As the new console generation is finally set in motion, release-day game lineups are looking to demonstrate the power of all that shiny new hardware. One of those titles is Counterplay Games’ Godfall, an action RPG where you play as a fallen king battling his way through legions of enemies in order to take down your corrupted brother before he reaches godhood. And though the combat and graphics can put on quite the spectacle, the game’s framework is just too weak to hold any real substance.
Godfall’s intention is made clear early on: this is a game to demonstrate next-generation graphical prowess and not much else. The opening movie shows the growth of a kingdom before the evil character takes power through war. For some reason, everyone’s wearing ridiculously shiny armor, referred to as valorplates, and they look real good. Once the cutscene closes out, you’re left on a path towards destiny with a couple comrades you’ll never see again and a simple tutorial level to get started.
The plot itself is relatively thin, though it’s clearly just a catalyst to keep things moving and the combat rolling in. Your evil brother is trying to become a god by activating the Rites of Ascension, and you need to beat his commanders who are gathering the energy for him to complete the ritual. There’s a sentient building that helps you accomplish these things by giving you the steps to reach each commander.
Unfortunately, most of those steps involve beating some miniboss to open a gate and then hunting other bosses in order to gather up some crests to break into the boss chambers. Once you kill one boss, you just move on to the next, with not much in the way of fanfare for taking out these supposed tyrants.
Godfall uses a similar system to Marvel Avengers, where you select missions through an overworld, which then drops you into the location with goals clearly marked on your HUD. Once you finish the goal, the mission ends and you return to the overworld map to select again.
In this game, however, pretty much every mission is a boss hunt where you follow a path to someone you’ve already defeated in the story, beat them again, and then leave. Any other combat is completely unnecessary and just helps to level up your character. These fights don’t even scale, so getting crests later on in the game feels trivial since the rewards are well under your current gear power.
After pushing through the different bosses, you’ll have unlocked the three separate areas of the game world. Each region has its own theme and enemies, though none of them feel unique in any way since the gameplay stays the same. Sure, the density of graphical detail is a sight to behold, but it doesn’t do much to how the game plays. It harkens back to how Godfall is more intended to be a showpiece than an actual long-term action RPG.
I will say the graphics are really special here. Environmental details are everywhere, and each world has an impressive amount of fauna and artifacts to fill out the pathways. The valorplates look clean and powerful, with glimmering edges and meticulous design features. The graphics look wonderful, but it doesn’t excuse the lack of depth for everything else.
Progressing through the game, you’ll pick up collectible items in each world that are then used to unlock the 12 valorplates currently available. These valorplates each have their own Archon Fury, this game’s version of a super move, and stats that allow it to specialize in one element or game mechanic.
I was pretty thrilled to collect the different suits until I realized most are just copies with the elements swapped. In reality, there are about three different Archon Fury abilities, and the passive benefits for each suit amount to a 10% chance to apply your element. They may look unique, but the actual gameplay varies only slightly for each valorplate. It was the first signal that this game wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
The skill tree for your character is really just a grid of abilities that unlock after putting a skill point into any adjacent skills. Specialization is up to the player, as you can reset your skills at any point to try a different build. The skills vary from simple attribute boosts to whole movesets unlocked as you place points into the skill. Each skill has 5 levels, with boosts stacking and improving as you invest more into the skill.
It sounds nice, but with little in the way of actual trees to follow or pages to save, I found myself having to constantly reset my skills to adjust for new equipment and valorplates. Loot level rapidly increases while playing through the story, so it’s a fool’s errand to actually spend time building the optimal skill set.
The one thing holding all these weak pieces together is the combat system. Involving five different ability bars, two swappable weapons, and the use of at least six buttons, there are plenty of plates to keep spinning, even among the more standard encounters. Depending on how you use skill points, certain interactions during battle may also occur. Godfall manages to just barely keep all this information from overwhelming the player, allowing for a deep, integral combat experience that takes a good while to click.
First off, Godfall has a variety of weapons that each come with a light and heavy attack and two different weapon techniques. These techniques act as special moves that charge up during combat. For the sword, you may chop through a crowd of people, whereas the spear skill launches a projectile that deals big damage to those in front of you. However, I couldn’t find any guides for what these moves actually do, so it’s up to experimentation to figure that out.
A secondary resource for enemy encounters is the soulshatter gauge. This is a white bar that fills on top of the enemy health bar to show how much potential damage can be done with a heavy attack. Hitting a heavy attack then releases this soulshatter, generally chunking the enemy for massive damage. Killing the enemy with a soulshatter causes them to explode into pretty particles and potentially causing other effects depending on your skill build.
