Greedfall: The Good, The Bad & The Malichor
Developer Spiders‘ sleeper hit Greedfall has sold over a million copies, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s a solid action-RPG with an engaging story, superb voice acting, sharp graphics, gorgeous backdrops, and some sick ass people, literally.
In this romp through an alternate 17th century universe, you play as Merchant Congregation Legate, De Sardet, a stoic, fair, bad-ass ambassador to the whos who of the colonizing elite. De Sardet is charged with sailing to the beautiful and mysterious island of Teer Fradee to, among other things, find a cure for the malichor, a deadly, disfiguring disease that is ravaging De Sardet’s home city of Serene. De Sardet (whose gender, appearance, etc. is completely customizable) is accompanied by her cousin Constantin, who is named governor of Serene’s Teer Fradee settlement, New Serene. Constantine is a refreshing and compelling character–intriguing really–who plays a pivotal role in whether or not De Sardet will see her mission through to the end.
Greedfall is a well constructed saga that also traces De Sardet’s journey to strengthen diplomatic relations with the other factions on Teer Fradee and enlist their help against the malichor. At every step, De Sardet is further mired in the conflict between the factions and the islanders who are none too happy to see the “renaigse” coming to pillage and exploit the island they hold dear. De Sardet is a confident, likeable, well spoken noble who fights superbly alongside her allies–most of whom she meets on the island–while working to build a connection with the islanders who harness the power of supernatural Guardians that they use to defend the sanctity of the island, and who might be the key to curing the malichor.
Greedfall is a poignant rendering of the political machinations and violence that can erupt during colonization of exotic lands. De Sardet is a fierce, confident protagonist who deftly fights–or smooths over depending on your approach–the tensions that meet her at every corner. Greedfall gives you a clear story and clear objective that boosts immersion as you guide De Sardet’s journey. One of the biggest pluses of this game is that the side missions actually supplement the objectives of the main mission–and somehow, they are less fetch-y than I’ve seen in similar recent RPGs.
Now, that that boring summary-ish stuff is done, let’s get to the judging *rubs hands together like birdman*
Greedfall tells one of the most engaging stories that I’ve seen in a video game in a while–and I play a LOT of single player campaigns–where story, of course, is key. It is simultaneously complex and easy to follow, and tugs at the heart strings without being overly sentimental. As is important with any game, it easily promotes full immersion and I really felt responsible for making the important decisions that influenced the relationships on the island and the fate of those who depended on me.
You can choose to be a “Christopher Columbus” of sorts, fighting against the islanders to overtake their land in pursuit of the cure for malichor, or, you can work as an ally of the islanders, defending them against the encroachments of factions like the religious Zealots of Theleme, who use violence and intimidation to propagate their dogma and convert the natives.
Greedfall’s story is well executed and laced with many twists and turns, and while it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it manages to keep you interested and surprised to the very end.
Greedfall’s battle system relies on binding your actions to “hot buttons” on your controller (I played on the PS4) and using a mixture of melee, firearms, magic, bombs, weapon coatings, and traps to best your opponents. The battles flow seamlessly and with impressive realism, and while you can’t control your allies in battle, they are smart enough that you don’t worry that they’ll fuck the whole thing up and get you all killed.
During battle, you build up a “Fury Gauge” that allows you to unleash powerful attacks that make you feel like a real badass, and once you get a hang of assigning and using the hot buttons or going into tactical pause with a push of a button in order to plan your next attack, you will find Greedfall’s battles to be some of the most satisfying you’ve ever had.
In between battles, you are able to craft the traps and bombs etc. using the materials that you find or purchase during your travel, and though I found many of the buffing potions unnecessary for me personally, using them did offer an obvious edge. Unlike in some games, where the “filler” battles come too frequently or are a bit monotonous, I was always happy to engage any enemy and was always left satisfied once my enemies were lie beaten and bleeding at my feet.
Leveling up De Sardet was pretty straightforward through use of an often seen grid system where you apply the XP you gain through fighting and completing missions to beef up your skills for firearms, bombs, or melee, and it allows you to easily build De Sardet into a lean, mean, fighting machine.
Cool Islanders, Cooler Guardians
The islanders dwell in villages all over the Teer Fradee map. They are a diverse, proud group who are understandably suspicious of the colonizers, who they call the renaigse, and are fighting to protect their lands from the factions who hope to conquer it. They speak in a unique language, their accents are completely novel and don’t make you feel like they’re appropriating some real life culture, and cooler yet, they go through a rituals that bind them to large creatures called Guardians with whom they share a physical, and supernatural connection.
The Guardians, while presented as enemies, are a necessary evil and the islanders’ strongest defense against the renaigse who treat them as savages. De Sardet has many tangles with them through the course of the story, especially after they become corrupted with a dark power whose source hits close to home.
De Sardet, depending on how you play the game, develops strong relationships with the islanders or widens the gap between them and the colonizing factions, all the while learning more about their culture, and their long history of repelling threats to Teer Fradee.
I really enjoyed my companions. Their catch phrases weren’t too overused (you know how allies in almost all RPGs say something at the start or at the end of battle and it can gett annoying as hell?), and the missions De Sardet must complete to strengthen her relationships with each of them were interesting as well. The companions are, themselves, members of the factions that populate Teer Fradee. You have Vasco, a sea-faring member of the Nauts, Siora, a fierce islander, Petrus, a refined holy man from Theleme, Aphra, a scientist from the Bridge Alliance, and Kurt, a member of the Coin Guard who has known De Sardet since she was a child.
