Main cast: Jamie Blackley (Sir De Sardet), Cassie Layton (Lady De Sardet), Ben Lloyd-Hughes (Constantin D’Orsay), Liam Garrigan (Kurt), Benjamin O’Mahony (Vasco), Kezia Burrows (Siora), Steven Hartley (Petrus), and Vineeta Rishi (Aphra)
The degeneration of Bioware’s Dragon Age is one of the most tragic arc in the history of action fantasy RPG, if you ask me. That is a long story for another day, so let’s just say that the decay is similar to that that affects the video game and comic scenes in general: too many people who are more into pointless virtue signaling than demonstrating their talent to produce entertaining medium, the greed of studios that emphasize “live service” and microtransactions over everything else, and classic studio mismanagement.
Then, I was told that GreedFall would sate the ache left behind by Dragon Age, although I was also warned that this game was made on a much smaller budget, and hence, I should adjust my expectations accordingly. Okay, let me boot up the game, and…
Okay, your character is De Sardet, a nobleman of considerable importance because you are the cousin, best friend, protector, and confidante of Prince Constantin D’Orsay. You can, of course, be Lady or Sir De Sardet, and my personal preference when it comes to voice acting is Lady De Sardet. Jamie Blackley’s Sir De Sardet sounds uniformly bland and disinterested all the time. But he can be customized to have a killer set of eyes and stubble, however, and I always have a weakness for video game protagonists with stylish facial hair. Oh, decisions, decisions…
Back to the story, Constantin is sent to be the governor of New Serene, the capital city of the bustling island port Teer Fradee. The prince is actually viewed as a no-hope disgrace of the royal family, and this post is more of a “Here, stay out of the way!” gig for Constantin, who spends the eve of his departure drunk and in need of rescue. No wonder you are being sent along there to be his Legate – which is a nice way of saying that you’ll be the janitor that will mop up everyone’s mess over there.
Indeed, what a mess. You will find that there are tensions between the natives and the interlopers from the mainland. There are cultural and religious clashes, along with the usual intrigue, drama, and more involving the usual dead bodies and such. There isn’t really an overall arc here; if I am to use Dragon Age comparisons, the “plot” structure here is akin to that in Dragon Age II: you go around doing errands after errands until eventually you stumble into developments that will lead to the appearance of the final boss.
Hence, while initially I am caught up in the rush – I spent the better part of two days initially playing as much as I can because I am intrigued by the newness of the whole thing – I soon have to really like the protagonist and the companions as well as the game play to be continuously enamored of the game. Unfortunately, I’m not into all these elements.
Unlike my dear sarcastic Garrett Hawke of Dragon Age II, De Sardet is a blank slate that has the bland, bland personality of the Inquisitor and the dead-eyed expression of the Grey Warden. He just go around doing things, and despite some illusion of choices in this game, there isn’t much of a choice to talk about. De Sardet isn’t given any choices to disagree with or object to Constantin’s obviously and increasingly erratic choices and decisions, and their character development is static. They may encounter a betrayal by a loved one, for example, but that incident never makes any dent in their mind at all. They just keep going about being a robotic superhero that comes to everyone’s rescue. Why are they so loyal to Constantin? Well, no idea. When the pivotal denouement occurs and it involves someone close to them turning into the dark side, De Sardet acts like they are about to go on yet another side quest, and seriously, Jamie Blackley really sleepwalks through the whole thing here. I am not going to do another week-long run to see how Lady De Sardet is better or worse than her male counterpart; I can only hope Cassie Layton does a better job!
As for the companions, oh, snore. Kurt is the older man who is De Sardet’s mentor and he is only for the ladies, but he is so aggravatingly passive and polite in the romance, with the agency left entirely to Lady De Sardet, that the romance feels uncomfortably like an underling being unable to say no to an aggressive woman in a more powerful position. Oh, and he’s bland.
Aphra is for the male De Sardet to romance, and she’s the standard nerdy girl with a firearms type that doesn’t rise above the stereotype. While I play Lord De Sardet, I have zero interest in chatting with her any more than necessary.
