Over the last few weeks, I’ve been playing and writing about my experience with Spiders’ latest RPG adventure game Greedfall. I’ve been chronicling my entire gameplay experience like my first two hours with the game and playing with the character styling system. Today, after 42.5 hours, I’ve officially completed one of the game’s endings. So, how did the game hold up?
Greedfall’s primary storyline, at its heart, revolves around the mysterious illness known as the Malichor. Causing terrible sores, prolonged agony, and eventual death, the Malichor’s sudden outbreak on the island sets the scene. De Sardet, cousin to the mysterious island Teer Fradee’s derelict governor, and legate of the Congregation of Merchants sets out on a quest to find the cure. His secondary objective is to serve as the arbitrator of Teer Fradee. He works to foster a spirit of peace to the native inhabitants and the foreigners who have made the island their home.
Dealing with Factions
Upon disembarking from the boat to Teer Fradee, De Sardet meets the various factions of the island. The six powers in play are the Congregation of Merchants, Bridge Alliance, Theleme, Coin Guard, Nauts, and the island’s Natives. The Congregation of Merchants control the prices of all goods and supplies on the Island. Scientists and Scholars make up the Bridge Alliance. The Theleme is a religious faction seeking the conversion of the native population. Nauts are navigators. Coin Guards serve as guards and mercenaries, and the Natives simply wish to live in peace.
From the outset of the game, it is quite clear that politics play a major part in the narrative. De Sardet serves as an arbiter of justice, the moral touchstone of the game. Each of the factions has acted aggressively or in a threatening manner; some warranted, some unprovoked. The Theleme has been torturing the native population in warped conversion tactics. The Coin Guards ask you to smuggle weapons onto the island to ‘cut through the red tape’. The Bridge Alliance is conducting strange scientific rituals to try to understand the Island’s Magics. Nauts take children as payment for extreme debts, Merchants drive hard bargains, and the Natives are fighting to preserve their homeland. In short, Teer Fradee is a time bomb waiting to explode. De Sardet’s job to keep the peace and do everything in his power to help everyone get along.
The Malichor Plague
Alongside his ambassador role, De Sardet is searching to cure the Malichor. After his cousin, Constantin, contracts the disease his efforts are hastened as he begs your help in finding a cure. Searching for the cure, De Sardet seeks out the Native population who reveal they are unfamiliar with the disease.
Through a series of fetch quests and resolving a variety of troublesome issues, De Sardet gains the trust of some of the native groups. They tell him of En on mil frichtimen, the God of the Island. By influencing an election De Sardet can speak with En on mil frichtimen and learns of the Malichor’s origin. In response to the rampant abuse and destruction of Teer Fradee and its inhabitants, the island itself has created the sickness to eliminate its contagion, the foreign powers. En on mil frichtimen agrees to help cure the Malichor if De Sardet can first stop someone very close to him from destroying the entire island, robbing it of its power for their self-serving purposes.
Party Make up
De Sardet’s adventuring party contains members of each of the factions. Your companion options are Kurt (Coin Guard), Vasco (Nauts), Petrus (Theleme), Aphra (Bridge Alliance), and Siora(Natives). These represent one companion from each major faction, De Sardet representing the Congregation of Merchants of course. A total of two additional companions travel and fight with De Sardet in any given tactical situation, each possessing the strengths of their factions. Each companion’s style and outfit are customizable to your heart’s content. For more on this see my previous piece on character styling.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the combat system is the tactical pause system. By hitting L1 combat pauses allowing players to strategically plan their next moves. This can allow you to strategically plan actions, prepare spells, utilize special techniques, or administer potions which are immediately enacted after ending the pause. This system takes what is otherwise a mostly mundane combat system and gives it a more interesting flavor. That being said, as you get deeper into the game I found combat to become wrote and relatively uninteresting, save boss fights.
