Godfall: This Is Supposed To Be Next-Gen?

Finding good triple-A hack-and-slash/beat-em-up-style games that really focus on their combat are becoming harder and harder to come by these days. With a market saturated in shooters, it seems like there’s less and less room for different action genres to make any kind of impact. There were some alright ones in the last few years like Jedi: Fallen Order and Darksiders 3. Rarely do we ever get great ones like Bayonetta 2 or Devil May Cry 5. I haven’t played the latest God of War, but I’m sure that one’s good as well. The fact that Godfall wasn’t a shooter is what initially interested me about it.

I’m always looking for my next melee-style combat fix. I can go back and play older or smaller titles as much as I want. It’s always nice to see the melee genre get some love in the triple-A space every so often, though. Even if it didn’t really receive a lot of marketing attention, the fact that it’s a PS5 and PC only game means that it is one of the first games to usher us into the true next-gen experience alongside the likes of the remastered Demon’s Souls. That’s a pretty important statement to make. Unlike Demon’s Souls, though, Godfall is an entirely new IP, which is also a pretty rare triple-A occurrence. It has all the makings of a surprise hit for next-gen.

Campaign

Godfall’s campaign takes place in Aperion. A kingdom of sorts on the edge of collapse. The player character, Orin, is determined to stop their brother, Macros, from completing a ritual and becoming a god.

That’s essentially the long and the short of Godfall’s campaign. There really isn’t that much to speak of when it comes to it. For a triple-A game that’s essentially supposed to introduce players into the world of next-gen, the campaign is extremely disappointing. I can’t even really say the game has a story. It’s more just a series of levels loosely daisy-chained together by very bland and sterile dialogue sequences. These sequences give the barest of context for what you’re doing. There’s little room to get attached to Orin or his allies. The stakes are vague at best, and the player gets very little perspective from the villains’ side to set up any sort of compelling conflict. Just stop Orin’s brother from becoming a god. It sets up what should be a rather interesting world and then does absolutely nothing with it.

Orin is essentially a one-man-army. If this were a Doom game, that’d be fine, but this isn’t. Godfall essentially centers around a war story without any context of the war itself. Macros has several lieutenants and special forces that Orin must slay single-handedly. Orin has a talking head and a weaponsmith as allies. That’s it.

Photo Credit: James Robinson

The entire game’s universe revolves around the player so heavily that it’s exhausting. Honest to god, my jaw literally dropped the moment I was actually forced to go talk to the weaponsmith just to progress in the game. There is no optional dialogue. You are required to have a casual conversation with your weaponsmith at several points just to continue the campaign. I am not making this up. You talk to Seventh Sanctum, who is your mission-giver. You then talk to your weaponsmith, and then you go back to speak with Seventh Sanctum again to receive your next mission. It is literally designed to waste your time. That’s just the start, though. Ostensibly, the whole game is designed to waste your time.

The player essentially goes from realm to realm completing tasks that often give a loot reward before eventually unlocking a boss fight. The player then fights the boss and moves onto the next realm. There’s no real build-up to any of the bosses. The player is forced to do hunting missions to collect sigils that allow them to unlock the boss. Hunting missions are basically just mini-bosses. They’re often recycled mini-boss-like enemies the player has already faced at some point during the campaign.

The mechanical progression of the campaign eventually all starts to blend together into a mush midway through the second realm. By the third realm, you realize that almost every mission in Godfall isn’t exactly optional. You’re required to do close to every mission in every realm to complete the campaign. There is no real option to do any mission in this game at your leisure, aside from the very tedious and grindy bonus objectives.

Towards the end of the campaign, I had to do at least 2-3 hunt missions in each realm to collect enough sigils and unlock the next boss. At that point, 2-3 new hunt missions conveniently popped up in each realm. You can replay the same hunt mission over again if you want to save yourself some trouble. It’s painfully clear the designers couldn’t be bothered with giving the player any kind of real freedom of choice, though.

It took me a little over 30 hours to complete the main campaign. I’m pretty sure a good 6-8 hours of that was me just aimlessly running around any particular realm and experimenting with the combat. Leveling up off of killing random monsters. Add maybe another 2 hours to that of just being lost. The realms themselves have such formless designs, and the waypoint markers aren’t much of a help after you’ve completed the primary objective. Even after all of that, I was still only 5 levels above the recommended level for the game’s final campaign boss. What’s crazy is that that isn’t even the game’s max level. If you aren’t as experimental as I am though, it’d probably take you half the time to complete the game’s campaign as it took me. Maybe even less.

