what he is wearing.
On companions, there almost very little verbal banters or even discussion between your selected party members. I’ve always appreciated those little touches of interaction that Dragon Age brought. It is always interesting to hear arguments or jokes being cracked between the characters in any of the Dragon Age game. It brings life into the party, figuratively speaking, and it gives the sense of relation to these characters as the journey progresses. Unfortunately, GreedFall lacks that amount of life. While the characters you would eventually recruit have distinctive looks, background story and culture, there isn’t much to latch on to make you feel attached to them.
The political game is disappointingly weak. There is no way I can craft out a different kind of De Sardet nor can I side with any one political faction. Everything feels very stiff and stagnant. The idea of an evil or manipulative legate is an interesting character concept to role-play as but alas GreedFall just doesn’t allow me to do that.
GreedFall is interesting game as it highlights one important thing and is how smaller-scale developers are willing to keep pushing themselves forward in delivering games that players would like and want. However, it also showcases what happens when developers are on limited resources. They can only compensate and improvise in any way they can. If Spiders had a bigger budget, I am very certain they can deliver the game to its fullest potential.
GreedFall, in my humblest opinion, is a must play. While there are some technical faults and limitations in its mechanics, this game still can deliver a fun and engaging experience. I hope Spiders would continue to keep improving themselves and whatever is their next project, I will definitely look forward to it.