With the launch of any new console, gamers can get a little nuts and the rarest of windows will open for any dev savvy enough to hear the creak. There'll be a vacuum of titles available to buy, but also a large group of thirsty people who really, really want to justify their expensive purchase of a console and a telly larger than Texas
. Basically, the opportunity is this: if you build something that delivers eye-candy hitherto unseen outside of a Willy Wonka
factory setting, they will come. Godfall
, made by the unproven collective known as Counterplay Games
, is quintessentially this title.
Now, obviously the preferred result would be producing a PS5
game that steps everything else up to next-gen level expectations, too. Perhaps something that elevates interactive storytelling and digital performances, or some sort of gameplay innovator that pioneers a new mechanic that'll be riffed on (or ripped off by) lesser titles as the generation rolls forth.
Also, at a bare minimum, you'd expect a new pace-setting launch game such as this to be polished and technically sound, lest new console owners begin to wonder if its glitches are due to a lack of developmental care and not, much more worryingly, a hardware fault of their beloved new system. Godfall, I'm sorry to say, is NOT this title.
Before we dive into all that, though, let's get you up to speed with a basic synopsis, an elevator pitch which – and I do apologise for this – more or less details the entirety of this paper-thin narrative. You're going to be filling the ridiculously chic and glowy boots of Orin
, brother to a wannabe God named Macros
who shares your affinity for cosplaying like one of the Thundercats
. It seems dear old brother has made a powergrab and is convinced he's got the “rite stuff” to ascend into deityhood. He's also knocked you into the ocean and made a foolish assumption about your death. Clearly his end goal is to become The God of Bond Villain Boneheadedness™.
"Though she's rich in head-y, expository goodness, no great dramatic relationship ever blooms between her and the single-minded Orin...”
From here it's good old fashioned fratricide as usual. You'll need to finish Hunt-style missions to acquire a bunch of elemental sigils that unlock a few lieutenant boss fights strewn across the three main overworlds of Earth, Water and Air. (Sorry Planeteers, Fire, Wind and Heart don't get a look in.) Between that and the final boss fight and a post-credits “level remix” affair, there's not much else to speak of.
I mean, sure, you have a mission select HUB area that's populated with exactly one other humanoid NPC to talk to. It's also home to a Cortanaesque, disembodied head who's intricately crafted out of bits of metal. Though she's rich in head-y, expository goodness, no great dramatic relationship ever blooms between her and the single-minded Orin. She's simply there to take up, like, 100% of the game's lip-syncing budget.
Drop into the game for the first time and you'll learn two things very quickly about Godfall. One, it's visually gorgeous but it can skirt towards garishness. For at least the first hour of play, I was convinced the art design had been handled by Goldmember
, the villain from Austin Powers: Goldmember
. (Incidentally, this might explain why Orin's base armour set makes him look “toight” like a “toiger”.) Don't worry too much here, as this Midas
touchy theme eventually gives way to three lusher locales that aren't afraid to use some blues and greens. More on those in a minute.
Second of all, you'll quickly come to know that Godfall is a loot slasher which, despite its claims of being “one-of-a-kind”, feels like a pastiche of other weapons-based action titles. As a base to work from, the closest analogue I'd go with here would be a more ground-based and menu thick Darksiders. We're talking about a non-stamina-bar affair that lets you dodge and hew to your heart's content. Forget about platforming moments as they all amount to looking at a ledge and holding Circle to teleport there.
"Godfall is big on parrying and offers a two-button heavy/light combo system that supports you carrying two weapons at any one time...”
While there are 12 sub-classes to be inspected later on (in the form of Valorplate 'onesie' armor suits), the basic choppy-chop feels vanilla for the most part. Godfall is big on parrying and offers a two-button heavy/light combo system that supports you carrying two weapons at any one time. In the chase for ever better damage output you'll find yourself swapping between the different movesets provided by several hundred museums worth of weapons (think: chest acquired twin blades, longswords, warhammers, etc). All of these face-shredders come with different rarity tiers, scary names and can be 'forged' up to five times with your preferred choice of perks.
There are only a few interesting things going on here. Orin for the most part deals death with a – dare I say it – catlike grace. There's also a diverse enough cadre of enemy types who demand respect, especially when they're being supported by healers and projectile spewing cowards hiding way back in the cheap seats. There's also some satisfaction to be had with building up two distinct Weapon Technique bars (accessed by an L2 modifier). Their output and means of charging vary greatly between individual weapons, but you can always count on them to deliver PS5-level fireworks and big pain.
"Think of it as pre-ordering damage on somebody – if you hit them with a heavy attack, it gets locked in...”
Speaking of, if you want to see people explode into pretty aqua blood particles, you need to take advantage of the Soulshatter technique. It's probably the single most unique thing about Godfall's combat. Essentially, any hit you land with R1 will deal some base damage, but it'll also manifest a deeper 'greyed' out section on the enemy's health bar. Think of it as pre-ordering damage on somebody – if you hit them with a heavy attack, it gets locked in. Take too long and that damage goes back on the shelf. Needless to say, Godfall favours hyper aggression.
And before we get too far away from the topic of rage, I should also point out how flawed the lock-on system is. I tried both flavours, the default soft-lock and without; neither worked as advertised. Acquiring an initial target requires too close a proximity and pinpoint accuracy with your onscreen reticle. Disengaging is just as iffy a process, so too is trying to switch to a new target. Likewise, when it came time to deploy a carefully banked Weapon Technique or shield throw, it was crazy how many times Orin ignored the bordered enemy in favour of somebody half a postcode away.
When the chips were down – usually in a boss fight on Hard which dishes better loot but allows only three deaths per level – this bizarre targeting system managed to destroy way too many table-turning clutch moments. It needs patching. Stat.
As possibly the most fundamental and important mechanic of the game began to misfire, I started recognising stop-gap solutions and tellatale cracks elsewhere in the production. The biggest gripe for many of you is going to be that the three main overworlds, while admittedly being lush looking and fairly expansive, all suffer from chronic reuse. The mission parameters and what monsters spawn may switch, but the spawnpoints and time of day are all baked in to stay. Much like those Midas moments in the opening, your eyes will begin to yearn for new horizons. It all but kills the “hey, you can continue to explore this level for bonus loot” avenue that pops up after every completed mission.
"Speaking personally, I was put in that mood because the game hard-locked during the end bosses death animation cutscene...”
Obviously, a burden shared is a burden halved. Playing Godfall in three-person co-op elevates its shortcomings considerably, especially if you can all agree to craft yourselves into complementing roles that shore up your individual weaknesses. And this is a game that positively showers you in (shared) shiny stuff – that show off / green eyed monster cycle can keep this interesting until the end credits at least.
But yeah, by the time you reach them in about 10 hours time, you'll most likely feel underwhelmed. Speaking personally, I was put in that mood because the game hard-locked during the end bosses death animation cutscene (requiring a reload and a complete redo of the fight). He died the second time like a charm, but then the end credits refused to scroll. Who's to blame for me making me watch an unmoving logo and admittedly lovely orchestral music for 15 mins? I honestly couldn't tell you.
Despite that less than acceptable end game experience, I can still recognise the glimmer of potential in Godfall. For a first outing, Counterplay has achieved something that's undeniably striking in the visuals department, though that's marred by sameiness and the odd, isolated framerate hitch. We also have an addictive loot game and a surprisingly deep RPG upgrade system here, though it's hamstrung by fisticuffs that don't nail down those all important fundamentals.
I wouldn't label what's here as a complete Godfall, but certainly a sizable Godstumble that'll need a decent patch. Postpone your excited, just-gotta-PS5 leap of faith towards this.