I am really fond of Spiders' work in the past. I enjoyed Mars: War Logs and really loved The Technomancer, reviews of both can be found on the site, and I was really excited about GreedFall. After playing it, I can say that the game is quite good with a few caveats.
Do not expect The Witcher 3 or anything like that. I said the same thing about their 2 previous games and well, it still stands for this one too. Spiders' games can be summarised as budget 3rd person RPGs and there's nothing wrong with that.
GreedFall has a lot of heart, meaning that the devs put a lot of heart into designing every aspect of it. From the interesting 17th century world, lore and characters to the expansive RPG mechanics and character customisation.
Yes, while the main story might not be all that strong, the world around it is quite interesting. There's this deadly disease called the Malichor which has affected a large part of the nation and you playing as De Sardet, cousin to the nation's prince, are tasked with traveling to an island to find a possible cure. Thing is, your own mother is also sick so this fuels further your character's motivation.
In the mysterious island of Teer Fradee, you will get to interact with many characters from many different factions. Being an RPG, you can choose to be a dick to everyone and possibly lock yourself out of some side missions, if you like, or you help whenever possible. As you increase the standing with a faction, you will get benefits from that faction. For example, they can reward you with some high-quality loot, or you can leverage your good standing while in conversations to easily solve a problem or ask for something, etc. This system is deep and really interesting to explore.
The same can be said about your character progression. When you start the game, you can choose your class which boil down to either magic, melee or trapper, this last one focusing more on the usage of traps. I went for the magic build, since it sounded the most exciting. I had two basic attacks, one close and one medium-long range. Attacking and landing shots, built up the Fury meter, which allowed for bigger and better attacks. Using my magic powers depleted the mana bar, but luckily I had my secondary weapon to deal damage until my mana was refilled. I could also dash to evade incoming enemy attacks or do a parry, which is way to overpowered as you can spam it constantly. The combat is really simple at first, but later in the game it gets a little bit more challenging.
You will die of course, probably many times, since some enemies when they hit, hit stupidly hard. Luckily, GreedFall has a "Tactical Pause", think like VATS from Fallout, which allows you to pause combat to breathe, weigh in all of your options and select what to do next. Drink a potion, place a trap, execute an ability etc. it's quite a nice system and I relied on it quite a lot.
Going back to the character progression, the more quests and side missions you complete, the more you will level up. Leveling up rewards with points you can use to unlock new powerful and devastating abilities or powers like a shield which makes you invulnerable for a few seconds or a storm which deals massive amounts of damage to a lot of enemies at the same time. Every 2 or 3 levels, you also get a point to spend on talents or attributes and this is where things get interesting.
These two separate progression trees will make you life easier or harder depending on what you choose and what an upcoming mission, quest or dialogue might require. For example, in a quest, you might need to ask someone for something, but it requires 1 or 2 charisma level. Now if you haven't invested the points into charisma you are locked out of this option. Or to enter into a warehouse you need a 1 science level so that you can blow your way in, but if you don't have that science level, you are locked out of this option. Instead, you will have to fight against a few enemies or do a semi-annoying fetch quest to find a key or something like that enter into the warehouse and complete the quest. Since you need to level up a couple of times to progress these two trees, your experience will vary and is really interesting to see how the game accommodates and adapts to your limitations.
The same thing happens for equipment as you will be under level so you can't equip a badass axe or a new armour. Even traversal is affected by this system as you might need a high agility level to jump gaps or climb high walls to infiltrate somewhere or just explore the world.
Now, GreedFall was touted as an open-world RPG. GTA is open-world, The Witcher 3 is open-world, GreedFall is not. You can't really roam freely on the entire island. Instead, the island is split into sections with loading between them. Now, there's nothing wrong with this system, it's just that nearly all of the quests and side-missions require a lot of going back and forth. That's already kinda annoying, but when you combine that with the double-loading every time you move between the aforementioned sections, it gets really annoying really fast.
"Double-loading, what is that?" - you might ask. Well, in GreedFall you get companions, which will join and help you. These companions have their own goals, combat styles, thoughts, and faction standings. Helping companions can lead them to open up to and befriend De Sardet, and in some cases, sexy time (I'm sorry) is possible depending on De Sardet’s gender. When you travel from a section to another one, before you get to the secondary section, you always load into a camp where you can talk with your companions, choose who you will take with and even buy stuff from a merchant. This happens every time, hence the double loading, every time. Maybe an option to disable this automatic thing in the next patch huh, devs?
The presentation is great, for a budget game. The world look good and often great due to some excellent lighting. The same can be said about the game characters and their equipment. I love games where you can see the upgrades you make to the armour in the armour itself, instead of just a buff in the stats. Voice acting is really really good and the game is well-written. What sucks and unfortunately is a big part of the game are the facial animations. They are so bad and break any immersion you might have had until then.
All in all, GreedFall is quite good even though it has some shortcomings. It's a game made with heart and you feel that in almost every aspect of the game. If you are an RPG fan, I would highly advise you to play GreedFall. I think I said it in the last review, but I would love to see what Spiders could pull off with twice the budget of GreedFall. Thanks for reading.