Over the past few years we have seen a resurgence of high-quality Double AA hidden gems with releases such as Vampyr (Read our review here!) and Kingdom Come Deliverance (After it was patched) along with several others. Greedfall, developed by Spiders, is a new AA Role Playing Game with an emphasis on choice. Spiders have even proclaimed that they want this game to fill the void left by Bioware since many of their recent releases have been fumbles, from the much obvious misstep that is Anthem and Mass Effect: Andromeda, to the retroactively popular opinion that Dragon Age: Inquisition isn’t the game many thought it to be at launch. The game reportedly had a 5 Million dollar budget, which is relatively small considering the cost of modern game development, so does Greedfall hold a candle at attempting to fill a Bioware sized void?
At the beginning of the game, you are faced off with the decision of designing what your character looks like. Boy or girl, hairstyle, face, the whole normal character creator shebang. Admittedly the character creator is limited, not many hairstyles and not much variety in faces which ends up haunting the NPCs as well as many have the same faces. This, however, is excusable because the game focuses on one thing, choice, of which the proceeding character development tree makes up for and allows the game to truly shine.
Greedfall has a very in-depth leveling system, you have three areas to put points into. Skills, which you unlock every time you level up, are the basic skills of the game that help you unlock things such as the ability to use rifles, rolling, more damage, magic, and much more. Attributes, which you earn every three levels, are things like Strength, Agility, Mental Power, Willpower, Accuracy, and Endurance. Investing in attributes lets you equip better weapons. For example, if you want to be a mage and use magic you will need to invest in Mental Power so you can unlock and invest in better rings which gives you more spells. Same with accuracy for guns as another example.
The last leveling area is Talents, which you unlock a point for every four levels, for things such as Charisma, Vigor, Craftsmanship, Intuition, Lockpicking, and Science. Talents are arguably the most important part of the tree and what makes this a special game because they directly affect your ability of what you can do in the games quest. Let’s take charisma, let’s say you are negotiating with someone, charisma affects your ability to convince people to do things. Its like contextual skill checks, very akin to Fallout, specifically New Vegas. Lockpicking affects your ability to get into places without keys, craftsmanship helps you repair things in quest along with helping you upgrade your weapons and armor, Intuition helps you well… use your intuition and observe situations better and call things out, etc. Every talent directly affects things you can do in quest, and how you can complete the quest. It may seem complicated and you may not understand it at first, so let’s say you put points into a skill you decide you don’t want. There is an ability to unlock crystals that let you re-spec your Skill Tree, so you’re not confined if you change your mind mid-game.
Greedfall is a particularly unique game in the form of its story and topics. The story and tutorial starts with the main character in his/her home continent, it has been devastated by a deadly plague known as the Malichor, your country, The Merchant Congregation, has recently discovered the island of Teer Fradee. Legend tells of many deadly monsters, magical natives, and much land on this new island, and what you hope for most is a cure for the plague that infects your people. Before you leave, you must tell your own mother goodbye for likely the last time, as she has the Malichor and is likely to die soon.
So the topics are set, Greedfall is a colonial-era game (Very rare and untouched topic for games) where there is a lot of fantasy and mythical stuff like magic sprinkled in, a relatively untapped topic of games as I never really see anything be about old-style Colonialism, except for Assassins Creed 3. The main story I will also note is very gripping and interesting, with all the choices I made throughout and it is actually well written and interesting throughout, and honestly got better as it went on. There were several times I just wanted to keep blowing through the story to see what would happen next, however I stopped because my inner gamer senses tell me I must do side quest. I would say the game took me around 40-45 hours to complete, so it is fairly long.
Along with the unique ‘colonize an island’ story, you have lore, lots of lore. The world is filled out with several factions such as the Merchant Congregation (you), Natives, Nauts (people in charge of the ships), Theleme (very religious society), The Bridge Alliance (very scientific society), and The Coin Guard (essentially paid security and mercenaries). Your job, as the Legate De Sarde is to be a diplomat to all these nations while also finding a cure for the plague. It has a very similar system to Fallout New Vegas where your relationship with these factions is based on the choices you make.
So let’s say a bunch of Theleme missionaries are attacking natives, you choose to intervene and just kill the missionaries, the Natives like you more and then you lose reputation with Theleme, which by the way is not pronounced the way you are pronouncing it in your head. The story is directly affected by your relationships with these factions as well, so certain things will happen based off your lack or abundance of relationship level with them.
