Battling against gods isn’t completely unheard of in video games. Heck, I’ve slayed plenty of them in countless RPGs over the years, whilst I’ve even gone of a ‘god killing spree’ as everyone’s favourite nasty b*****d of a protagonist Kratos. Immortality? Divine Powers? Pffft, means nothing to me. Nope, it’s not completely unfathomable to consider killing a god in the video game landscape and it’s a pretty good thing really; especially since it makes up the bulk of the gameplay in Deep Silver and Clever Beans’ new roguelike release Gods Will Fall.
Taking place in a world where the gods can be unjust and don’t treat the world and its people with any respect, Gods Will Fall sees eight willing warriors travel to a mysterious island in order to defeat the gods that reside there. Life would have probably been easier if your randomly-generated troupe of heroes didn’t happen to get shipwrecked on the way (you can thank the gods for that one), but they do eventually make it to safety and begin travelling across the different realms of the island to vanquish all ten deities.
It’s worth mentioning from the get-go that Gods Will Fall isn’t just a boss-battler experience that’ll see you slowly tick through a stream of constant battles with gods, but actually features some elements of hazardous exploration and battles with minions. Despite having a team of eight, you’ll only be able to send one warrior into battle at a time, so you won’t have overwhelming odds in your favour. If that warrior dies? They’re gone for good, though fortunately they’re more likely to end up trapped in that god’s realm instead and eagerly awaiting rescue. How do they get rescued? By having one of the other warriors head in and finish the job that they started.
It’s a neat little system that adds some stakes to everything you do in the game, especially since Gods Will Fall is a roguelike that sees players having to start from scratch if their whole party is wiped out or trapped. Interestingly, your party will respond to your success and failures when tackling a realm too; if you’re victorious they’ll gain a boost in confidence and unlock new skills and capabilities, but if they find that yet another ally has been trapped they can lose morale and see a decrease in their stats. It’s a clever idea, though having your failures punished even more by making subsequent attempts at tackling a boss a little more challenging did feel a bit unfair…
One thing that can severely affect your chances of success is your party of warriors. You won’t get to choose your squad in Gods Will Fall, but instead have a random assortment assigned to you made up of different builds and gear loadouts. You’ll find that some heroes might be nimbler at the expense of their strength, whilst others might be slower but pack a punch. Some will have quick-firing weapons to land multiple hits, whilst others have much better range but less speed. There are plenty of variables in place as far as your warriors are concerned and you’ll definitely find that some suit your playstyle better than others. Personally, I found that the quicker warriors worked best for me, but there were occasions where I needed a bit more oomph from my attacks too… there’s no real right or wrong way to approach things, just preferences.
You’ll find this out quite quickly when you’re in the midst of battle, especially when fighting against multiple foes at once. You’ll soon find yourself mashing your attacks out as quickly as possible to take your foes down, with the aforementioned nimbler warriors proving more effective at battling foes head-on. If you’ve got a slower character? You have to pick your moment to strike and maintain distance, something which isn’t always easy when you’ve got a slew of foes coming your way.
Gods Will Fall could show a lack of difficulty balance in these situations and it’s something that’s even more apparent when facing off against the gods themselves, where you’ll have to slowly figure out their attacking patterns and the safe zones to protect yourself in if you’re going to have any chance of success. It’s very unlikely that you’re going to beat all the gods in your first playthrough, so you’ll probably have to attempt them a good few times before you’ll find yourself triumphant. The problem comes with the fact that each character feels different to use, so a strategy that worked for one might not necessarily be so useful with another; it’s something I found out the hard way when I took a bigger built warrior into the battle with a god only to find that he wasn’t so effective at actually avoiding incoming strikes. In a game that encourages learning and multiple playthroughs to succeed, it could make earlier attempts feel a little redundant. Add to that the fact that some of your favourite warriors could end up trapped or defeated if you fail and you can find the odds severely stacked against you quite quickly…
That being said, it’s clear that some realms are better catered for different character types, so you might find success easier to come by if you’re careful and pick your characters well. You can tackle the realms in any order you please too, so if you want to spend time practicing against a specific foe, you can do just that. There are other factors to consider too: the god loses some health for every enemy you kill along the way to battling them, there’s a parry system in place that can help you counter each enemy’s attacks, you’ll earn stronger equipment that you can share amongst your party when you do clear a realm, whilst there’s also a power meter that charges that can see you restore some health when activated. None of these are particularly deep systems, but they do go some ways in proving that the odds aren’t ALWAYS stacked against you in Gods Will Fall.
Still, it’s hard NOT to be frustrated with each failure you suffer. Heading through a realm and dying/getting trapped will see you having to attempt the whole thing again from scratch, whilst the randomly-generated nature of your party and the minions you face off against adds an extra element of unpredictability that might not necessarily work in your favour. The worst thing of all though is that unlike a lot of other roguelikes, God Will Fall doesn’t lend itself well to quick romps. You could easily spend a couple of hours running through realms only to find your party wiped out by a boss, forcing you to start the game all over again. Nope, there are no reprieves by loading a save file; you’re starting from scratch, with no upgrades or rewards carrying over between playthroughs.
Whilst I’m sure some people will love this style of gameplay, I couldn’t help but to get a bit annoyed by it – especially since I happened to suffer failure on multiple occasions after vanquishing more than half of the game’s bosses. Sure, I don’t mind roguelikes and permadeath can come with its own sense of satisfaction with your successes and improvements, but the unpredictable nature of Gods Will Fall’s setup and the length of time it takes to clear realms means that you can be at a disadvantage and lose hours of progress with ease. It just felt a bit unfair.
Despite this, I did eventually finish Gods Will Fall and I felt… relief. Whilst it certainly had its moments of fun and the boss battles always felt impressive, the random nature of its gameplay had put me off the game by the time I did reach the conclusion. It didn’t leave me itching to come back for more after I was done to see if I could do better, though the game doesn’t necessarily welcome you back with any bonuses or additional modes if you do anyway – it’s a ‘one and done’ sort of thing, with little replay value offered outside of simply doing the same boss run all over again.
Gods Will Fall certainly has its enjoyable moments and the boss battles themselves were fun, but some frustrating design choices saw me tire of the game quite quickly. Sure, it has some clever ideas on show and it tries to do something unique with its setup, but the unpredictable nature of the game and punishment for failure saw me getting more and more annoyed with each playthrough.
It’s a shame too because there were occasions where I was having a really good time battling through each realm, especially when I would finally slay a boss that had been causing me trouble. The times in between though? I don’t necessarily hold such fond memories for those…
Developer: Clever Beans
Publisher: Deep Silver
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC