Greedfall – A Good Ol’ RPG for Those of Us Who Miss Them

I beat Greedfall!

It took a month and a bit, which has to be some kind of record for me. Usually it’s more like six months to beat a game… Then about a week of jotting down thoughts with one hand as I wrangle my 9 month old with the other (I swear sitting at the computer trips some kind of alarm in his head) and we have a post!

I’m a bit on the dramatic side (if anyone who stumbles across this dusty blog had known me during my WoW blogging days, they’d say that was an understatement) so I was mourning the death of the single player, D&D style RPG genre. You know, the games with notable stories, when you can customize your character, switch up gear, play with stats, earn levels and skills, do all that micromanaging stuff that I adore without having to play an MMO. Even if you include not-quite RPG genres or MMOs, it feels as if all the mid-sized to big studios, if not crushed under their own weight, have given in to the easy cash flow of battle royale, arena or looting games.

There are some admirable attempts from small indie teams, I’m sure, but while I’m not necessarily craving a huge production, I do want something a bit fancier to spend 40+ hours on. (Yes, I have heard good things about The Outer Worlds which was released recently.)

I was over the moon, then, when Greedfall was released and received pretty decent reviews. I was familiar with a few games from the publisher, Focus. As a good Steam user I even own some that I’ve never played! The studio, Spiders, however, was new to me. It seems that they’ve released a number of RPGs over the years, though fans are saying Greedfall stands apart from their previous projects.

De Sardet, posing awkwardly in front of buildings in New Serene.

Let Us Talk about Story

We play De Sardet, a smooth talking (the degree of which may depend on the player) diplomat sent to join a colonization effort on a newishly discovered island. We have two jobs: keep the peace with the island natives and the other (usually detestable) two colonizing nations, and find a cure to the Malichor, a plaguelike illness ravaging the old world. Since playing Dragon Age: Inquisition, I’ve been longing for a game that is heavy on political play. Greedfall doesn’t have the resources to be exactly that while maintaining their action-style goals, but I felt like the intent was there as you can pick and choose your side quests and how you resolve them, altering your reputation with the different factions.

Instead of the commonly used medieval setting, the story takes place in a late renaissance/exploration era world. It’s refreshing to say the least. They also smartly choose as inspiration for the island’s natives’ culture, pre-Celtic (and maybe also Celtic) civilizations, which was a lot of fun (ancient British Isles peoples are fascinating and seriously under represented in video games) and avoided the insensitive handling that would have inevitably occurred had they paralleled actual history and portrayed an adaptation of Native American cultures.

The main characters, De Sardet and her crew, are likeable enough, although if you go in expecting Dragon Age level of character complexity, you might be disappointed. You still do get the option to somewhat shape De Sardet’s personality: Is she a people pleaser? A by-the-book law enforcer? Lazy? Warmongering? Judging by default conversations, I feel like she is meant to be good at diplomacy, but if you prefer to ignore or betray your allies, the opportunities are plenty. I am curious as to whether an “asshole” playthrough would feel inconsistent, as De Sardet’s non-player controlled dialogue usually leans toward peace-making. Her companions offer personal quests, though *spoiler alert!* there isn’t much to reveal about them. The quests do, however, provide fantastic windows on the world. I suspect that the writing team is one that enjoys worldbuilding over character or plot development, so heads up fans of worldbuilding! Another excellent element of the personal quests is that the timing of when you complete them, should you choose to complete them at all, affects the main story line in a few places. The game offers no guidance as to the ideal questing order, which might drive anxious, modern gamers (like me, normally) up the wall, but I actually appreciated the surprise. I think that because I wasn’t as invested in the story or characters as I am with other games, “winning” the best possible outcome wasn’t a priority.

At times, though, it feels like the story was put together the wrong order. A character will say something that makes no sense but that everyone accepts as matter of fact, only for the corresponding worldbuilding aspect to be explained later on. On the opposite end of the spectrum, most of the foreshadowing is so explicit that it’s more like spoiling. Many “plot twists” or “big reveals” left me confused as to why everyone in-game is shocked when previous quests or conversations had given more than “nudge-nudge-wink-wink”s.

General quest-wise, there was an attempt to get rid of fetching. So, yay!, no “kill 10 wolves” quests! The downside is that without bloat, questlines feel bareboned: “Go to these three places to talk to these three guys, there’s nothing else to do there so don’t bother looking, then come back to me. Then go back to those three places where there is still nothing else to do, to give these three things to those three guys.” Not much journey planning to be had and no distraction from playing messenger. It’s not so bad early on, but by the time the main quest starts to wrap up, you start hoping that it wraps up quickly.

The dialogue, surprisingly, is good. It is possible that the past couple of years playing World of Warcraft, Destiny and Mass Effect: Andromeda have significantly lowered my standards, but I still think conversations flowed naturally and were believable. There was one, maybe two, sorta cringy lines toward the end, but given the quantity of dialogue and the budget constraints, it’s forgivable. Also have to say that the voice acting was well cast and on point. Constantin and Petrus’ actors, especially, offered some of my favourite game voice acting performances in a long time. I’ve seen people complain about the natives’ language not being translated, but I find the complaint unfair. The natives’ language added a lot of flavour to the game. Any large chunk of dialogue was summed up for us by another character and the random words were either explained the first few times they came up, or had obvious meanings given the context.

