GreedFall Review — Explore Teer Fradee at Your Own Risk
GreedFall takes place in an amazing and intriguing world but fails to be interesting on the gameplay front.
Spiders have always been an interesting developer within the RPG scene. They are constantly trying to break through with games like Bound by Flame and The Technomancer, but they are usually held back by some frustrating design choices and are rough on the technical side of things. From its announcement, GreedFall looked like it may finally be the game to buck that trend with an original world centered around a colonizer-native relationship that is not often explored in-game narratives. Spiders were recently acquired by Bigben Interactive as well, so there was hope that these last few months of polish would help GreedFall shine.
What results is Spiders’ best game yet, albeit one with major flaws. The story is as interesting and engaging as it seems with complex faction relationships and a feeling that nobody is ever truly in the right. Unfortunately, more than any Spiders game before it, GreedFall’s gameplay is derivative of its contemporaries to a fault, resulting in a somewhat repetitive experience that, while mostly polished, fails to have its own engaging identity like the story.
Spiders’ latest RPG begins with a somewhat bloated opening set in the city of Serene, but players soon venture out to the island of Teer Fradee in search of a cure for an extremely deadly disease called the Malichor. The player is far from the first person to arrive on the island though as it is already populated with several other colonizing factions as well as the natives who have always been there and are deeply connected to Teer Fradee.
GreedFall does do a good job at ensuring that no side is ever purely good or evil. Of course, its narrative highlights some factions as more belligerent and some as helpful, but missions do a great job at showing the ins and outs of this world. The natives may partake in some creepy pagan rituals and will capture and kill colonizers, but they are also just a nature-bound race desperately trying to protect the ever industrializing island in any way that they can. On the other side of the coin, the Theleme come off as well-meaning and helpful, but have a deeply racist and hypocritical underbelly of religious zealots.
Even the player’s own faction has its fair share of secrets and questionable decisions. GreedFall reflects the era of history it is inspired by well. Colonization is something that is often idolized and idealized but actually rooted in greed and the racism and classism that come along with that. Players who love lore in the RPGs should be satisfied by GreedFall, as it creates a deep world seeped with unique terminology, languages, and religions. Spiders clearly ensured that the world and story of GreedFall were an echelon above their previous outings, so these elements stand out as the game’s biggest strengths.
Where GreedFall manages to impress less is in gameplay, which isn’t broken but painfully dull. Those familiar with titles like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Dragon Age: Inquisition will not find much new, or better, here outside of the aforementioned world. Players can choose to specialize in melee, magic, or a rogue playstyle centered around traps, and have deep skill trees to progress through. One is for passive stat buffs and new abilities, one directly influences things like strength and health, and the final one gives players several attributes that are used to pass some skill checks over the course of GreedFall. They are pretty straightforward for the genre, which makes progression fairly uninteresting.
For those playing, I would recommend specializing in lockpicking, crafting, and alchemy as those are the ones that can be used to progress through quests quicker the most often. I made a charisma focused character, which turned out to not be as useful as I was hoping. This was disappointing because of the game’s focus on faction relationships. Once combat starts, fights go through the motions with attacking with light and heavy attacks as well as keymaped (or button-mapped) items and guns. Constantly dodging is important, and attacks build up a meter that eventually allows players to strike with powerful fury attacks when the time is right. GreedFall’s fighting system is not broken, but lacks any sort of outstanding identity and can be unfairly tough at times.
This is an RPG I recommend playing on an easier difficulty so you can get more enjoyment out of the story it is trying to tell. The cracks in the game’s construction also start to show the more one plays. A lot of the animation is really rough, so poor facial animation can be somewhat jarring in otherwise well-written, interesting, and emotional scenes. The island is fun to explore, but also littered with some frustrating invisible walls. Worst of all, I had to restart multiple fights because I knocked the enemy out of their programmed range so they lost sight of me, restored all their health, and walked back to their original position.
These are just a few examples but show that Spiders has yet to overcome the jank that tends to bring down many of their games. GreedFall is constructed better than some of their previous titles, but this game is not as technically sound as the games it constantly reminds players it’s imitating. GreedFall’s moment to moment gameplay needed some cool hook, like The Technomancer’s multiple stance fighting system or a dialogue-focused structure, to ascend to greatness, but as it stands, combat dulls an otherwise sharp premise for an RPG.
GreedFall is Spiders’ best game yet, but that does not mean it is perfect. From a gameplay standpoint, players will not get anything out of this game that they can’t get in a more polished state in the Dragon Age series or The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, making GreedFall a slog to get through. That being said, the game’s unique renaissance and colonization era setting and complex factions is attractive to those that love a good world and story to sink your teeth into. GreedFall shows that we are on the cusp of a truly great game from Spiders, so I’m still looking forward to whatever they do next.