Released in September 2019, GreedFall is the work of French developer Spiders. For the last decade or so, the company has released a wide array of RPGs to varying degrees of success. Yet, they have never quite managed to release that one game that puts them among the elite.
Each of their efforts so far has been flawed to some extent, some more than others. None have been able to stand toe-to-toe with the truly great examples of the genre that have released in recent times. The question is, does GreedFall live up to its promise and rise above its predecessors?
The early concept of GreedFall was for it to have a strong focus on the story and characters. Early references were made to classic RPG series from BioWare, such as Mass Effect and Dragon Age. Those are ambitious aims, and yet the RPG does seem promising at first.
Taking inspiration from the 17th century, GreedFall is set on a newly discovered island. Various colonial powers are vying to subdue the native inhabitants and take control of the paradise. You take on the role of De Sardet, a merchant who is searching for a cure to the disease that is afflicting his family.
Despite this potential, GreedFall does not manage to tell a very interesting story. The possibility was there to explore themes such as colonialism and the impact it has on those it affects. Regrettably, the game tackles concepts like this with all the subtlety of a steamroller.
Another issue is that there are far too many stereotypes when dealing with the local natives. Such is the lack of tact that it often borders on being offensive. The rest of the plot is just your standard fantasy tropes, with nothing original or imaginative brought to the table.
That isn’t to say that the whole narrative suffers. A few quests have some excellent writing behind them. And some characters are interesting, but there are just not enough of them.
Like many RPGs, GreedFall lets the player create their character. De Sardet can be either male or female and can specialize in several different classes. Players want comprehensive character creation tools but in this instance, it is overly complicated. There are just too many things to consider without too much explanation of what each does.
The available options include Magic, Technical, and Warrior. The first and last of those are classes that you will be familiar with. The Warrior can wield heavier weapons and use armor that will provide better protection. Those choosing the Magic class will get access to a wider variety of spells as well as the ability to channel magic through rings.
Meanwhile, the Technical class is probably the most unique. It is kind of a cross between stealth and ranged scouts and offers a collection of skills. The problem is that despite the choice of classes they are not all that different from each other. You can mix and match most skills, so choosing a class feels a bit redundant.
Getting combat right in RPGs is a tricky endeavor. You can either go with the free-flowing fast-paced systems used in the likes of Mass Effect or go with a more simplistic approach like The Elder Scrolls. This game is more like the latter. However, it is far less refined and can feel clunky at times.
With so many different options to keep on top of it can also be overwhelming. Disappointingly, even the different classes don’t offer much variety in terms of how combat works. More often than not you will end up just rushing in and smashing enemies with your most powerful weapon.
GreedFall also offers players the chance to recruit companions. Each has its own distinctive combat styles and skills. Depending on the type of situation you are approaching, taking the right companions along with you can be vital. They can even influence conversations with other NPCs, giving you an edge in tricky encounters. You can flesh out your companions by romancing them or completing additional quests, giving them backstories you can explore.
The locations of GreedFall are rendered beautifully. Each environment is unique and contains plenty of detail. The lighting system is particularly impressive, casting realistic shadows and reflections. But the same cannot be said of the characters themselves. They have some truly awful animation, especially when it comes to facial animations. At times, NPCs look as if they have been possessed as they try to show emotion on their faces.
On the other hand, the soundtrack is a positive for GreedFall. It manages to convey plenty of atmosphere and provide a pleasing backdrop to the action. Voice acting is also solid, while the sound design is varied and of high quality when it comes to effects. Although players will likely experience one or two bugs, none of them is game-breaking. There isn’t much to complain about in regards to performance, either.
Ultimately, GreedFall doesn’t deliver on what it sets out to do. It is yet another Spiders game that has proved too ambitious. If anything, the developers have tried to do too much. They would have perhaps been better off to narrow their efforts and create a more focused experience.
True, GreedFall does have some good points. There is a huge open world and lots of quests to get stuck into, for example. But these are too often overshadowed by other elements that are just not as good as they could have been.