After a few hours with Greedfall, the new open world action/rpg from developer Spiders, I keep coming back to one thought: Wow does this team love the Witcher. And that’s not a bad thing. The Witcher franchise has consistently delivered some of the best storytelling in video games. There are certainly worse places to draw inspiration from.
Greedfall is set in a facsimile of the 17th century. The game opens as you, a noble of a mercantile nation, prepare to set sail for the island of Teer Fradee. Interestingly, I have yet to even make that voyage. The game’s opening hours are set in the city of Serene, the merchant city that your family hails from. It’s winding streets serve as the perfect locale to introduce you to the major warring factions that you’ll come to fight for or against over the game’s 40 or so hours.
These factions operate at the core of Greedfall’s storytelling. Two of those factions, the Bridge Alliance and Theleme, clash in a war of ideology all over the continent. Theleme is a religious nation of magicians, pushing their faith on the lands they conquer. The Bridge Alliance, on the other hand, uses alchemy to understand the world around them. It’s a bit on the nose, religion vs. science, but the characters are compelling enough to make it believable. Early on, you’ll embark on side quests in Serene that help paint a picture of these warring nations, who each operate on Teer Fradee.
Aside from manifest destiny, your family seeks Teer Fradee for a cure. A great plague wracks Serene, with bodies burning in the streets and a rising death toll. Rumor has it that Teer Fradee hides a cure for this plague, giving your family reason to make the journey. There are other minor factions as well, such as the Nauts, magic users who command the seas and the winds to sail the most dangerous of waters. After the prologue you’ll also meet the various natives of the island, who have their own nuances and internal conflicts.
If this all sounds like a compelling set up, it’s because it is. There is strong writing and quest design in those opening hours that I am confident will carry through to the rest of the game. I just wish it played better.
While Greedfall offers an interesting set of skill trees and crafting options, it just doesn’t feel great to play. Inputs feel sluggish and combat feels messy and imprecise. Instead of the effortless flourishes of an Assassin’s Creed or Witcher game, you’re left with clunky timing based mechanics and stilted animation. This lack of polish extends to the visual fidelity of characters in dialogue as well. Despite some well designed environments and inspired lighting, the game looks just okay, which is made a bigger bummer by the fact that it doesn’t run particularly well on a base PS4 either.
Ultimately, I’m excited to keep exploring Greedfall’s world, characters, and story in spite of its mechanical and technical hiccups. It’s a game that’s worth a look for fans of the open world RPG. This is especially true in a year light on similar releases. If you’re still on the fence, check back soon for our full review!