Greedfall has its fair share of problems. The story relies on some outdated tropes, the game suffers from some bad technical problems, and sometimes the controls can be a little wonky. That being said, it is one of the best open-world RPGs that I have played in recent memory. Starting from the beginning, you are De Sardet, Legate of the Congregation of Merchants. While posing for a portrait, you are given the option to either customize your character’s appearance manually or using some preset models. The customization options presented aim for realism; that means no pointy purple Mohawks or elf ears. I wish there were more options, as what is on offer feels like the bare minimum. Customizing your character’s abilities is a lot meatier though, which I say counts a great deal more than any cosmetic poppycock. Next up is class choice. There are three to choose from. Magic and Warrior need no explanation, while Technical is a class that focuses on the use of traps and alchemical mixes to provide special effects to your weapon.
You don’t need to worry too much about which class you choose, though, since you can freely customize your character as you see fit once you get started. If you feel like changing things up later on down the line, you can use a Memory Crystal to refund all your points to build yourself up from scratch again. The skill menu contains all the skills pertinent to combat. This means skill nodes that grant extra damage/benefits to specific weapons, nodes that grant you extra abilities to be used in battle, nodes that unlock the ability to use better weapons, etc. There are six branches initially, two for each class specialization, which then branches off into further chains later on in the line of nodes. You gain a skill point every level plus you can earn a bonus point whenever you find a skill altar in the wild. After selecting a class, you are given a single point to assign to one of your six attributes; Strength, Endurance, Agility, Willpower, Accuracy, and Mental power. Aside from providing a bonus to your stats, the various pieces of equipment for your character require a certain level of proficiency in the required attribute to be able to use it. The more powerful the equipment, the higher the required proficiency level will be. So if you want to wear the best heavy armor, for example, you’re going to want to invest points in endurance. You don’t gain attribute points with each level gained though, so choosing something to specialize in will be a necessary strategy to get the most out of your character.
Lastly, before you can be unleashed into the world of Greedfall, you have one point to assign in the Talent menu. These require careful planning before choosing because like your attribute points, you only gain them every few levels. Talents can have a pretty big effect on how you approach situations in Greedfall. Charisma reduces the price merchants will sell their wares to you for, plus make your party members more effective in combat. Ranking it up gives you more persuasive power when you’re trying to ply an NPC for info or bring a peaceful resolution to a conflict by talking down the would-be enemies. Vigor lets you carry more ammo and recover a bit of HP and magic when out of combat, but more importantly it lets you take special paths that can be found around Teer Fradee. This talent allows you to gain access to shortcuts, hidden treasure, and alternate paths around certain enemy encounters. While the aforementioned talents offer special traversal mechanics, others can give you access to crafting. Craftsmanship lets you build and apply upgrades to weapons and armor, whereas Science allows for the crafting of ammo and a variety of potions. There are six different Talents altogether, with three tiers apiece. Spiders Studios does a great job of implementing them all into quests and the regular gameplay, making them all feel like valuable assets in your journey rather than just another progression system tacked on the puff up the customization. After spending your Talent point, your journey officially begins!
Greedfall’s narrative is where it really shines. The story is deeply inspired by the so-called Age of Exploration, with dashes of unusual monsters, a sprinkle of magic and a heavy dose of native mysticism. De Sardet and her royal cousin and best friend Constantin are preparing to leave their hometown of Serene on a journey across the sea to a wild and mysterious island named Teer Fradee, recently colonized by The Congregation of Merchants. Constantin is to be the governor of New Serene while De Sardet is hoping to find a cure there for the Malichor: a terrible and fatal disease that is raging across the populace of the continent and has no known cure. However, the island is already inhabited by many different native tribes (sound familiar yet?) and a handful of other factions/colonizers from other countries. While the whole concept and use of colonizing native land are sure to touch a nerve with some people, the lore building, characters, and writing in general is really great so hopefully it doesn’t put you off too much.
