If there’s one game I felt like I’d seen plenty of before these new consoles dropped, it’s Godfall.
For better or worse, it seems like Godfall was at every games show this summer, with Gearbox going in hard, promoting what it was about, feeding us new footage. Technically, the first announced next-gen game at last years’ Game Awards, it stands apart as one of a very few third party launch exclusives for PS5 and is a stunning proposition.
The game is a mix of multiple different titles, but on the surface on it, you could say that if Dark Souls, Destiny, and Monster Hunter got together, you’d have something that resembles Godfall. With testing combat sequences that rely on strength and defense, timed hunts to bring down powerful creatures, and a loot and leveling system that sees you continually changing weapons and adding skill points, you’ll feel right at home if you’ve ever played any of those games.
That’s both to Godfall’s detriment and credit. At times, it doesn’t feel like Godfall is doing anything new. Other times it feels like it’s doing things worse than the other games, but occasionally something clicks and you find yourself actually going along with and enjoying the action on screen.
After a tedious, overly long tutorial section, the game starts to really pick itself up when you hit around Level 5 and the map opens up a bit, enabling you to choose various missions. Before that you’re on a mostly linear path that involves lots of wave-based combat, eventually leading to a decently challenging boss fight. It gets you to grips with the game, but the fights feel tougher here than at any other point and, oh wow, it really doesn’t make it easy for you to fall in love with it.
Once I’d got over the initial hurdles, I was actually really hooked into Godfall, gathering its incredible amount of loot, trying out different armor types, dabbling in the different missions like scaling a tower, Mortal Kombat style, dealing with each floor’s unique challenges.
None of its missions are particularly intricate, however. For instance, it lacks the sophistication of MH World’s Monster hunts with no tracks to follow and clues to gather. You basically just run through the level, find the beast and kill it. I’d really hoped you’d have a big epic battle on your hands and have to chase down a wounded animal to finish the kill, so that was a bit of a missed opportunity.
The boss battles can also follow similar patterns once you’re more confident with your weapons and abilities, though they are pretty epic in scope, with explosions popping off left and right, enemies blindsiding you as you to try to finish the job, and multiple sequences that you have to learn and adapt to.
Combat is certainly the game’s lure, with the player really needing to time their strikes, evade at the right time, and strike when there’s an opportunity for a deathblow. You can also parry attacks, but I have to be honest and say that often happened by accident more than by consequence.
But you can see where the Dark Souls connection comes in, though Godfall is absolutely nowhere near as hard-fought, nor as rewarding for just simply being able to kill a grunt or two. Still, the Vanquish-esque slide your character performs to move out of the way of a killing blow was endlessly satisfying to me.
The game has its home-like hub which you continually revisit. You can set up a forge there to upgrade your equipment and enchant your weapons, and you can select various missions in the order you like – though most are level-gated. But Godfall does do things a little differently by allowing you to craft and adorn various types of armor. They all start off with the same amount of armor and protection, but each has a different augmentation tree which you can build up, and a different ‘Archon Fury’ mega attack which has different effects. Eventually, each suit of armor will start to feel very different, which is actually really cool.
And I’m sure the balancing act for many will be, is the aesthetic of one armor good enough to make me choose it over another with more favourable activations and stats. All armors have to be crafted first, though, and can be done by gathering different resources throughout the game by looting chests, bodies, and finding hidden secrets. It’s certainly worth going off the beaten path.
Speaking of, when you finish missions, you can actually stick around and look for secret paths and opportunities using beacons and your own spidey sense to get some of those sweet resources. Sometimes you’ll have to open a chest, hitting the right combination of objects around you, sometimes you’ll have to survive waves of enemies, and sometimes you’ll have to do a bit of everything. Each area has its own surprises, for sure.
Godfall also has its own accomplishment system called Merits where you perform certain actions and you get resource and money rewards – as well as some neat Trophies – the topics varying between Exploration, Combat, and Hunting with a Bronze, Silver and Gold Rating. You also have your own skill tree to build up, upping your weapon techniques, improving your vitality and defense breaches. These take care of your base stats, while the armor you wear looks after you in a more specialised way.
Godfall’s story isn’t the most involving or interesting, honestly. At no point did I ever really feel like I wanted to read any of the Codexes I collected, or immerse myself in the story. To be honest, a lot of that is to do with presentation and also the game’s ridiculously small – and completely inaccessible – subtitling. It’s the worst I’ve seen in a game in recent memory, and at a time where games are doing so much more to make their content readable for wider audiences – just take a look at The Last of Us Part 2 to see how it should be done. It honestly put me off and just made me want to get back to the action and ignore it all. A real shame.