Most quests in the game are not that straightforward though. Spiders boasted prior to release about how every quest was a real quest with several outcomes, and not just some stereotypical go here, do that type of fetch quest/busy questing system many games employ. In Greedfall every quest has depth, people to talk to, and consequences. A few quests will even require you to wear that factions armor, another feature very akin to Fallout New Vegas. Some quests are even timed and if you progress too far in the story you will fail. This theory is good and what I want from games, however the game does not inform you that quest will expire, which is rather frustrating because I had no idea it would expire. So I did every quest in the game except that one, so I recommended you do a side quest when you get them. Everyone you speak to in the game is also fully voice acted and aside from a few exceptions like the tone changing when you go to leave the conversation the voice acting is really solid
You have five companions in the game, one for each faction. They all have a quest-line and have an opinion of you based on your actions. The best part of having a companion is like Fallout, they will comment on many things and can help you on quest if you are traveling with them. For example, if you lack the intuition to examine how a body died, if you have Aphra who is the Bridge Alliance companion and very intelligent woman, she will explain how the body came to be and the cause of death. If you have Siora, the native, she will often get into arguments with people you are talking to and defend her people when others insult them to be savages; and she will also help you negotiate with native tribes.
My only real gripe with the companions is how little dialogue they have with you one on one outside of quest. They have plenty to say in the quest and you are able to get to know them through their quest-line, but otherwise you can really have a conversation, or tell them to carry your stuff, or move and get out of your way and stuff like that. All companions aside from one can be romanced, however I did feel like the romance scene was a very unnecessary scene as it feels forced the way the romance progresses. Also, be warned, they love to yell the same few lines in combat very often and it will get annoying.
So how does the world of Greedfall work? It is not an open-world game, it is more like an open level game. You have a very big world map, and you travel from area to area, these areas are about mid-sized, with native camps in them, wildlife and enemies, you can find skill altars in them as well. You can travel to any area you want whenever. Yes, there is fast travel and it is made easily available with many camps at each level. In between each fast travel location is a “Merchant stop” along the road for you to sell your goods, and you do have to do it every time you move between areas, its similar to an interactive loading screen. I thought it would be annoying, but honestly I found it pretty useful as it was an easy and convenient way to sell my items and buy ammo and equipment which I did often.
There are three major cities in the game, New Serene, Al-Saad, and Hikmet. These cities are also about mid-sized. A lot of buildings have the same template throughout them and the game, and in the cities there are lots of NPCs, but very few you can actually talk to as you do most of your interacting in quest. You will see NPCs spawn and despawn in front of you in these areas.
The combat and looting of the game is very similar to The Witcher 3. You can lock onto enemies, which I recommend you not do because free-forming attacks are way more intuitive and helpful. Through the enemies you kill, you can get better loot. It is the traditional loot tier system of common, rare, very rare, all the way to legendary. The more advanced up these tiers you go you most have attributes to wield them. For example, you may need accuracy four to wield a good gun. So what you use is dependent on how you upgrade your player. You can also craft upgrade for your loot if you have good craftsmanship levels.
The combat is pretty in-depth though since there are several styles, personally I went full brute so I could have the best swords and did not invest in magic. However magic is very powerful despite me not dabbling with it much, you can equip rings and shoot spells. You can “Tactical Pause” and place traps for enemies to charge into and take potions and such. Enemies have armor and health, you barely do any damage if they have lots of armor, so you must be smart and weaken enemies armor to do the most damage.
The variety of enemies is also something to be wondered at. There are many different bosses and types of enemies in the world. You do end up fighting the same ones a fair bit, but your first encounters with them will be horrifying since most enemies are designed in a very unique way and look like very foreign creatures to ones we have seen.
The graphics of the game are pretty good in all honesty. I never noticed any graphical issues, albeit I am playing on Xbox One X. The game does not look photo realistic, so keep that in mind, however it does not look like a last generation game. I would say the graphics are very suitable considering it is double AA and the budget. The optimization was great, I hardly ever had any frame drops except near the end I had some noticeable frame drops several times in the merchant loading screen area.
Do not let me mislead you though, even though it is well optimized the game is not bug free. You will see NPCs like I said before, just spawn in front of you, you will see guys who are supposed to be chopping wood, chopping at the air, there are MANY annoying invisible walls, there are spelling errors in some of the text, annoying quest marker placements that have you look in the wrong area till you figure out what to do (To be clear, I only encountered that twice, it is not common, just pointing out it exist), the camera is a little sensitive and movement is very weighty, and the stealth AI is noticeably very bad and unaware (To be fair stealth is used very little, but the AI is bad).
There is janke in this game, but the thing is this is a AA game and the rest of the game far outweighs the minor bugs and gripes I have with it. RPGs rarely account for choice and has as good narrative as Greedfall does, so it is well worth your money just based off of the choice and consequence alone. It also helps because it is not a full 60$ game, its 50$. I encourage you to pick this up, as I would love to see Spiders be able to attack a sequel with an even higher budget to allow for bigger areas and more NPCs to interact with.