I’m a big fan of fantasy RPGs, so I was pretty excited when developer Spiders announced GreedFall. The trailers alone made it look like it might be something special, as did the concept of travelling to and discovering a new continent – it’s not something that we’ve seen done a whole lot in the genre. However, given that the developer’s previous releases were the decent yet flawed Bound by Flame and The Technomancer, I didn’t want to build my expectations up too much. Fortunately, GreedFall offers an immersive and enjoyable experience and easily stands tall as the best release from the studio so far.
GreedFall is a tactical action RPG with a colonial setting; think travelling from England to the new (now not so new United States) continent of America. But instead of America, we have the island Teer Fradee, with the colony New Serene.
The first moments of the game have you in the city of Serene, where you play as either Prince or Princess De Sarde, dependent naturally on your gender choice. You’ll get to customise your character to suit your taste, with the character creator proving to be one of the stronger contenders I’ve seen across recent RPGs. It feels quite robust and refined, and I was really surprised by how natural and polished the character models actually are.
After fiddling with character creation for a while, I had my newly created prince ready to start his momentous adventure. It was at this point I hit my first gripe: lip syncing. The voice acting in the first hour or so of the game was pretty on point and I quite enjoyed the varying dialects across each faction (which I’ll touch on a bit later), but the lip syncing is fairly horrendous. There were many times where I caught myself concentrating more on the movement of a character’s lips than what they were saying, which is a shame because other than that the conversations are relatively flawless. It’s a little too immersion-breaking for my taste; granted, it’s not game breaking, but it is annoying.
On a more positive note, the story and lore of GreedFall is an impressive undertaking. There’s plenty of flavour on offer and I found myself soaking in the story with grand enjoyment. The basis (without giving too much away) is that you’re part of the faction called the Congregation of Merchants, a neutral Switzerland-style country that doesn’t involve itself in other countries or faction’s diplomacy or warring. Then, we have factions such as the Bridge Alliance (a big faction of scientists), the Nauts (seafarers who regulate all trade over the oceans) and Theleme (religious zealots in their own right). From the get-go, being a Prince/Princess (or rather the new ‘Legate’ of the New Serene colony in Teer Fradee) has you navigating the political climate and solving problems like a colonial Magnum PI.
The city is affected by a plague called the Malichor, which makes people get black veins, blindness and slowly perish. The overarching story is that you’re going to make for the colony of New Serene, play sidekick to the new governor (who is your cousin) and find the cure. It sure is tough being a hero with a cool hat…
Which actually brings me to my next point: the excellent equipment system. Despite some clipping issues that show a slight lack of polish, I really enjoyed outfitting myself in GreedFall. Your equipment is pretty important from a gameplay perspective too, because the gear you have equipped will largely dictate your style of play. Some pieces of gear will give you skill boosts, some will allow you to enter restricted faction areas, and so on – it’s a bit mad that you can put on a different shirt and suddenly you’re not recognised as Congregation royalty, but it is a pretty satisfying mechanic nonetheless. And, of course, better armour means less death, which is always a good one in my book. There is also a reason to keep some of your gear, as you can upgrade said gear with different materials once you’ve done some much needed looting. It’s not an exceptionally complex crafting system, but it does keep things feeling fresh.
You’ll use a range of weapons to kill and maim your opponents, with things like sabres and bloody great big hammers giving melee users something to enjoy, whilst pistols (my personal favourite) and magic are well-suited for those who prefer to annihilate their enemies from range. There’s plenty of variety on the table, and that gets a bit more complex with the skill system. GreedFall’s skill system is nicely fleshed out, with three distinctive areas: skills, attributes and talents. At the start of the game, you’ll chose between the classes of Warrior, Technician and Mage to set the foundation for your character, but don’t feel that these will define your playthrough as there’s plenty of room for mixing it up. Warriors will have you using blades and heavy weapons, Technicians will have you blowing away your enemies with firearms and traps and Mage will give you… well… magic. Self-explanatory really. Each has skill paths for making you better at destroying all opposition, but the trees are beautifully entwined to ensure you can be as versatile or singular as you want.
Attributes will cover things like strength, endurance and so on, which will, again, help you get better at maiming and staying in the fight. Finally, talents will allow you to increase your abilities in other less combat-like forms. These range from intuition and charisma, which will give you more conversation options (and conversation is a big thing in this game) to science and lock picking, which will allow you to make cool potions or unlock chests (duh).
Combat is rhythmic. It’s a mixture between using the game’s Tactical Pause feature (which can be really handy in particularly tough fights) and using a main attack and sub attack to knock your opponents senseless. Using your firearms and other trinkets will normally be assigned to hotkeys, but everything can be accessed through the Tactical Pause menu. I found combat to be reasonable; it isn’t one of the stronger points of GreedFall though, with it sometimes feeling clunky and unrefined. It’s largely auto-targeting based, which means that you must make sure you’re close enough to the enemy to hit them if using a blade, and features parry and dodging mechanics for more defensive manoeuvres. It isn’t the worst combat system I’ve ever seen by far, but it also isn’t setting any benchmarks.
Questing is exceptionally fun though; developer Spiders have done a lot to flesh out this area of the game and ensure that there are plenty of different tasks for the player to complete. Every quest feels exceptionally well worked, with plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing. Not only that, the variable routes you can take in each quest means being versatile is good idea. I love that you can take each quest with an entirely different approach; it stops you from having to cookie-cut your character development in that you can literally approach every quest in a different way. There’s plenty of depth on show here, and despite my gripes with the lip syncing and combat in general, its wonderfully refreshing to see so much effort put into the story and lore from the developers.
The locales you’ll find yourself in are wondrous. They fit well with the story and main theme of the game, and the many characters and denizens of GreedFall will keep you bemused for hours. I enjoyed the companion system too, but you won’t get as much control over them in battles as they’re largely AI-driven – you can swap out their equipment though, so it’s not all bad. You can interact with them and see them interact with each other during your journey too, and whilst it isn’t as fleshed out as the likes of RPGs such as the Dragon Age series, it added a nice sense of camaraderie to the adventure.
Overall, there is plenty on the GreedFall table to love. The rich characters and locales, the first-rate execution of the quests against a very well written story, and the very robust skill system helped get me incredibly invested in the game.
However, it lacks a little on the combat front and has varying levels of polish that unfortunately let it down in other areas of design, which is a bit of a shame. If every facet of the game had received the same care and due attention that the story and lore did, the game would be phenomenal.
Still, whilst GreedFall might not have all the bells and whistles of other more well-known contenders in the RPG genre, it certainly makes a hell of a good attempt to take the crown.
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC