I’m no stranger to looters. In fact, I’ve got the experience of a number of looters under my belt. (both for personal enjoyment and as a part of WellPlayed). Borderlands, The Division, Diablo, Destiny, Anthem, Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, I’ve played them all. So at this point, I have absolutely no idea why I expect these games to be good. Every game I just listed launched in an average state and, in some cases, completely maintained how average they were *cough* Anthem *cough*. You’d think I’d have learned my lesson by now yet here we are. So let’s talk about Godfall.
Godfall places you in the shoes of Orin. I’m not quite exactly sure about the story, all I can remember is that your brother has gained a massive amount of power and basically wants to end the world. The rest of the details are kind of a blurry haze because the story is that non-existent and forgettable. There have been cases where I can forgive a forgettable story, like with The Division 2, because it has been made abundantly clear that story is not the focus of the game. Godfall is not one of these cases. It tries so hard to have an important story but you end up just not caring, and this problem is made even worse by the fact that the voice acting is bang average. At no point did the storytelling ever feel anything above average, with most points just feeling bad. It sucks because the world is kind of cool (if a little derivative). If you wanted a story-driven looter, this is not it. Another strange point for the story is that the game always refers to you as a ‘he’ despite your character’s gender being tied the valorplate (class/character of sorts) that you are using – I spent most of the campaign using a valorplate that was clearly not a ‘he’, yet I was constantly referred to in this manner. How writing like this can be overlooked is beyond me but it can be a bit jarring, how hard is it to write ‘they’ instead?
Gameplay is easily Godfall’s strongest suit, but it falls victim to both its marketing and its early game communication. Early on in the game, the design and structure of the game wants you to treat it like a hack ‘n’ slash, mowing through dense assortments of enemies similar to Warframe. However, the game very quickly punishes you for doing what it taught you, similar to the way Anthem would punish you for flying around and being mobile in its endgame. Rather than treat things as just your run-of-the-mill hack ‘n’ slash game, you have to be a little more calculated and methodical in your approach. You need to take a step back and understand what is surrounding you. Are there enemies that you can just hack away at? Are there large enemies who will hit you really hard? It was in these moments of calculation where I found myself appreciating the game a little more. At its core, Godfall’s gameplay is about precision and timing, something which unfortunately gets completely thrown away with its garbage netcode.
You’d think for a game that was marketed as a cooperative looter slasher, that the co-op systems would work well. Counterplay clearly did not get this memo as Godfall has some of the worst netcode that I have ever experienced, and I’ve done PVP in Dark Souls and Dark Souls II. For starters, there is absolutely NO matchmaking and the party UI is terrible. There is no system for promoting players to party leader and I would not be surprised if people hit a roadblock of just not knowing how to leave a party given how hidden that important UI element is. When you do engage in cooperative play there is animation jittering all over the place, really slow and strange hit detection, unique bugs like not being able to attack due to a bizarre animation lock and the netcode also makes getting successful parries incredibly frustrating as the information you need is actually a second or two behind what is actually happening. This is without going into the declining technical state of the game, a facet which impressed me at first and then appalled me by the end.
Godfall has two display modes – a resolution mode which targets 4K 30fps and a performance mode which targets 1080p 60fps. Naturally, I chose the performance mode because any game that requires precise reactions from the player will see massive benefits from the framerate increase compared to the visual bells and whistles of the 4K mode. It absolutely made a difference. I tried it in the 4K mode just to see what all the fuss is about and it just felt so sluggish, but that is an argument for another day. While it’s able to maintain the 60fps target framerate, the game has a unique level of beauty to it. Admittedly, a lot of the art is incredibly derivative and unoriginal, with the hub area being a straight ripoff of the Orokin Towers from Warframe, and the second area effectively being the Coral Highlands from Monster Hunter World. Regardless, the game’s original art is quite stunning and you can clearly see why Counterplay favoured this game solely for the PS5 and not a previous-gen system. Additionally, the load times are incredibly quick, with the amount of downtime due to load times being incredibly small. I’m not sure how this game would handle slower mechanical drives which are quite commonly found in PCs which this game is also available on via the Epic Games Store, but I’d imagine that the game would suffer in comparison.
