When large scale RPGs launch from our favorite developers, we all have a sense of what to expect, in terms of how the story might unfold, what kind of bugs we might encounter, and so on. When you load into games like Skyrim, for example, most people have an acceptable level of ‘jank’ that they come to expect from a massive open world experience. It blows my mind how we allow larger AAA titles to get away with these things, but penalize the smaller companies for similar issues. While GreedFall might not be the most polished game n the market right now, it’s still one of the best!
You’ll assume the role of a young, wealthy nobleman who will accompany his cousin to an up-and-coming colonial island where he (your cousin) will take the role of governor, and you the role of his right hand man. The first section of the game acts as your tutorial, and while your early time with the game might feel restricted, it’s only a matter of time before you are dropped into the open world.
What I really liked about the early going in GreedFall is that it doesn’t feel like a tutorial, although it most definitely is. Here is your opportunity to get use to the controls, tackle simple enemies, and complete a variety of quests. You can become familiar with the map icons, familiar with the controls, and get a good handle on who your character is, and what topics will be important in this fantasy world.
Set sometime in the 17th or 18th century, GreedFall does a great job of mixing reality with magic, walking a fine line that never makes one more important, or more powerful, than the other. You can choose from a number of classes off the top, and while the magician looked like a good option, I opted to play as the warrior.
I haven’t played quests and a main story this interesting since perhaps The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and that is putting GreedFall in some elusive company. While many RPG games rely on dozens upon dozens of fetch quests to beef up the experience, everything in GreedFall seems to have a purpose, whether part of the main quest, or something on the side. And they are almost never, “Go here and fetch A! Go here and fetch B. Then return to me.” Nope, there always seems to be depth to the quests, and choices that need to be made.
And there are a fair number of great choices available in GreedFall. Early on, for example, you will confront a local merchant who is selling potions. After a bit of listening and snooping, you begin to realize what he is selling might not totally be on the up-and-up, so naturally as the good hero, you approach the man and demand answers on behalf of the crowd. As the quest unfolds, you begin to learn new things about the man, and in fact, might even have some sympathy for him, despite appearing like a low-level crook.
And then the choice comes: do you call in the guards to arrest the man once you’ve confronted him, or do you take pity and help him escape the mob, and flee the city? In my play through, I chose the latter, hoping that I might meet our good friend in the future. Did I? I won’t spoil that here, but it is thoughts like that which make the decision in GreedFall feel like they have impact.
For such a small team, the developers did an excellent job making GreedFall look as good as possible, with a few caveats. While the open world look incredibly lush and are fun to explore, and while cities do look really great – even in low light – it is very obvious that the team is often recycling assets from one area to the next. A tavern in one city will look an awful lot like the tavern in the next city you visit, and larger, prominent homes are also incredibly similar from one place to the next.
For a small team, this is partially forgivable. To launch a game of this size takes a LOT of work, and a lot of money. Sometimes, making the best use of assets – and that may mean recycling them – is necessary to achieve the final goal. While it was a bit of a disappointment to feel like I was re-trudging through buildings I had visit before (although never had), it was also partially understandable, and so at the end of the day, I’m pretty OK with it.
One area I don’t find forgivable, however, is in the clunky controls. Moving through the world can feel like a chore at times as the characters seemingly lumber across the screen. And when it comes time to loot boxes and enemy bodies, you’ll need to find the sweet spot so you can press A – while simply walking up to an ‘area’ around the body/box and pressing A would have been the best method, the development ream seems to have created a very tiny interaction window, so even if you are standing over the body of a fallen enemy, you might have to fiddle with the sticks to get the loot button to appear.
Similar issues crop up while in battle as well. While everything is mapped well to the controller, it never feels fluid and clean like it does in other RPG games, and this is a major setback for what would otherwise be a fantastic experience.
Overall, however, I play RPG games for the story and the world, and for the most part, the development team behind GreedFall do this incredibly well. With some of the best story telling in any game since the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, passing on this 25 hour experience would be an incredibly unfortunate.