Game name: Godfall
Release date: November 12, 2020
Available on: EGS
Genre: Action RPG
Developer: Counterplay Games
Publisher: Gearbox Publishing
When I first heard about Godfall, I was quite interested, but seeing the EGS logo dampened my hype long enough that I forgot about it until it came out this month. The basic idea ticks all my boxes, a third person, melee focused action game that places heavy emphasis on loot. Could this be my non-isometric Diablo? I’ve spent the past week knee-deep in the bodies of countless fallen enemies, and this is what I think of the game so far.
Upon first launching Godfall, I was greeted by a cutscene that prepared me for two things, one of them being that the story wouldn’t be anything to write home about, and the other, that this game is blindingly beautiful. After having completed the campaign and dabbled in some of the endgame content, I stand behind both statements, as the story is a collection of clichés held together with fantasy jargon, and both the art style and the tech behind the game are extremely gorgeous.
This is an action game at heart though, so I doubt many people will be heartbroken upon hearing that the story is forgettable at best. The most important part of a title like Godfall is that it plays well, and on that regard I have excellent news. Swords clash in a whirlwind of steel and a rather generous parry window (which can be increased should we wish to spend skill points in that direction) ensures that most enemies can be staggered with a well-timed button press. Unlockable abilities add more depth to every fight, and there is a basic combo system that mostly works in our favor, and makes battles look even flashier.
There are no character classes and instead, the developers went for a system of “Valorplates”, twelve collectible suits of armor inspired by the Zodiac. Each Valorplate has an ultimate power of sorts (Archon Ability), and different passive stats and buffs. Valorplates can synergize with the player’s equipment, and while they don’t necessarily play differently from one another, I found that there was enough variety to make me switch between them as I unlocked new suits. An Augment system further enhances the Valorplates, letting us slot buffs into our armor, depending on our level and the available power.
Before the game came out and I got my hands on it, I was under the impression that it was heavily inspired by From Software‘s Souls series, and while that can lead to greatness, it’s often a recipe for disaster, as many studios have tried to recapture that same magic and failed. Thankfully, I was utterly wrong, as while Godfall places a lot of emphasis on dodging and weaving out of enemies’ attacks, there is no stamina bar hampering our ability to do so, and even on Hard difficulty, the game can be quite forgiving, especially in co-op (there’s support for cooperative gameplay in up to three player parties, though matchmaking is sadly missing in action).
This is not to say that Counterplay Games‘ latest is a cookie cutter slasher though, far from that. While the first hour or so will have us slashing through enemies without much concern for special moves, we’ll quickly learn how to take advantage of a number of systems that make the combat system stand out from similar titles. For instance, there is a Soul Shatter mechanic that relies on building up light attack damage, and then executing a final heavy attack, which explodes our target in spectacular fashion, and depending on our items, can affect other enemies around us, changing the outcome of fights. Another interesting system comes in the form of Polarity attacks, a skill that lets players charge their weapon when they hit enemies with it, and once it’s fully charged, switching to the secondary weapon will generate a damaging shockwave and buff our armament for 30 seconds. This mechanic ensures that we’ll always carry two weapons we like and frequently swap them in combat, instead of always using the same thing.
There is also an endurance system for our foes, and if we hit them frequently enough with the heavy attack (or blunt weaponry such as warhammers), we’ll break their posture, allowing for a takedown maneuver that deals massive damage.
Aside from light and heavy attacks, the game also features running attack modifiers (for both types of attack) shield throws, and Weapon Techniques that change depending on the weapon type we are currently using. For instance, unleashing one of the Longsword weapon techniques will let us quickly rack up a flurry of light strikes on enemies, while the second technique for the same weapon will unleash a long range heavy strike (and can trigger Soul Shatter).
Using different types of weapon will not only result on being able to execute different Weapon Techniques, but also completely different movesets, a very welcome feature in a game where you’ll spend most of the time hitting foes with the sharp (or heavy) end of things. It isn’t as in-depth as Monster Hunter, where each weapon archetype requires a learning process, but if you dedicate some time to learning the move sets for every class, you will definitely be rewarded, not only by the flashy moves unleashed every time you successfully pull off a combo, but also by the increased efficiency gained when it comes to quickly taking down foes (and this will become a crucial skill to master during the endgame portion of the adventure).
