Godfall Review — Godfalling Flat
The numerous pitfalls and issues in Godfall prevent the better aspects from shining through, leaving only a dull mess that isn't worth the hefty price tag.
Godfall, the latest title published by Gearbox Entertainment, released alongside Sony’s new behemoth, the PS5, aiming to create a new genre of action RPG and gear-driven gameplay: the looter-slasher. Unfortunately, Counterplay Game’s attempt falls flat on its face and never ascends to the lofty heights it strives to reach.
Godfall’s story is one of the most bare-bones and non-starters in a game that I have played in some time. You are Orin, and your evil brother wants to become a god. In your attempt to stop him, he cleans your clock. From there, you have to wake up a weird magical AI-like being composed of three-faces, spending a lot of time running back and forth between the game’s only 2 NPCs to hear about the next of your big bad brother’s generals you have to beat, before thrashing your brother. If you don’t, the universe will be destroyed.
Before Godfall’s release, Gearbox recruited lore video guru; My Name is Byf to create a 4-part series of videos that dives into the history and world that the game takes place in. If you were, just to just play the game, though, 90% of that lore would be lost on you.
This “adventure” you embark on consists of repetitive missions, handed out to by the previously mentioned NPC duo, that will send you to the three different elementally-themed areas to gather coins to unlock the next general. You do this for about 8-10 hours until you finally confront Macros (that’s your evil brother). If you want to get more out of the story, your best bet is to check out Byf’s lore videos.
When it comes to the gameplay, Godfall can’t quite decide what it wants to be. Previews and trailers for the game give a sense that the game is fast-paced and much more hack-n-slash like than it is. Combat feels much more akin to the parry-heavy methodical combat of a Souls-like or Monster Hunter, where you have to pay close attention to where you aim your attacks and when you strike.
What is especially troublesome is that the game in its current state can’t do either well. The overly long cooldowns on skills (which admittedly can be decreased by items and gearing your build in that direction) paired with the inability to cancel animations and actions midway through, say block and parrying an incoming attack, remove the ability to play fast. Instead, you will have to decide whether or not it’s worth committing to an attack and leaving yourself open to a potentially devastating enemy rebuttal.
On the flip side, playing more restrained has its share of headaches too. Targeting is a nightmare, and using some weapons–even while locked on–can be easy to miss. Attacks can push enemies outside of the range of finishing combos, which can easily leave you open for a few frustrating seconds. What is particularly infuriating is the lack of a function to quickly toggle between the targets around you. Instead, you’re forced to cancel a lock-on and try to lock on to a different enemy. This blows my mind that this toggle feature is missing.
Another annoyance is how many enemies shoot you from long range and teleport around. The very few long-ranged attacks available to you, primarily your shield throw, are attached to aggravatingly long cooldowns. This means you will be forced to try and run up close to enemies that keep teleporting away from you or shooting you as you attempt to do so.
If you stick with Godfall, finishing the “campaign” unlocks an equally uninspired post-game grind. You open up two post-game modes, the first of which–the Dreamstones–serves as the best way to reach level 50. You will tackle a handful of quests and unlock a final round where you fight a gauntlet of mini-bosses or previous bosses. The bosses will be at a higher level and with new attacks unlocked. While it can make things more interesting, it doesn’t change things up enough to force you to rethink your strategies. It’s repetitive but can be done quick enough and nets you some loot, which makes it worthwhile.
After reaching Godfall’s current max level of 50, you can dive into the Tower of Trials mode. Your goal is to complete as many trials as you can as you climb the tower. You are gaining buffs as you go, contending with wave after wave after wave of progressively more difficult enemy mobs. This mode could be fun with a team of players, but playing is on your own is probably the most notable slog of the game, where the payoff wasn’t worth the time investment.
When it comes to multiplayer, developer Counterplay Games made the dumbfounding decision not to include a matchmaking option. This means that unless you have friends that also own Godfall (on the same platform, no less, since this game also has forsaken crossplay), you will be left to loot on your own. It’s unfortunate since you almost have to have a full party to contend with the Tower of Trials.
All of these gripes would be more bearable if it weren’t for two things. First off, this game does not run all that well. I experienced several drops in performance during combat, including stutters and slowdown. It is a mood killer when you manage to do something cool, and the game hangs for a second because it can’t keep up.
The second is that this game has no reason to be a full-priced $70 game. From the performance issues, repetitive and uninspired missions to the missing features, this feels more like it should have topped off at maybe a $30 price tag, if not free-to-play with a micro-transaction element.
Now at this point, I’m sure that you are thinking to yourself that I believe there is nothing even remotely redeemable about Godfall, and that isn’t true. Underneath the rubbish is a sparkly, if not overly shiny, gem, which makes everything I’ve said so far sting even worse.
From the flashy Valorplates to the weapons, each with their unique lore, the gear are some of the most badass looking fantasy weapons I have seen in a video game in a long time. The fact that Counterplay Games have gone out of their way to give each item you get its history is a labor of love that pays off. I loved checking out the lore of the new weapons or equipment I found and was excited to unlock each new armor set, even if that excitement didn’t translate to playing with the new Valorplate. I found myself particularly drawn to the Phoenix plate, with it’s flowing belt-like items hanging off of it.
Godfall also has a great level-up progression tree that offers players many options in how they want to build their character. What’s more, each node has five levels that you can invest in, none of which are locked behind a level requirement. Instead, you simply have to have made it into the tree that far. Should you choose to try a different build, returning your points for a respec is as simple as pressing a button. It’s fantastic.
My only issue with this system is that, strangely, some important combat mechanics are unavailable until you unlock it on this board. Mechanics that were often touted in weapon stats, like Rampage, weren’t immediately accessible because I hadn’t put a point in yet. However, you can get these opened up reasonably early on, so it isn’t as big of an issue as the ones I’ve mentioned previously.
Between the leveling system and the gear, I did get hooked on that oh-so-sweet looter loop while grinding to max level in the Dreamstones. The constant drop of higher-level gear and the desire to continue to improve my explody-fire build scratched that itch quite nicely, which only continued to make all the game’s issue hurt more.
There’s something special here, but the gem that is Godfall is buried deep underneath a pile of issues and lackluster content. Godfall hamstrings most of its good ideas, crippling the game out of the gate. Offering multiplayer but no matchmaking or cross-play, throwing numerous enemies at you at a time without a way to toggle between targets, forcing you to chase after enemies hitting you with projectiles when your only long-range attack is on a too-long cooldown, and of course, that $70 price tag. It will be interesting to see what shape Godfall is in a year from now, but I suggest you hold off on falling down this hole for the time being.