Review : Godfall : All That Shimmers is Trash

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My theory about Gearbox as a developer/publisher still stands true after so many years. Since the creation of the company, they have yet to release anything as substantial as the Borderlands series, with the third installation teetering on the more annoying side. My simple theory has evolved into law with the release of Godfall, a PlayStation 5 launch title from Counterplay Games that is all simmer but no steak. I should have seen this coming, as I haven’t been able to find an official press kit for this game, even after asking them for one. Seems we are off to a great start.

To accurately create the aforementioned metaphor, it’s got the style of a Lamborghini Veneno, but the engine of a 1994 Honda Civic, and the control of an elephant on ice skates. The game is incredibly stylish but lacks any meaningful story elements. And it ends suddenly without any true climactic feeling that you would expect from literally any other form of media out there today. I would say “spoiler alert”, but there is nothing to spoil, as the story seems to be non-existent while also hoping you watched about two hours worth of lore videos on YouTube. If there were solid story-beats here, I would discuss them. Since there aren’t any, consider this a spoiler-free review.

Sliding Into the Future

Borderlands nailed many aspects of the looter shooter genre, short of defining it, thus setting the bar for the genre. Godfall is using that moniker to sell itself as the “slasher looter”, and since adapted control schemes of games that have worked in the past to create a Frankenstein-like title. It hacks and slashes like a SoulsBorne, has the fluidness of Warframe, and the control scheme of the typical first-person shooter, complete with a targeting reticle. This amalgamation tends to do more damage than it alleviates. I have found myself loving some aspects of the combat while the other mechanics seem to be less effective. I have an easier time dispatching enemies when I spam light attacks for faster weapons than I do using the array of maneuvers handed to me.

You have your light attack and heavy attack, pretty average for most games. This simple concept continues with a shield that you can throw, and it gets more complicated from here. There are several gameplay elements that drown you in complex, scenario specific mechanics. For instance, “soulshattering” annihilates enemies in an explosion of color and particle effects but only if you finish the enemy off with a heavy attack. There is a “breach bar” that makes an enemy vulnerable after many heavy attacks, allowing you to do a “takedown” to swiftly eliminate the enemy. There are also “weakpoints” that occasionally pop up and allow you to deal more damage, and I am not done. Sometimes the word “deathblow” pops up on my screen and I don’t know what the hell that even means! You can equip two weapons with the weapon you aren’t using building up power. When you swap, you get a “polarity attack” that adds more damage to your attacks plus additional effects. Then there are life stones that give you health back and banners that add even more effects. Are you tired yet? 

The problem isn’t necessarily how many of these mechanics exist, because I enjoy complex systems when they work, but they don’t always work. Half the time I am standing there going “oh, this is cool” without any idea of what I just did or how to properly recreate it. When I go one-on-one with more powerful enemies, these mechanics become more manageable, and I can really sink into the allure of this game. When enemies appear in groups, it becomes harder to deal with, and the game actively works against you when trying to figure out how it all works.

Your view is incredibly limited due to the obnoxious control scheme, so you miss out on a lot of the surrounding elements. Attempting to alleviate you of the onslaught of enemies, there are markers that surround your character to notify you of attacks, but they meld into the background and seem rather moot. Plus that takes your eyes off the action, and with the enemy attacking so fast, you barely get enough time to react to anything as it is. The over-the-shoulder camera should have been pulled back, dropping the “fps” control style for something akin to Assassin’s Creed, or literally anything else that features third-person, hack and slash combat.

Combat is where I experienced a lot of inconsistencies, throwing me back to almost Avengers style of agitation. You can block, parry, and deflect under only specific circumstances. Even when you block, you can still become vulnerable to devastating attacks that wipe away over half of your health. At a point, I stopped attempting to use the shield because it was easier to slide out of the way instead of blocking. I know blocking can add a stagger effect but it’s just easier to slide around the ground and wait for an opening, instead of taking the chance to poorly time an attack. Meanwhile, enemy boss attacks are simply onslaughts of damage without any window to deliver opportune attacks. 

