In Greedfall, you play as a legate for the Congregation of Merchants; a colonising force set on finding a cure for a plague ravaging their homeland. These themes are incorporated in some intriguing ways through its quests, making for some enticing conversations in a story that kept me engaged every step of the way, only to fall flat when it stepped out of the comfort of diplomacy and into its lackluster and dated feeling combat.
…the player is allowed the freedom to influence relations with whichever factions they desire.
Greedfall excels in presenting a superbly interesting world I quickly wanted to sink into, with themes of colonisation and a lust for power taking the forefront. The several factions on the island of Teer Fradee are locked in a power struggle, and as a legate for the merchant congregation (one of the colonising factions), the player is allowed the freedom to influence relations with whichever factions they desire.
I chose to side with the natives on most occasions, as the other factions often treat the natives with a lack of respect and intolerance. For example, missionaries from Theleme would often set up camps outside their villages in an attempt to influence their inhabitants and have them abandon their faith in favour of their own belief system. Greedfall does a fantastic job of giving the player agency to solve these interactions in their own way, and I often felt like I was making a positive impact on the world through discourse.
Conversations are immediately gripping, as characters are written with great care, giving each of them a unique personality. This is amplified with the religious, political, and cultural differences between the various factions, who are each set up in different cities and camps around the island. The natives’ camps feel as different as night and day from the cities of New Serene, San Matheus, and Hikmet, though structures are often reused between the cities, a fact which became painfully obvious once I was asked to sneak into the same warehouse several times in different cities.
These quests offer side stories that fall in line with what I’ve come to expect from larger RPGs…
Each of the five optional companions hail from different factions as well, giving a wide breadth of choice in company. As you might expect from an RPG of this calibre, the characters aren’t expressed incredibly well through animation, but that is made up for in full by each character’s line of personal side quests. These quests offer side stories that fall in line with what I’ve come to expect from larger RPGs, boasting an emphasis on fleshing out each companion and allowing me to deepen my bond with them as the line of quests continues, even going as far as romance by the end of it.
Side quests throughout the whole game are just as fleshed out as quest lines in the main story. With a huge emphasis on conversation, going through each quest feels like unravelling a mystery in the best way possible. Most quests gave me the option to approach them in whichever way suited my playstyle. When asked to sneak into a warehouse, for example, I could outfit myself in a disguise and slip past the guards, or if I had skills in science, I could craft an explosive and blow out a wall, giving me an entrance to go in guns blazing.
Many of the game’s quests had me walking back and forth multiple times between a quest giver and an objective, which often felt like a chore since there’s no minimap to easily see which way I had to go. This was occasionally relieved by an option to fast travel or immediately return back to a quest giver after completing an objective, but still often felt like I was acting out a music video for The Proclaimers’ 500 Miles.
Slashing a blade at an enemy felt like I was cutting through a straw dummy…
Whenever I made the journey from quest giver to objective, large bear-like beasts were standing in groups across the roads and wilderness, just waiting for me to walk close enough to initiate combat. They don’t move a muscle until I walk into their small circle of territory, and you might think this would make it easier for me to take them out one-by-one in stealth. Unfortunately, more often than not the enemies are positioned so close to each other that taking one out will immediately alert the others, making stealth an ineffectual strategy in nine out of ten combat situations.
Combat, in general, feels woefully dull. Slashing a blade at an enemy felt like I was cutting through a straw dummy as I chipped away at a health bar. It reminds me of the cookie-cutter combat of The Witcher 3: passable and even enjoyable, but a far cry from its brilliant potential. The armour mechanic adds some needed depth as players can use their firearm to quickly break down an enemy’s defenses, or even employ magic abilities like stasis to hold enemies back and slowly chew away at their protective shell. Both options elevate combat above a barebones hack-and-slash, but neither offers much to make it more satisfying.
Greedfall’s combat also utilises a tactical pause mechanic, which allowed me to halt the action as I considered my next move or drank a potion. I used this option especially frequently during boss fights, which had me fight the island’s Guardians. These gigantuous tree-like monsters are deeply woven into the game’s story and prove to be a formidable challenge in almost every encounter.
I found myself mostly repeating the same three moves over and over again during every encounter…
These boss fights would be an absolute highlight for Greedfall were it not for the monotonous combat. I found myself mostly repeating the same three moves over and over again during every encounter: stasis, attack, dodge, repeat. The Guardians are certainly well designed, but after repeating the same moveset multiple times over the course of roughly five minutes, fighting them became a tedious bore, and having to restart those fights because of a last-minute death felt more like an errand than entertainment.
By the end of the main story, I came away with an overall positive perspective of Greedfall. It falls short in its uninspired approach to combat and long fights can often drag, but it is carried by its compelling stories and enjoyable quests. Conversations with the game’s characters are almost always intriguing, and I always felt as though I had a say in a situation’s outcome. So while the game fails to deliver an engaging combat experience, diplomacy and player choice make the journey to Teer Fradee one worth embarking on.
Yes, if you:
- Are a fan of fantasy RPGs
- Are looking for a smaller RPG experience
- Like a lot of freedom of choice in your games
No, if you:
- Want an RPG with strong combat
- Don’t enjoy dialogue focused gameplay
Greedfall released on September 9th, 2019 on PC, PS4, and Xbox One (reviewed).
Note: Cannonicity received a copy of Greedfall in exchange for a fair and honest review.