Spiders has been around now for just over ten years and are still one of those unheard of, obscure studios until you actually realise what games they have created over the years. Of Orcs and Men, Bound By Flame and The Technomancer being perhaps the more popular of their games, unfortunately they mostly have either received lukewarm or mediocre reception. Can the latest from the experienced development team raise the bar for the studio or simply fall?
De Sardet is a simple Legate of the Merchant Congregation which is mentioned quite a lot throughout. Along with Constantin, your trusty cousin who has been named the new governor of New Serene, you travel to the island of Teer Fradee to aid your cousin in his rule. Another primary mission however is to hopefully find a cure for a disease that plagues the populace, called the malichor. This is the anchor to which the rest of the main story will develop on and even the vast majority of side quests serve a purpose in this main arc.
Whether its disbanding a group of fanatics, destroying the nests of some wild beasts or looking to free those wrongfully enslaved, everything adds some much-appreciated backstory and depth to the world. Side-quests instead of feeling like unnecessary padding, they feel important and not so much like a chore.
As with any good RPG there are a varied and interesting cast of characters to encounter. Your party for instance represents the diversity of people on Teer Fradee well, five characters from different backstories, cultures and factions. Kurt is a captain of the Coin Guard and has been the protector of Der Sardet and his cousin for years prior, he chooses to remain by their side on their journey to the new island and beyond. Vasco is a captain of another kind, a sea captain, as part of the Nauts whose ship you use to cross the sea. Siora, Aphra and Petrus you meet at different stages of the story and are a Native, Bridge Alliance Explorer and Missionary of Theleme respectively. All come with their unique look, personalities and values that are fun to explore in their own questlines.
For those who like to dabble in romance systems when it comes to RPG’s will be happy to see you can build relationships with your party members even to the point of becoming partners. These bonds increase or decrease through your choices in the whole story but more importantly in their specific quests. It’s a basic system but one that isn’t always easy to trounce, just watch what you say and maybe keep different saves if your particular about who you want to end up with.
Story development is always what hooks me in these massive RPG’s, how you get from point A to B is important and I found the journey enthralling. Each twist and turn did well in not only surprising me but progressing the narrative in as an organic way as possible in a video game. It all flowed and nothing felt completely disjointed or out of left field, it all made sense even if it was all fantastical and weird.
Going in, I didn’t exactly know what to expect in terms of combat and was pleasantly surprised at how simple they kept it on a base level but had all these variables available should you choose to make use of them. X and Y assigned to quick and heavy attack respectively with A and B assigned to Dodge and Parry, it’s easy to get started and allows you the room to learn everything else.
Now, that everything else I’m on about comes in the form of tactical pause, fury, spells, potions and hot buttons. This mixture allows thought to go into each fight and believe me there are battles that absolutely test your limits, and I played in normal difficulty. Entering some of the more major encounters or tackling some of those peskier enemies require some strategy and planning before-hand. If you go in empty handed in terms of health or resuscitation potions your going to have a bad time. (Insert THAT meme here)
Fury is like an energy meter that builds with each regular attack and dispenses with a special attack or spell. Managing this well can lead to some devastating combos to your enemy and it pays dividends to keep on top of this, building up the meter against the easier beasts to then use your better attacks against the more powerful is the way to go. But ultimately, the choice is yours and I love the experimentation that comes with.
So as expected with most games of the Role-Playing Game persuasion, as you level up you get points to dish out amongst your Skill, Abilities and Talent trees. The rate at which you gain these vary, skill points acquired at every level whilst the other two every few levels. There are two sides to the coin on this and depending on which side you land you may like or not like this system. On one hand I appreciate that it forces you to specialise and carefully pick what to go for whilst having to leave some behind and on the other hand it kind of sucks you have to truly grind in hopes to reach a high enough level to have all the upgrades at your disposal. One way they cushion the blow of the latter is allowing you to reset your trees throughout by using memory crystals, so at those critical points in the game or just if you want, you can change up what you go for and try everything. It serves the game better this way rather than allowing you to be all powerful at once, but sometimes I just want to be OP.
Idle gameplay consists mainly of travelling through each location and crafting upgrades or potions, there isn’t a whole lot else to do when not tackling quests, which is a bummer because of the potential of this world. I’m a huge advocate for idle or side activities in RPG’s that you can get lost in, one example Gwent in The Witcher 3, or the plethora of activities in GTA V. So Spiders, if you’re reading, give me some of that, please?
Diplomacy is real and what I love is being able to literally choose what I believe to be right and wrong. Making friends or even enemies along the way thanks to my own decisions lets me take ownership of my own decisions, and not necessarily be forced into them by linear storytelling.
The island of Teer Fradee is gorgeous, in both by design and visual fidelity. Something I found myself doing was exploring every nook and cranny of each town and city, fascinated by the layout and how buildings were kind of pieced together and structured. What’s most impressive is the variety shown between not only towns from different factions but also the differences between streets in the same town. Some buildings and structures made of wood in one section of a city and a couple of meters away in the upper-class areas they are all brick. Through the design is how the lore of the world is delivered, you can tell what each location is all about just by looking at it, be it streets filled with trash signifying the more downtrodden poor areas or villages bursting with flora that let you know the population really care about nature and all it brings.
Surprise shout-out to the soundtrack, it was a complete surprise for me which I guess has been the theme of this game, but what a greatly executed collection of music that sets the scene perfectly for whatever is taking place or where on the island you are. It delivers these harsh, menacing tones when in the thick of battle and in contrast can bring your mood up with up-beat, fantasy vibes when taking a stroll through the forest. Great storytelling through music.
The gift that keeps on giving, perhaps an accurate description for the voice acting performances that really exude what each character is all about. The voices that piqued my interest the most were those of the natives, not only are their accents completely different but their vocabulary too that set them apart from the rest of the islanders. It made me believe in the idea of these tribes living for hundreds of years in Teer Fradee before everyone else decided to hop on over and inhabit the land.
Now I know so far everything has been more or less leading to a glowing review, but of course this doesn’t come without some shortcomings. If you laughed at comings, don’t worry, I did too. Character animations are a bit stiff (didn’t do that on purpose), and when speaking their mouths don’t match what they are saying so it comes across as a little awkward and disjointed. Adding to that there are subtitles that absolutely do not match what is spoken, its mostly little things like instead of “accident” they say “accidentally”, not a deal-breaker but noticeable. To be honest all my gripes are really nit picky ones but they are the ones that kind of break immersion or catch you off guard making me think, ‘huh, strange’.
OVERALL: 8.7/10 – GREAT
Greedfall has now set the benchmark for the team at Spiders for what they can accomplish, it feels like the beginning of what their experience in the industry can deliver and testament to the practice makes perfect mantra. Teer Fradee is gorgeous, filled with fascinating cultures and interesting characters. At times the world feels a little empty and yet still fun to explore thanks to its design and soundtrack that make it satisfying to continue on. The adventures of De Sardet and his companions is one I was more than happy to experience and urge you to as well.
Written by Rhys Baldwin.
(Disclaimer: Jester Says received a review copy of Greedfall, however this does not in any way affect the scoring of a game or my thoughts on the game itself. I believe in total honesty and being transparent with you.)