Review Copy Provided by Spiders
For an independent developer, there hasn’t been a title quite as ambitious as the RPG GreedFall, developed by esteemed studio Spiders. Enamored by the creators as the ultimate love letter to the American RPG experience, GreedFall strives to make mighty bounds and leaps to create just that, and in most regards, it succeeds handily. From a stellar narrative of countless interlocking subplots and characters to near triple-A production values, the 17th Century European setting is beautifully realized despite an unescapable myriad of problems. Quite like the narrative itself, GreedFall can’t escape its own shadow, a shadow of their own making. However, if players can get over some distracting lip-synching and a rather meager progression system, there’s more than enough to salvage here. There’s something charming about GreedFall’s strong-armed dedication to creating a faithful recreation of now-disgraced studios Bioware’s and Bethesda’s early RPGs, warts and all. Indeed, Spiders never reaches out past the comfortable shell of the genre, never elevating itself to a higher pedestal. Despite being so latched to the past, GreedFall is still a fabulously realized RPG experience, reveling in its delicious and abundant gameplay mechanics and excelling in places one may not expect.
Set in a 17thcentury Europe, GreedFall features a unique and warm art style that utilizes the many flavors of Baroque art. From the rolling grassy hills to the dark and understated cave environments, there’s just so much to see and do on the remote and fantastical island. Yes, the game is truly a work of fiction despite being grounded in such excellently worked historical backgrounds. Beneath the lush foliage and show-stopping vistas is an environment of sheer magic, of creatures and beings that will cause you to ache for just another bit of information about the impressive lore. Unfortunately, this same yearning for discovery and exploration can’t quite be replicated when it comes to GreedFall’s massive roster of NPCs and characters. Some are written poorly, others just dull and bland to begin with, but either way the interactive setting that ties the many environments together is lacking in meaningful substance.
What every interactive experience lives or dies on is its gameplay loop, a statement that holds true for RPGs and especially for GreedFall. Thankfully, Spiders excels competently, taking inspiration for its multi-faceted combat system from countless styles such as The Witcher III and The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim just to name a few. There are so many inspirations and combat styles being crammed into this one mechanic that it can be rather daunting to experiment and try new styles and tactics in combat especially when Spiders never makes the push to drive the player to switch things up. At the very least, however, each perspective I took of the combat system sums it up as a competent feature and a system that most players shouldn’t get bored of within the first ten hours.
Sure, the basic gameplay loop is what makes or breaks a videogame, but for an RPG? There’s a completely different subset of expectations that players also expect. It’s just the way it is. Qualities like character interaction, expansive freedom in the open world, and a layered progression system have become the new standard for American RPGs, but unfortunately, GreedFall is something of a mixed bag. Crafting new leather armor with spectacular texturing is nothing short of exhilarating, but there’s no denying the lackluster character creator at the very beginning. However, there’s also no denying that crafting a game as expansive and massive as GreedFall is taxing and exceedingly difficult even with thousands and millions in resources like a triple-A studio would have. The fact that a notably small team like Spiders was even able to pull something like GreedFall is nothing short of remarkable, and it’s a lasting testament of how much Spiders can grow as developers but also of their passion and drive to actually grow, rather than just stagnate from where they are now.
Ultimately, there’s a lot to praise and even love about Spiders’ latest open-world RPG. It will be accessible to anyone who has played a single modern American RPG, and it will be sure to delight. Some spotty animations and a collection of lackluster gameplay elements can’t bring down what is a fine and remarkable achievement for an independent studio. Its setting is large, expansive, and gorgeous; its narrative is expertly told with stellar dialogue and line delivery from an abundance of voice talent, and it’s a sincere and nostalgic love letter to everything that the modern American RPG once was. Oh, and there are no micro-transactions or any shenanigans of that kind. Enough said.