The holiday season is upon us, leaving some with the chance to find their newest role-playing addiction as a result. If you're looking for something to scratch that itch with something a bit off of the beaten path, Spiders and Focus Home Interactive might just have the role-playing experience for you with their newest release Greedfall, a game that puts you in the role of a diplomat who is responsible for not only trying to discover a cure to a plague but also discover the secrets of a mysterious island called "Teer Fradee." You'll spend as much of your time brokering alliances and fighting to keep the peace as you will fighting monsters and opposing factions, and it's that unique mix that makes Greedfall so compelling.
Greedfall's biggest strength is in its conversations and characters, and that's really where it lives and dies. The visuals are fine but unremarkable, especially when compared to other RPG powerhouses like Final Fantasy or The Witcher. The character models and animations are solid, and the cities and towns you encounter along your journey feel just lively enough to keep you immersed as you travel. That might all seem rather mundane, but it's when these characters start talking that Greedfall starts to win you over.
Early on, the game hints that it wants you to embrace the diplomat role and that continues throughout the game. Whether you're interacting with a tribe, a rogue faction, or the ambassadors for the various other groups, you always feel like you're walking a tightrope between a peaceful solution and all-out chaos, and that pins-and-needles feeling makes the smallest of exchanges feel like they mean something. This is only bolstered by the fact that, depending on your stats, you'll get the option to flex some charisma or intuition during a conversation, but the percentage system throws some welcome chance into the situation.
Greedfall builds on those systems by delivering companions that don't hide their feelings in the least, and having the option to let your companions interject during an exchange makes it feel as if they are actually taking part in the scenario as opposed to being mindless drones following your lead. Petrus and Siora are especially noteworthy, as both characters are taken beyond the cookie-cutter companion templates and offer nuanced opinions that can change your perspective on the given scenario in a big way. They aren't Yes men in the least, and both challenge your character quite a bit throughout the adventure and, trust us, you're better for it.
While the game is dialogue-heavy, there's plenty of combat as well, and it's quite addictive. Players will bounce between swords and guns with ease, as each style is dedicated to a specific button (two, in swordplay's case), and that's not counting the option of magic, provided you have someone who can use a magic ring. It allows for quite a bit of flexibility during combat, and while the dodge system could be a bit more refined, overall it was easy to get into the flow of swinging your sword, hitting another enemy with your pistol, and then hitting special attacks with the trigger while the rest of your group fights in the background. During these sequences, the rest of your team is active and actually doing damage, making it feel more like a team battle than some other games of this ilk.
The game also looks to make certain role-playing mechanics that are often taken for granted a bit more special, and it does so by spreading out the points it gives for leveling up. There are three different trees to access, and each one gets a point unlocked at specific levels, not each one. So, while you will get a point for one of them on each level, you won't get one to increase your lock picking each time or one to increase your charisma either, as those are spread farther apart.
It makes you put more importance on the choices you make, or at least makes you consider other options. For instance, you can put points into lock picking, but you can also craft armor that will net you a lock-picking bonus, though you will need to have the skill of crafting to do that or find a blacksmith to do it for you, which will cost money. Typically this is something that just comes with time, so it was nice to see it worked into the game in a new and fresh way.
While you might be able to get past the lack of graphical prowess, one thing you will likely notice early on is the reused textures and locales. Sure, the towns might look different from each other from the outside, but once you go inside, you'll notice that one palace has the exact same layout as another, and just about every warehouse looks and feels exactly the same. The same can be said of the armor and wardrobe, which, aside from a few stylized pieces, lacks any real presence or flair. Now, there is some distinction between the weapons and guns, thankfully, but it would've been nice to see that kind of variety in the world you fight in.
Greedfall presents a compelling tale of political intrigue and hard choices and, coupled with its addictive combat and entertaining dialogue, it definitely makes a strong case for your time. It is a bit less refined than some of its contemporaries, however, and some will find it hard to ignore the reused textures and less than stellar graphics. That said, for those who look a bit beneath the surface, they'll find a unique world and a roster of rich characters that surprise you at every turn, and, if that sounds like a win, you should definitely give Greedfall a try.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Published By: Focus Home Interactive
Developed By: Spiders