The game is split into three worlds, giving you the option to replay missions to keep earning XP, unlocking its secrets and gathering more loot, and there’s a bunch of end-game content to explore once you hit 50 and complete the main story, so you have a decent amount to invest in. The problem I found is the environments often wear out their welcome pretty quickly, with many levels feeling like a regurgitation of the last and the structure following similar patterns – run along a path, come to a wide-open arena, fight lots of enemies, go on your way again.
But what you cannot take away from Godfall is how good it all looks. This is one of the most beautiful, detailed worlds you’ll find on PlayStation 5 and because of that, I didn’t mind replaying the same levels over and over, even though it did start to become noticeable. The Water world, especially, must be seen to be believed, with plants sprouting towards the skies, their shadows snaking down to the ground below. You’ll see enormous buildings that go beyond your camera, reaching high above the clouds, beautifully lit coral reefs shining and reflecting in the puddles and multi-coloured moss slowly moving with the waves.
You can even see enemies pottering around in the distance, going on patrol and sometimes fighting against one another in a fully populated arena, set against a far-off wilderness. The draw distance simply would not have been possible on a PS4, making Godfall a true showcase next-gen title with the amount of detail pouring out of it. This is a game that screams out for and demands a 4K TV in order to truly appreciate the effort that’s been put into it.
And the performance, for the most part, is sublime, though I kept encountering random combat hiccups when landing strikes or when I was about to enter a conflict. These weren’t frame rate drops so much as complete drops, which was rather surprising as that’s the first I’ve seen from any of the next-gen titles I’ve watched and played, and it’s a bit worrisome from a game built on a platform and available at launch of a new system.
The DualSense is a wonder, though, with the haptic feedback managing to feel different for the weapons you use and the adaptive triggers offering some slight resistance here and there when you need to recharge and your power is a bit low. It’s all very nicely done, is never intrusive, and does just enough to show you how the controller can compliment games rather than try to be the star attraction. Not everything can be Astro’s Playroom.
The game boldly claims it’s the first of its kind, but with everything you’ve just read, I’m sure you’d agree that’s a bit hyperbolic – I mean, it’s almost like Diablo without the top-down view. And yet, there’s a certain uniqueness about Godfall when all the elements come together that does deviate from the other loot-em-ups you’ve played. You can also see that this might just be building the foundation of a much bigger, more exciting project that feels more like a Dark Souls and Monster Hunter online looter.
But to be blunt, this is not a game that’s going to find its audience at a $69.99/£70 price tag. The developers immediately created an uphill battle for themselves, especially when you consider how competitive this current market has become. That said, while this is no Destiny, Godfall lands better than Anthem did in terms of its overall quality and enjoyability, even though it may find itself in a similar plight with the audience base likely priced out of playing and having no means of trialing it for themselves.
I cannot tell you this is worth the hefty investment because, honestly, there are currently better, more fleshed out alternatives on the market and Godfall is far from perfect. What I can say is I enjoyed Godfall a lot more than I expected to, there is a decent chunk of content to plough through here, and I actually want to see the game endure and receive plenty of post-launch support because there’s a lot to like here.
There is an interesting, unique premise at the heart of Godfall which could evolve overtime into the true evolution of the loot-em-up genre. Make the combat more varied, force the player to actually work for the kills rather than let them hack and slash through everything with ease, and allow the mission structure the chance to really breathe. Make full-blown monster hunts, give us tougher boss battles, put more spins on familiar takes, and keep feeding us exciting new loot.
The launch of Godfall is a little bit of a misstep, especially considering the competition it had to go up against and the price it was retailing for, but there are some really clever, interesting mechanics in play here that are keeping me glued to my DualSense, along with a lot of promise for the future. Hopefully, the team persevere and get the chance to explore it.
+ A true next-gen showcase title that must be experienced in 4K
+ Combat can be very entertaining and enjoyable
+ Nice use of DualSense to compliment the action
+ Mission variety and armor upgrades keep the game interesting
– Subtitling is far too small and presentation pulls me out of its narrative
– Tutorial is a slog and hurts the game’s pacing
– Performance is surprisingly hiccupy at times
– Environment repetition through the levels makes for questionable quality
– Price tag is a big oof for this particular game
Godfall is now available on PS5 and PC (Epic Games Store).
Tested on PlayStation 5
Code kindly provided by Sony / Gearbox Software