Master manipulator take the stage.
There’s something about the trailer for Greedfall that feels unmistakably Bioware. It’s all the people with feelings, the quick cinematic editing and the wide shots of heroes looking at vaguely autumnal landscapes; even the marketing assets look similar. It’s a comparison that will probably get levied against any sweeping RPG adventure with a certain realistic graphic style. But does Greedfall live up to the spectre of Dragon Age?
With its hefty runtime of 60+ hours, Greedfall places players in the swashbuckling shoes of a 17th Century sailor explorer. You’re off to discover a new land, and probably take it over without asking permission first, because that’s what colonialists do best. Like Dragon Age’s gameplay style, the narrative moves according to a player’s moral compass, putting weight on a sense of character rather than skill at fighting big battles, although that is handy too.
Heather Alexandra of Kotaku surmises in her article on the game, “If all of this sounds fine, that’s because it is. In isolation, judged only on the questing and combat, Greedfall is a remarkably playable bit of pulp.” But, and it’s a heavy but: “There’s no polite way of saying it. Greedfall is kind of fucked up. Wrapping yourself in the pageantry of the 18th century means recreating the iconography of colonial expansion and native slaughter. It means emulating a time when supposedly great men failed to do what was morally right, opting instead to do what was politically expedient.”
It’s an issue that other critics have pointed out also, but it’s not a trait that necessarily separates it from a comparison to Bioware. Talk to any companions in a Bioware RPG, and you will find yourself saying the things you think might please them in order to befriend them. Talk too harshly or have an opinion that differs from theirs and that can often mean game over for any special companion perks or quests. That Greedfall also encourages you to not “rock the boat” is not inherently new. But there’s trying to please those in your party, and then there’s placating people that are enacting racial injustice. It may be part of the genre, but it doesn’t reflect particularly well on the game and its world.
While a fair few critics have mentioned these uncomfortable colonial overtones, for many, this will simply be another open-world RPG where the hero becomes who they are through the manipulation of those around them. In technical terms, Greedfall’s various animation, combat and questing issues mean that for many, it will never be “the heir to the Dragon Age throne”. But then, Spiders is an indie studio, not a triple-AAA. That Greedfall has immediately hooked players with a Dragon Age shaped hole in their hearts is a credit to the achievement of the game. It certainly proves that an appetite for open-world RPGs isn’t dying anytime soon.
Greedfall is out on PC now, to find out more about the game, visit its page on Steam.
Kate has been gaming since she could control a mouse. In addition to having a penchant for indie games, Kate had a World of Warcraft account when she was far too young, and has a weakness for any game with ‘RPG’ in the description.