Greedfall is a wonderfully crafted tale, tackling the tricky issues of colonialism and disease, all set in a beautiful surrounding. Basically, it's a heavily story-driven RPG that relies on its brilliant narrative over anything else, but also spices it up with some fun combat. It's a pretty solid effort, although we need to say from the start that it is let down by a few rough edges.
You take the role of De Sardet, a customisable character even down to the gender. They are a legate of the Congregation of Merchants who comes from a place ravaged by a plague called the Malichor. There are several other factions that you come in contact with, but we'll get to that later. After searching about town and rescuing your kidnapped cousin - the recently appointed governor of New Serene on an island called Teer Fradee - you head off to the island in the new world in search of a cure for the Malichor.
While many fantasy RPGs seem inspired by Lord of the Rings, it's nice to see Spiders have a go at crafting a world based on 17th-Century colonial Europe. The story deals with all of the issues that come with colonialism, and it was a bold move that paid off, even if it does cut a little close to the bone at times and leaves us feeling a little uncomfortable.
The other factions include a theocracy known as the Theleme who deal in magic, and some scientists known as the Bridge alliance. Then there are the natives - people at one with the land and the trees, which felt like a none-too-subtle nod to native Americans. You act as the legate (or basically diplomat) on behalf of your cousin while interacting with the other factions on the island, which are all interesting due to the high quality of the acting.
In fact, as a whole the story and the quests are wonderfully written, and they're definitely the selling point of this title. The story may be a little predictable at times, but even the side quests are enticing as they should be in all great RPGs. It's a nice feeling that you actually want to explore a side quest, rather than just carry out some pointless 'go to a place, fetch something quest' just to get experience points. The world is beautifully crafted, and really immersive with some great textures used on the buildings and fauna. It sucks you in and it's what we'd affectionately refer to as a time sink.
While there were a few forgettable characters within this narrative, most were engaging and effectively portrayed. It was lovely to see such enthusiasm bringing the world to life so well, as the actors took a great script and brilliant story and did a wonderful job on it.
However, there is one thing we have to mention, and that's the facial expressions standing out like a sore thumb. They're awkward, with strange jaw and teeth movements as characters chat. It totally took us out of the experience that convinced us so much elsewhere, and for us, detracted from the RPG we'd been loving. Not since Robert Shaw was on a boat have we been so affected by jaws.
Other than a few other other minor glitches like going through stairs as you walked up them, or some awkward potion drinking, this game looked amazing in the visual department. Beautiful towns and wooded environments are a delight to explore, and helped distract us from the wobbly jaws and teeth.
The combat was really enjoyable as well. Three basic attacks - a quick jab, a fury attack, and a kick - were enough to keep us entertained alone, but a parry and block system is also included, adding tactics to the combat. Magic spells and a gun also keep things fresh, and hacking something with a sword and then pulling out a flintlock feels so satisfying. You spend your time weaving, ducking, and attacking in some pretty exhilarating moments.
There's also a level up and skill tree system, where you can increase things like charisma to talk your way out of a problem. One thing we loved was that there was usually more than one way to tackle a side mission. You could go in all swords blazing, but diplomacy, threats, or sometimes sneaking provided alternate ways to solve an issue. In other words, level up your various skills to open up options in quests.
For example, while searching for your cousin, you end up looking in a tavern where a bar fight had taken place. You can pay the bartender for his broken furniture, or indeed mend it yourself. Then, when you finally find your cousin's kidnapper's lair, you have multiple entry points.
All in all, Spiders has created a solid addition to any RPG lovers' digital shelf. It's a stunning story, brought to life with excellent characters and acting, and the combat is fun too. The sad thing was the facial animations that, for us, just soured the experience. The other minor issues can be overlooked though, making this one to check out if you're after a world to get lost in.