An Engrossing Tale Of Derring-Do
HIGH A fascinating world to explore.
LOW Too much running around towards the end.
WTF An abusable enemy aggro radius.
Greedfall made me feel like I had traveled 15 years into my past, to a simpler time when a younger me was first experiencing Gothic 2.
My sister would watch me play back then, inexplicably drawn to its world while never ceasing to comment on how bad it was. However, despite looking rough even when it was new and aging poorly, Gothic still feels like a believable world, offering a sense of place by treating its NPCs as a society and giving them a purpose. Progression wasn’t reduced to fetch quests or filling a loyalty bar, but achieved by actually getting to know the members of each camp and working together.
To this day, Gothic 2 remains one of the most memorable RPGs I’ve ever played, and while it likely won’t be as memorable, Greedfall feels familiar in that way. It offers a refreshing, updated take on the same sort of old-school Eurojank RPGs I loved as a kid, and like all the best titles of its kind, it’s slightly rough around the edges but has more than enough heart to make up for it.
Greedfall is a narrative RPG that can be played as a third-person action game, or step-by-step for those who like to play strategically. Players take on the role of De Sardet, legate of the Congregation of Merchants. Through diplomacy, wit, or brute force, De Sardet must maneuver the complex political web on the island of Teer Fradee while also finding a cure for the fearsome plague that has befallen her people and claimed her mother.
Character customization options aren’t complicated, but they yield satisfying results. Players can select their preferred gender, a few other defining traits, and then one of three combat archetypes — strong melee warrior, resourceful gunslinger, or spell-wielding magician. Although Greedfall recommends the talents and attributes for every class, players are not forced to follow a standard build and they can also respec (via item use) if they wish.
Despite being ripe with outlandish monsters and magic, Greedfall’s narrative pulls from real history. It proves that a theme such as European colonization can provide an excellent canvas for a fantasy RPG, tackling heavy topics such as racism, forced indoctrination of native people, and institutionalized abuse through superb world-building and writing. Diplomacy plays a huge role in this game.
Following this, the choices a player makes matter and there are multiple nonviolent ways to approach a situation such as stealth, companion abilities, or charisma and intuition to unlock contextual dialogue options.
During a mission where I had to retrieve a document, I could choose between killing the guards or dressing up in their faction’s uniform and infiltrating their base. NPCs can also be persuaded using contextual dialogue options that are unlocked by leveling charisma or letting companions do the talking. Needless to say, the means through which players achieve their desired outcome will impact their relationship with different factions and companions.
Sadly, regardless of how issues are solved, the narrative themes aren’t explored fully. The portrayal of certain characters felt superficial and some of my “game-changing” decisions had little impact on the world. Some characters, like Inquisitor Aloysius or Dr. Asili, are so excessively evil they border on caricature. Furthermore, even after a major plot twist, the parties involved didn’t display any significant, long-term changes. They would simply deliver a short speech and then jump back to their normal state.
In terms of the cast beyond De Sardet, Greedfall offers several companions with a system similar to Bioware RPGs such as Mass Effect and Dragon Age — Kurt the mercenary, Vasco the Naut, Siora the Native princess, Aphra of the Bridge Alliance, and Petrus of Theleme.
While these companions are well-written in conversations, they aren’t memorable. I spent more than 60 hours in Greedfall and did every loyalty quest, and still found it hard to care about them. Petrus, for example, kept calling me “child,” which honestly reminded me of that creepy old uncle that nobody likes. Kurt, on the other hand, is a likable and loyal character that, sadly, felt written off during my playthrough.
Also, while I love romancing characters in games, success here boils down to completing a loyalty questline and getting one dialogue option right. When pursuing my character of choice I failed the first time, so I had to reload a save. The reward was a cringe-inducing roll in the hay followed by an even cringier declaration of love.
Mechanically, Greedfall offers expansive, yet shallow RPG elements. Players can assign weapons and armor to their companions, but cannot directly control them in combat, so most of the time they run headfirst into battle and die pathetically. It’s possible to craft upgrades and sockets for gear, but not to craft the equipment itself. Three skill trees offer unique perks, but none of them have enough depth. There are only so many abilities you can unlock, and once unlocked, players must continue improving them until they can unlock a new one.
I have mixed feelings about combat, but by keeping in mind that it isn’t the central point of Greedfall, it felt good overall. With each strike, De Sardet generates Fury. When enough builds, it unlocks additional attacks or inflicting more effective blows. There are also useful abilities such as kicking, parrying, riposting and healing, and items to use such as traps, bombs, firearms, grenades, and potions.
As for me, I decided to start on Hard but quickly changed to Extreme. As a spellcaster, it was easy to crowd-control and melt enemy HP as magic completely ignores enemy armor. I also tried melee and found it to be harder, but not impossible since Greedfall provides many useful tools and upgrades for every situation.
Graphically, Greedfall‘s assets aren’t groundbreaking — parts are often re-used and when examined in isolation I found much of it to be aesthetically sub-par, but as a whole (and with some creative lighting) the developers paint a beautiful world. I hid my HUD through most of my playthrough to be more immersed in the world, and I give kudos to Spiders for creating some of the most beautiful natural landscapes I’ve seen in a videogame.
As far as my criticisms go, Greedfall is a Eurojank title that wasn’t made on a triple-A budget, so some allowances must be made. However, there is an incredibly frustrating combat mechanic that resets a fight if players step out of a predefined area.
The world also has a lot of invisible walls, so large-scale exploration is limited, and when coupled with the fact that Greedfall isn’t open-world, but rather a collection of smaller connected areas, players will find themselves running from campfire to campfire while battling the same packs of monsters along the way. There’s also not much to do that’s not directly quest-related in cities, and the facial animations aren’t great.
Overall, Greedfall‘s setting, narrative and themes offer a refreshing change from the standard RPG soap operas and it has more than enough meat on its bones to satisfy an RPG fan’s itch. I believe it shines when viewed like an immensely satisfying sidequest — it was interesting enough to keep me glued, but ultimately it lacks the breadth and depth of something bigger.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Spiders and published by Focus Home Interactive. It is currently available on PS4, XBO, and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via paid download and reviewed on the PC using a keyboard and mouse. Approximately 65 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains Blood, Language, Partial Nudity, Suggestive Themes, and Violence. Combat feels realistic and is accompanied by screaming, bloodstains and gunfire. There are references to prostitution and a scene of a man shooting himself with a gun at close range. Although no sexual acts are depicted, the game has sexually suggestive content and mild expletives.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind options available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: I have played the game without sound and found it fully accessible. All dialogue has subtitles, which can be resized. Companion comments during combat are also subtitled.
Remappable Controls: This game’s controls are not remappable.