As much as I love how combat can work, the enemies seem to “cheese” abilities over and over, and there is no way to really counter them. I have played SoulsBorne games in the past and never experienced the amount of fury I had when fighting any elite or boss in Godfall. Most of these combat pitfalls could be solved if I could cancel my actions to block quicker, or not have to hold down L2, wait for my weapon to swirl with red stuff, and then deliver my attacks. Meanwhile, special enemies shoot an endless amount of purple stuff at me, on repeat, with no chance for me to react or block it. Plus if I do block it, it still leaves me stunned for a moment and… ugh… I’m tired of revisiting this in my brain again.

Lack of Substance

I haven’t discussed the twelve Valorplates that you might use, because like everything else besides the combat, there isn’t much to discuss. You start with one and unlock others by collecting resources in the three worlds available to you. When you acquire enough, you can “craft” these bits of armor-porn. They each have a passive ability and an Archon ability. Of course, there are problems with these too, as the passive abilities don’t really change anything in combat. Even though there are twelve suits of armor, there are only four Archon abilities that tend to be copy/pasted with a slight change, such as replacing “cold” damage with “fire” damage. Even worse, abilities shown in trailers do not exist in the final game. This is a clear indication of corner-cutting in order to meet a deadline. There is also an augment tree with nodes that unlock occasionally. How do they unlock? I honestly have no idea.

This awesome ability featuring spectral swords doesn’t exist as an Archon ability within the game.

Speaking of elements, they are present in Godfall, but there really isn’t much to discuss purely because the game doesn’t tell you how they work. You have to figure it out through trial and error. Most of the time, you’ll be stacking up the same element in hopes that something eventually helps you. Even in the enemy codex there is a lack of enemy weaknesses or resistances. The only area where you see any viable effects is in the skill-grid style of talent-trees where you have a grid of nodes that offer bonuses, and sometimes abilities to your repertoire (like there aren’t enough already). Each node has five levels that provide larger bonuses the more you invest. However in some cases, I have found that adding one node for an ability is good enough while I concentrate on actual stat increases, since that is the only other area where I have seen drastic changes as I played.

Level design is equally devoid of any interesting characteristics. To be brief, there are only three worlds to explore, a far cry from the promised five. The three worlds represent earth, water, and wind. While each have their own theme, they are boring to explore.  Each level is a hallway that eventually opens up into an incredibly small clearing, which then continues into a hallway like area. This repeats several times over and despite it looking beautiful, there is nothing of interest to discuss.

There is no map, but if there was, this is what it would look like

Even though this game feels like a slog at some points, perhaps one of the most impressive moments of this game is when you die. With the hold of a button, you are back in the action in literal seconds. At first I attributed this to the power of the SSD, but that isn’t what causes this incredibly fast respawn. What happens is you die, you hold the “X” button, and when you come to, nothing is reset. If you had a group of five enemies and killed two before you died, three will await you. There is also barely any penalty for dying except not having any Archon or special ability power active. So in difficult fights, once you run out of lifestones, you can just die and get them all back while still making progress. In harder modes, respawning does have a hard-cap where after three deaths you are sent out of the mission. But to be quite honest, this game on the hardest difficulty becomes the least amount of fun I have ever had in a video game. No amount of loot can make me say otherwise.

I Like Goooooooold

While the controls and abundance of systems can cause confusion amongst players, graphically this game is beautiful in every aspect. The eloquently tailored Valorplate armors and the enemy designs are the chef’s kiss of next-gen. The technical prowess that this game displays within its style is jaw-dropping. The beauty of this game is compacted within a 50GB file size, and in a day where we are encroaching on Call of Duty hitting around 250GB, this is a welcome change.

I like this particular skin because it reminds me of Arizona Green Tea

Counterplay Games really nailed the style and look of everything in Godfall. The design of the armor is unique and the weapons have a sense of flair that is exciting. Unfortunately, you’ll be seeing a lot of doubles when it comes to the weapons, so variation of style seems to be pretty shallow. Instead you need to look at the stats, as those tend to be more randomized throughout your time. Typical stat increases seem to exist on equipment, such as critical ratings and other aspects you should be familiar with.

You can upgrade these weapons to higher rarities but like any other loot-based game, it’s not worth spending valuable resources until you get to the end. The development team had previously discussed in past videos how you can bring weapons with you through the game from beginning to end. This seems to be yet another lie, as weapons are hard-capped to a certain point.