Photo Credit: James Robinson

Killing monsters and opening chests thoroughly exhausted me after about the first 5 hours. So, I decided to stop wasting my time doing bonus objectives and exploring. I’d say that was for the best because the game doesn’t bring anything new to the table to shake the gameplay up in any sort of meaningful way after the first realm. You will still essentially be doing the same things you were doing in the air realm as you were in the earth realm. Sure, each realm has different enemies to fight, but that’s about it. You’ll still just be opening chests and collecting loot with the same exact goal of defeating a boss once you’ve accumulated an arbitrary number of sigils from doing missions.

There is nothing in the game that even attempts to mask how utterly repetitious it is. There might be one or two unique story missions in each realm. (“unique” is pushing it) Progression still boils down to a mundane collect-a-thon that culminates in a boss fight, though. Literally, every objective in Godfall’s campaign is little more than busywork. What you’re doing does not at all match up with the scale at which the game wants you to believe events are happening. It is a joke.

Gameplay/Combat

So, the campaign and progression by all accounts are unremarkable. What about the gameplay, though? Well, Godfall is a 3rd-person melee action slasher with looter elements. Unlike Marvel’s Avengers, you can actually play Godfall completely solo. There are no computer-controlled allies here. It does have the option to play with up to two other players simultaneously. To my knowledge, there isn’t a matchmaking option. So, I’m not even sure why an online feature even exists. You can invite your friends to a mission, but without a matchmaking option, the game is really killing what little social potential it could have by not having it.

Godfall’s main loop is combat and looting gear and resources. The combat mechanics are a standard two-button system; one for quicker strikes and one for slower, more powerful strikes. The player has two defensive options. A block button and an evade maneuver. Timing the block button gives the player a parry. Evading, naturally, gives the player I-frames to dodge through attacks. The player also has a recharging shield throw move. They can unlock other special techniques that usually work on a recharge system through the skill tree as well. The player must be facing the camera towards the direction they want to attack in. The player is also equipped with a lock-on mechanic as well as a takedown maneuver when meeting certain criteria.

As for the combat itself, it’s functional. Unfortunately, glaring issues surround it.

Photo Credit: James Robinson

While taking on primary missions, Godfall sprinkles a sparse number of enemies around the map. It makes the maps feel even emptier than they already are. There’s just a lot of blank space between enemy encounters all of the time. Since I was always a fair amount of levels higher than any particular mission’s recommended as well, it made them even easier.

After completing any primary mission, the game populates the world with a lot more enemies. It also scales them up to the player’s level. I understand the whole recommended level thing, but sparsely populating the world with enemies until after the player completes the primary objective just creates a disconnect between the campaign experience and regular player exploration. You don’t get experience from killing enemies at a level much lower than your own, and they usually drop trash loot anyway. All it does is make me want to speedrun the game even more.

So, basic combat works like this. The player runs into a group of enemies. The enemies are usually a combination of ranged and melee-type enemies of any tier. Sometimes it can be all melee with some that will buff their allies. Sometimes there will be an enemy with a shroud of darkness covering their model that is a little tougher than other basic enemies.

Whatever the combination, you make your way in. Depending on what opening move and enemy you choose, you will either cleanly damage the enemy you’re focusing or they will immediately super armor through your attack, and you’ll either trade or you’ll be knocked down. Either that or another enemy will immediately attempt to blindside you because they were the one that was supposed to super armor your attack.

Once the fight has officially started, you will try to prioritize some targets over others. If you try to rush down the enemies that want to create space first, be prepared for some kind of defensive move that either teleports them away from you or they suddenly back dash out of your range. The worst is the healers that will throw out dust that gives you some of the longest hit-stagger in the game.

Most of the time, they seem to only commit to this move when you’re in the middle of one of your un-cancelable combos. Sometimes they’ll do it when you get too close, but the move has some deceptive range and a lingering hitbox. Your best chance is to block it with your shield if you have a weapon fast enough that allows you to block after an attack in time. Since the attack seems to come out randomly, though, you’ll just be guessing if they’re going to do it or just back dash again. It makes it unnecessarily annoying to chase them down.

Photo Credit: James Robinson

Just about every enemy in the game works like this. They all have some kind of countermeasure that punishes you for committing to anything more than one or two swings of your weapon. It usually incorporates the enemy suddenly back dashing or super-armoring through your moves at random times. Hit-stun means nothing, essentially. They’re more like flinching against most of your basic attacks. Enemies can cancel their flinch-stun just about whenever they want. That’s if the opponent even takes any stun in the first place.

Now, the reason why this doesn’t work is that this isn’t a Souls game. You have very distinct and flashy combos that you want to execute. A Souls game’s combat is about finding openings to attack with your very basic weapon swings that are all created equal. Godfall gives you a simple, but still very flashy combo system where some attacks are not the same as others.

