Large sprawling Western RPGs tend to be something of a rarity in recent years as only a few more notable games have managed to fit this genre well enough and even then some of these entries stumbled a bit out of the gate. As such it is something of a pleasant surprise that Spiders, whose previous efforts earlier this generation were somewhat rocky with Technomancer, has returned with an RPG called GreedFall that may just scratch that unique itch.
GreedFall drops players into a world stylized around 1600s Europe where magic and strange unknown creatures roam the lands despite mankind inventing various firearms and crafting large elaborate cities. All is not well however as players find themselves taking on the role of Lord or Lady De Sardet, a noble of the Merchant Congregation, who is tasked with traveling alongside their cousin to a newly found and settled island nation by the name of Teer Frade. While venturing forth into unknown territory is already dangerous, De Sardet’s journey is far more important than simply finding new land as a horrific plague by the name of the Malichor has ravaged the continent, killing anyone afflicted by the disease with even De Sardet’s own mother nearly on her death bed before taking the months long voyage across the sea.
Although the Malichor has hit De Sardet’s home city of Serene hard, the standard order has been held in check among the various factions that hold power in the world keeping the city a fairly safe place and although players are given a brief introduction to these factions, they hold much stronger sway in Teer Fradee with the scientific Bridge Alliance at war with the inquisition like Theleme Church who hold true to their beliefs in god, as well as the Nauts who hold sway over sea travel with strict laws, the mercenary like Coin Guard, and trapped in the middle of everything, the Natives of the island.
It doesn’t take long before De Sardet and the player find themselves wrapped up in the political turmoil that the land suffers and players are often given quite a lot of leeway in how they wish to handle the various situations they are presented with. Interestingly enough, even the Native faction, while categorized under a single banner, is made up of different tribes who each have different opinions about what to do with the people who have invaded their shores. GreedFall rarely paints in broad strokes when it comes to depicting these factions as either good or bad and, as mentioned before, player choice and action can play a role in how various story elements play out.
It is worth noting that players who want to really feel like they can change various elements of the story should invest early in non-combat based feats as being charismatic or being able to read the room can unlock new dialogue options that can help sway various factions and change elements of the story a bit, though a few of these changes can be done in a more roundabout way as well. It is also worth noting that the various companions that join De Sardet in the game also have their own feelings regarding each faction, mostly because each one belongs to a specific group, and will even talk to other companions or interject in dialogue with other NPCs. This helps make the player’s party feel a bit more alive in nature than simply being allies that tag along to make combat a bit flashier. There are even side-quests for each companion though the game can often gate some of these quests’ progression behind story advancement.
Alongside companion side-quests players will find that the land of Teer Fradee is absolutely teeming with side-quests that, for the most part, have various ways they can be completed. Often these little side stories help breath some more life into the world of the game and the story of each city is an interesting one. Those who are looking for a game that handles some heavy themes with a deft touch will find that GreedFall‘s lengthy and engrossing storyline filled with side content a perfect fit.
Of course navigating through the storyline and properly choosing your two party members at any given time plays a large role in the game, how the player chooses to build their character will also help in various ways. As players earn XP and level up they will unlock various points that can fall into three categories. Skills are fairly standard and reward the player with everything from new weapon attacks, spells to cast, or even the ability to use fancier weapons of a certain type while the Attributes and Talents are far harder to come by, to the point they can feel a bit stifling at times. Attributes can play a role in enhancing various stats further as well as allowing De Sardet to equip stronger versions of some weapons and armor. Finally we have Talents that play the largest role in what the player can actually do.
These points come in rarely and can allow the player to learn things such as lockpicking, smithing, vigor that can be used to jump gaps or climb walls to reach new areas, science to blow down weak walls and craft potions, charisma to talk your way through things, and even intuition to find new dialogue options. Some equipment and friendly relations with your allies can provide boosts to these talents but considering how valuable these points are, players will really want to think about how they want to invest in them, though there is the ability to rarely reset your stats if you’ve found your current build not working the best.
It is interesting to note that while GreedFall may often feel like an open world game at times, it instead takes place in a series of large maps that players will be able to fast travel through to various locations once they’ve been unlocked with each area having a variety of enemies that can be faced, NPCs to interact with, and quests to undertake. Players will always have the option of having two other companions with them, allowing for the real time combat to flow fairly smoothly albeit a bit easy even on harder difficulty levels.
Players will have a number of weapons at their disposal with melee types coming in a number of standard forms, long range combat handled either with firearms that use limited ammo or through spells that are restricted through recovering mana, they can even perform kicks that can unbalance a foe or, if unlocked, throw them to the ground allowing players to deal damage with no threat of payback. Players can dodge incoming attacks as well as parry blows to gain advantage on foes, though even beasts will have some form of armor protecting them. Whittling down an enemy’s armor before striking at their health directly is a nice touch and players can temporarily pause combat to select their next action at will, though rarely will this feel necessary outside of needing to use a potion in a pinch but even then this can be assigned to a D-pad shortcut.
It is interesting to note that almost every piece of gear in GreedFall can be customized in some way. Players can either do this themselves or pay extra at a blacksmith to provide various boosts to their gear with the proper ingredients, that range from dealing extra damage to an opponent’s health or armor as well as offering additional armor or balance to the player. These customizations have a visual effect on the gear which is a nice touch as well, though depending on how the player ends up specing out De Sardet combat can feel like a breeze at times, especially when paired with companions that properly accentuate their playstyle. This means that those who really want a challenge may want to dive right into extreme mode while even newcomers to the genre should be able to handle normal mode.
Visuals & Audio
Spiders has done a fairly interesting job when it comes to handling the way GreedFall is presented as some environments are amazing looking with some cutscenes featuring some great cinematic directing while other times it feels like a bit of a mess. While traveling the wilderness the world may load in properly while some assets will only appear half-loaded or suffer from severe pop-in and although some cities may look great on the outside, prepare for most buildings to feature the same exact layout and even decorations at times. Along those same lines, character models can feature some intricate clothing only for their faces to repeat on numerous NPCs or glitch out entirely. For hours on end, despite restarting the game, NPCs would refuse to open their eyes in conversation. It is also worth noting that enemy variety can be extremely repetitive at times, with most fights simply being against random bandits that even appear within city walls leaving the odd beast fights being the stand outs, though even then most of the smaller beasts rarely vary up their patterns.
On the other side of the coin, GreedFall offers some rather astounding voice work as every conversation, even passing interactions with basic NPCs, features spoken dialogue that fits the theme of the game and helps make the world a bit more believable. In fact, the Natives of the land even have their own unique dialogue and while it would be nice if the Native companion could translate at times, players will often need to use context to figure out what is being said and the best way to respond.
Although GreedFall‘s combat may be a bit too easy to master and is filled with a few janky glitches that can arise from time to time players will definitely want to persevere through any slight issues as GreedFall tells a grand tale of exploration that features some moral complexity and consequences that aren’t often found in large scale RPGs such as this one.