Only a few times have I seen texture pop-in when looking at the environment. The real issue is the stuttering frame rates that occur during combat. You’ll be fighting an enemy, lose several frames, and then the next thing you realize is some of your health is gone and the enemy is behind you. For a game that has a huge emphasis on fast-paced combat, this is a terrible annoyance that has made me quite angry in my hours of play.

Sounds of Silence

There isn’t a lot to write home about when it comes to the sound design of the game. It seems relatively average across the board when it comes to weapons and combat. Many times I have entered a boss battle that didn’t have music playing, which felt similar to entering a store whose sound system is broken. It certainly didn’t immerse me into the world. I am a fan of big, orchestral symphonies that tend to highlight what is going on around you. It becomes part of the experience. Yet nothing like that exists in this game to make it stand out. Even the voice acting is borderline laughable at times.

Corner Cutting Conclusion

I need to say this. Godfall is not a “games as a service” title. There are no micro-transactions and no store asking you to spend more money. It doesn’t seem to nickel-and-dime you along your journey. That being said, I don’t equate this game to something like Anthem or Avengers when discussing the grand scheme. No, if I were to draw a line from a game in the past to Godfall, it would be the infamously known Silicon Knights’ title Too Human. Remember that game? I’m feeling like I am reliving that experience in a smaller time-frame.

I was incredibly hyped up for this game and my first three hours of playing impressed me. But the longer I played, the more I explored each world, the quicker the allure wore off. I believe that if it wasn’t for the artificial padding of obtaining resources to get to other parts of the game, the entire campaign would be about 5 hours long. As it stands, I gave Godfall 13-hours of my time that I will never get back which could have spent elsewhere, like learning how to make proper Italian cuisine. Instead, I subjected myself to more half-baked, rushed to gold concepts in order to meet a launch line-up.

Besides all of the mechanics and systems, what Godfall suffers from the most is not being up to date in quality of life systems. There is no mass-salvage mechanic allowing you to quickly free up inventory space. There is no world map, so you just aimlessly run around, following a destination marker. You don’t even need to fight enemies either. They are just there so you have something to do between the two minutes that every mission could possibly be completed in.

The amount of lying and lack of information is an absolute turn-off for me as well. Sure, the game has a lot of great systems, but if I don’t know how to properly execute these systems, then what is the point? A company shouldn’t expect me to utilize my full arsenal when the alternative is simpler and does the job faster. I could use the hammer, and it feels good, but a longsword just minces faster, especially when I want to take advantage of the integrated mechanics.

Godfall fails in a lot of aspects, but it has charm and with a couple of good updates this game could be better. But I can’t judge this game on what it could be in the future. Right now, it’s simply not in a great state. The weapons and combat are fun at times for the mess that it is. But everything else feels rushed to a point where the desert area, a place you would equate to fire or earth, is actually the realm of “wind.” Now I’m nitpicking and I realize that. 

The fact that this game is priced at the full $70 MSRP, I cannot in good faith recommend this title to anyone, even understanding there are those wishing to get more use out of their new hardware. I would have rather seen this game pushed back too add the additional polish and optimization that is clearly missing. Whole levels and assets that were promised from the beginning are gone, with no-one addressing these issues. Unfortunately, Godfall will become an example of what happens to a game when you rush it, knowing that it isn’t ready for market. Let this be a testament to why you’re not playing Cyberpunk 2077, and why games need the extra development time and care that they deserve.

Final Verdict: 5

Fun Factor: 5
Technical Prowess: 8
Time Investment: 12+hours
Replayability: 5

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By Steve Esposito

Steve Esposito is a dedicated content creator with a focus on his love for technology, video games, and the very industry that oversees it all. He also takes part in organizing the Long Island Retro and Tabletop Gaming Expo as well as a Dungeons and Dragons podcast: Copper Piece. You can find him on twitter @AgitatedStove

1 Comment

  • I just read the codex last night and it explains a lot of the things you stated were unexplained. I do enjoy the game and your point on the bosses and their borage of attacks is spot on, but I notice the hidden objects in other worlds other than earth are next to impossible to find!! I’ve spent hours exploring every nook and cranny and only find 2 of the 3! With no simple map to refer to its exhausting! I do still like playing and using skills to unlock different moves.

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