GreedFall is the latest open world RPG from French developer Spiders. To be honest, I really appreciated their previous two outings: The Technomancer, and Bound by Flame. While neither was particularly great, they had their own campy charm. Much like those two titles, GreedFall is overly ambitious for what it is, and is riddled with bugs, but it manages to recapture that charm that made me enjoy a lot of my time with Spiders’ portfolio.
I played both The Technomancer and Bound by Flame before I was writing game reviews. Just because I enjoyed my time in them, I understand the deep disconnect between the core concepts and the execution of them. GreedFall is in a similar boat. More than anything, it’s is a watered down Bioware game, that has a lot of great ideas that don’t ultimately culminate in anything great.
That being said, I think the type of RPG that GreedFall represents is criminally under-represented in the gaming landscape. Western RPG’s are dominated by Bioware titles and The Witcher games, and the fact that Spiders throws these titles into the ring is admirable. GreedFall is a slow burn, not just with pacing, but the story is rather weak.
Players take control of De Sardet, a young diplomat set in an early colonial setting while an mysterious plague is ravaging the world. Most of the game takes place on the island of Teer Fradee, a location where a solution to eradicate the plague resides, which is where De Sardet heads early on.
De Sardet’s role as a diplomat is one of the few things that sets GreedFall apart from other titles. As players interact with NPC’s, they will often need to coerce and charm their way into finding solutions for concerns or obstacles. A lot of GreedFall’s core ideas revolve around this diplomacy, and it’s something I’d like to see in other titles. The only real drawback to having a diplomacy system in place like this is that it ultimately trivial.
Interacting with different factions should carry a sense of weight, and a lot of these interactions do. It’s hard to convey a full diplomacy system like this though in any video game. Interacting with the different factions should have ramifications on other ones, but instead they seem like checkboxes. I’ve helped one group, now let’s move on to the next one. Human nature doesn’t work like that, and as a player it’s easy to see the limitations of GreedFall’s systems, even if I really like the concept of them.
It feels like almost every individual aspect of GreedFall is like that though. The story’s pacing is incredibly slow, but is peppered with deeply climatic story cinematics that almost makes the slog feel worth it. The narrative isn’t bad, but with the focus on diplomacy, it’s imperative to focus on your choices and take your time with each interaction. It begs to be explored and discovered because of this, but it also makes what feels like a mid-length game feel stretched out over 40 hours.
A lot of the quests here feel like useless time filler, while the main story quests have great impact. Character customization feels similarly limited, but still gives players choice. Want to bash your way through the game? That’s an option. Want to play as a stealth build and sneak past or stealth kill enemies? You can do that too. What GreedFall lacks in well-rounded character building, it makes up for in player choice. You can definitely play how you want to, but don’t expect to have an extremely versatile character.
Where GreedFall shines brightly throughout is its combat. It plays out similarly to Dragon Age II, so anyone who has played that should know what to expect. Fights are fast paced, and De Sardet is an agile fighter. These quick fights can be slowed down to almost a stand-still for differing character builds in order to plan out attacks. This gives GreedFall an extra sense of strategy when you get tired of bashing your way through enemies.
The characters in GreedFall really help give the world a sense of personality. You’ll come across a massive number of different people that all need De Sardet’s help, but sometimes the best weapon you have at your disposal is your diplomacy skills. Choices you make throughout your playthrough will not only affect main missions, but side missions as well. Choices can be direct, like interacting with someone or choosing a certain dialogue. Or they can be indirect, like not completing missions before tackling another one. If anything, De Sardet is a far weaker character than the ones you’ll interact with. I found myself caring far less about his motivations than the people around me.
GreedFall is competently animated too, but I often found myself marveling at the environments. Character design clearly got the short stick, and while each character has a unique look, it’s apparent that a lot of the love went into making the world look good. Enemies have great variation as well, and players should expect to fight plenty of humans and creatures on their journey.
Similar to the visual design, character performances are hit or miss. Some lines are delivered stiltedly, while others are delivered with incredible conviction. Some parts of GreedFall are delivered with such high production value that I kept having to remind myself this was a mid-tier title, and not a AAA one.
GreedFall is developer Spiders’ best title. Hands down. Sure, I had plenty of bugs, game crashes, and visual hiccups, but the world is very well realized, and the snappy transition from fast paced combat to slow strategic combat kept me coming back. No, it won’t win any game of the year awards, and no, it isn’t a great title. However, it is a competent one that fans of any Bioware title or The Witcher franchise should be able to get some mileage out of.
GreedFall is available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. This review is based on an Xbox One copy of the game provided by the publisher. Purchases are available here.