There is opportunity for romance with any of the allies if you play your cards right, and each of them offer a boon that works inside, and/or outside of battle. Greedfall’s allies are unique and multi-layered, their voice acting is impeccable, and you actually care about their role in your destiny as the game unfolds.
Rough Around the Edges
For all intents and purposes, Greedfall is a polished, beautiful game, but there are moments where you can see the rough edges that missed the shrewd eye of the Quality Assurance team. For example, at the beginning of the game, you customize the De Sardet character’s physical appearance and gender. I chose to play with a female De Sardet–and so it was funny when I was referred to as “he” at multiple points in the game. Not a big deal, but it was glaringly noticeable every time it happened.
Otherwise, the glaring development errors were few and far between, so things like this:
didn’t happen all too often, but when they did they were quite bad. In this case, it was corrected by me ramming De Sardet into him to send him on his way and continue the mission…but I don’t demand perfection from my games so this wasn’t a huge deal, just kind of funny.
Another funny bit is that as you travel through the countryside, you’ll see your battles coming before you get there since the creatures you go up against literally sit frozen in time, not eating, not moving, not even noticing you in some instances until you’re slashing at them with a sword.
Eh. No game’s perfect.
Killing is Easy
I mentioned that the battle system was fun–and it is–but what the battles aren’t, is challenging. Even enemies who had a skull over their life bar–the typical RPG indicator that an enemy is above your level–were easy to beat. After you get used to the battle system, killing any comers will be as easy as pie. The only boss battle that made me sweat, even a little, was the final one and in the end I bested that one fairly easily as well.
That said, I still enjoyed the fights immensely–they were extremely varied and fun and the alchemical and magical preparations you can throw are satisfyingly explosive. Using your fury attack to level a herd of beasties is always exciting, and…easy once you get a hang of things. So, if you’re looking for super challenging battles, Greedfall isn’t for you.
Fetch This. Fatch That. Find Him. Find Her.
The main place where Greedfall goes wrong is in the unbelievable amount of fetch missions. “Go here and talk to such and such!” “Go to cave A, then go to cave B!” “Visit Duncas in his village and ask him to…” “Lead Duncas to point C to ask about thing B.” Too much. By the end of the game, I was so over going to and fro to find things and people that I did become a little bored. It wasn’t enough to make me contemplate quitting the game, but I could see how someone might.
The fetch missions, in most instances, did fit into the storyline more or less, but still, there were way too many of them and no one, nary a developer in the entire land, can make 20-30 fetch missions interesting. They suck after a while, and were the only thing that took me out of the game from time to time.
Which leads me to the length of the game. There were many instances where I felt that the game should’ve ended, but didn’t. There would be some monumental discovery or boss battle, and then you’d go to inform, Constantin, for example, about how that big battle turned out, and then he’d send you to talk to someone else which would result in a bunch of fetch missions: “go here, fight that.” “Go there, talk to person A, then come back and tell me about it”. At a certain point, I just wanted it all to end. There are only so many people/creatures etc. that you can travel to battle with–an easy battle at that–before you’re a little over the whole thing.
The ending, when it finally came, was a bit anticlimactic in that it was merely a narration alongside still shots describing the aftermath–and that left me unsatisfied after all the build up. I beat the game after completing all but the most tedious of missions (there were contract boards located in some towns with missions on them, I barely attempted them) in about 86 hours. I would’ve been happy to be finished around hour 60, honestly.
However, I know that people want the bang for their buck when they pay upwards of $50 for a game, so maybe Greedfall’s lengthiness not such a bad thing.
Remember when I said that the story is amazing, it is. The main villain in this game isn’t any one man or beast, but the biggest threat to hero and heathen alike, the malichor. It turns anyone who falls ill with it into a rotted-faced dead man walking, and you can feel its threat throughout every corner of the game.
The urgency of malichor’s wrath is felt in every mission you complete as you scour Teer Fradee for the cure while dealing with the deadly whims of an island that wants nothing more than to send you packing.
Using an ailment as the primary antagonist offered up a lot of opportunity for the writers to present a number of sub-antagonists who add a rich variety to the game. There were members of the Theleme clergy that I literally hated and couldn’t wait to take down (I ended up collaborating with him, go figure, but I didn’t go out of my way to make Theleme and ally) and there was something refreshing about having stakes in the relationships that I built in the game.
Greedfall is a multilayered, engrossing game that shows more depth than your most Final Fantasy of Final Fantasy, and that is where it shines the most–despite the sheer abundance of fetch quests.
Who is Greedfall For?
Greedfall is a treat for anyone who loved the Dragon Age series, Elder Scrolls, or Dragon’s Dogma. I’d say that those games are superior, but not by much. Greedfall shares a setting, motif, and energy with those games and the actual mechanics are very similar to what you’ll find in those titles. I will mention that Dragon Age was a bit edgier–so I would say Greedfall is like, a G-rated Dragon Age. I actually prefer a little bit more edge (sex, violence, foul language) in my games than Greedfall had to offer, so that might be something to consider–if you’re a deviant like I am, that is.
All in all, anyone who likes a good RPG, (i.e. leveling up, ability to pause battle action to make tactical decisions, customizable main character, consequence and choice based gameplay, ally romance options, etc.) will love this game. It’s not the best game I’ve ever played, but it was unarguably solid and kept me engaged more or less for 80+ hours of gameplay. Greedfall was a hoot, and definitely earned its place right smack in the middle of my list of the top 20 RPGs of all time.
So, my advice is to check it out. Greedfall is available on PSNow and in the Playstation Store for $49.99–and for this robust, smart, and valiant effort, it’s well worth the price.