Review: Godfall

Console launch titles typically have a reputation of being unfinished, rushed and glitchy, but the PS5 launch has been rather good. With gems like Demon’s Souls, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Sackboy: A Big Adventure under its belt, PS5 owners have a healthy dose of games not playable on rival consoles. While not developed or published by PlayStation Studios, Godfall arrives as a PS5 console exclusive (also available on PC), with the promise of fully taking advantage of the new hardware. Can Godfall deliver a full next-gen experience while also delivering great gameplay or does this god deserve to fall?

Godfall takes place in the world of Aperion where you, as Orin, are one of the last Valorian Knights. The story picks up after your brother, Macros, betrays you to achieve godhood. Left for dead and hungry for revenge, Orin seeks out the Seventh Sanctum to gain access to Valorplates and defeat Macros. Godfall’s plot attempts to be interesting with a flashy opening that hints at some form of drama that will eventually suck players in as they progress. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Godfall’s plot is all tell and no show, presenting players with almost no interesting plot points. Much of the plot is told in short bursts of speech between missions in the most boring way possible.

As a vehicle to shepherd players from one encounter to the next, the story is passable. Clocking in at around twelve hours, the story does what it has to do to get you to the end. While the fights in between are good, the ending is anything but satisfying with a fade-to-black cliffhanger. It’s a disappointing ending to a world that, on paper, is fascinating but doesn’t get the time or care it needed to be interesting. Godfall’s twelve hour campaign takes players across three realms that correlate with three elements — earth, water and air. Within these realms, players must complete missions to track down and vanquish Macros’ four lieutenants. One resides in both the earth and water realms, but the air realm mysteriously gets two. A fourth element and realm, fire, is repeatedly mentioned throughout the game, but makes no appearance. One must wonder if it was cut for time, but it’s an odd omission considering that fire realm enemies still make an appearance.

Each of the three realms is beautifully decorated and work well as explorable worlds for a while. One of the bigger problems with Godfall’s design is repetition and it doesn’t take too long for the realms to feel that way. Despite visual differentiation, all three realms start to feel awfully familiar. It doesn’t help that they all boil down to the same thing: running down thin corridors towards circular environments that contain generic enemies. There’s no difference whether you’re fighting in one realm or the other, because nothing changes. The water realm is merely the water realm because it’s tinted blue and decorated to look like the bottom of the ocean. It doesn’t introduce any swimming mechanics or water-based enemies. It’s a similar story with the air realm.

Godfall’s problem with variety extends to its side activities outside of the mainline story missions. A bulk of the game requires players to run the same missions over and over again to level up or acquire special sigils to unlock boss fights. You start in a location, follow an objective marker and then slay the target. These missions aren’t bad by themselves and fighting many of the enemies the first time can be a challenge, but the mindless re-running of the same missions ultimately hurts the game the longer you play. Godfall’s plot and level design have interesting components that are brought down through poor exposition and a lack of variety. What holds the game together for its many hours are its excellent combat and loot mechanics. Borrowing elements from games like God of War and Destiny, developer Counterplay Games has weaved together a satisfying combat system.

Much like God of War, Godfall’s combat revolves around mixing light and heavy attacks to create combos, keeping an eye on the enemy indicator to know when to dodge and using a shield to parry incoming attacks. It’s easy and satisfying to pick up, but a few additional wrinkles help Godfall’s combat standout. It’s Soulshatter mechanic allows players to accumulate enemy health while hitting them with light attacks. After enough is accumulated, a heavy attack instantly drains it, causing the enemy to explode in a gush of light. Meanwhile, the Polarity system encourages you to often swap weapons. As you use a weapon, the Polarity system charges your other weapon. When timed correctly, the weapon you swap to can deal massive amounts of damage. The entire combat system comes together with epic boss fights that truly put all your skills to the test and are easily the best moments of game.

Godfall does a good job giving players tools and then letting them play as they want. The five different weapon types inject plenty of variety into combat with each specializing in different areas. This extends to the main attraction, Valorplates. These twelve pieces of armor are acquired through resources found in the game world and look visually stunning. Not only do they look good, but they also enhance different attributes, boost gameplay and work best with different types of weapons. Valorplates don’t change a whole lot, but the slight injection of variety is welcome.

The only problem with combat lies with blocking. Since there’s no animation cancelling like in God of War, you’re likely to take damage from enemies you should have been able to block. This wouldn’t be a problem if the pace of combat were slow, but Godfall is often fast and asks players to make quick decisions. Another odd issue with Godfall is that, despite offering co-op for up three players, the game is primarily a single player game that always requires an online connection. These are weird choices that ultimately hamper the enjoyment the combat provides. On the other side of the equation is loot. There’s a lot of different weapons, charms, banners and healing stones to uncover, and the game never feels overly stingy. All-in-all, Godfall does its best to get players the best items possible and even keep them if they’re willing to spend resources to upgrade them. Godfall’s aim at being a looter-slasher actually works, leading to intense melee combat and highly-memorable boss battles.

Godfall doesn’t skimp on anything in the graphics department. Counterplay Games intended on delivering a next-gen visual experience and they’ve delivered. Environments are spectacularly detailed, weapons and Valorplates have that next-gen sheen to them, particle effects fly everywhere, and lighting is top-notch with plenty of god-rays filtering through trees and broken stone. The game also brilliantly uses the DualSense for the clang of swords, the vibration of a warhammer hitting ground and so much more. From a visual perspective, Godfall is an impressive-looking game. Unfortunately, that visual splendor is hampered by a mixed performance. Godfall not only suffers from frame rate hitching (especially in the earth realm), but also from numerous glitches and bugs that cause the game to crash or some button inputs to not work. Godfall is an easy game to love for its visuals, but it needs more optimization to get the performance side of things up to snuff.

Closing Comments:

Console launches are notoriously difficult for developers as they work to get a grasp on new technology. Historically, many launch titles come off as rushed, but with great promise for a new franchise. Counterplay Games’ first project falls into that category. Godfall packs together a splendid and deep combat system mixed with a quality loot system with plenty of variety. Great boss battles await players during their playthrough but getting through to those boss fights can be a chore. As good and varied as the combat and loot is, the same level of variety doesn’t extend to the world and mission design, which grow increasingly repetitive the longer you play. Meanwhile, despite interesting lore setup at the start, the story never goes anywhere and its unsatisfying ending will leave most players scratching their heads. While an undeniably beautiful game to look at, the underlying technical issues hamper the presentation. Godfall stands as a decent first attempt at a new IP with solid ideas and great combat, but doesn’t stick the whole landing.