SPIDERS ENTERS UNCHARTED TERRITORY WITH THIS RPG
The remit for most modern open-world RPGs these days is to go bigger in the hopes of being considered better. And to this Greedfall shakes its fist, cutting through a lot of the noise found in much higher budgeted games of its ilk to instead focus on what makes the genre great. This means placing an emphasis on player choice, interesting party members and, rather unexpectedly, spiralling quest design. All three of which mightn’t be anything new, per se, yet they still nicely combine to make this underdog feel all the more charming – even if its presentation is a little rough around the edges.
Coming off the back of previous mediocre releases like The Technomancer and Bound By Flame, we’ll admit that we didn’t have too much hope for Greedfall as the latest game from French developer Spiders. However, by rewinding the clock way back to the colonial era and mixing in certain Tolkien fantasy tropes, it seems like the studio may have finally found its groove. Both period and setting are inherently unique, which makes venturing out into it as your character De Sardet – playable as man or woman – never boring.
As legate to one of three factions new to the island of Teer Fradee you swiftly become the resident problemsolver, running errands on behalf of your cousin Constantine who’s been promoted to governor and is attempting to promote peace with the many indigenous tribes. Your main purpose here is to find a cure for the Malichor virus currently plaguing your homeland. And if there’s one crime Greedfall’s overall story commits, it’s leaving this main plight unresolved until the very late hours of the game.
Until you reach that 30-hour mark, however, Greedfall does an excellent job at distracting you, showering you with a litany of side-quests that have clearly learned a thing or two from The Witcher 3. One quest early on, for example, begins by having you settle a permit dispute between a market stall and the state, only for you to end up in a fighting pit battling it out to secure a tribesman’s innocence by its end. Almost all of Greedfall’s side-ventures have a tendency to twist and turn in this way, coloured even further by letting you choose how to approach them. Different skills like charisma and agility let you solve problems in a variety of ways.
Helping you on this journey in true RPG fashion is a suite of romanceable party members, each boasting their own combat skills that come in handy when battling beasties in any of the several world hubs that make up Teer Fradee. There are five of these available to swap in and out of your group at any time, and much like De Sardet, all can be upgraded with new weapons and gear. Native princess Siora and war captain Kurt were our mainstays, though, the former supporting us well with her useful ranged attacks and heal ability. Kurt’s
affinity for two-handed weapons, meanwhile, got us out of a pinch on more than one occasion.
Speaking of which, if you’re looking for in-depth combat Greedfall, doesn’t quite deliver. Bouts are just a simple case of knowing when to parry and dodge before you go in for the kill yourself – even the few boss battles won’t force you to shake up these tactics much. A powerful ‘fury’ attack can be unleashed to deal heavy damage once its meter is fully charged, but it all just comes across as a little uninspired. Luckily, much of this is made up for by the ability to craft gear or improve it by way of slotting in key items. All the effects of these can definitely be felt in battle.
“Nothing will distract you from the story more than the poor lip-syncing”
There’s a lot to be desired just from a pure technical perspective, too, sadly. Because, despite looking quite beautiful at times – the many open forests and dense city spaces make great use of believable lighting – nothing will distract you from the story more than the incredibly poor lip-syncing, repetitive interiors and rampant texture pop-in. None of these are enough to ruin the experience when taken alone, but occasionally they’ll occur in such quick succession that it’s impossible not to be sucked out of any immersion; Greedfall’s true identity as a mid-tier title aiming for double the scope is revealed in these instances. At best, it adds to its charm. At worst, though, these hiccups rip you out of what is otherwise an engaging tale.
In the end, Greedfall can’t quite muster up enough of its own creative ideas to usurp any of the RPG greats, but that doesn’t mean its tendency to riff on established traits makes it any less endearing. There’s a clear attempt here to bring the best of Bioware, CD Projekt Red and certain Ubisoft epics together all under one roof; it’s just that sometimes doing this serves as a reminder that there are other, more polished games out there in this vein you could be playing. Saying that, Greedfall understands that sometimes smaller is better. As such, a pared-back scope and thoughtful quest design absolutely works in its favour. ■
LEFT Creatures are inspired by various fantasy tales, adding to the uniqueness of the setting.
RIGHT There are several items of gear De Sardet and their party can equip, tiered from grey to gold.