As I mentioned before, De Sardet is a Legate of the Congregation of Merchants, a high-ranking emissary sent to help Constantin with governing New Serene. Alongside the native faction, there are two other major powers from the old continent on Teer Fradee: Theleme and The Bridge Alliance. Theleme is a country of highly devout religious people who are locked in a war with the scientifically-inclined members of the Bridge Alliance. They hope to convert the natives to the light while searching Teer Fradee because they believe it is the mythical island where their patron saint resided. The Bridge Alliance are interested in Teer Fradee in hopes of making scientific discoveries and examining the natives to unlock the mysteries of their so-called ‘magic’, but because of the often sketchy methods they use (kidnapping whole villages, for example), this puts them at a constant state of war with them. There are two more factions but they share no affiliation but to themselves. The Coin Guard are mercenaries who can be found in every city across the island. They have their own hierarchy similar to an army but they work for anyone who pays. The Nauts are the secretive, heavily- tattooed masters of the sea. In the world of Greedfall it seems everyone relies solely on them for nautical travel, so the various factions try to do whatever it takes to keep in their good graces, even to the point of trading their children to them to secure deals. The Congregation of Merchants maintains a neutral position between all of them, so you’ll have some politicking to do if you want to keep things cool. This is where the reputation system comes in. De Sardet has a reputation to maintain with the various factions, and doing quests they offer can boost that reputation while going against their interests will lower your standing with them.
From the decaying, old-world splendor of the starting town of Serene to the beautiful stone architecture of San Matheus and the natural beauty of Teer Fradee with its lush wilderness and majestic bodies of water, Greedfall is a visually gorgeous game with excellent environmental design. The problem is that Greedfall also struggles with maintaining a steady framerate, lagging issues, and even the occasional screen tearing. This is most prevalent in the wide-open areas when moving around the camera too fast or when there is a lot of action on the screen. These issues mar the experience but lowering the camera sensitivity to its lowest setting helps a bit and after a while, my eyes got used to it enough where I could ignore it and enjoy the game. The character models are subjected to the same visual duality. While the outfits are intricate and nicely detailed, the facial animations are fairly bland. They have a lifeless quality to them; honestly it is hard for me to pinpoint exactly what it is. They just seem...off, somehow. The music and sound effects don’t suffer from a similar fate: they are excellent through and through. I really like the way the sound dies down except for a single drumbeat when enemies are near but you have yet to engage them in battle. To sum it up my feelings about Greedfall in one sentence: looks great, sounds great, but suffers from technical issues. But just as important: how does it play???
As an open-world action-RPG, you’ll be spending a lot of time exploring, questing, and kicking butt. Getting around Teer Fradee takes some getting used to but the easy to access map and compass make it less of a headache. Once you find a campsite you can fast travel to it from any other campsite or stone markers used for fast travel. Throughout the game, you’re going to be fighting humans and strange wildlife, with the occasional special monster. Combat feels a bit slower than most action-RPGs. You take control of De Sardet while your two companions do their own thing. You have the typical heavy attack/basic attack/ dodge/parry moves at your disposal, but what I really like is the armor concept. The controls are set up so you can easily switch between a second equipped weapon, so between your pistol and two equipped weapons you can deploy a variety of offensive strategies. You and your enemies can have an armor value on top of your regular HP. Bladed weapons are faster to use but armor values help to mitigate HP damage. If you swap to a heavy weapon, you can destroy the enemy’s armor a lot easier and then blast him with whatever you want. Attacks also generate fury, which can then be used for a stronger attack or certain special abilities. You can assign up to 12 abilities to the hotbar menu for ease of access. The only issue I have is with items not always activating when I use them. More than once have I been killed while low on health and thinking that I had just used a healing potion when I didn’t. The side quests in Greedfall are enjoyable to do because they don’t rely on fetch quests (yeah, I know you were looking forward to going to x location and killing hundreds of sheep to bring back 5 sheep pelts to this random NPC, sorry) the side quests your companions will give you are so well written that you may be mistaken in thinking that they were a part of the main campaign. Hell, without going into spoiler territory one of them even reveals a huge secret about the main character and they’re supposed to be optional! Your companions are living, breathing people with lives of their own and connections amongst the people of the various factions and the writing does an amazing job of letting that show. Instead of grudgingly doing side quests out of a sense of duty for completion, I willingly seek them out.
I know quite a few people who were saying that this game feels like Golden-Age Bioware. While I was extremely skeptical at first, after spending close to forty hours with it I agree. Even though there are some touchy real-life issues with the story and technical issues with the gameplay, Greedfall is a wonderfully written adventure worth undertaking.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of the review
Final Score: 8/10
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