Godfall Review: Stylish Action in a Shallow World
Godfall launched alongside the PS5 (also available on PC) looter-slasher developed by Counterplay Games and published by Gearbox. I've spent about 20 hours with the game so far, but I finished the main storyline after about 13 hours while doing a bit of optional grinding. Despite all of that time, I still have no real substantive knowledge of what's going on in this world.
That being said, I do have an appreciation for its art style. It looks gorgeous and plays wonderfully on PS5 with the DualSense controller, and I think there is an excellent foundation here to build upon.
Godfall Review: Stylish Action In A Shallow World
Have you ever been flipping through TV channels and stopped to watch a movie halfway through based on a scene or stunning sequence pulling you in? That's kind of what happens with Godfall.
The opening cinematic is beautiful, but it doesn't really do a great job of telling you very much about the game. There are these guys in lion-esque armor fighting each other, their armies get massacred on a battlefield, and the one narrating everything loses — just before you take control of him in an injured state.
It's not clear what they were fighting over, but the victor is now vying to become a god and must be stopped at all costs — so it's up to you to ascend the realms of this world and confront him again(?). Oh, and there is a voice in your head guiding and helping you along the way, but it's actually three disembodied magical faces named The Seventh Sanctum.
That's about all there is to it.
Luckily, Godfall doesn't mind if you don't care about the story. As pretty as the world is and as impressive as the handful of cutscenes may be, it's all just so flashy and inconsequential. All sizzle and no steak.
Regardless of how many obscure names I've heard thrown around, I simply could not care less about this world or setting right now. It's much like the world and setting of the original Destiny, which took several years and a full-on sequel to come into its own. Even still, if that potential growth is there, the story is by far the least interesting part.
Gameplay and Progression
The real focus in Godfall is the gameplay. If you've played a third-person melee action game released in the last 10 years, then the overall rhythm of Godfall's combat should be familiar. You lock onto enemies, strafe around, dodge and parry attacks, and use light or heavy attacks on enemies to beat them down.
Sprinkle in some special moves and other flourishes, and that's Godfall in a nutshell. It's not bad by any means. I actually found myself picking it up to kill 20 or 30 minutes here and there just to get in some quick, satisfying fighting. All the loot and XP you earn is retained even if you exit a mission before completing it so there's really no consequence to hopping in for a quick session without commitments.
As convenient as this is, it also presents a difficulty balance problem. There are no stakes. When you die, you lose nothing other than the built-up special power energy bars you've accumulated. In most cases, enemies don't even regenerate their health at all. If it's one of the main bosses, then they'll only regenerate the most recent chunk, but not everything. With how fast load times are on PS5, there is literally nothing to lose when you die in most cases.
By collecting different resources out on missions and completing quests, you can start unlocking the 12 different Valorplates. Collecting them all is a big part of the game's early pull since they're all so distinct visually, with different "Archon Fury" special abilities.
Valorplates are both intricate suits of full-body armor and akin to the game's base classes. Each Valorplate includes its own special attack and is often powerful enough to build a character and loadout around.
Playstyles don't vary dramatically between Valorplates though, since they all move and feel exactly the same. But as you upgrade and invest time into one, it makes sense to try and stick with it when you've found a favorite. It's similar to the frames system in Warframe, but only surface-level similarities.
My main issue, at least so far, is that this system severely limits the variety of loot and amount of customization in Godfall. Other than your weapons and a few slots like rings and an amulet, there isn't really a whole lot of loot to go around. The valorplates are entirely static.
One of my favorite aspects of games like this, and something that Destiny, Diablo, and other similar games all nail perfectly, is the loot grind.
I love seeing new gear drop and frequently swapping out my equipment for incremental upgrades in power. It's a consistent, recurring rewards system that keeps me engaged. Godfall is almost entirely devoid of the meaningful parts of those upgrades.
Progression is level-based in Godfall, and other than your gear gradually getting better, there are also high-level attributes like Might, Spirit, and Vitality that govern your DPS, HP, critical hit chance, resistances, and so on.
Plus, there's also the skill menu, which is shown below. Each of the skill orbs has five tiers of quality, and once you hit Level 2, you get to pick one of the outer orbs to start with.
From there, you can either upgrade an existing orb or pick a connecting orb to expand. Planning your build in advance and seeing which orbs you'll unlock next is crucial, and there is some fun meta-strategy involved with character advancement, kind of like the sphere grid from Final Fantasy X.
Once you complete the main campaign in Godfall, it sort of becomes a roguelike with its Dream Stones content. They function as alternate versions of the game's realms with remixed versions of enemies and bosses. The flow of combat isn't like the campaign and is more wave-based so it's easier and more convenient to do quickly.
I didn't reach the level cap of 50 yet, or the Ascendant Tower of Trials, which is the final phase of the end game loop. It's an infinite tower that gets harder and harder the higher you get with ever-increasing loot quality. This is likely where the most dedicated players will spend the majority of their time.
Godfall was clearly designed with co-op in mind, but the lack of any sort of matchmaking system is a major, glaring oversight. The fact that you're expected to wrangle up people for a launch title on a hard-to-get console is a tall order that I suspect most people will struggle to fulfill. Luckily it plays just fine solo other than some difficulty spikes with a few bosses, but it's more than beatable on Normal.
All in all, Godfall's biggest problem though, above all else, is the repetition. Every single mission is literally the same format: run from the beginning to the end, killing enemies along the way, then fight the boss or open the box to complete it. There is almost zero variation and it gets boring fast, even if the combat itself is flashy and fun.
Also, side note: there is no Photo Mode. For a game this gorgeous, that's a damn shame.
Visually, Godfall is an absolutely breathtaking game. From the opening moments, the lush vegetation, reflective metals, and bright, contrasting colors are a sight to behold. Seeing it all running beautifully on a 4K display is the most "next-gen" feeling game I've played yet.
You can switch over to performance mode for better and more stable framerates, which is my preferred way of playing most of the time. Action feels crisp and responsive in a way that I didn't expect, given how nice it looks.
The best way to describe it is that Godfall feels like you're playing inside of a really elaborate Unreal Engine tech demo, and I mean that in the best way possible.
Normally, I'm not much of a sucker for visuals making things "better," but Godfall proves that art direction and high-powered hardware can absolutely elevate an otherwise by-the-numbers loot-based action game. I enjoy the gameplay a lot, and I think there is a good foundation here, but it's the visuals that set it apart and raise it up as a whole.
Godfall Review — The Bottom Line
- Absolutely stunning visuals
- Satisfying combat with fun weapons
- Combos and abilities flow very well together
- Enemy designs are varied and exciting
- Story isn't established well
- Lots of style without substance
- Progression feels lackluster
- Mission structure is extremely repetitive
Godfall has a lot of really good ideas going for it. On paper, the concept of adapting a Destiny or Warframe-style game to an entirely melee-centered combat system that has more in common with Dark Souls is a great idea. Admittedly, it's the kind of game I've wanted for years since Monster Hunter doesn't quite scratch that itch for me.
There is an amazing foundation here with one of the most gorgeously detailed game worlds I have ever seen. Playing Godfall in native 4K is nothing short of a revelation, but I do tend to prefer switching to performance mode when possible for smoother framerates. Having both options is great.
Overall it gets really close but still falls short. The pieces are here though, so a year from now it very well could be an excellent adventure, but it's not right now.
[Note: A digital copy of Godfall for PS5 was provided by Gearbox for this review.]