Babylon's Fall Review: Falling Short
Platinum Games is a studio with a strong pedigree, their name almost a seal of quality for action games. Unfortunately, Babylon's Fall is proof that even the best studios can fall victim to troubled development, and it's easily one of the worst games Platinum and Square Enix have released in years.
At its core, Babylon's Fall feels like a live service cash grab that lacks any cohesive vision. Put up against Platinum's previous blazingly-fast combat systems, Babylon's Fall feels sluggish and unresponsive in comparison.
It's also easy to feel overwhelmed with the torrent of loot, currencies, battle points, and more thrown at you at any given moment. There's the briefest glimpse of something promising here, but it quickly gets buried under a mountain of tedium and tacked on live service elements.
Babylon's Fall Review: Falling Short
Babylon's Fall opens with your custom character waking up on a ship, as it docks in the grand city of Babylon. You and a handful of others are "conscripted prisoners," forced to use an implanted weapon known as a Gideon Coffin to explore the enigmatic Tower of Babil.
It's an interesting premise, and there's a lot the story could do thematically, especially considering your character is essentially indentured against their will. Unfortunately, the game never goes anywhere interesting; the narrative never tries to seriously tackle the situation in which you find yourself.
At the same time, Babylon's Fall has a downright ugly visual style, missing the mark on what it's trying to do. It goes for an oil painting aesthetic, but unfortunately, it makes Babylon's Fall muddy and unfocused. This is coupled with atrocious character models that look like they were designed for a mobile game, rather than one for console. I admire the idea of making a game that looks like a moving oil painting, but it's almost unbelievable how much of a misfire it is here.
The abysmal character creator does nothing to help things along. It provides some of the worst options I've seen in a while. In particular, there are very few options for skin tone, providing practically nothing for players that want to create characters of color.
The same can be said for combat in Babylon's Fall, which simply lacks the feeling and flair for which Platinum is so well known. You have two slots to equip weapons, and your Gideon Coffin lets you equip two more into slots that let you summon ethereal weapons.
Your Gideon Coffin weapons are tied to a gauge that slowly replenishes and builds up faster if you use basic attacks. Your only defensive option is a dodge that moves you a short distance, and if timed perfectly has a bit of a slowdown effect. There's decent variation between each of the weapons, and the ethereal versions provide some nice visual flair alongside extra ways to pad out your combat repertoire.
The real problem, however, is that Babylon's Fall seldom gives you interesting combat encounters. Each mission strings together combat encounters with a bit of platforming or the occasional environmental hazard. Battles are largely rinse-and-repeat affairs that have you hitting an enemy with a combo, dodging their attack, and then doing the same thing over again.
It's sad to see Babylon's Fall's combat stutter, as Platinum has created some of the most dynamic combat systems out there, like the slicing-and-dicing of Metal Gear Rising or the brilliant dual-character system of Astral Chain. The biggest problem is there's no special spark at the system's center, and the idea of the Gideon Coffin is never realized fully.
Combat is just one example of a larger problem with Babylon's Fall, with how formulaic and repetitive it feels. There's a big emphasis on completing daily missions and battle pass challenges to gain currency, cosmetics, and equipment. Of course, there's quite a bit of grinding inherently involved in all that, and the dull mission design doesn't help when you're playing mission after mission.
If there's any singular highlight from my time with Babylon's Fall, it's the soundtrack. In terms of music, at least, the game matches the quality of your usual Square Enix fantasy game fare, with a nice mix of simple catchy tunes and epic orchestral tracks, especially the main theme.
Babylon's Fall Review: The Bottom Line
- Strong soundtrack that has some memorable orchestral themes.
- Weapon options allow for some good variation.
- Combat grows repetitive quickly.
- Absolutely terrible visual design and aesthetic.
- Mission and overall gameplay loop are incredibly repetitive.
- Story fails to deliver on any interesting themes it sets up.
Babylon's Fall is a strong contender for the most disappointing title ever released by Platinum Games. Live service games survive on players sticking with the experience for months — sometimes years — but at the moment, there's no good reason to stick with Babylon's Fall.
The aesthetic choices are baffling, and the gameplay design grows dull quickly. It's possible Babylon's Fall could turn into something promising — someday — but it's going to require nothing short of a complete overhaul.
[Note: Square Enix provided the copy of Babylon's Fall used for this review.]