I’ve played a few hours of GreedFall, and it’s already one of my favorite action RPGs.
I loved Dragon Age II, Bioware’s sometimes-maligned first sequel in their long-running fantasy franchise.
It had everything I personally look for in an RPG. An intriguing cast of characters. Fast, fun combat. And a breathless story that presented a million things to do, but they were all within spitting distance of each other.
I didn’t have to slog across an empty world just to advance a quest.
Where other players hated its slightly reduced scope and more intimate story, I loved its mix of character drama and fun, kinetic combat.
GreedFall is like Dragon Age II, but with a bigger budget and some more modern design sensibilities.
Set in a fictional fantasy world, initially in the port city of Serene and mostly on the large island of Teer Fradee, GreedFall casts you as a member of a noble family sent to govern a new settlement during a time of mysterious disease and chaos.
It deals with themes of colonialism, war, and conquest through a mix of familiar fantasy tropes and unique character and creature designs, tinged with a pinch of real European history.
The result is a look that’s halfway between Assassin’s Creed and Dragon Age, and quite unlike anything else in the fantasy RPG space.
Character creation is somewhat limited compared to genre greats, but on the plus side, it’s nigh-impossible to create an unattractive player avatar.
If you like to embody a character and a unique playstyle, it’s quite easy thanks to a sprawling skill system that doesn’t lock you down into your initial starting class.
So far, the fun of the combat is the most surprising element. It’s fast, brutal, and requires careful crowd management.
I started out as a warrior, and the secondary kick attack is vital for knocking over enemies and navigating battle spaces. It’s clearly inspired by CD Projekt and Bioware’s hits from years past.
Dodging and blocking are both necessary, you won’t succeed by spamming out attacks.
For the more strategically-inclined, the game does include a full tactical pause system, and you can control every aspect of your character’s combat while paused. It’s a great way to balance the brutal speed of the real-time systems.
Another thing I enjoy is how clearly signposted all the quests are.
Although the game features only a compass display on the main screen for navigation, I never got lost in the opening city, and the map system in the sub menu is robust and detailed.
It’s always easy to see where you need to go next, and once you get there, it’s likely you’ll have a few different ways of tackling a quest.
I’m a “run in and fight the guys” sort of person myself, but there’s also a robust stealth system, and frequently conversation is a useful questing tool as well.
The game world isn’t the clockwork pile of systems you’ll find in a Bethesda game, but rather a carefully-designed set of challenges within an open space like the aforementioned Dragon Age II, or other genre hits like Deus Ex or The Witcher.
The world’s dynamism comes from using your specific character build to navigate the game’s bespoke challenges in different ways, and from making different choices in dialogue sequences.
I can already tell this is a highly replayable game, having just completed the opening city. Even the first side quests in the game are riddled with different ways to complete them.
You can try dressing differently to sneak through areas. If you have crafting skills, you can poison guards to get a key item, or help a tavern owner repair his damaged furniture, instead of taking more direct approaches.
Every item can be customized through numerous crafting options, even the starter gear you’re handed at the beginning of the game. If you like to improve your pauldrons, you’ll be in heaven here.
GreedFall comes from a solid pedigree, though you may not have heard of its development team before. It was made by Spiders, a small French developer.
They’ve been in the action RPG space for years now, and they’ve released a series of smaller scale fun-but-flawed titles.
Mars: War Logs, Bound By Flame, and Technomancer all showed promise and some impressive visual flair, but they were rough around the edges.
For the first time, it feels like Spiders had a proper budget to match their ambition. GreedFall runs on their in-house Silk engine, and it has a lot of good graphics scaling options on PC.
Though character models are a little rough at times and the animations aren’t trying to compete with a Rockstar game, it’s an undeniably pretty game.
The lighting and materials in particular are impressively realistic, and the way the game doesn’t stop to load building interiors excites me every time it happens.
I’m really stoked to play the rest of GreedFall and quest my way across Teer Fradee, and I’ll check back in with a full review once I finish it.
The game fell out of nowhere and jumped to the top of the Steam release list overnight.
If you’re a fan of classic Bioware games, or just like single player RPGs in general, it’s easily worth a look. The slightly lower-than-average price doesn’t hurt either.
I’ve thought about buying one of the console versions just to support it again.
What a delightful surprise!