Speaking of Monster Hunter, the hard-working souls that created Godfall were obviously big fans of Capcom‘s popular franchise, as the filler missions in between big story beats will send us on hunts for minibosses so we can gather materials and key items required to unlock the next part of the campaign. I’m not exactly a big fan of being forced to grind between main quest missions, but on Counterplay‘s defense, I have to say that the objectives were never obnoxious (they usually amount to finding and killing a certain enemy, or destroying stuff so you can proceed further and then kill a certain enemy, etc.). This isn’t the Act II grind from Metal Gear Solid V, thankfully, but more of a short run in Diablo III‘s Adventure Mode.
Sadly, the loot system is nowhere near Blizzard levels. The game is quite generous with its drops, but both the way they appear on the game world, and their usefulness are limiting factors. Defeating enemies, breaking stuff or opening chests will often reward us with loot that comes in the form of objects similar to Destiny‘s Engrams, but there is a delay before said object can be picked up, so it’s easy to go through an area slashing apart opponents and destroying containers without picking up a single piece of loot, because it spawned half a second after our body occupied that space. This could be easily fixed with the introduction of a loot magnet (pulling loot towards our character passively, like many games do) and it would also fix situations where loot spawns out of our reach. The other problem I have with the loot is that while Godfall is often quite generous with the way it doles out new gear, that loot isn’t necessarily useful and you’ll spend a ton of time salvaging lower level armament in order to get components to upgrade the good stuff (and that salvage system could use a good tune-up, as it’s currently a very tedious process if you play with mouse and keyboard).
The crafting system isn’t going to win any awards for complexity, but I feel that’s a good thing for a game of this genre. You can upgrade gear up to five times, and there’s an enchantment option that lets you raise the quality of your armament up to Legendary status, though I’d advice against doing this during the early part of the campaign, as the game’s generosity with loot will ensure that you’ve wasted the material used to enhance or enchant your gear. Once you reach the endgame, this system will be incredibly useful though, as it’ll let you get a good build going without having to trust RNG too much.
Godfall‘s endgame comes in the form of Dreamstones, which are missions that our protagonist “remembers” after finishing the main campaign and the Tower of Trials, an activity that throws wave after wave of enemies as we ascend a tower and clean up rooms of increasingly difficult foes in order to gather loot and buffs for that particular run. Both endgame activities are heavily inspired by roguelite games, and I feel that they work pretty well, especially when comparing them to something like Anthem‘s Strongholds. Considering that Godfall has been marketed as a fully completed game from the get go and not a Games as a Service type of deal, I feel that the currently available endgame content is good enough, though it suffers from the same curse the rest of the game has to contend with: reused enemies. This is a problem that’s already very noticeable during the main campaign, with the Hunt missions sending us to kill bosses and minibosses from previous levels, and it only becomes more apparent as we deal with the Tower and the Dreamstones. Hopefully the upcoming expansion will introduce new enemy types and bosses, because after a week of killing the same foes over and over again I’m a bit tired.
Now that we have story and gameplay out of the way, we should talk a bit about the tech side of the game. Godfall is an incredibly gorgeous game (I’ve described it as blindingly beautiful before, and I feel it’s an adequate description, considering how shiny the metallic parts of the Valorplates, weapons and enemies look). The art style fits the fantasy/sci-fi theme like a glove, and I’d be hard pressed to find areas where the graphical aspect of the game disappoints. This is a title that’s focused on delivering a very visually impressive depiction of melee combat, and you will see more particles and lighting effects than you thought possible, though I have to say that it comes at a pretty steep hardware cost (on my Ryzen 5 3600, 32GB and 2070 Super, I could feel the game dropping below 60fps during heavy fights, at my native resolution of 1440p). Gamers who managed to grab an AMD Radeon RX 6800 series card can also look forward to ray traced shadows, but Nvidia users will have to wait a while for the same feature, sadly.
The game’s audio portion is also mostly excellent, with great combat sounds selling the idea of swords clashing and shields being torn apart. The soundtrack is serviceable, as it doesn’t stand out, but it accompanies the action well enough. Sadly, I can’t exactly claim to be blown away by the voice acting, and at some points it felt downright phoned in. This won’t be a big issue for most people since the story isn’t very important, but it’s a weird thing for a 2020 AAA game nonetheless.
Overall, I went into Godfall with low expectations but Counterplay Games‘ latest release managed to beat them handily. The excellent combat system acts as a great balance to the lack of enemy variety and underwhelming story, making Godfall a good deal for anyone looking for a fun melee-focused action title.
8/10 – Very good.