GreedFall’s Flexible Combat Feels Fantastic to Play

GreedFall has quietly flown under my radar since it’s announcement back in 2017, but finally caught my eye by chance when I saw a giant, tree-like monster fighting the main character on one of our displays at the office after E3 this year Magic, swords, and monsters are up-my-alley–so I was excited to a hands-on demo with developer Spiders at Gamescom 2019. I went in a bit skeptical, but left with GreedFall as one of my most anticipated this year.

GreedFall is a big historical-fantasy RPG with plenty of systems to dive into and things to get side-tracked by while exploring. You can read a great overview of what GreedFall is here, and watch this developer interview with gameplay below to learn more. Here’s a quick rundown before we get into how it feels to play, which is, spoiler: fun.

Some quick GreedFall Facts:

  • “Core RPG,” as described by developer Spiders

  • Historical fantasy heavily inspired by journals from explorers’ and scholars’

  • Visually inspired by Baroque art from 17th Century Europe

  • Multiple party-members to recruit

  • Deep character interactions

  • Multiple, flexible skill trees that don’t pigeonhole you into one archetype

  • Includes traps and guns (think old-school pistols) that can be wielded simultaneously with your main means of attacking, whether it’s magic or melee, which can be swapped at will, without penalty

With all of this in mind, GreedFall has plenty of narrative and dialogue to observe, things to collect and places to explore, but I was especially interested in how the felt. It’s easy for a deep system with so much freedom and so many options to end up feeling bogged down to me, but GreedFall’s felt polished, intuitive, and facilitating. Controls are responsive and fast, attacks felt weighty, dodges and parries carried out as I felt they should. To put it bluntly, in GreedFall simply felt fun, and I don’t see it becoming a chore like in some RPGs I’ve played.

This feeling is reinforced by the incredible amount of freedom you have with customizing your character. Your starting class doesn’t dictate what you become, just your starting active skills, like Stasis (which enables you to temporarily immobilize an enemy) with the Magic class, Set an Elemental Trap with the Technical class. Plus, active skills (Skills), passive skills (Attributes), and Talents (like Craftmanship, which lets you craft basic armor and weapons), all use entirely different resources to purchase, which would allow you to mix and match to your heart’s content. You can finally make that beefy, armor-clad two-handed sword user who is also good at something like potion-making like you’ve always wanted.

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During my demo, I wielded a mainly magic-using character, with the ability to perform a second, fast dodge and a flaming one-handed sword. Magic, like in most games, uses MP, but switching to the sword to compensate when I ran out could be done freely, was just as powerful, and didn’t feel cumbersome at all. To add even more variety, I could also lay down traps and fire guns, and you can become more proficient with all of these items as you progress as you choose.

Most enemies also have their own strengths or weaknesses against certain types of damage, requiring you to focus on different attack patterns depending on the enemy. I also fought one of those magical tree-like beasts known as a Guardian, and it constantly unleashed poison on me. Knowing this going in, I could have simply mapped the Antidote to the d-pad to use it quickly, but the tactical pause menu was fine to use in its place. Of course, I also had a healer in my party whose specialty was curing disease, so I didn’t really need to worry about it much.

There is stealth, for those of you who might be wondering, but GreedFall’s sneak attacks didn’t really embolden me to try to stealth kill my way entirely through a group of enemies a poor trope I’d unfortunately fall back to continuously in games that allowed it (looking at you, Assassin’s Creed).

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