Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC (Reviewed)
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
History: In this fictional 17th century-inspired fantasy world, you play a representative of a neutral faction, amidst several powers competing to colonize a newfound island, its resources and native inhabitants, mostly under the premise of seeking a cure for a dire plague spreading freely across the continent.
Braving the port city of Sérène as the noble de Sardet (that’s you), you find that the city of the Congregation of Merchants is home to plenty of fast-paced intense combat, stealth-wise opportunities, diplomatic relations, interesting characters, events, and story, but this is actually just the game’s tutorial, which happens before taking ship for the newly-settled Island of Teer Fradee, as you set your personal affairs in order and announce your departure revealing plenty of intrigue and mystery etched into the gameplay.
You’re sent to New Sérène as a prelate of the Congregation of Merchants accompanying the appointed governor of the city: your cousin Constatin with the final objective of finding a cure for the plague “Malichor”. The quests revolve heavily on relations with the other factions, the locals, and your character companions, and you quickly learn that the motives of these factions are never simple or clear, so your choices echo into unforeseen consequences and you can’t trust what people tell you.
Character Creation: Maybe I’m asking for too much here, but It’s hard to come up with an original normal looking character, if you stray too far from the preset faces, de Sardet will be hard to take seriously, considering that I haven’t found any equipment that covers your face, that can get annoying. You can choose from 3 initial classes, pick an attribute from the 6 available to start with and talent which there also are 6 available, and that’s it: you’re ready to start. The initial classes are related to playstyle (Like heavy melee, light ambusher, ranged spellcaster) but later you can match the skill points you get every level anyway you want to custom fit your preferences. Attributes you get every 3 levels and are basically to unlock gear and increase hp/mp/etc. While every 4 levels you get a talent point that unlocks new options with interaction with the world – craftsmanship to craft stuff, charisma gives you more conversation options, lockpicking unlocks chests and doors, science blows walls… you know, the regular everyday stuff – but you can get gear and team bonuses that help with some of these talents. But don’t worry: it’s hard to go wrong on character creation because you find “Memory Crystals” to reset your stuff sometimes.
In most games, the tutorial is the part you gotta beat to get to the fun, but this game’s tutorial is fantastic. After the very first combat training, I was only able to recognise the remaining part as a tutorial once I beat it because it feels almost as challenging and fun as the game itself. It isn’t even railroaded as most tutorials are, and it makes a great job of introducing you to the different factions and glimpse at their mysterious agendas. I felt like I understood everything I needed to when I left the tutorial without being kept from the fun.
The only thing missing from the tutorial? Exploring. The game is split between huge areas with entrances to other areas, kinda like a map from Diablo, and you can brave through the wilderness and discover quests and wonders, or simply pay your way to get places. The maps are really big, filled with interesting places and enemies, but they keep? points on the unexplored void to guide your attention, and it still doesn’t make things easy at all. I really had a lot of fun exploring!
Fights are challenging! First of all, save your game before attempting to kill everything you see. Some enemies you find roaming around are challenges for higher level quests so there’s no shame in loading and going around them.
Killing or getting killed can happen really fast, a well-placed pistol shot can turn a battle a round, enemies aren’t pushovers and a lot of fights require some amount of strategy sometimes to even be able to properly damage the goddamn armored lizard. Dodge and parry mechanics often feel very overpowered on other games, but here they’re a requirement to survival, as you administer your MP, HP, armor, target, movement, balance, shots coming at you, traps and rage. Sometimes you can even stealth, and stealthily backstab some baddies, but it doesn’t feel like a complete system, just an extra not very polished feature.
In most fights, you’re outnumbered, and I found that to keep changing targets lunging between enemies to dodge attacks while doing some damage worked well for me, but I’ve tried other styles before finding this, and I’m sure you’ll find one that you fancy. Also your companions aren’t just additional targets: they’re powerful, they help a lot, and got me out of nasty situations very often, the right companions can compliment your fighting strategy but you can’t rely on them to finish the fight: If you’re down, it’s game over, load, try again.
And gear looks great! Very immersive, unique looking items that fit the proposed scenario very well. You can often customise them using craftsmanship or paying a vendor, and sometimes faction gear can get you into places. I’ve found there’s a good variety of items, crafting and customising them is uncomplicated, upgrades don’t come very often but feel great when they show up, and keeping some different gear for special situations (Like keeping a +1 Lockpicking shirt in your pocket) is part of the game.
Conversations aren’t too complex, but they’re engaging and if you’re into it, you can charisma your way through some stuff. Cutscenes are never too long or boring, I quite enjoyed most of them. And most conversation to be had is with the important NPCs providing you actual content, background and lore.
You can choose two companions to accompany you but the others will be available in your house/camp, you have to manage their gear, but their leveling, fighting style and strategies are their own. They have quests that you can solve to become closer to them, and reaching friendship awards you with talent bonuses (very useful stuff).
I think the game kinda looks like an MMO from a few years back. Overall, the cities and outdoors look amazing, the colors they’ve chosen for each place translate really well into feeling immersion and the world around you breaths and feels fantastic as it is. Character faces and expressions aren’t perfect but they’re definitely ok, most things look great but some things are bad: The variety of buildings isn’t enough so you’re always facing copies of the same places. That happens with the less important characters, too: you’ll stumble upon the guy you just talked to for a quest in another building, and another city, all the time.
Some textures look terrible from up close, even some of your gear, despite the graphic level you’re playing the game in. The amount of NPCs is mostly always low, so great cities thriving through colonizing a new world feel empty and dead. Sometimes NPCs get stuck walking into an invisible wall, some NPCs walk through conversations, but overall character movement in and out of combat look good.
Personally, I wish your weapons were shown equipped while out of combat, most of them look really awesome but remain hidden all the time.
The music is good, complements the game by setting the mood accordingly, and contributes to the immersion. Monsters sound unique, cool, and voice acting is great: the character’s voices are very varied and some of them really bring the character to life without being too obvious (like when mean, sleazy sounding characters end up betraying you). I think the main character sounds just a little too young, but nothing unpleasant at all.
The theme is new, fresh and fun; the companion system feels like Mass Effect’s; combat is really good and challenging; the world feels alive changing as you progress; interesting quests, plots and characters, they hit a great balance between diplomacy, conversations, intrigue, adventure and combat; and these are the things that I feel make this game really great. The graphic problems alone I can ignore easily because the game’s core exposes how awesome is the work they did. They actually delivered quality in the main features the game needed and left all the remaining stuff as good as they could without worrying too much about looks and gimmicks. I wasn’t expecting to be so into this game as I am, and I wasn’t expecting this level of quality from Spiders & Focus just because they’re not as big and famous as other studios and publishers, but I really love what they did here, I haven’t been this engaged with a game, let alone an RPG like this in a long while.
All things considered, every part of this game could be better, the game is flawed, but everything comes together in a very, very special way. I really recommend it.
Seriously, GreedFall has no right being this good.