A role-playing game with a very interesting theme that we’ve been eagerly anticipating for while, Greedfall has finally launched for PS4, Xbox One and PC. Developed by Spiders and published by Focus Home, we dove into this ambitious take on the genre as soon as we could – here’s our review.
The release of Greedfall has a bittersweet taste to it, for it also marks the end of the relationship between developer Spiders and publisher Focus Home, whose title A Plague Tale ranks among my favorite games of the year so far. Spiders was acquired by Bigben not too long ago, making Greedfall their swan song for their time at Focus – which started with Of Orcs and Men back in 2012.
It’s been over three years since The Technomancer though, and Greedfall clearly demonstrates why it’s taken a while for a new Spiders game to come out. It’s a grand RPG with a story campaign that took me well over thirty hours to complete on my first go around, and the setting and story are both well developed.
A blend of colonialism and fantasy, you play the role of a nobleman charged with finding a cure for a plague that’s been spreading throughout the city of Serene. Hope for a cure is found on a remote and mysterious island called Teer Fradee, but before you set off for the island you first join up with your combat trainer and your cousin. This happens during a very lengthy first chapter of the game in the city of Serene, which acts as a world building piece and does its job very well.
You find out that the city’s merchants are under pressure from the city guards that extort them, that unborn children are treated as commodities for trade, and have to say farewell to your mother who has fallen ill from the plague and for whom a cure will come too late. Serene sounds nice and quiet, but it’s far from a happy place in Greedfall.
After your arrival on the island, you have to contend with natives as well as other settlers who are looking for the natural riches the island has to offer. Your ‘home base’ on the island is called New Serene, but you’ll be visiting plenty of other locations as well since it’s a huge piece of land. You don’t get to traverse it freely in an open world sense though – the island is divided into hub areas that you can explore and travel between using a fast travel option.
The island is also where a lot of the game’s fantasy elements come into play, but the most interesting aspects have to do with the writing and how well the characters have been developed – as well as the way in which they interact. The voiceovers are excellent, and many of the characters have a lot of depth to them. This even translates to the quests they give you, which sometimes are an expression of their motives and/or allegiances to others.
You’ll also run into these interpersonal aspects at other times during the game. Your standing with the people of a city matters, and it’s shaped through your interactions. Who you bring with you in your party also affects how others treat you – even to the point of not wanting anything to do with you. There’s a lot of narrative depth here with plenty of branching paths, for those interested in subsequent playthroughs.
But although I enjoyed my time with Greedfall, I wonder if that second playthrough is going to come or not. That’s because the game’s biggest issue is the fact that everything in between all that narrative development can be a bit of a grind. Combat is somewhat repetitive with a lot of same enemies popping up again and again, and a combat system that’s not very intricate.
You can level up and diversify your fighting through new skills, but this process takes a long time to get anywhere interesting. Unlocking them is a tiered affair as well, since you first have to gain access to the tier by spending points and then spend more to actually unlock them. If there’s a grind in Greedfall, this is certainly it.
To a degree, it feels like Spiders’ development time for Greedfall was cut short a little. The narrative basis is excellent, but the combat and skill development could have been more refined. I also noticed that a lot of the interiors of buildings felt very similar to one another, denoting another layer of polish that is missing.
These issues keep Greedfall from being a truly great RPG rather than a good one, which it no doubt is. If you’re more combat-centric then you should perhaps wait for Focus’ upcoming The Surge 2, but if you play your RPGs for the stories contained in them, then Greedfall should be your next one.