Developed by Spiders, a French studio known for Bound by Flame and Technomancer, Greedfall takes the notion of the third person RPG to an entirely new level. Blending together a variety of mechanics and features from titles like Skyrim, The Witcher 3, and Dragon Age : Inquisition, the resulting product is a truly fresh adventure we haven’t quite seen before. Does that make Greedfall a beautiful mosaic or a dreaded monster? That depends on what you hope to get out of it.
Many gamers will go into Greedfall expecting this to be The Witcher 3 in a fresh, colonial cloak. That is nowhere near what this game offers and in that respect, it’s a good thing. You’ll take on the role of De Sardet, Legate to the Congregation of Merchants, a fact he will tell anyone with ears. It’s true that in this more “civilized” time, it’s common to use titles, but you’ll hear it far more often than you expect. Traveling to the island of Teer Fradee, your job is to work as an emissary between the islanders, Bridge Alliance, Theleme, and the Congregation itself. Fleeing from the Malachor – a mysterious plague – and searching for new lands and cures, humanity is looking to occupy Teer Fradee despite its native inhabitants already living there. It’s a complex narrative drawing on human history and blending it deeply with rich lore and fantasy. Each mission and side mission you encounter will have multiple resolutions, and each resolution can have dire consequences on your reputation with these factions and your party members.
In one early mission I was asked to retrieve papers from a warehouse in the Naut district, but I was not to kill anyone. At first the plan was to craft sleeping pills and slip them into their nightly wine supply, but the supplier was not swayed by my low charisma stat and wouldn’t let me see the bottles. I had to go to plan B: procure a Naut uniform and slip in under cover of night. It worked beautifully, but it could have gone any number of ways and the versatility in each and every mission is fascinating and well worth replaying.
Greedfall has no set classes or archetypes, instead letting you develop into your own play style. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and went for a magic build. It isn’t until after the first 10 or so levels that it feels like a viable option for combat, so I had to make sure I was also equipped with a sword just in case. While guns and melee weapons are varied, magic abilities are pretty limited with only about six combat options in total, although it’s fun to find different techniques to maximize damage. There are three skill trees to upgrade: one for Skills, Attributes, and Talents. Skills will alter how much ammo you can use, how much damage a sword deals, or the AOE of a magic spell. Attributes increase skills such as strength, willpower, or accuracy which not only add to your stats but affect which gear you can equip. Talents are your ability to pick locks, craft, and charm other characters. These trees gain points at different rates but steadily enough it never feels like a grind but a genuine reward.
Combat can be a bit of a disorganized mess at first. Two face buttons and a shoulder button will be mapped to your weak, strong, and special attack based on your primary weapon. Another shoulder button will toggle to your secondary weapon. Any other action, however, can be keyed to one of 12 different commands. Shooting a gun, casting a spell, using a potion, you pick where it goes; It will not automatically slot in so be sure to choose what you want. Locking on to an enemy feels a bit flimsy but where combat shines is the tactical pause. with one button the game will pause and let you evaluate the situation. you can key new actions or automatically perform one as soon as you unpause. This tactical advantage is reminiscent of Dragon Age, but I greatly prefer the full control of movement and attack De Sardet has here over the automatic function of Dragon Age. While it can be enjoyable to get into encounters, there is a considerable lack of enemy variety so it can get a little repetitive at times.
Crafting is a very prominent and important skill to have in Greedfall. Loot comes in the typical rarity colors with higher rarity offering points to slot upgrades. These come in the form of ornamental changes to armor and weapons. Chest pieces can gain pauldrons, neck guards, and ornaments. Swords can gain new pommels and hilts. These are drastic changes in their appearance and each one is unique to the model of gear worn, its brilliant to behold. If, however, you do not possess the skills for crafting and upgrading, the ONLY way you’ll be able to do this is through a blacksmith. They aren’t common so do yourself a favor and put a point or two into crafting. Gear is also viable for much longer than you expect. In many RPGs you’ll find the new gear, equip it, and 10 minutes later find something better but that isn’t the case with Greedfall. Stats can be fairly neck and neck early on and its advantageous to hold onto at least one piece of armor from each faction in case you need to be sneaky.
The world of Teer Fradee is stunningly beautiful. Broken down into several smaller maps that are still quite sprawling, the game has less to process at once and so you get a compact sense of untamed wilderness that is fantastic to behold. The environment carries an air of mystery, however it does suffer from the invisible wall boundaries we expect in some RPGs. It also sets these walls a little tighter than necessary, making stealth through the brush difficult at times. There is visibly space for my group to hide yet I’m not allow to step forward into it because reasons? I ran into this quite a bit which was a shame. When darkness falls it truly is darkness. Games like Skyrim or The Witcher 3 easily let you traverse the night but even with your lantern active, Greedfall wants you to know it’s a poor choice. It’s best to head to the nearest camp and rest to the next day.
While Greedfall has been an overall success in its ambitious venture, emulating huge open-world games tends to bring about the same problems these games suffer from. Despite its beauty, there is almost no synchronous mouth movement in dialogue. I also have had a number of conversations where the NPC stood smiling with their eyes closed the whole time, not to mention questioning a man in a tavern only to see the other patrons sprinting around aimlessly as if on fire. These aren’t exactly game breaking, but they are bugs nonetheless that take away from the immersion Spiders wants us to feel. Greedfall doesn’t use the islanders as overly fantastical representations but instead realistic and grounded people. I can feel for their plight and each character feels so powerful and unique, but that also means these kinds of bugs need to be removed quickly to maintain that level of gravitas and emotional impact.
Greedfall is an ambitious project that sets out to provide a unique RPG experience and on that it delivers. Classless customization, a winding narrative with reputation meters, and a never-before-seen take on fantasy colonialism is a breath of fresh air that delivers on memorable moments. Missions feel varied and strategic, and AI allies can hold their own. The narrative is somber and powerful, and the graphics, while not necessarily top-tier, are still stunning to behold. The combat can leave a little something to be desired and these odd bugs for the NPCs break immersion more than a few times, but overall its an emotional investment I’m happy to make. This may not be exactly the RPG you are looking for, but if you are a fan of complex narrative it should definitely be on your radar.
**PS4 code provided by the publisher**
- Beautiful Environment
- Powerful, Somber Narrative
- Deep Customization
- Competent AI Allies
- Awkward NPC Bugs
- Repetitive Combat
- Little Enemy Variety