A Good Effort That Comes Up Short
Greedfall is a game that seems to deliver a variety of reviews from people that play it. Some really like it and they focus on the many positives that are found in the game. Others are underwhelmed and their focus is on the many faults that are present throughout the game. I note at the time of writing about 30,000 site members have started the game while only about 300 have finished it and the site rating is 3.9. After spending about 100 hours with the game and unlocking all of the base game achievements I found my opinion of Greedfall more in the middle.
Let's start with the good. Greedfall starts off with a different setting than most of the RPG's I have played. Straddling more of a colonial era vibe vs. far future sci fi or an ancient sword & sorcery setting makes it stand out a bit right out of the gate. The weapons and skills are a mix of melee, guns and magic. Clothing and armor also brings a colonial era feel to the game as does the clash of cultures between settlers and indigenous people.
The game also looks very good with very few bugs or glitches. I played it on the Series X and found the technical parts of the game solid. There were a few quests that I had to save, quit and reload because NPC's got stuck or objects did not spawn correctly but no technical issues caused me to lose progress in the game. Cut scenes, scenery, character armor and weapons all looked good. I found myself thinking often that some bigger name studios could learn a thing or two about graphics and bugs from this game. Loading times were also fairly quick between areas, but they do occur unlike other games that may have a more seamless open world unless you transit in or out of buildings. The menu system was pretty well organized and easy to navigate. The interface was easy to understand the information presented with several layers of detail and I was never confused with where to find things.
There is extensive dialogue and cut scenes throughout the game and again I found them well done from a technical and presentation standpoint. The game showed a lot of polish.
Next let's talk about the parts that are just okay. I played through the game once as a magic user and once as a melee user. I found the combat adequate but nothing stood out. Firearms work, spells happen, melee swings felt like they had some heft when using two handed weapons. The variety of attacks felt basic and while the game has the ability to pause so you can select an action/spell/potion I rarely needed to use it, even on extreme. Spells only have a few different options and I found myself only using a couple.
There are three different skill trees to upgrade and the upgrade system is a bit sparing with the amount of skill points it hands out. The weapons and armor you can use are gated by your skill level. For example on my extreme playthrough I wanted to use a firearm with my magic user and I was able to do so but I had to choose between higher end magic items or firearms and even getting to level 31 on extreme I never had enough skill points to get higher levels of both.
I found in both my playthroughs that I was dealing with a Goldilocks situation in the three skill trees. One had almost too many points so towards the end of each game I was just tossing points anywhere even though I know I would never use them. The second had about the right amount but that skill tree was probably the least critical of the three and the third skill tree never felt like it had enough. This was the skill tree that gated weapons and armor and I was always agonized over where to spend my points. By the end of the game I always found myself wishing for just a couple more. The overall approach here felt inconsistent.
Finally, let's move on to the bad. There are number of pretty significant issues with this game and they all revolve around the gameplay experience. First, the quests are frequently tedious. Too many fetch quests and too many quests that require lots of running around various pieces of the map. The world is broken into pieces with fast travel points between them available as you move through the game. Quests frequently felt like busy work with way too much pointless running around different map points to get to another fast travel to run further to another map point.
The game has companions but they are not well developed and your relationships with them tantalize at what could be but is never achieved. They are not terrible but they don't add to the game as much as they could and the romance options epitomize how the whole companion effort comes up a bit short. You complete their side quests (which again tend to be more tedious than interesting), have a couple of brief conversations, fall into bed in a very PG rated scene and congrats you are in love. Which gets you nothing in terms of additional dialogue or options unit the last quest of the game. Where you get another very brief cut scene. Disappointing.
As a final negative let's talk about the three "E's" of the game, enemies, environments and exploration. Enemies come in 3 forms, humans, animals and bosses. There is very little variety of human enemies or animals. Humans are soldiers, bandits or indigenous but their attacks are all the same. Animals come in about 5 different varieties for the entire game in all the various areas. Each animal type has it's own attacks but over a 40-60 hour game more variety would be nice. Bosses are more interesting but even here you will probably see the same boss type more than once. I quickly classified them as the "falling boss", the "flying boss", the "throwing boss" and the "jumping boss". And as soon as you fight any of them you will know exactly why I started thinking of them that way.
Environments have some variation between zones but there are a lot of recycled environments and much of the game looks the same. I am not a fan of throwing in different environments just for the sake of making the game look different or having some kind of checklist approach but Greedfall takes things a bit far in the other direction. Many buildings are exactly the same inside. Some may have a different color here or there but once you get to know the layout of a warehouse or a mansion you will see the exact same layout and textures in every other building of that type.
And that leads us to exploration. The best RPG's know that giving players reasons to explore and reward them for doing so can become the best part of the game. Sadly Greedfall is completely oblivious to this. Exploration is almost never rewarded. Hunting around to find an elusive chest almost always led to disappointment. Enemies drops were almost never useful for my own character or my companions. The amount of loot in the game is not bad but most of it has to be purchased from the merchant that can be found when transiting between two areas. Greedfall is surprisingly scanty with worthwhile drops and yet I could almost always buy a better piece of gear from the merchant. For long stretches of the game I did not change out weapons or armor since I never found anything better. Even many elite armor or weapons were underwhelming. The game does have a crafting system which offers some nice stat bonuses and interesting aesthetic changes but I did not find that made up for the lack of worthwhile loot. Between the limited enemies and poor drops exploration quickly felt like a chore best avoided.
Overall, this game is a solid technical achievement that loses its way with too many gameplay issues that subtract from the experience when they should be adding.