GreedFall is the latest story-based roleplaying game by developer Spiders and publisher Focus Home Interactive. It’s available on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, and stands out as a bit of a surprise hit this fall season here at Guide Stash. Flying under the radar for months, Spiders has crafted an intriguing storyline filled with interesting characters and an enticing new world to explore. Along the way, players will find mysteries, typical fantasy tropes, and a fair amount of rough edges and annoyances. Fortunately, GreedFall is carried by its story, which will hook you and keep you invested throughout. You’ll experience the standard fare of RPG mechanics, including a companion and party system, and the token romance options seemingly required in today’s RPG titles. Where GreedFall stands out, aside from its unique story, is its tactical combat system, which allows for as much, or little, control in combat as you desire. Let’s take a closer look at what makes GreedFall a good option for those seeking a deep, long-form roleplaying game.
Explore Distant Shores in Search of a Cure
GreedFall starts in a fictional world that is eerily similar to 17th century Europe. The player takes on the role of either a female or male heir to a prominent family whose cousin is about to set off to a strange new island to become the governor of the Congregation of Merchants. You initially spend a fair amount of time in the old world, becoming familiar with GreedFall’s mechanics and essential roleplaying elements. You also meet the first of many characters that will be constant at your side. Kurt, a member of the Coin Guard, a mercenary organization with an honorable reputation, has long been a family friend and will accompany you on your journey. He’ll also be the first of a possible five companions that your character, Lady or Lord De Sardet, will be able to choose from.
The old world has been struggling with a disease called Malichor. This plague of unknown origin has no cure, and religious and scientific scholars have been struggling to find a way to save the populace. Seemingly the hope of the entire known world rests on the promise that the recently discovered new world, an island known as Teer Fradee, will hold a solution. The natives of this island seem unaffected by the Malichor but also aren’t too fond of the new settlers. The other two major factions in GreedFall, The Bridge Alliance and Theleme, have already settled significant cities on the island. This has naturally led to conflict, not just between the natives, but also between the factions themselves. Something about science and religion being at odds with each other.
Your role, alongside your cousin, Prince Constantin D’Orsay, is not only to try to assist in finding a cure for the Malichor but also to keep relations civil on the island. A significant portion of GreedFall plays out like a political thriller, with secrets and deception lurking around every corner.
Conflict is Inevitable
As you explore the environments of Teer Fradee, your hero will forge new relationships with a variety of companions. Each of your travel companions represents a typical RPG archetype, ranging from sorcerers to fighters. Choosing who will accompany you at any given time will greatly influence how combat and even conversations will play out.
GreedFall’s combat system is unique in the sense that will combat is conducted in realtime, you can enter a tactical pause to choose from a variety of spells, tactics, attack styles, and potions at any time. There is a large variety of gear and weaponry to choose from, and everything from an upgrade system to a crafting and potion making system is included here. There’s little doubt that you’ll be able to customize your combat experience to your style. With the help of your companions, your battles should be relatively easily won, given the right tactics. Unfortunately, your companions don’t always act as smartly as you’d think they should. Putting enemies in stasis, for example, renders them immovable, which is excellent for controlling the frequent onslaught of multiple monsters. Still, it seems as though your companions completely forget to target these temporarily frozen enemies. In most of my combat encounters, I felt like I did most of the fighting, and the companions were merely there for the ride. Perhaps that is the intent, however. After all, you are the star of the show here.
A reasonably complex system of skills, attributes, and talents fulfills another typical RPG requirement. Your character can be customized to your liking, by investing in a variety of different options, from agility, strength, and endurance to lockpicking, charisma, wisdom, and much more. You likely won’t gain enough experience in GreedFall to become an expert in all of these areas, so your playthrough experience will depend largely on the choices you make. Fortunately, you’re able to redo your options using a fairly easily available item.
The types of skills, attributes, and talents your character is proficient in will dictate many of the conversation and story choices you’re able to make along the way. Characters high in charisma may be able to convince would-be opponents to surrender, while those skilled in lockpicking can circumvent specific barriers in the game. In the grand scheme of things, however, no matter which way you spec your character, the narrative seems to be mostly on rails. Yes, you may choose to pick the lock on that door or kill the guard with the key, but the result is mostly the same. You’ll have to try pretty hard to change the outcome of events and whether or not other factions view you as trustworthy or combative.
This Could Have Used Some More Polish
As much as GreedFall grabbed my attention with its story and beautiful graphics, there are a fair amount of rough edges. Perhaps unfairly, GreedFall is easily compared to titles such as The Witcher 3 and Assassin’s Creed Origins or Odyssey. When viewed in comparison to those titles, there are significant shortcomings in GreedFall. While the environments are generally beautiful and detailed, I couldn’t shake a feeling of being locked into smaller regions. Yes, there is a lot of travel and a reasonable amount of exploration, but it pales by comparison. Voice actors are frequently reused, and the accent of the natives of Teer Fradee varies so widely that I’m not sure if different tribes are supposed to have different dialects, or if there’s just a lot of inconsistency in the production. Inexplicably, each of the three major factions’ governmental palaces have identical layouts and even portraits. It’s clear that a lot of things were copied and pasted, and after spending upwards of forty hours exploring the world, these things stick out like a sore thumb.
Clearly, a lot of this goes back to the smaller budget in place, and the overall outcome is that GreedFall is a magnificent achievement for a small development studio such as Spiders. The story itself is the real gem here, and while it’s arguably not incredibly unique, and the ending can be predicted relatively early on, it is nevertheless enjoyable. Much of the interactions between the various factions play out like a political soap opera with the player’s character pulling many of the strings. It’s like a guilty pleasure; unlikely to win any originality awards, but good old-fashioned fun.
GreedFall offers no shortage of side quests and missions, many of which devolve into simple grab and fetch quests. The real interesting quests come from the main storyline and your companions’ personal stories. It’s a real shame that unlike comparable games, GreedFall won’t allow you to complete these quests after finishing the game. Once you complete the penultimate mission, the game ends. The story does come to a tidy close, and you’ll feel reasonably satisfied with whatever ending you ended up with, but it’s a bit of a shame that you won’t be able to return to tie off various loose ends. I suppose the best advice I can give you is to take your time and explore all the side missions as you go. I hope you’ll have enough patience for when things get a bit repetitive.
You’ll Definitely Get Your Money’s Worth
Overall, there’s a lot to like in GreedFall. It’s an enjoyable experience akin to Dragon Age, and similar titles, none of which we’ve had available to play lately. I’ve you’ve never experienced some of its bigger budget competititors, you won’t even know that there’s a bit of polish missing in Spiders’ latest offering. The multitude of endings and romance options may also make you consider replaying GreedFall several times, though I’m a bit hesitant considering that a large portion of the story will be the same, and frankly, not half as enjoyable the second or third time around. Will games ever give us a better way to experience different endings without replaying the entire game, I wonder?
If you’re in the mood for a classic RPG with lots of customization options, a wonderfully enjoyable story, a bit of intriguige, and a dash of tactical combat, then GreedFall will hit the mark.