Vasco is the Naut captain who also uses the standard swashbuckler weapons of a blade and firearm, and yes, I romanced him after going through the romance videos on YouTube and deciding that his is the least boring of the lot. The fade-to-black love scene of two heavily-clothed and armed men awkwardly fumbling in bed makes me wince, though. Still, I like Vasco’s character and he has a dry sense of humor that appeals to me. He can be romanced by both male and female De Sardets – he’s a sailor, after all.
Siora is also an option for both male and female De Sardets, She’s the token native companion, and oh boy, her character is awkwardly inserted here. You’d think she would play a bigger role in the quests involving her people, but you can sideline her easily. She offers an occasional feisty interjections now and then if you bring her along. She’s also the healer of the lot, so you may end up doing just that, only to be like me disappointed by how little she matters in the bigger scheme of things.
Petrus, the priest, can’t be romanced, so of course he has to be one of the more interesting companions, sigh. He’s an armored priest who isn’t above being shifty and shady now and then – exactly the kind of charming dude with dry wit that I go for in video games. No, he isn’t looking for love; Kurt is the only available boring older guy here.
Combat and Gameplay
Oh, where do I start? Melee combat is slow and clunky – think Dragon Age: Origins – and I think I aged by ten years trying to play a warrior for half an hour. The rogue, or technician as it is called here, has traps, which look cool… until it becomes apparent that these traps will easily be avoided by any moving opponent, so why bother, especially when these traps need to be crafted from materials you have to collect all over the place. No, it’s easier to go into the magic route and just blast every bugger in sight – especially when magic ignores armor and hence can take down enemies far faster than whacking away with a sword like a 90-year old with osteoarthritis.
The game allows some flexibility in customization De Sardet’s skills – you can pick across the three classes without restrictions eventually – but it’s Dragon Age: Origins all over again. Melee is only for passionate people, I suppose, as it’s far easier and practical to paralyze the enemy with your magic and then pew pew that bugger to death.
The whole thing becomes boring after a while, I admit, as I feel like I’m just doing the same thing over and over. Some people tell me that magic is the most boring way to go of the three classes of combat, but no, I am not going to subject myself to the torture of seeing my melee character swing a weapon in agonizing slowness and prolonging combat encounters for no good reason.
Oh yes, the combat encounters. This is one of those quasi-open world games that is all the rage at the moment. Just like Dragon Age: Inquisition, this one ends up being a boring MMORPG with only one player character – you – although in this instance, the budget limitations of GreedFall is a blessing because the open world is thankfully nowhere as big and barren as that in the other game. Seriously, I still am wondering what the point of the Hissing Wastes is – I think the BioWare team just decided to say eff it and make the map hideously difficult to navigate and make sense of just for laughs. It is a good thing that there is nothing like that here – this one just feels like an entire MMORPG core pack set in the Hinterlands.
That’s right, every location is a variation of the same forests, woods, hills, and such with one of the worst map navigation systems I have come across. I get used to the navigation after a while, but I don’t know why it has to be so counter-intuitive for a game that requires players to travel so often.
Just like Dragon Age: Inquisition, the core “story” here isn’t very long; players spend more time traveling, doing side quests, gathering crap, and crafting. Yes, crafting. I don’t know why a single-player game has to include gathering and crafting crap, but I guess kids these days just love to grind? It’s not like there are gorgeous armors to craft – everything here looks like some variation of the same few sets of armors. Yes, just like Dragon Age: Inquisition.
GreedFall is compared to Dragon Age games, and I think that’s because it includes the worst elements of the three Dragon Age games: samey locations with different names, tedious combat, bland characters, lack of agency despite the illusion of choices, and rushed denouement and ending.
Not that I think this one is a complete loss. I like the setting. The lore of the place is interesting and has the potential to give rise to good and fun story arcs. This one, however, only offers more tedium than fun, mostly due to the misguided efforts of the developer to be another “open world” game without making the open world worth traveling and exploring in the first place. Worse, the payoff after defeating the big bad is so anticlimactic that I find myself thinking that I may have wasted hours playing this game – should have just watched the cut scenes in YouTube instead, hmmph.
I’m not likely going to play this thing again, but I may just check out the sequel. Well, maybe I’ll just watch the cut scenes first, just to be on the safe side.