If you are like me, when you start a new RPG you have to begin by taking a deep breath. The reason for this exhale is that you know that if the world and its story manages to capture you from the start, then you should be prepared to be sucked in for the long haul. Hours and hours of exploration, huge amounts of character development, and countless quests are your destiny now. In fact, the best RPGs leave you with a sense of loss after they’ve finished, leaving you to question the reason behind playing any other game for a while because it won’t live up to that which has gone before it. On the other side of the coin though, the worst ones leave you with a terrible taste in the mouth, as you question why on earth you’ve wasted so many hours of your life on such dirge. Greedfall is a new RPG that offers a brand new IP and promises a unique and original journey. But which of the two genre camps does it lay in?
From the get-go Greedfall has hooked me in. Yet, in turn, feels very familiar. Comparisons to Mass Effect and Dragon Age: Origins are fair, especially when it comes to the quests, the combat options and the relationships the companions in your party will have. But what the development team at Spiders have done is create a whole new world with its own set of lore, characters, and moments of breathtaking beauty.
Greedfall sees you playing the role of De Sardet, a noble of the Merchant Congregation who is initially destined to travel with his cousin who is taking up the governor post on the island of Teer Fradee. It comes with a 17th-century European design, concerning the architecture and treatment of the characters and clothes, but introduces magic, mysticism and new races of creatures and people. The problem with the world of Greedfall though is that there is a horrible disease called malichor which is found ravishing the homeland. Our hero thinks that the island of Teer Fradee will hold the answers to a cure.
As you make your way to the island and take up the role of ambassador, you head out to search for some answers, and this is where the very best bits of Greedfall come about, via the writing and storytelling which are astonishing and richly layered, full of sharp dialogue and twists and turns that every great page-turner would want. The number of quests, sub-quests, fetch and kill missions, and companion objectives is substantial, with each journey full of narrative, exposition, and an interesting story. It reminds me massively of the great RPGs of the past, what with their fantastical world-building and solid fantasy creations. What’s nice here though is that it uses the influence of reality (17th Century Europe) to build a base before mixing in new creations and magic to create something truly original. I have to tip my hat to the team behind it.
For the most part Greedfall plays out like a normal RPG where you find yourself running across a huge open world, exploring until you drop. You are quite quickly joined on your adventures by two other companions, and you get to choose your party from a host of possible friends you gain on the way. You can explore, pick up items like potions, weapons, amour, trinkets and gold coins. You can also pretty much talk to anyone in the street should you so wish, but your main aim is to head to your quest location and start the story there. Thankfully there is a Fast Travel system, but this is pretty strange to begin with as there is a sort of halfway camping point where you can change your party or interact with those in your company. It’s pretty tricky to find the right path at times too, because even though Greedfall runs as an open-world then is an illusion of freedom as many paths are blocked and you will be found referring to the map a lot.
Gameplay wise and there is a mixture of stealth, combat, dialogue choices and, in my case, diplomacy. Your character can be customised via levelling up across ability, skill, and attribute trees and so how you go about this journey is up to you; you can have a magic build, focus on one-handed combat, or run the route of a two-handed hard attacker. It’s up to you what you do in Greedfall.
The combat feels very good no matter what option you choose and both you and your NPC companions use a huge mix of options. Utilising a ranged attack by firing your gun or magic missiles from the sidelines, is more than doable, as is laying down traps around the battlefield to disorientate and distract your foes. For the most part I went for a very attacking build where I could stun my opponents with a hard kick and then finish them off with a quick rapier skill or gun, all while my NPCs healed me and fired off magic. You also get the chance to utilise a tactical pause to stop the action mid-fight, letting you work out your next move without being killed. The fights are hugely enjoyable and fun every time, especially when you’re battling away against some of the bigger creatures and bosses. Completing quests and fights are essential too, as with the way of the world, they see you gaining experience, all in order to level up. You can develop your build and gain skills and attributes depending on how you want to play, but weapon and loot grabs will help your cause as well. There are certainly some lovely legendary items to find.
Greedfall on Xbox One is stunning in terms of the visuals. Coming across a city for the first time and seeing it pop up on the horizon is breathtaking. The use of lighting is fantastic and the creature design is both unique and original. But there are times where there a few bugs and glitches; nothing major but at times it takes you out of the magic. See, whilst it all looks great, the NPCs who are basically in place as a standard extra don’t have the level of detail to something like what you’d find in a game like Red Dead Redemption II, particularly in regards to their background. Some just stand around to look at walls, or when you walk into a crowded room, there’s a slight pause before they all start moving, like they’ve missed their director’s cue.
Soundtrack wise Greedfall comes with a great bombastic score that churns the soul and keeps with the whole epic fantasy RPG atmosphere. The effects are great and I particularly like the battle sounds where there is a mixture of cries, clanks, and magic fizzing and zipping around. The voice-over work is of a very high standard too and Spiders have done a very interesting thing when designing the dialects for some of the “native” characters on the Island by mixing accents to create a whole new sound. It is very clever and affecting.
I have loved spending time in the world of Greedfall. The game narrative is complex, interesting and brilliantly layered. The combat is fun and the customisation of the character skillset is easy to use and great to implement. The game looks very good as well, and even though there are some rough edges and a few bugs here and there, there has been little to really ruin the total experience. If you’re a fan of RPGs then grab some coffee, be ready to lose a lot of man-hours, and ring in sick to work, for Greedfall is going to take up a lot of your time.