Developer: Counterplay Games | Publisher: Gearbox Software | Genre: Action Role-playing | Platforms: PC and PlayStation 5 | Reviewed On: PlayStation 5
If it was anything other than a launch title, Godfall would not have been talked about beyond a collective “Oh right, that’s coming out.” Perhaps the epitome of a launch game, Counterplay Games has crafted something so definitively workmanlike that it often fluctuates between impressively robust and disappointingly sterile. Godfall is a fun enough game at first but eventually runs into technical problems and a distinct feeling that something more ambitious was planned that just never came to fruition. In its wake lies a sturdy, slightly compromised relic of an older style of hack-and-slash game haphazardly injected with modern sensibilities.
Defined as a “looter-slasher” by its marketing, Godfall hardly stumbles in providing exactly what it promises. It is very much a loot-based game as players traverse the Earth, Water, and Air realms of Aperion collecting rings, weapons, banners, amulets, and other accessories with varying levels of rarity and level requirements. Each item provides some benefit to your hero, whether it’s a chance to burn an enemy or physical resistance against a certain enemy type. It’s all standard buffs to be expected from any loot-based game, especially one set in a fantasy universe like Godfall’s Aperion.
Where the game finds something more unique to latch onto is its Valorplates. Essentially just armor sets that can’t be customized, they provide status effects that cater to different playstyles. So while one Valorplate’s effects may not be beneficial to the way you play, you can always unlock a different one and use that instead. Or you can play like me and just pick the one that looks the coolest and go with that. Unfortunately, because there is no option to mix and match status effects from one Valorplate with another where you favor the style, it’s probably better to just pick the one that looks coolest and treat it like a different class type – even if the game ultimately boils down to just hacking and slashing anyways.
This leads to the “slasher” part of Godfall and probably the component of the game that will make or break it for players. If you miss hack-and-slash games from the PlayStation 2 era, this is filling that void. While the combat is not particularly deep, it does have some interesting systems in place to combat the monotony of just slashing enemies over and over. The most interesting mechanic is the Soulshatter attack, where players essentially use a light attack to increase the amount of damage their heavy attack will do on an enemy. The health bar gets partitioned out greater and greater until it’s completely highlighted – at that point, a heavy attack will force the enemy to explode in a way that feels satisfying every time. Wailing on an enemy with heavy attacks or not filling the health bar with Soulshatter damage will just cause their health to decrease like any other game.
Godfall also features an ability to takedown opponents by filling up a secondary meter just by attacking. It fills up quicker with heavy attacks and is more meant for enemies who take less damage or have a significant amount of health. Combining the Soulshatter damage with takedowns is a satisfying way to make the visuals pop and look really stylish while dispatching enemies. Other combat mechanics like Breach and different skillpoint-acquired weapon techniques add to the tiny amounts of strategy that can be employed in delivering the final blow to an enemy.
Structurally though, Godfall betrays its more strategic combat by having a very rote and standard mission layout. The world of Aperion is divided into three realms: Earth, Water, and Air. Each realm can be freely explored to find chests and resources, as well as for just going to grind out experience by killing enemies. I never felt inclined to do this once. However, there are also more guided missions that drop players in a part of the Realm and are led to a certain objective. These never fail to be miniboss or boss battles, but such is to be expected from a game that emphasizes its combat over anything else. Every mission is structured the same, but is occasionally dragged out by multiple combat encounters.
This is largely where the cracks in Godfall really begin to show. Combat feels good, but also feels fruitless besides going up in levels and occasionally getting a better piece of loot. Even with regards to the loot, the game is constantly giving it out but I rarely found myself switching stuff out in the ten hours it took to complete the story. Even with the Valorplates, I just found one that I liked and almost never changed it. There are twelve to collect, but to what end? One would assume that vanity is enough of a reason, but the significant lack of online features makes that assumption feel even more confusing. There isn’t even matchmaking, so while the game allows for up to three players to do missions together, it’s dependent upon getting others to play Godfall for more than what is necessary to complete the story.
Mentioning the story at all feels like more effort than what went into Godfall’s narrative. There is a bunch of worldbuilding done through Codex entries and environment design, but almost all of the lore is hidden behind menus. It’s the Destiny problem of saying a bunch of pronouns in the story but not providing much context for it all outside of extracurricular reading in item descriptions and Codex entries. The story isn’t even particularly difficult to follow, so it begs the question of why more of this wasn’t surfaced more obviously.
Even trying to explain the story in minute detail ends up feeling like there isn’t much there: Orin was betrayed by his brother Macros, who is now attempting to become a God. In order to stop him, Orin enlists the help of the Seventh Sanctum and a Godsmith (who can upgrade and enhance your weaponry) to take on the four lieutenants blocking their path to Macros. There’s obviously the looming potential for what could happen if Macros becomes a God, and even some discussion on how power corrupts, but it’s all fairly pedestrian and there’s almost no reward for the player in trying to get invested in any of it.
For being such a small game, it’s staggering how much Godfall still looks nice. Playing on a PlayStation 5 in Performance mode it ran at a reliable 60 frames per second, and every environment looks decadent as you slice through a variety of well-made enemy designs. Some of the bosses have great designs like Grieves Sunsteel, but others can feel a bit less inspired. However, there is no denying that each Valorplate is striking in how they look, and I immediately gravitated towards some of the more out-there designs. It’s a small package but the production values are fairly astounding.
Godfall just feels like something where everything was sown together to resemble a well-polished game, but once you spend time with it, the seams start to fray. By the last several missions, even on Performance mode, the game would always hitch for a moment as it told me I completed the mission. Every time a player levels up, the camera suddenly smash cuts to the player and the enemies around are dazed, almost as if there was supposed to be more fanfare around leveling up but instead they just cut to the player and suddenly every enemy wants to be taken down. Some items can be salvaged in the equipment screen, but some can only be done in the Armory screen. There is no way to quit the game to the title screen. The game crashed on me once and wouldn’t let me move another time, forcing me to close the game from the PS5 menu and restart the mission.
My biggest technical issue with Godfall came during the game’s Tower of Trials – a tower where players fight waves of enemies until they reach the top (which take too long and are not varied enough to be interesting). At one point, I died – a rare occurrence during my time with the game. It lets you respawn with full health twice while completing the tower. However, once I respawned, the enemies stopped moving. They’d spawn out of portals as I defeated them, but they stopped attacking or defending or even maneuvering from where they were summoned. I beat them all and the game eventually said “Victory” only for me to be stuck in the Tower with no way of escaping. I then turned the game off (through the PS5 interface again) and never touched it again.
Obviously technical issues like this can be fixed with patches, but when looking at the value proposition that Godfall offers, it’s not enough to look good and play well for a full-priced game. The seams must never show and if they do, they cannot be as jarring as they are here. Godfall’s selling point is being a launch game that offers something to play on your new console that isn’t an older game (even if it does feel like one). PC players will have less reason to give the game the time of day, and it’s understandable. Everything here is serviceable, but when nothing is extraordinary the tiny faults are only accentuated further until nothing is left but a bland experience with only bad memories.