Godfall PS5 review – war without end

GameCentral takes a look at another of the PlayStation 5’s console exclusives, with what is intended to be Destiny with swords.

We expect many people have already forgotten but Godfall was officially the first PlayStation 5 game ever to be shown in public. All you got was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it trailer, that explained nothing, but it was the official starting point of the PlayStation 5 hype train… which almost immediately went off the rails thanks to the coronavirus. Unlike other games Godfall wasn’t delayed though and has made it out as a day one launch title. Although we have a feeling nobody is going to care.

Godfall is the latest in a long line of recent games, Marvel’s Avengers being the most high profile, which shows every sign of being drastically redesigned halfway through development, after the gaming community began to turn on loot boxes, following the launch of Star Wars: Battlefront 2 in 2017. It’s also heavily influenced by Destiny, in that it attempts to offer the same sort of ongoing gameplay experience but with melee combat instead of shooting.

Constant repetition and endless, random loot are the twin obsessions of Godfall, which is a real shame because the graphics are decent and the third person combat has plenty of potential. But that amounts to little when the experience of playing the game is just the same few action beats repeated again and again, with almost no context or hope for resolution. And yet Godfall isn’t actually a live service title, which means it ends up with the worst of both worlds.

For a game whose storytelling is spread so thinly the backstory for Godfall is unnecessarily complicated and thoroughly uninteresting. You’re some kind of sci-fi knight whose brother has control of a MacGuffin that can turn him into a god and you’re out to stop him by beating up all his minions and raising an army to stand against him. Or at least we think that’s what’s going on. It’s all portrayed in a very vague manner and we’re still not really sure if we’re aliens, supernatural beings, or just ordinary humans in big suits of armour.

There were a lot of assumptions, before release, that Godfall was a Soulsborne style action role-player but it isn’t really. There are some surface similarities, but ultimately it’s closer to something like Diablo, with developer Counterplay Games claiming that Monster Hunter was a primary influence. You can see that in the combat and giant-sized weapons but there’s no gameplay focus equivalent to hunting monsters and as a result the combat feels far less distinctive.

The action is certainly the game’s strongest card though, with a good feeling of weight and impact to all the many different types of weapons. There are problems though, with an overly fussy lock-on and a complete inability to interrupt any animation once it’s started, which is no doubt inspired by Monster Hunter but is very frustrating given you have a God Of War style shield that the game is very finickity about how you use.

We don’t like to use the word finickity twice in a row, but it also describes the higher level play, which is filled with lots of easily forgotten complications like the Soulshatter attack that will do extra damage if you follow up a light attack with a heavy attack after having primed an enemy’s health bar. This is enabled by weapons having both Northern and Southern techniques, which initiate different special moves once they’re charged up; and there’s also a ‘Rampage’ to initiate by getting in multiple attacks in a row; and the ability to manually aim at weak spots if they’re flashing.

But it all seems so random, as if the developer just thought up a long list of rules and techniques and threw them into the game with no real thought of whether they worked together or not. Or if maybe they should be emphasising them as a more central element of the gameplay, like Bloodborne’s Rally system.

There is skill to the fighting but despite all the options and complications there’s never enough reason to use most of them as, apart from a few difficulty spikes around bosses, the game is surprisingly easy and enforces little punishment for failure. Which means that, despite all the extra options, it’s too easy just to button mash your way to victory.

Although there are no microtransactions the game is filled with literal loot boxes, which contain items that rarely seem very useful or interesting. Again, there are options within options, thanks to the augment system that can further refine whatever weapons, charms, and amulets you have equipped. But it’s very rare to come across anything that feels like a genuine game-changer and you soon begin to resent the time spent picking everything up and upgrading your gear.

Nothing in Godfall ever feels as much fun as it should be, even the graphics. On a technical level they’re pretty good, not as good as Sony’s first party titles but certainly impressive for a launch game. And yet they’re marred by frame rate problems and boring level design. There’s only three worlds and although they all look different (themed after the elements of air, earth, and water) the layouts are always just windy corridors leading to enemy-filled arenas.

The saving grace should be the three-player co-op but there’s no matchmaking option at the moment, just the ability to invite friends, which has limited our ability to test it (not because we haven’t got any friends, we hasten to add, but because not many of them have got PlayStation 5s – or the desire to play Godfall.)

On paper Godfall seems to have everything it needs to be a successful looter-slasher but it’s a hugely uninspiring game to play through, even if it doesn’t have any deal-breaking flaws to explain why. There is nothing very wrong and nothing very right with Godfall and if this had been a normal console launch that may have been enough to give it a weak recommendation. As it is though, there’s already plenty of other, better games on the PlayStation 5 and very little reason to invest in this one.

Godfall PS5 review summary

In Short: Although it seems to have all the necessary components to become a compelling looter-slasher Godfall’s fussy mechanics and repetitive design will quickly sap your interest.

Pros: The basic combat is perfectly solid, with a lot of advanced techniques. Plenty of content, including co-op options, with a complex upgrade system and some decent graphics.

Cons: The game world and its enemies are not very interesting, and combat is at once overcomplicated and too easy. Uninspiring loot system and far too much repetition.

Score: 5/10

Formats: PlayStation 5 (reviewed) and PC
Price: £69.99
Publisher: Gearbox Publishing
Developer: Counterplay Games
Release Date: 12th October 2020
Age Rating: 16

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