No stranger to the action RPG genre, Spiders has once again crafted a game set with a unique world. Polish has been a concern in the past, and although Greedfall is without a doubt their most ambitious (and best) game to date, it still could use a coat of polish. However, everything the game does right, from the player choices that affect the narrative to the outstanding musical score that accompanies the game, outshines the technical shortcomings.
The game opens with De Sardet, the protagonist and future Legat of New Serene, learning the ropes from the dedicated mercenary of the Coin Guard, Kurt. It has befallen onto you to find a cure for the deadly malichor plague that has ravaged its way through the city of Serene. After a heartfelt goodbye to your mother, who won’t survive the disease long enough to see the fruits of your quest, you make your way through the city. Serving as an introduction to the various political factions, and getting accumulated to the game’s mechanics. It doesn’t take long for the folly of man to ire its ugly head, as you learn of guards pinching merchants for coin, and sons being sold off to The Nauts; those with the power to navigate the high sea.
Regardless of the class, you select initially; you’ll have access to basic light and heavy attacks, as well as a special attack, and your first ability. The first choice you make affects your starting stats, weapon of choice, and gently guides you when it is time to make stat improvements. The warrior class specializes in melee attacks, the technical class controls enemy movements with crowd control options, and the magic class can deal long-range damage with a wide array of magical spells. As you gain experience, you’ll level up, and with that, earn skill points to spend on new abilities. Powerful fury attacks use a varied amount of stored meter, and items and firearms can be mapped to be easily triggered. Although you’ll only face against several enemies at once, dodging and parrying is a must, especially during boss encounters. Even on the easiest difficulty, De Sardet can perish in a matter of a handful of hits, leaving you to chug health potions. A secondary weapon slot allows you to equip a different weapon type, and a kick can stagger enemies, leaving them unable to defend against a quick fury of attacks.
Once you reach New Serene, the game takes off the training wheels letting you explore the mysterious island of Teer Fradee. Your cousin takes his place as Governor, leaving you to play ambassador to other nations and natives inhabiting the island. Once you leave the city area, you’ll notice that the game isn’t one cohesive or seamless open-world. Instead, the game is divided into decently sized hub areas. Reach the edge of a map or find a fast travel point, and you’ll have to choose where you want to travel next. Every time you do so, you’ll get the chance to swap out companions or replenish your inventory thanks to traveling merchants.
Each area is well-designed and features plenty of things to discover if you take the time to explore. Chests can be found almost everywhere, whether you are out in the wild or running through city streets. For this reason, I highly recommend selecting lock picking as your initial skill. Each questline in the game feels like a mini self-contained story but remains linked to the overarching narrative. With two companions at your side, encounters in the game are mostly uneventful, but that is mainly due to the smallish groups your face. Not only that, but there isn’t a wide variety to the enemy types in the game. Be careful not to move too far from your foes current position, as you’ll cross an invisible barrier, resetting them in the process. There is even a tactical pause, slowing down the action if you find yourself overwhelmed, but unlike other titles, you can’t control your companions. You can, however, fully customize/swap out their gear and further build your relationship with them by completing quests. Yes, you can even romance them if that interests you.
Loot is based on the standard color rarity scale, with higher-tiered items offering upgrade options. There are two different paths you can take to upgrade your gear, either crafting yourself or by visiting a blacksmith. These upgrades not only improve the stats of the selected piece but adds striking new visual flair. I was happy to boost the armor rating on my chest piece, but seeing it visually reflected is an outstanding detail. Of course, at times, I was purely motivated with looks over form, but there is nothing wrong with looking stylish while exploring a new world.
Greedfall is one of the most ambitious games that has come out of seasoned developer Spiders. Although it is their best work, technical issues continue to be a running theme with their games. The voice acting is mostly impressive, and the narrative is well-written; however, the game’s lack of transitional animations can be quite jarring. With that said, it feels like Spiders is on the verge of greatness. The narrative is strong, and the world-building is quite remarkable, but the execution isn't quite ready for prime time.Note: Greedfall was reviewed on PC. A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher/developer.