But How does it feel? [Spoilers ahead]
During my 43.5 hours of game time in Greedfall, I found the narrative to be interesting but slightly predictable. Help the people, learn their knowledge, don’t ruffle too many feathers. One interesting aspect which did present itself is the game’s strange judicial system. De Sardet’s moral compass seems to be the only judicial barometer. By his will, players choose what is either best for the island, or rather what’s best for De Sardet. As a third middle-ground option, players can choose to placate all factions leaving the most negotiating room to receive the maximum benefit for himself. One might think there would be significant consequences for favoring one side over another. But, unfortunately, other than in the penultimate quest, there are very few consequences to blatantly screwing one, or multiple factions over.
Greedfall does possess an interesting critique of the exploitation of a native population and the planet as a whole. En on mil frichtimen reveals he is the source and the cure for the Malichor. The plague is the consequence of the foreign exploitation of the land, its resources, and its people. The various guardians De Sardet and his party fight are merely protecting their natural habitats and responding to the contagion harming their home. It is their fault the plague exists. Were it not for En on mil frichtimen’s fear of the darkness unleashed by your cousin, Constantin, his help would be predicated on major changes happening.
Complicit by Design
The call to look after the planet and its resources isn’t subtle whatsoever. It is in this and several other situations that the player is made to be complicit in the way the world is. Complicit, in my opinion, by design. I think there are several events in the game where the player is supposed to feel dirty and that their decision had a negative consequence.
De Sardet encounters many problematic scenarios: weapons dealers, child enslavement/sales, religious extremism, xenophobia, and corruption by absolute power. In each of these situations, there are multiple outcomes available based on requisite skill levels. But ultimately, unless you manage to guess every skill necessary perfect, you end up causing harm to someone. For me, this accurately represents colonialism. Even with the best intentions, decisions can cause terrible harm. You aren’t supposed to feel good thinking about it. In this way, I think the political system of Greedfall works well.
Greedfall does possess many great qualities. Artistically the game is beautiful. The music and voice over are well crafted and add to the game nicely, never getting too annoying if a little slow in narration at times. The visuals are also great, with one exception. The cities and landscapes are exceptionally well done. The backplates for roaming about the world look fantastic and add a richness to the game. Another impressive achievement is the programmatic visualization of De Sardet’s clothing. As you upgrade your outfits and armor these changes are reflected accurately in cutscenes and dialogue which is a neat inclusion.
The crafting system for upgrading weapons, armor, and accessories is also a well-made delight. While not overly complicated, it provides a great level of customization giving players a way to style and upgrade characters’ assets to their styles.
There are also some negative aspects to Greedfall which cannot be ignored. Character animations are bad. The hair textures and general facial features are not good. They regularly are low-resolution and instantly draw attention to themselves. In a world as rich, vibrant, and well made as Greedfall these components are a letdown.
From here I have a small series of gripes. As previously mentioned while I do enjoy the combat system it does get repetitive after a while. Occasionally I ran into some strange camera angles where Greedfall seemed to be struggling but it does seem that they have addressed this with the latest patch. I think the saddest part of the game was learning there was no new-game plus mode. While it is not an essential inclusion, a game like Greedfall is SCREAMING for a new-game plus run with fresh loot, stronger enemies and the ability to take a new path with the same characters.
Greedfall is an interesting game. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with it but I’m not sure it will be for everyone. Part of my enjoyment was the exploration of the themes of colonialism and conservation of the planet. This might fall a little too close to reality for some players, though. I’ve met many people that do not want their escapism in videogames tarnished with complexities of real-life issues being thrown at them. I can completely understand this critique, even if I don’t necessarily hold to it myself.
If you are someone who enjoys RPG’s with solid level grinding and loot opportunities paired with a moderately interesting story, you will enjoy this. If you like a game that makes you ponder real life at the same time, this might also be a game for you. Should you prefer your games to be complete fantasy and not reflective of any real-world issues, you might find it enjoyable but could just as easily get annoyed. Greedfall is a title that I would consider picking up at full-price but if found on sale would absolutely pick up. All-in-all Greedfall is a solid RPG game. It possesses an interesting political system, excellent character styling options, fun weapon choices, and a pretty compelling story. This is a game I would recommend to RPG fans with only minor reservations.