Godfall was the first next-gen game announced, back at last year’s Game Awards. The cinematic trailer was pretty, with bright colours, shimmering armour and what seemed then like a generic fantasy story. Fast-forward to 2020 and Godfall is one of a couple of exclusive launch titles on the PlayStation 5 and was the title that I was most intrigued by leading up to launch. But is it the end product worthy of the next-gen moniker?
Starting with the story, it turns out that the initial reveal trailer was actually a pretty good indication of its quality, as it’s remarkably generic. Godfall focuses on a battle between two siblings, the power-hungry villain of the tale Macros, and the human-controlled protagonist Orin. The opening cinematic features Orin’s defeat at the hands of Macros and you spend the rest of the game fighting to reach Macros and stop him from turning himself into a literal god. Along the way, you travel through four realms with different biomes, each featuring a boss that you have to defeat before progressing to the next one. The biomes are gorgeous, with a wide variety of plant life and architecture and they’re brought to life in stunning fashion on the PS5. Each one also boasts its own native species, who serve mostly as sword-fodder as you slash your way to the more challenging foes.
Speaking of the swordplay, Godfall is one of the first entries in the looter-slasher genre, which as the name suggests, borrows heavily from series like Borderlands. Throughout the course of the story, you’ll unlock dozens of different swords, most of which have their own distinct abilities and buffs that work better in certain situations and against different enemies. Thankfully, the swordplay is mostly well-realized, and it feels satisfying to pull off combos and take down hordes of enemies and tougher bosses alike, at least at first. The swords are broken up into a few major categories: Longswords, Dual Blades, Polearm, Two-Handed, Warhammers, and Two-handed Greatswords. Each one has its own distinct feel to it, and you can have two equipped at a time, which you can switch back and forth with. I ended up sticking to a Longsword and using a Warhammer to pull off finishing blows on tough enemies, but I had fun using all the different classes at one point or another.
While swinging swords is fun, Godfall has a sluggish parry system that feels strangely inconsistent. At times you can hit the parry button and it will respond right away and at other times you will get knocked to the ground because the command didn’t register. I found myself opting to avoid parrying in favour of spinning dodges in most situations as it is far more consistent.
On the upgrade side, you can unlock new attack combos via the skill grid as well as weapon upgrades via the crafting system. The main advertised selling point are the Valorplaters, which are 12 distinct suits of armour that you can unlock by finding various resources. Each Valorplate has its own Augment slots that provide various buffs and abilities to your character. The upgrades are pretty par for the course, but they do provide some customizability and ability for expression.
The biggest issue with Godfall is that the lack of variety quickly turns the experience into a slog. I enjoyed playing the first biome and a half but quickly realized that while each location differs visually, they are all plagued by the same fetch quest nature. Godfall dangles the bosses of each biome in front of you from the get-go, and they’re all tough challenges that feel rewarding to defeat. The issue is that you spend the majority of the time running through the world and fighting minions, only to reach your objective and have to backtrack and fight more minions before you can proceed. Having to run 900+ metres through areas full of enemies that you’ve already faced dozens of times is boring, and I stopped fighting them altogether in the second half, opting instead to run past them.
It’s a shame because the enemies are visually interesting, and the first few times you encounter a new species is exciting. From the rodent-like Varguls to the sun-worshipping Nyaks, each species has its own distinct personalities and visual style that makes them enjoyable to face. There’s even some class-based strategy to them, with healers supporting their tank and DPS allies. The issue is that their charm all but dissipates after the first couple of fetch quests and there isn’t enough variety to keep the species engaging.
The main thing that kept me going in Godfall was my strange choice to turn it into a fitness adventure. This may only be for me but Godfall’s design reminds me somewhat of Ring Fit Adventure, as both games involve you running through forgettable enemies in order to fight against big bosses. The difference is that the journey in Ring Fit is satisfying because you’re working out the whole time, and you feel accomplished as a result. So I decided that I would do 10 pushups and 10 situps every time I died, and as the game wore on I changed that to every time I ran passed enemies instead of fighting them. It made the experience more enjoyable, even if I don’t quite have a six-pack yet.
And that’s the thing, Godfall is so close to being a good game, and yet it falls definitively short. The swordplay is fun, the bosses are enjoyable to fight against and the visuals are worthy of a next-gen title, but the slog that is everything in between dilutes the experience to the point of tedium.
Godfall falls short of being a noteworthy next-gen launch title, and it joins the ranks of Ryse: Son of Rome and some other games that I’ve forgotten about. There is lots of potential on display, but the overall package simply isn’t all that enjoyable. Even if you’re a fan of sword-based fighting games, I would wait for a discount before considering Godfall. It may not be a god-awful game but it certainly isn’t a good one in its current state.