Committing to any combo string will more than likely force you to take damage. This isn’t ideal for players that actually want to play with any sort of finesse. Now, some attacks do give you super armor against most enemy attacks, and you can stuff some enemy attacks. This means that you have the option to tank the damage and trade with your opposition. Again though, this is not a rewarding experience for people that want to play as a glass cannon and pride themselves on making it through an encounter without a scratch. It’s not like you’re actually going to plan to stuff an attack. It usually just happens by chance.

You need to almost exclusively hit shield-holding enemies with heavy attacks, or else they’ll take an age to kill. You have to breach them to do any real damage to their health bar. Heavy attacks do more breach damage than light attacks. Most shielded enemies still at least have to defend against the pressure of your heavy attacks. Some shielded enemies come with excessive amounts of super armor, though. This means you’ll be doing a dance of parrying and exchanging one heavy attack before parrying/dodging again. It’s either that or you tank what damage you can with a larger weapon because it’s too slow to reasonably swing without being hit in return.

Then there are the enemies that constantly want to be in your face all of the time and always have super armor. To deal with them, you usually need to parry and then swing your weapon once or twice to be safe. They’re then immediately attacking you again. Either that or use your own super armor and hope your HP pool outlasts theirs, and they don’t throw out an unblockable that will knock you down.

Photo Credit: James Robinson

With the way the AI works in Godfall, where sometimes enemies will only do something if you fully commit to a string, it makes enemies feel like they’re reading your inputs instead of actually coming across as an organic opponent. I could slash away at a focused target with the first two hits of my basic string, and they’ll just stand there and take it. The moment I start doing a full string is when they’ll usually try to counterattack with something. This usually means I either take the super armor the last hit of my string gives me or stop 3 hits in and either block/parry or evade.

Towards the end of my run, I eventually started gravitating to using only longswords. Not because I necessarily wanted to, but because they were the best choice for combat in the game. Perhaps it’s just my playstyle, but trying to play as a big boy with large, slow weapons just felt worse overall. Trying to lock down ranged enemies became even more of a chore, and the trade-off of being slower just didn’t quite match up with the damage I was outputting. Not to mention that you’ll be trading damage with enemies even more while still occasionally being knocked down just as much as if you were playing with a smaller weapon.

I also really dislike the soulshatter system. All it does is effectively give every enemy two health bars if you primarily use the faster light attacks in the game. I imagine that would be the majority of all players. Light attacks drain an enemy’s primary health bar while leaving behind a secondary life gauge that also must be drained by executing heavy attacks. All this system does is force the player to perform heavy attacks even if they don’t want to because draining the enemy’s entire primary health bar doesn’t kill them. It just sets them up for a soulshatter kill, which has its own problems as well.

Soulshattering an enemy makes them explode in a pretty mist that will often obscure the player’s vision for a few seconds. All of the pretty flashing lights and particle effects are bound to distract the average player to some capacity during combat. Since the player must be facing the camera in the direction they want to attack, all of the distracting graphics on-screen during combat can set them up for being blindsided more often than not. Arrows show up around the player character’s model to tell them how many enemies are currently surrounding them off-screen and will light up red if an enemy is attacking. Good luck actually paying attention to that half the time with all of the other visual goop that can fill the screen. Some audio cues make up for this, but not by much. There’s just as much audio nonsense as there is visual.

I got into the habit of just putting up my shield in the direction of another enemy after soulshattering one just to preemptively block an attack through the mist. And you have to constantly soulshatter enemies because if you don’t, they’ll ostensibly take twice as long to kill. It made me favor one single combo with just about any weapon because it was the most efficient at killing enemies. Not that the game has a long list of combos, but I’m literally pressing the same button combination 80% of the time because doing anything else would’ve been way less efficient and would needlessly extend fights with no fun-factor trade-off for it.

Photo Credit: James Robinson

Healing in Godfall works on a health orb system. You can carry a max of three consumable health orbs. Picking one up while not at max health will heal you. If you are at max health and you have less than three orbs in reserve, the game adds it to your consumable total. Sometimes enemies drop orbs. Sometimes you can find them by destroying objects in the environment. When consuming an orb, the player receives the perks of the current life gem they have equipped for a limited time. Life gems also determine how much healing you receive. The player also has a rechargeable banner mechanic. The banner fills the player’s overheal health bar when placed on the battlefield. The banner also has perks that take effect when deployed like any other piece of gear.

