Hey! Hallie here!
‘Greedfall’ is one of those games that got pretty decent attention for a game made by a smaller developer, but also flew under most people’s radar. I didn’t even realize this game came out in 2019 until about a month ago, and I adore BioWare-style RPGs. Especially ones similar to ‘Dragon Age’ titles. Similar to ‘Dragon Age’, ‘Greedfall’ is a fantasy RPG complete with multiple skill trees, companions with loyalty missions, and choices that change the outcome of the game. There are a few major differences here though, mostly surrounding its emphasis on diplomacy, its important side quests, and its depiction of European colonialism. I’ve seen a lot of people be pretty hard on this game despite the knowledge that it was created by a team of only 30+ people, so I wanted to write my review to give you another perspective. While this game doesn’t have the quality of ‘Dragon Age’, and it is lacking in some departments, it’s still a really good time and if you haven’t played this game I think you should give it a try. But I’ll explain all of that below. Just know moving forward that I’ll keep this review mostly spoiler free and I’ll mark the spoilers throughout. Let’s get into this!
I’ve said before that gameplay doesn’t concern me nearly as much as the story does in a video game, but horrible gameplay still makes a game feel unplayable so it’s still important to talk about. The gameplay in this game is what ‘Greedfall’ gets trashed for the most. I’ll tell you right now, it isn’t bad. The gameplay consists of unlocking various abilities with your skill tree and selecting them to use in battle. The skills you use most can be assigned to the D-pad for easy access during a fight. To use other skills, or just to list out battle commands for your character, you can pause combat. (You can’t control your companions during a fight, but they don’t go down as easy as companions in other games sometimes do.) Aside from those, you have the general dodge and attack buttons you can spam all you like. There’s also two bars that charge throughout battles, one allowing you to unleash a very useful strong attack, and the other showing you how much magic you can use until you have to wait for the bar to recharge. Really, none of it’s new for an RPG. And to be honest, there aren’t enough skills to make fighting feel unique and satisfying, especially hours into the game. The monotony of it is only increased by the very few enemy types you’ll encounter throughout the game. Some of the bosses even look the same. That said, it isn’t like this gameplay is game breaking. It’s just too simple. Which is definitely not the worst thing I’ve said about a game’s gameplay.
The gameplay of this game doesn’t just revolve around fighting, though. In fact, this game emphasizes that there are many ways to solve your problems and fighting might not always be the best option. ‘Greedfall’ takes your role as a diplomat very seriously and expects you to act accordingly. So if one of your companions suggests that you sneak into the back of a warehouse instead of possibly angering the faction that owns the warehouse by showing up unannounced, maybe you should listen to them. And if you find a disguise to help you blend in with the workers, why not take advantage of that instead? This is the gameplay in ‘Greedfall’ that really makes it shine. Knowing that there are many solutions to each problem and trying to find the one that will anger the least amount of people made missions so much more interesting.
I saw some reviewers trash this story for being bland, but I definitely don’t agree with that. In this game you play as De Sardet, a royal from the land of Serene given the job of becoming a Legate and a diplomat over in a newly established settlement in New Serene. De Sardet is sent by their mother to try to discover a cure for a deadly disease called the Melchior, which has completely ravaged all of Serene and is killing their mother. Accompanying them to New Serene is their cousin, Constantin, who has been appointed the new leader and governor of New Serene and who grew up alongside De Sardet as a kind of younger brother. Once De Sardet lands on New Serene they discover a rivalry between their faction (The Congregation of Merchants), the other factions that have moved to the area, and the Natives of the island. These factions are fascinating and make up the bulk of the story. You discover quickly that the Merchant Congregation has earned most of its power by remaining neutral in most conflicts, which makes you the neutral party in the various rivalries you encounter throughout the game. The Bridge Alliance is a faction of scientists that seem interesting at first, but quickly become the most irritating, evil, and unforgivable faction on the island. I feel like the game tries to make each of these factions good and bad in different ways, but the Bridge Alliance just ends up being bad. Next is Theleme, which is the major religious faction on the island. Their religion directly contrasts with the Natives, which leads to some awful decisions, but play your cards right and they actually wind up as more understanding allies. Then there’s the Coin Guard, a mercenary faction of guards that offer protection to all factions and can be more than a little shady. My personal favorite are the Nauts, a very secretive but loyal band of pirates who honor time spent in their faction with facial tattoos.
