Greedfall is an action role-playing game developed by Spiders that was originally released back in September 2019. The studio which had previously released titles that faced minimal critical or commercial success surprised everyone with this title, and as of November 2020 it has sold over a million copies.
The game is set in a 17th century colonial style fantasy world, which houses mystical creatures, magic and other supernatural beings. Its setting is perhaps its defining and best feature. Players assume the role of De Sardet, a neutral human who arrives on the Island of Teer Fradee alongside her cousin Prince Constantine in search of a cure to a plague which has ravaged their homeland known as the malichor.
The island of Teer Fradee has a surprising depth of lore attached to it, with the developers clearly taking great care to make this island feel as alien as possible, whilst remaining completely fascinating. The native tribes of the island (of which there are many) have their own language and customs, and it is handled in a respectful way, as De Sardet acknowledges these differences and must work around them. Your relationship with the natives can hinder or help you, depending on the choices you make.
Aside from this, De Sardet is a likable and competent protagonist who is a refreshing change as they assume their role as diplomat and ambassador with ease. The developers do an incredible job of making you feel like someone who has authority and power in this world. Your side quests feel like something you should be doing. You will not be doing fetch quests, instead you will be investigating missing caravan traders and discovering secret plots between factions. De Sardet can choose sides but can also remain neutral in the face of conflicts if you so choose. They have a personal connection to the island, although this is sometimes limited in scope.
Our protagonist is not alone in being well written. Players can be accompanied by a number of interesting companions who all range in faction, fighting style and opinions. Siora for instance is a native of the island and gives insight into the way the tribes govern themselves as well as how the arrivals from the continent have not always interacted peacefully with her people. On the other hand, we have the religious voice of Petrus, a character who knew our protagonist as a child and despite their appearance, can play the voice of politics to turn the tide in your favour.
The game revolves around you exploring the island and making alliances all the while searching for a cure. Teer Fradee is largely wild and untamed and battling creatures becomes a common threat. Combat in Greedfall is fun but lacks depth. Magical abilities are limited to a few spells and melee combat can quickly devolve into button mashing. There are tactical decisions to be made as players can pause the game at any time to issue specific commands, but this is often clunky and unintuitive. Enemy variety is surprisingly good, but unfortunately all encounters end up feeling the same. Once you have found a build that works, there is little reason to change strategy for each encounter. Combat eventually settles into feeling serviceable but held back by budget and resources.
This is a problem that influences other areas. For instance, my female De Sardet is referred to as a male numerous times. These small quirks are mostly forgivable, but it happens a bit too frequently for it be something that you will not notice. The three main cities in the game luckily all feel unique, but this cannot be said for the wilder areas deeper on the island. You will be spending much of your time in the wild, so this is disappointing as areas all quickly feel the same, bar a few cases. Alongside this, several story points are not expanded upon as they could have been because the game does not have the resources to delve into them. Budget is the limiting here, not necessarily lack of desire to tell these stories.
Despite the limited budget the narrative reaches some impressive heights, but the conclusion can be called weak at best. Despite being an RPG, there is little in the way of meaningful choices beyond one or two decisions later in the game. Smaller decisions like romances allow for more replay value, but repeat playthroughs will not differ too drastically from each other.
In conclusion, Greedfall is a surprising gem from a smaller studio. It has a respectable 20-30hrs of content for players to enjoy and it never overstays its welcome. Its story is rich and compelling, as its world and characters do much of the heavy lifting. Combat and voice acting are at times weak, but it remains serviceable enough to not damper the experience. It serves as a refreshing change of pace from the ever-expanding AAA open world titles, which value quantity over quality. Spiders are to be commended for putting so much heart into this product and with its commercial success we may have a sequel before too long.
Feature Image: Alice Envenomed via Flickr