As a whole, Godfall‘s combat loop is built to slowly whittle away at the player’s resources or catch them in a tight spot. Bosses are the biggest offenders. The reason why they have health bar segments that don’t refill on death is that a majority of them have attacks that do damage you practically can’t avoid. They are almost guaranteed to suck you dry of every resource. They’re constantly layering attack after attack that can often hit you with some kind of AOE status effect or punish you for attacking too early. It forces you to wait until they leave a small opening that allows you to maybe get two or three swings in on average. It is an awful design that’s using the crutch of health bar checkpoints to mask how awful it is.

Against basic mobs, If you don’t focus on the ranged enemies, they will chip away at your HP with ranged attacks. If you don’t focus on the melee enemies, they will continue to try to blindside you as you awkwardly chase down the ranged enemies. Sometimes some encounters will randomly spawn more enemies out of nowhere. This just feels really cheap if you’re going to organically place enemies in the environment in the first place. I appreciate that the game often forces me to use every resource I have available. I just can’t help but feel that it went overboard in some places.

When you die, you respawn right next to the gang of enemies that killed you, and you’re right back into it. Enemies and bosses not returning to maximum health again after death make dying less frustrating. It doesn’t make the combat experience itself any less flimsy, though.

Since you aren’t really working towards any real goal besides leveling up and getting more loot, it doesn’t really feel like you’re conquering anything when defeating random mobs on a map. You know they’re going to respawn eventually, and they’ll be just as annoying to fight as the last time. There’s also some input-lag on certain actions. Mostly the actions governed by the right stick. When trying to lock-on, pressing the right stick displayed a noticeable delay between the button press and when the game would actually complete the action. The same goes for takedowns, which is also a contextual button press with the right stick. At least a half-second or so would pass before the takedown would happen after each right stick press.

Photo Credit: James Robinson

Not to mention sometimes my combos would just randomly drop out of nowhere. Sometimes If I’m mid-string, my combo suddenly resets back to the first move of the string on the next button-press. I don’t mash. The game just doesn’t read my next input correctly or something. I don’t know how it happens. I don’t know why it happens. It didn’t break the game or anything, and it was a rare occurrence. It was just mildly annoying when it happened.

Animation canceling would honestly probably fix a lot of these problems. You don’t even have to give the player the ability to cancel everything. Just let them dodge/technique cancel when handling a smaller, faster weapon, and cancel into special abilities when wielding a larger, slower weapon. You can then mix and match the capabilities of doing so depending on the weapon-type itself. This would add a lot more depth and make the game infinitely more rewarding and fluid to play. It’d give the player more viable options worth learning from weapon to weapon, and resource management would feel a lot more organic.

Skill Tree/Weapons/Ailments

The skill tree works as a web. Purchasing one skill on the web with a skill point unlocks skills adjacent to it. You can upgrade every skill up to five times. Each level gives the skill a little more utility, like a larger parry window or more base damage. Players can redistribute skill points whenever they wish. So, if they are unhappy with the current web they’ve created, they can just redo it at no cost. It also means the game doesn’t totally lock the player into skills they might not want. So, while I could say some skills are useless, there’s probably a somewhat efficient web there for every player.

Weapons are probably what’s going to influence a player’s playstyle more than anything else. There are five weapon-types in Godfall; Longswords, polearms, dual blades, warhammers, and greatswords. I appreciate that each weapon type feels distinct from the others. Longswords are balanced weapons while warhammers are slow, but their attacks have more AOE. Weapons can come with different damage types like physical, fire, water, air, etc. A weapon’s damage-type influences what kind of ailment they can inflict on enemies. This is fine in theory, but it’s incredibly shallow in practice.

An ailment is little more than a DOT effect. As far as I understand, every elemental ailment works exactly the same. Fire does damage over time. Poison does damage over time. Bleed does damage over time. To my knowledge, enemies don’t even have any elemental resistances. This means that there’s literally no functional reason to favor one element over the other. Homogenizing every damage-type doesn’t create a meaningful balance. It just removes any sort of meaningful player choice. In other words, it’s lazy. In a looter with RPG-stat-style elements, that is just inexcusable.

Gear/Upgrading

The same goes for any other piece of gear. All other gear pieces like rings, amulets, and charms increase the player character’s base stats of might, spirit, or vitality. Might affects base melee damage. Spirit affects special ability damage. Vitality affects HP. They also come with perks like more takedown damage or higher ailment chances.

Photo Credit: James Robinson

You can upgrade any piece of gear up to five times. You can also enchant gear to increase its rarity. Upgrading and enchanting give items more perks. The perks are essentially picked by a dice roll. No, you can’t influence how an item gets upgraded or enchanted to possibly get a perk you actually want. You just take whatever the game offers you from a limited selection, which is a little disappointing. Overall, this effectively gives the player routes to build either a tank-like character or a glass cannon with small, perk-driven variations. Though, augments will often end up screwing any sort of build you might be going for with any particular valorplate.