Combat

I enjoyed the intent of the combat system. The skill tree was easy to understand and navigate. There were only a handful of active abilities, with most skills being passive improvements to learned abilities. Since most games I play flood me with more abilities than I can map onto my mouse, or even remember, the quality over quantity approach worked for me. I liked the separate trees for attributes and talents and found the rate at which I was given points to be satisfying. Having companions and gear offer talent bonuses added a fun strategic dimension as well. I have seen people unhappy about it, but, personally, I was amused by my three chestpieces (one for Vigor, which helps you get around, one for Science which lets you make potions and assists with death investigations, because you get to do that, and my main one for Lockpicking, which, shocking I know, lets you unlock doors and crates) and my +1 Intuition-but-no-other-stat hat that I wore up until the very end.

Skill tree –

The combat execution felt a little choppy. Spells didn’t always cast, it felt like there was an unnaturally long invisible global cooldown interfering with the “action” aspect of the game, and spells from the tactics menu wouldn’t go off (potions, traps and probably poisons did). Someone who cares a lot about combat experience would be pretty annoyed. I didn’t mind. All the games I’ve played recently have pretty good to great combat experience. I’d rather RPG makers with limited budgets allocate their resources to the elements of gameplay I’m having trouble finding elsewhere.

Difficulty was about the same as most RPGs for me: playing on normal, the first few fights are a little frustrating. Then I got used to the system and outlevelled the content. Then I facerolled up until the last bit. It’s a nice touch that the last few fights feature bosses that do way more damage and have way more health than anything we meet until then. I say “nice touch” because for once, all the gear, traps, ammo and potions I’d been hoarding got to be used before game conclusion.

Design

I know you’re usually supposed to put design first when jotting down your thoughts, but you can see where my priorities lie.

Random screenshot in the wilderness.

The maps aren’t open world, which seems to disappoint a lot of players but I don’t mind. The maps are big and interesting enough to hold my attention. There’s not a ton to discover (whatever historical mysteries the island holds are resolved early on), but most of the area is used by questlines and the fast travel system is solid, so I never got the impression of “driving around the mountains” the way I do in other games.

The environment and graphics, while not realistic or cutting edge, are tasteful and easy on the eyes. They do a good job of supporting the storytelling, which is how it should be. I feel like too many studios blow their budget trying to be flashy when all we want is a visual appropriate for the setting. The cities look like how we’d imagine cities in the 1600s, the island looks like how we’d imagine a temperate island to look, the native villages are reminiscent of Celtic villages, the gear/clothing is always context-appropriate and varied enough for me to be excited to try things on.

There are a lot of reused assets, Dragon Age 2 style, but unlike Dragon Age 2, the reuse is always done appropriately. For example, all the governor palaces have the same model, but the colours and decorations change based on the culture of the respective cities. Besides, it makes sense that the old world cities have similar preferences in flooring plans. I also wasn’t tired of seeing the same buildings and city halfway through Act 2. And, like with the combat, I don’t need extra creative environments and I’m glad resources were allocated to stuff I actually care about instead.

I see a lot of fellow players use the line “riddled with bugs” when describing the game but other than poor De Sardet being misgendered all the time, everything ran smoothly for me. No wierd glitching… ok, maybe sometimes odd camera angles or a companion spazzing out after getting stuck, but those occurrences were rare and didn’t call for reloading or restarting the game. I had no crashes, no freezes, no broken quests (mayyyybe one wonky one involving an NPC who left her post prematurely to deal with stuff but it was more like an oversight than a bug). I hear that console players have it a little worse. Also that the menu keybinds are inconsistent on console. This pleases my inner asshole (I mean asshole within… the figurative asshole…you know what I mean). For once, us PC players get the better deal. Cheers to that.

Short Conclusion

I wish I was giving a glowing review of the game because we’ll never see a resurgence of the RPG genre, a least on the non-indie level, unless players are ready to spend their money on them, to make them worthy of investment. But while Greedfall has its strengths and weaknesses, I do think that it is pretty much as good as it could be, given the size of the team and of the budget of the game. Long term fans of Spiders seem to be saying each new title is better than the previous ones, so I hope that Greedfall sold well and I’m really excited to see what the studio comes up with in the future.

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4 Comments on “Greedfall – A Good Ol’ RPG for Those of Us Who Miss Them”

  1. Redbeard Says:

    Methinks I’m going to have to check this out.

    And what’s this about a 9 month old? Congrats!!!

    • Ophelie Says:

      Thank you! He’s the reason (ok, one of the reasons!) I hadn’t updated this blog for a year and a half, haha.

      And yeah, I highly recommend Greedfall! It’s not perfect, but if you go in with the right expectations, it’s a fun and refreshing RPG.


  2. Congrats on the baby!

    Good to hear that you like Greedfall. I’ve been eyeing it for after Vampyr. If you want another RPG to try, give Vampyr a shot. It’s a very different setting, but very good.

    • Ophelie Says:

      Thank you!

      When I saw Vampyr on Steam, I thought it looked too dark for me, but your review of it makes it sound like something I’d enjoy. I have to cut back on the gaming for a bit since I’m studying for an exam, but I’ll keep my eye out – maybe I’ll get lucky and I’ll catch it on sale before I’m ready to play it!


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