Coming to Godfall in 2022 feels like a spot of crime scene investigation. We know that something bad happened in the past, but we don’t have a huge amount of information on exactly what. Godfall was a launch title for the PS5, and while not a catastrophic failure – it has a vociferous community and receives live service updates – it failed to make any kind of splash at all. It sank almost as soon as it came out.
But if No Man’s Sky tells us anything, it’s that games can evolve. And Counterplay Games have a compelling offer on the table: a lower priced release with every update packed inside, optimised for the latest generation of hardware. It was certainly enough to pique our interest: just how far out of the pit had Godfall risen?
We had never played Godfall, and we’d ducked most of the marketing, so everything came as a surprise. First up, Godfall is breathtaking to look at. The environments all seem to have been ripped from Marvel’s Midgard; fabulous architecture with the sheen of obsidian and lush, bright, overground areas. We never felt like we were playing something other than a AAA game.
The characters, too, are fantastic action figures that show off the strengths of Counterplay’s art team. If there’s a criticism, though, it’s that – being suits of armour – the cast feel like Transformers, without any kind of expression or humanity to them. When we’re meant to feel the fury of a fallen champion, and want to be soaked in the blood of our brother, it comes across as empty posturing. But hey: they do look fabulous as they do it.
The story is a pile of soggy rags. We kind of expected it from a critical misfire that’s aiming to be an action-looter in the Diablo mold. It was never going to trouble the BAFTA narrative categories. You play Orin, a Valorian Knight who was once a big deal. But you’ve been deposed by your brother, Macros, who is intent on simultaneously ending the world of Aperion and ascending to godhood. We struggled to see what he’d do with his godhood when he had it. So, it’s a mash of revenge and good old deicide.
There’s a fine moment when you’re taken through a kind of holographic representation of all the generals that you’ll need to kill on the trail of revenge, but otherwise the narrative is cobblers. Godfall has the early Halo and Destiny disease of introducing new concepts with Important Capital Letters and fanciful names, but spending so little time and context on them that you’re unaware if they’re important to the plot or not. It’s a parade of terms, and we soon became numbed to it.
But this is an action-RPG looter after all, and it’s here that Godfall gets more right than you might have been led to believe. Combat in particular is fifty shades of great, with whippet-fast reaction times and a seamless flow between all of the melee moves. Godfall finds itself in something of a niche, opting for a third-person perspective that separates itself from Diablo, and avoiding the reasonably well populated looter-shooter genre that Borderlands, Destiny and Outriders inhabits by focusing on melee. And it kind of owns it.
What Godfall gets so right is the gradual layering of movesets. As you would expect from an RPG, a skill tree slowly unlocks new abilities, and more often than not they are moves you can pull off with a combination of buttons. Your mental library begins to grow, and gradually you feel like the Valorian Knight on the brink of godhood that you are meant to be.
There’s a strategic bent to it as well, as light attacks, pulled off in various combinations with RB, apply stacks of ‘Soulshatter’, something you can effectively explode with the heavy attack on RT. Loading up enemies with these stacks and then detonating them never gets old, and there are enough combinations of light-attack moves to make that a complex proposition.
But a looter lives and breathes on its loot, and we began to see why Godfall fell critically short. The loot is plentiful, and there are plenty of sockets for them, from swords to armour to accessories and banners. You can even get lost in a sea of upgrades and crafting, which is suitably deep. But, perhaps because the orientation is almost completely towards melee, bladed weapons, they never feel different. They have the same impact, and side-benefits like poison and life-leech are never transformative enough. The inventory builds up with green, blue and purple items, yet there’s no joy in seeing them. It’s almost always a question of DPS, and we were hoping for far more than that.
It’s not to say that Godfall is unenjoyable. The loot may not offer the dripfeed of reward that you would expect, but the elegant, balletic combat is enough to pull you through. We played in several hour-long chunks and reached the end in roughly twelve hours, and we feel it’s the best way to play. There is repetition here, with the hordes of enemies starting to feel somewhat familiar, but in short bursts Godfall is a satisfying play. Checking this creaky looter’s Metacritic, we liked it more than most. We have no context of whether that’s because of improvements or some personal connection with it.
As mentioned, there is the important ‘Ultimate Edition’ wording at the end of the title. That means a few catch-up items at the start of the game (weirdly, we would have preferred not to have them, as they disrupted the satisfaction of getting loot in the opening moments), and a substantial new endgame in the form of Spirit Realms and Trials. At least, we think they’re new. They certainly take advantage of the Ultimate Edition’s new level 50 cap, and Counterplay have given the opportunity to skip directly to it, should you want to leapfrog the chunky but narratively drippy campaign.
It is… more of the same, really. That’s not to say it’s bad: these modes amplify the difficulty and bulk out the enemies. Spirit Realm, for example, requires you to gather souls from enemies to open a big door that reveals the mode’s boss, but it’s not dissimilar from the varied and objective-led campaign mode. It’s fine, just not hugely differentiated.
So, in a turn up for the books, Godfall is worth playing. It’s an action-RPG looter that focuses almost all of its efforts on the fruits of its combat flow, which leaves the story, loot and level-variety shrivelled on the branch. If you can accept the trade-off, Godfall Ultimate Edition is a fine brawler that won’t set anyone’s world alight, but is far from a failure.
You can buy Godfall Ultimate Edition from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S