The other resource for enemies is their breach bar. This is a bar under their health that shows how close they are to getting knocked down from a breach. All attacks cause some level of breach, though it’s more easily built if you focus on heavy attacks. This leads to a dichotomy on how you want to vanquish foes. Would it be easier to build up the soulshatter bar with light attacks, or should you keep swinging heavy attacks to breach their armor and kill with a takedown?
Next, the player is always equipped with two weapons. As you fight with one weapon, the other will charge up over time for the use of a polarity attack. Once fully charged, swapping weapons will unleash a shockwave that powers up your second weapon for a set amount of time. Polarity attacks not only hit hard, but they may have other effects depending on gear equipped. These polarity attacks feel all the better when switching from an off-hand to your favored weapon.
After you’ve mastered your weapon powers, you can start to work on shield mechanics. Your shield plays an integral role in combat as not just a blocker, but also a secondary attack that can gain a multitude of features depending on how many skill points you invest. Four separate skills work to boost and vary your shield attacks, from just a simple throw to a jumping slam that petrifies enemies around you.
The shield is controlled by its own meter that fills over time regardless of combat. Once filled, you’re allotted one shield attack before it must charge again, though this doesn’t affect blocking ability. Though limited in use, the shield knocks down lesser foes and hits relatively hard, so it’s an important tool that stays constant even while you swap out your gear. I tended to favor the circular shield throw, as it was quick to cast while still hitting a large number of enemies.
Finally, there’s still your super move to consider: the Archon Fury. As you battle through enemies and pick up certain item drops, you’ll charge your Archon Fury which can then be activated to put you into Archon state. In this state, you’ll gain additional stat buffs depending on your valorplate, you stop taking damage, instead losing Archon time when hit, and you’ll release some powerful effect that also varies with each valorplate.
This was generally my panic button when things looked dicey, as those brief moments of invulnerability were generally enough to take out a minion, regenerate some health and close out a tough fight. Though no Archon Fury effect felt unique, it did feel like taking your Valorplate to the next level. Suddenly, every hit is causing poison, and I can then destroy enemies with a single heavy attack.
The combat system is a lot to manage, and it didn’t always go as smoothly as I’d like. A lot of enemy attacks don’t stagger the player, so if you use your heavy attack at the wrong time, there’s no way to cancel and avoid killing blows. Multiple times, I’d get killed while wielding a hammer just because I couldn’t stop the animations.
It’s even worse when the enemy does the same thing while you’re hitting them. Even as I smashed my strongest attack right on top of this berserker, he would still pull off his entire attack combo, killing me from full health. It was a bad feeling and it left a bitter taste every time. I’d generally be able to manage if it was singular combat, but Godfall has a tendency to add extra enemies even during boss fights.
Often fights felt like they were clearly geared for multiplayer. At one point, you take on two bosses at the same time, with one constantly rampaging right on top of you, and the other throwing projectiles and flashing away once you get close enough.
If I hadn’t found a cheap strategy to break the game, this fight felt nigh impossible. Focus the big guy, and those projectiles will constantly wittle you down before you can get the kill. Focus the ranged boss, and the big one will just leap onto you while you make your attacks. My character level was past this content and yet I couldn’t even make a dent in either one of them. Add in a second person to draw focus, and it would have been a trivial encounter.
I generally don’t mind voicework in games, but I will say that the NPC guiding you through all of this actively raised my frustration every time I died. She’s so patronizing about your failures that I found myself losing interest in trying again. Her condescension may have been intended to come across as motherly, but hearing “Ohhh, Orin” just after dying to a tough boss made me feel like I was being treated as a small child who just spilled his juice. I’m trying my fucking best, Sanctuary, get off my back.
Godfall also doesn’t take into account what you can’t see as a player, with enemies constantly slamming you from behind as you’re fighting an enemy in front. Again, this seems like something fixed through multiplayer, but it just adds to the frustration as a solo player.
Throughout my playthrough, I always remember that initial feeling: this game is meant to be a showpiece and nothing more. Every system outside the combat feels sloppy and half-baked. The graphics are beautiful, yet the clutter makes each environment forgettable and plain. The skills can vary gameplay so much, yet building out a good tree seems pointless when you’ll have to change weapons in a level. The valorplates are excellent, but they vary so little that you tend to just choose whichever one looks the coolest.
As a PS5 title, Godfall makes sense. With a new graphics card and certain functions developed for the new controller, this would act as a pleasant demonstration of the new generation. However, the PC release feels tacked on and relatively pointless, with little in the way of actual entertainment, aside from a few fleeting combat encounters. I get the need for release games, but perhaps Godfall should have dropped solely on the console market.
Review code provided by PR
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Little more than a shiny exhibition of new-generation graphics, Godfall only succeeds in creating interesting combat systems without giving any thought to the world and story around it.
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