There’s always that one game at the launch of a new console generation. You know the one. The one that looks to be pushing pixels to the ninth degree, but doesn’t necessarily look particularly amazing beyond that. The one that seems to be pushing style over substance. Form over functionality. That’s perhaps the best description for Godfall, a game that is fantastic visually, solid mechanically, mediocre narratively and poor technically.
Despite not being a live game or massive online experience, Godfall feels incredibly similar to the original release of Destiny in many ways. It has the bones of a game that could really be something, but it doesn’t have the flesh to fill it out. Instead, there are gaping holes that expose its bones. It relies on you loving its bones so much that they eventually wear thin and lose their appeal.
The most apparent of these gaping holes is in the narrative of Godfall. Much like Destiny, the narrative of Godfall is poorly presented, poorly explained and largely missing. Told through a combination of conversations between missions and exposition inside them, there’s plenty of time for Godfall to build an engaging narrative. Instead, it gives you the bare essentials. You know that Orin’s (your main character) brother Macros betrayed his people, attempting to seize control of the world and gain ultimate power. The game begins as you start to rally against him, taking out his lieutenants in an attempt to cut him off from the power that he craves with the help of the mysterious Seventh Sanctum. Beyond that most basic of premises, Godfall lacks any meaningful narrative detail or design. It never really moves beyond the most basic of revenge plots, avoiding any significant world building that could make the game truly interesting. Instead, you have a bland tale that is almost entirely forgettable.
Where Godfall is potentially at its most fluent is in its combat. At its most base level, Godfall is instantly familiar when in battle. You can block with your shield or parry if you block at the perfect moment. For those pesky unblockable attacks you can instead dodge to avoid damage. You have a light and heavy attack, which can be combined together in combos, with heavy attacks also building a stun meter which opens enemies up once filled. Your shield can also be used offensively with throws and slams that can be unlocked as you level up. Each weapon type also has two different special attacks that can be triggered once their respective meters have been filled, while your valorplate has its own Archon Fury ability that can be triggered. These mechanics alone can be rewarding when used correctly, but where the game is most interesting is in its soul shatter system. Alongside immediate damage, your light attacks also bank a delayed damage on your enemies healthbars, which is then triggered by hitting them with a heavy attack. An enemy killed using this delayed damage will then explode in an incredibly satisfying fashion, with particles flying every which way. It was fun banking damage on bigger enemies and bosses using my light attack to keep myself agile and more easily able to flit out of reach, rushing in to trigger a massive explosion of damage with a well placed heavy attack. It’s a system that is interesting and engaging, but ends up losing its lustre because of poor mission and encounter design.
Missions and encounters are another way that Godfall is incredibly similar to Destiny. Missions largely take place in the same three fields of play, which are unlocked as you progress through the game. There’s no real unique scenery or backdrops for most missions, instead you’ll run through the same areas continuously as you charge from objective to objective. Invariably, these objectives are one of a few small things: Murder this group of enemies, murder waves of enemies, trigger and item and survive for a period of time while murdering enemies and murder a boss. There’s basically no variety to mix it up, no heavy story sequences or platforming segments or puzzles. Instead, you repeat the same actions over and over. It gets worse as you reach each lieutenant, as the game forces you to grind resources to be able to unlock their boss battles, which just leads to repeating the same missions over and over to get there. It’s an act of tedium if ever I saw one. Add in what feels like an unfinished mission end sequence (you have to open the start menu and manually finish most missions) and it almost feels like some of these decisions were made to pad out an incomplete game.
Throughout all of these missions, you’re collecting a whole bunch of different resources. You have resources to upgrade your weapons and accessories, resources to trigger missions and resources to buy your Valorplates. Valorplates can almost be thought of as your character class, but in reality they’re all largely the same beyond a perk and their specific archon fury ability – and even then most of these only differ in elemental damage. I found myself really only unlocking these for aesthetic purposes, with the other differences not being enough for me to bother with gathering the mass of resources needed to unlock them. You’ll gain experience and levels, which gives you skill points to unlock skills and stat increases that are universal across all of your Valorplates. Equipping you Valorplates can be a frustrating time, however, with no way to see on the armory screen if a section has new equipment and the cursor always defaulting to the top of the menu when backing out, forcing you to repeatedly scroll to the lower slots all over again. At the very least, you can copy your load out over when swapping Valorplates, which cuts some time.
In my mind, all of those resources mean nothing, because there’s one single thing that is above everything else in a loot game: loot. This is where Godfall truly disappoints. As with any loot game, the loot needs to be unique and interesting. It has to give you a purpose to grind it out, to constantly throw yourself against enemies in the pursuit of something better. Godfall doesn’t come close to creating that desire. A low number of weapon types isn’t the cause of that, as shown by games like Diablo 3 that have a tiny number of weapon types and yet still creates an invigorating and insatiable desire to find more. The issue is that Godfall’s loot doesn’t feel unique. Models change, as do elemental damage, but until you hit the absolute rarest of weapons, you don’t get those unique mechanics or perks that you would in other games. Most weapons just give you a generic x% to critical hit or other stat that feels largely meaningless. There’s no desire to wade through that lower tier gear to find the truly unique pieces that shoot projectiles or cause an enemy to explode on death. Instead, it feels like trudging through trash, hoping that a diamond will appear.
Earlier I spoke to the incredible particle effects that exploded from enemies in combat. These same particle effects are the perfect example of the form over function principle that is abundantly clear in Godfall. They look utterly amazing, but they’re so big and blinding that they cut off a third to half of your screen for a good second or two. Combat is still going and more than once I had an enemy lunge through the sparks of their fallen comrades, hungering for vengeance. This style continues throughout the game, with shiny metallic surfaces and over-expoaes neons that can obscure details. There’s no doubt that the game is a technical accomplishment, but it’s let down by the sometimes garish style. There’s a reason people say that, sometimes, less is more.
As with any game, visual accomplishments can sometimes mean other technical sacrifices. Godfall was the first game of this generation that I played which defaulted to performance mode instead of quality mode. Swapping to quality mode, it was immediately obvious why; be it an uncapped frame rate or simply being unable to hit 30fps, Godfall drops frames like nobody’s business in that mode. Performance mode runs significantly better, running at a much smoother frame rate, albeit still with some frame drops and stuttering at points. I ran into an issue at one point where the game became a borderline unplayable mess with constant hitching and drops that was unlike any other time, but closing and restarting the game fixed that. I also had the game glitch once, with all missions objectives despawning and the UI disappearing, requiring me to restart a 25 minute mission 24 minutes in.
In reality, Godfall is far from the worst game that’s come from a console launch, but it feels like one of the least inspired. There is so much there that could have been interesting, but simply lacks the detail or content to get there. Combine that with forced grinds, repetitive mission design and lacklustre loot and Godfall is simply a game to avoid.
Godfall was reviewed on a PlayStation 5 with a review copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PC via the Epic Games Store. For more information, check the official website.
- Combat is mechanically interesting - Characters and world have plenty of detail
- Loot feels lacklustre and largely boring - Mission design is repetitive - Story feels bland and forgettable - Plenty of weird design decisions and quirks