The biggest technical issue, however, arose when I hit the endgame. Godfall’s endgame is…Godawful. You are given the ability to ascend the Tower of Trials at a minimum of level 16 (much lower than the level you will finish the lackluster campaign at). This activity will basically place you in a giant elevator similar to that of the giant elevator in Halo: Combat Evolved’s ‘The Library’ mission. During these elevator rides you face a number of enemies in waves, who are scaled to your level and drop gear similar to your level. In essence this is fine, having an activity scale to your level in order for it to drop decent rewards is fine if there is a meaningful reason to have that powerclimb. Games like Destiny, The Division and Borderlands do this well enough, where there is a clear reason to grind to higher power in order to tackle challenging, unique activities that are a part of the endgame. With Godfall, what you see is what you get. There is an endgame realm which effectively replays missions at a higher level while adding some minor modifiers and that is more or less it. There is also a level 50 Tower of Trials that you can do, but that requires reaching level 50 and this game just gave me absolutely no drive to do such a thing, a matter which was made incredibly worse by the technical issue which I alluded to at the beginning of this paragraph. A key component of any looter is picking up loot, and as I hit the endgame for this game, picking up ANY loot would cause the game to hitch, a problem which was further exacerbated by the fact that loot is dropped in groups, so you would have significant periods of hitching quite frequently during missions. This problem was not even unique to weapon or gear drops, it also stuttered during resource and currency drops. It became incredibly frustrating, especially as it can really hamper the combat if you happen to pick up anything inside of combat (something which is not that far-fetched given the nature of a looter).
As for the loot itself, this was one of the stronger points for Godfall. This is not to say the loot was exceptional, but the game never really restricted the rarity of your drops based on your level which allows players to get an early glimpse into what their preferred build may be. This also allowed for the general loot pool to seem wider than it actually is as players are not restricted to certain loot pools at certain character levels. To make matters a little better, there was also a minor upgrade path for your weapons and gear which allows you to get a little bit of extra life out of your gear before you ultimately have to toss it for something of a higher level, assuming you have the resources to perform these upgrades (they are increasingly expensive). I actually found myself really enjoying this. It’s a nice middle ground between immediate obsolescence in your gear during leveling and carrying your gear with you while still avoiding power creep, a problem which has plagued Destiny for far too long. In the longer parts of the game, things can definitely begin to feel stale as the loot pool is that wide and it almost immediately spends its wow factor on a deceptively large loot pool in the early game. In saying this, weapons do at least have really powerful unique behaviours and so it was fun figuring how to best use the abilities of my gear. This game quite heavily relies on synergy in its loot and it can be genuinely fun once you figure out what works well and what doesn’t. However, I don’t think the game can really hold your attention long enough to really get into the nitty gritty of ability synergy.
Godfall’s valorplates are another high and low point for the game. Each valorplate needs to be crafted, similar to how Warframes require crafting in the game of the same name. These crafting requirements are relatively minimal, often just consisting of regional resources in small amounts. The only resource that can be a bit of a pain early on are the valorplate cores, which can be rewarded from certain missions as well as picked up within missions from deceased valorplates. Let me tell you right now, however, that the only reason you should build these valorplate is either for completionist’s sake or just for the visual design of the valorplate as they all play incredibly similarly. They don’t really have unique abilities or anything, the only variance is what element these abilities come in. This is pretty disappointing given that it really would not take a lot of work to make these valorplates feel unique but instead they have even less personality than Destiny classes, and that game’s classes suffer from their abilities not being the primary form of gameplay.
Godfall doesn’t do anything egregious or worse than any of the other disappointing looters of this generation, but it does almost everything equally as badly in a weird perfect balance. This is what makes it so frustrating. There is definite potential for a gem inside this game, but it’s so busy with being a downright average-at-best looter that it loses all semblance of actual personality, a key component to maintaining a looter game. Impressively non-existent story, incredibly derivative art, classes which mean absolutely nothing, a deceptively small loot pool, technical issues up the wazoo, terrible endgame design and a horrific netcode all add up to a visually pleasing but soulless affair that can’t even begin to escape being categorised as anything more than a flashy tech demo. If you were to buy this, please make sure it’s a bargain bin purchase, especially on PS5 as the asking price is A$114.95 which is not even remotely worth it.
Reviewed on PS5 // Review code supplied by publisher
- Counterplay Games
- Gearbox Publishing
- PS5 / PC
- November 12, 2020