One shall stand, one shall fall
I’ve played a lot of insane action games in my time.
No, not “whoa that backflip into a shotgun blast was wild!” kind of insane. Like, “how was this even made?” insane. Godfall doesn’t quite fit under that latter umbrella as there’s a clear vision here, but I can heartily say that the amount of people I can recommend it to is a niche at best.
I also really enjoyed my time with it when it wasn’t actively fighting me.
Godfall (PC, PS5 [reviewed])
Developer: Counterplay Games
Released: November 12, 2020
MSRP: $59.99 (PC) / $69.99 (PS5)
Godfall is an action-first game with a fairly silly set of story guidelines. In this universe warriors wear “Valorplates,” which are basically giant suits of armor that all have different lore reasons for existing. You can become the bug you see above (in Godfall, this was seen as a lesser Valorplate until recently, as per the events of the game), the lion in all of the game’s promotional materials, and so on.
Your job is to take down Macros the betrayer, who intends on ascending into godhood: hence the title of the game. You’ll accomplish this by going on a Highlander-esque killing spree of his retinue, who in turn grant you their power. It’s over-the-top and takes itself way too seriously at times, and it’s also glorious. It might take a certain kind of person to really enjoy this aesthetic, but the whole ’90s decadence of it all is appreciated for its audacity.
The actual gameplay is very linear, because again, it’s action-focused. You’ll jump into stages with tons of optional objectives and pieces of loot, but you’re mostly encouraged to tear your way through to the end of the critical path, using spirit (detective) vision to divine where to go next. There’s as little or as much content as you want, depending on your mood: especially once you hit the endgame challenges. Nearly all of it involves beating creatures or humans into a pulp.
I think what I appreciate most about Godfall, above all else, is its combat nuances. It feels fun right out of the gate, as hitting timed parries, balancing light and heavy attack combos, and shield tossing fools then dashing in for a quick finisher is all early groundwork for what’s to come. Over time I started to really get into the nitty gritty of it, buying new talents, acquiring new Valorplates, and trying out different weapons.
While I tend to get stuck into a routine when playing action games, Godfall actually extends a hand when it comes to branching out. Techniques like charging up the power of an unequipped weapon are freeing, as it encourages experimentation and constant weapon swapping. You can tell the developers really honed in on the combat here, leaving other elements of Godfall on the wayside. This is a system I actually spent time in the “lab” (the in-game training room) for.
Again, it’s very important that you understand that like many loot-based games before it, not everything was very well thought out. But as far as the action goes, there was clearly a plan here. It can be a messy game that slots right into a number of historic launch titles. The UI is extremely clunky, often forcing players to manually quit out of an entire menu when equipping items, rather than bring you back to the proper submenu.
In a loot-based game it can get really annoying, an annoyance that compounds when you pick up more gear and try to discern which ones are better with which Valorplates. What should be a fun effort in min-maxing becomes a chore. I also encountered some bugs, like one that removed my HUD for a few minutes (there’s an option to turn off the HUD manually, but in this case, I couldn’t see my targeting reticle), and one game crash.
I’m not going to mention this as often when it slowly becomes the norm, but it’s worth stating that this is a $70 game. It’s also always-online and lacks matchmaking, despite being fully playable solo. I can’t imagine a reason why this was implemented outside of some sort of spaghetti code, an executive/marketing decision made to get people to play with others, or as a backdoor to eventual DLC as a “plan B.”
It’s a shame this had to be $70 out of the gate on PS5 (it’s $59.99 on PC) and that it has to be tethered to an always-online system. Whoever made that decision doomed this project’s reputation, at least in the short term. Godfall is going to go down as one of the most divisive games of this generation’s launch: a relic to some, a wild whispered-about gem to others. Make sure that before you get it, all of your action-junkie boxes are checked.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]