Valorplates

Valorplates are the sets of armor the player character wears in Godfall. Think of them like warframes from Warframe. They come with their own unique set of abilities; except they aren’t nearly as interesting as a warframe. All a valorplate really does is slightly change up the effects of the player’s archon fury ability and increase a select ailment chance or modify some other random stat. Archon fury is little more than an AOE blast attack that sends out a shockwave of elemental damage or summons a couple of sentinels while also giving the player a boost in ailment chance and damage to enemies inflicted with a particular ailment. It is literally the most boring rage mode I’ve ever seen in a video game.

Each valorplate comes with its own unique augment constellation. Augments basically function like any other type of gear, increasing a certain stat and coming with perks. The biggest difference is that I don’t find them to be nearly as disposable as any other piece of gear. Valorplate constellations actually force the player to be efficient with how they organize augments in them through a power drain system. More slots become available as the player levels up. Since I haven’t reached max level at the time of writing this, I haven’t unlocked all slots. Regardless, I do appreciate what it’s trying to do. It makes me value every augment I pick up as possibly being useful down the road.

The problem is that I can see the system influencing a player’s build with any valorplate a bit too much. You see, every valorplate’s constellation comes with slots where you can only equip one augment-type to it. Valorplate constellations will often be filled with the same augment-type slot that favors that particular augment over the others. So, if you wanted to make a vitality-heavy bruiser with a bunch of stats feeding into HP, but most of that valorplate’s augment constellation features slots that only accommodate spirit augments, then at best, you’ll probably end up having a character with mostly balanced stats.

Photo Credit: James Robinson

This goes for just about every valorplate in Godfall. Even without having unlocked every augment slot yet, I could already feel most of my valorplate builds trending towards a balance of at least two different stats if I chose to build towards one and their constellation favored another. Again, it’s the total eradication of any real player choice for the sake of lazy simplicity in a stat-driven game that’s supposed to allow freedom of choice. It means you may have to play with a valorplate you don’t want to play with just to have the actual build you want. Even then, it still might end up being just as balanced as any other valorplate depending on how the constellation is structured.

By the way, you can’t actually see a valorplate’s constellation structure after you craft it. You can preview it before crafting it, but after crafting it, the locked slots block what kind of slot it is. This means you can’t even see what the valorplate’s constellation builds toward while you’re playing with it. So, how would you even know how to build around it while leveling up except by memorizing its preview before crafting it? Utterly ridiculous…

Conclusion

Godfall isn’t really a game. It’s a test. A test of how much you’re willing to put up with when it comes to the barebones philosophy of looters. It’s honestly pretty pretentious that the game has the nerve to claim it’s the “first-of-its-kind, looter-slasher, melee action-RPG” on its Epic Games store page. As if FromSoftware games don’t exist or something. As if Marvel’s Avengers, a game that was released only months ago, doesn’t exist or something.

Marvel’s Avengers may not be a slasher, but the same concepts apply. It is a melee action game in which you beat up random mobs and open chests to collect loot. It is the exact same thing. There is nothing at all innovative about Godfall. You’d really have to be disconnected from the climate of gaming today to even think that this is the case. I’d argue that Godfall in some aspects is worse than Marvel’s Avengers based on this fact alone.

Godfall is a borderline insult to any kind of looter game that actually tries to have some sort of redeeming quality to it that isn’t superficial, whether that’s through its campaign, gameplay, or setting. Godfall has good graphics, and that’s about it. Everything else is mediocre at best and thoughtless at worse. I didn’t even mention the good old bugs I encountered while playing.

Here’s the video. It wasn’t a lot. Not nearly as many as Marvel’s Avengers, but they were still just as irritating.

I don’t know if this game will be getting any kind of worthwhile content in the future. I don’t know if Counterplay Games and Gearbox will be fixing some of the smaller issues in the future. What’s here now, though, is so pitiful that spending money on it would be nothing short of a foolish investment for an informed player. Unless your someone who has never played a looter game or melee action game in your entire life, have 60 bucks to burn, and just want the barest of concepts from those two game-types mashed together into a mushy paste, I cannot at all recommend Godfall. I really hope a game like this doesn’t actually become a new standard for triple-A games going into next-gen.

Godfall is out now for PlayStation 5 and PC.

What do you think of Godfall? Leave your comments below! And while you’re at it, check out my last review on Raji: An Ancient Epic.

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Follow James on Twitter @DatBlackGhost.

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