The final faction, the Natives, are understandably furious at the way the other factions have invaded their land and mistreated them, but they’re also very wise and often much more reasonable than any of the other factions. And this is where we get to the European colonialism influences of this game. This isn’t one of those games that romanticizes this ideology or the time period in which white people were colonizing places they were not welcome and committing atrocities along the way. The clear villains in this game are always the white people trying to take advantage of the Natives while also attempting to strip them of their culture. But also, know that ‘Greedfall’ doesn’t do any of this perfectly. For one, while the Natives appear more like woodland elves in order to tie them to the fantasy lore in the game, that doesn’t disguise the fact that they’re representing a minority group that already sees stories about their trauma enough in the media. Also (SPOILER) De Sardet is revealed to actually be Native by birth about halfway through this game. Which feels like it’s a quick fix to attempt to make the player feel less like they’re intruding by constantly saving the Natives and making decisions for them as part of the choice-based gameplay, but winds up feeling weird when you note that De Sardet still comes from a place of privilege (END SPOILER). In other words, just remember that white people writing an allegory for the mistreatment of a minority group always winds up with major flaws.
There aren’t as many main characters here as there are in most BioWare games, but I do like what we see here. For one, De Sardet feels more like an actual character than a player character like the Inquisitor from ‘Dragon Age:Inquisition’. This is because De Sardet has a clear personality and rich history that influences the rest of the story. De Sardet’s close relationship with their cousin, Constantin, is an emotional force that impacts the entire game. And the way they reminisce about old times with both Constantin and Kurt, who has been their body guard and fight trainer for a long time, gives De Sardet added depth. As for Constantin himself, he’s a bit of a mixed bag. He can be endearing, but his pretentiousness can get annoying. (SPOILER) Especially after he’s diagnosed with the Melchior. The game attempts to tie his less caring and more haughty behavior to the fact that he’s dying and desperate to find a cure, but that doesn’t feel very believable when we saw him act similarly before he became sick. I ultimately found him a less sympathetic villain than intended (END SPOILER). Kurt, on the other hand, is my favorite companion. He’s usually kind and gives out excellent advice, but there are moments in the story where he can seem genuinely dangerous. I didn’t expect that level of complexity from him, but I love it. (SPOILER) The ‘Treason!’ mission, where he can either betray his own people and help you, or attempt to betray you before deciding he can’t do it, gives him one of the most shocking story twists I’ve ever seen from a companion (END SPOILER). Siora is another favorite of mine. I liked her background as a Native princess who wants peace, but I also loved the added knowledge she provided considering most missions involve the Natives in some way. I felt like her point of view was the most invaluable of all the companions.
My opinions of the other three companions is a bit more mixed. Aphra instantly comes off as a badass, but her distant nature doesn’t really help her stand out amongst your companions. Also, her story is mostly rooted in a problem she already solved in the past, namely abandoning the horrifically awful scientist who taught her. So sometimes her missions, which surround her new studies, feel unimportant. Vasco has a more heart-wrenching story that follows his desire to know his birth family because he was given to the Nauts at a young age. But the story is quickly resolved after Vasco meets one family member and sees that he’s a bit of an ass. That said, Vasco’s one of those snarky pirate captains I can never resist. Finally, Petrus is one of those guys you’re instantly suspicious of. He’s an older man who’s known for being a secretive and manipulative politician. I did like that his complicated morals became the backbone for his character growth as his story continued, but his story also revolves around an aspect of De Sardet I don’t like that I listed as a spoiler above. So I won’t get into it, but I do wish his story didn’t involve it. While we’re talking about characters let’s talk about romance! Of your five companions, four are romanceable. Characters playing as feminine De Sardet can romance Kurt, Vasco, and Siora. Characters playing as masculine De Sardet can romance Aphra, Vasco, and Siora. The romance I sprung for was Kurt. Some people dislike this romance because of the fact that Kurt is older than De Sardet and has known them since they were a child, but the game makes clear that Kurt isn’t THAT much older than De Sardet and didn’t decide to get to know them outside of their professional relationship until the events of the game. That was enough to resolve my worries, especially because Kurt is too sweet to resist. But romance scenes are limited to two short sequences, so don’t expect much.
I don’t see enough people warning new ‘Greedfall’ players about this so here you go: Side quests are MANDATORY in this game. There are a couple side quests you can skip (The ones involving finding a bunch of random letters or finding all the campsites on all of the maps), but all other side quests need to be completed if you want any sort of good ending by the end of your run through. This is because all of the side quests tie to the different factions I explained above, and if you don’t take time to make sure relations with all of these factions are going well, they won’t feel any obligation to help you when things start getting rough at the end of your journey. Some people might hate this aspect of the game, but I found it refreshing. The reason why these side quests are so important is because they actually tell full stories that are worth exploring, which is nice compared to the fetch quests you find in other games.
This was a bit of a longer post but I definitely wanted to talk about as much of this game as possible. There’s genuinely so much to explore and love in this game. It has its flaws, and I did encounter a few glitches, but nothing was game-breaking and all of it was impressive for such a small team. It might not be ground-breaking and the player might not have all the customization capabilities and gameplay elements we’ve all come to expect in RPGs, but I don’t think that diminishes the excellent storytelling here. So if you like games like ‘Dragon Age’, consider this your newest recommendation!
Don’t do anything fun until I get back!