Platforms: PlayStation 5 (reviewed), PC
At first glance, Godfall seems like the perfect game to show off your new PS5 (if you were lucky to grab one, that is). It looks gorgeous in 4K, the controls are great, and it has a meaty combat system. But the more I dug into Godfall, the more I saw that, like other launch games from past console generations, it ends up being a somewhat shallow experience.
That doesn’t take away from the fact that there are some interesting ideas here. Developer Counterplay Games calls Godfall a “looter-slasher” RPG, which means you’ll be collecting plenty of gear throughout the game. You play as Orin, a noble knight who must stop his brother Macros from ascending to godhood and thrusting the vibrant world of Aperion into chaos. And the main way you’ll do that is by tearing through hordes of monsters.
The Methodical Knight
The best part about Godfall is that it doesn’t play like other third-person action games — the closest is the 2018 God of War because of how they both use shoulder buttons for attacks, but that’s where the similarity ends. Counterplay built a unique fighting system that’s less about acrobatics (like, say, in Devil May Cry) and more about delivering carefully timed blows and combos.
This isn’t the kind of game where you can easily cancel out of one action and move onto the next. Once you commit to a swing from your giant greatsword, for example, you’re locked into that animation. So if you end up missing your target, you leave yourself open for taking damage.
Each of the five weapon types have their own pros and cons when it comes to their animation cycles. But in general, greatswords, warhammers, and polearms are slower than the more nimble longswords and dual blades.
You also have a retractable shield that you can use to block and parry attacks, or as a long-ranged weapon (throwing it Captain America style). On top of that, your strategy will change depending on which Valorplate you’re using. Valorplates are shiny suits of armor with designs inspired by the 12 Zodiac signs, and they each have their own abilities. You don’t have to unlock every Valorplate to finish the game; I just rotated between a handful of my favorites.
Between the different weapons, armor pieces, and nuanced combat mechanics (Godfall has a big skill tree to peruse and unlock), you have a lot of choices when it comes to outfitting your version of Orin. I liked going through my inventory and customizing my loadout before every mission.
With so many moves at my disposal, each encounter felt like playing a short chess match. Should I open with a shield toss and follow up with an AOE thrust from my spear? Or should I harass my foes with quick dual blade strikes and then finish them with a special attack?
Godfall is the antithesis of the hack’n slash stereotype because you won’t survive long if you mindlessly spam the attack button. You need to make a calculated decision about every move. It feels more like Dark Souls or Bloodborne in that respect, but in this case, death isn’t nearly as punishing as it is in those games.
An Endless Battle
I appreciate Counterplay’s relentless focus on combat and how it gives players a lot of freedom to fight the way they want to. But it comes at a significant cost: Outside of obtaining better weapons and gear, there’s not much else to do.
I think so much more could’ve been done with Godfall’s open-ended environments. Most of the game takes place in three areas that depict the different “realms” — Earth, Water, and Air — of Aperion. They’re all gorgeous. In particular, I loved running by the Water realm’s fluorescent coral reefs, and the floating castle ruins from the Air realm look like they came out of a Final Fantasy game.
Sadly, these levels only serve as a pretty backdrop for your fights. There aren’t any friendly NPCs to talk to in these locations, so exploration is limited to opening treasure chests, collecting resources for upgrades, and finding bits of text that flesh out the lore. You’ll spend most of your time fighting groups of enemies as you run from one end of the map to the other. Sometimes, you’ll end up in a new area where you fight a boss. But that about sums up almost every mission in the game.
That formula started wearing thin after only a few hours. I would’ve been more willing to put up with it if the plot actually went anywhere. While you discover some of Orin’s backstory through conversations with a being called the Seventh Sanctum, most of their dialogue is about defeating Macros and his generals. I barely learned anything about Aperion or the Valorians (the species Orin and his brother belongs to).
Except for the Zordon-like Seventh Sanctum, you never even see a real face in this game. Are Valorians supposed to be human-like creatures? Or are they just amorphous blobs of light that inhabit the Valorplates? I honestly don’t know. Godfall didn’t give me enough information to make me care about the world or its feuding characters.
Your enjoyment of Godfall will ultimately depend on how much you like earning loot, as that makes up 90 percent of the experience. When you’re done with the story, you can keep leveling Orin through combat trials and Dreamstone missions, which are tough challenges that remix the environments and bosses from the three previous realms.
As interesting as the fighting mechanics were, the extra content wasn’t enough to keep me hooked. I was already burned out from the repetitiveness at that point.
Godfall is a great technical showpiece for the PS5, but the flimsy story and endless loot grind make it feel more like a tasty appetizer than a full meal. However, if Counterplay ever decides to make a sequel, there’s at least a solid foundation here to build on.