A plague festers and war is brewing… Spiders Studio has set sail for a mysterious new RPG. In GreedFall, a diplomat wavers between different factions, trying to maintain peace.
The world of GreedFall is heavily inspired by seventeenth-century Europe, and its architecture more particularly by English and French cities. The game’s continent is divided into several factions, on the brink of war with each other. The Thélème – religious fanatics – and the Bridge Alliance – which prefers a more scientific approach – have been at odds with each other for a long time. The Merchant Congregation, however, is more neutral. The recent discovery of a mysterious island has led to a desire for a fresh start, in the form of newfound colonies. Each faction has built or is building their own city on the island, especially now that the Malichor – a mysterious plague – is wiping out human lives left and right.
Teer Fradee, ahoy!
That’s where the player comes in. You play as De Sardet, a man or woman – whose appearance is altered to your own taste through character creation – who serves as a legate for the Merchant Congregation. It is your personal mission to set sail for Teer Fradee, the island, and find a cure for the plague. Character creation is quite limited, but leaves enough room to choose a gender, skin colour, hairstyle, and certain facial features. The class system consists of three major branches: skills, attributes, and talents. Leveling up gives the player the opportunity to spend points on one of these three divisions, depending on which level you are. Skills are themselves divided into three major branches with relation to combat: melee, ranged weapons and traps, and magic. As opposed to other games, GreedFall leaves the player the freedom to climb up in each category. Next, attributes are important for combat as well. Strength level 1 gives the player access to previously locked weapons, such as the best one-handed blunt weapons. If you can’t wait to dive into combat with a mace or other heavy weapon, you’ll just have to be a bit patient. Other attributes such as Endurance increase the player’s maximum life and balance or spell duration. Talents are mostly important for anything that is non-combat related. Lockpicking and Charisma might be the most desirable, although Science allows players to make potions and destroy certain walls. Crafting weapons as well as armour upgrades becomes possible with Craftmanship, while Vigor lets players pass through difficult passages. The game offers no jump option, but cleverly incorporates jumping in this class system. In order to jump over particular depths, the player would have to master certain abilities.
We’re twenty hours in and still enjoy every single quest that De Sardet receives. Contrary to certain RPG’s continuous stream of “fetch this, fetch that” quests, GreedFall actually continues to deliver unique missions. It’s clear that story-telling was at the top of the list for Spiders Studio. Find missing guards, unmask merchants as frauds, fight threatening beasts… There is plenty to do for the inhabitants of Teer Fradee.
One of GreedFall’s strongest assets is its use of companions. The player is at all times accompanied by two companions, and any combination of characters is possible. However, a lot depends on the companions you choose to bring with you on missions. Companion Kurt is preferable for any quests with relation to the Coin Guard, but the native Siora would not be advised to be your companion when trying to do a favour for the Bridge Alliance. Different characters lead to different dialogue options, thus influencing the story. Companions also have different strengths in combat, and not all of them can use of magic. Something that annoyed after a while was the lack of voice lines each companion has during combat. Six fights or so in, Kurt’s repeated “Things are about to get dicey” becomes bothersome. Each companion also has their own personal quests, which tend to uncover some of the more interesting storylines. These quests capture emotional journeys such as Captain Vasco’s struggle with his own origins, or Siora’s difficult position as a native on conquered land. Finally, players have the option to romance companions, although we are not quite sure yet how and if that influences the game’s outcome.
Things are about to get dicey
Combat takes getting used to, but eventually does deliver satisfying results. Apart from melee weapons such as swords and maces, players can also make use of firearms. These firearms tend to be quite a bit overpowered, though, and after playing for an hour so ammo is not as difficult to come by anymore. De Sardet can also use multiple traps as part of their fighting strategy. These traps, ranging from poisoned to elemental traps, can be lifesavers in battles that would otherwise have been deemed a loss. And of course, there’s also magic. Using magic spells is quite fun, but a higher amount of spells would definitely be appreciated. So far, it seems as if magic is the least developed aspect of combat. An incredibly useful feature is the tactical pause, which gives players the ability to pause the game during any fight and carefully choose their next strike. The tactical pause gives an overview of all possible moves and shortcuts.
Enemies can range from humans of any faction – or simply thieves – to the creatures that inhabit Teer Fradee. Spoiler alert: some of them are pretty terrifying. The first beast De Sardet encounters, during the prologue, gives players a taste of what’s to come. Wolf-like animals roam the lands, and other wild species engage in fights as well. Naturally, each creature has its own weaknesses and strengths. Some fights will turn out to be surprisingly difficult, even for seasoned RPG players.
A diplomat above all else
On the island of Teer Fradee tension between factions is as high as on the mainland. De Sardet’s diplomatic nature can be reflected in the fact that they go out of their way to ensure a peaceful approach, or can be completely disregarded by players who are more keen to fight. It’s up to the player to decide whether or not they want a violent solution to problems. Of course, because of the multitude of factions in the game it is inevitable that opposite goals will sometimes collide. How does De Sardet solve a situation in which they are asked to help natives, or kill them? Whilst combat is an important aspect, the political and diplomatic sides of GreedFall cannot be ignored either. Sometimes words are just a better weapon than fists. Either way, De Sardet’s choices influence their relationship with factions as well as companions.
Visually, the game is certainly satisfactory. The plague-ridden town of Serene – which appears in the prologue – had instantly set the mood.The beautiful surroundings of Teer Fradee are a joy to take in and level design is great as well. All colonies are very distinct from one another; the Bridge Alliance’s city of Hikmet is a colourful and enormous, Middle-Eastern inspired area. Thélème’s San Matheus and the Congregation’s very own New Serene stand out as well. GreedFall does sometimes re-use assets such as warehouses, palaces and embassies, which tends to be disappointing. Aside from areas, character models and outfits are well-crafted as well. While characters are not as polished, one can’t help but give Spiders Studio a pass for that one. After all, GreedFall is not a triple A game, and definitely did not have the budget or team for one. Taking all of that into account, the end result is mind-blowing.
GreedFall is without a doubt a worthy addition to the genre. Gameplay and story are immersive, as a result of the game’s well-crafted characters and narratives. The struggle between diplomacy and war calls for great dilemmas and interesting scenarios. The variety of quests – and absence of “fetch quests” is perhaps GreedFall’s strongest asset. De Sardet’s adventure is one worth playing!
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Developer: Spiders Studio
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive