For the longest time, Spiders has always been a studio to watch. Prolific purveyors of RPGs, the developer has never been shy about trying to reach for the stars. While their ambition almost always exceeds their grasp, typically based on budgetary restraints, each release shows them closer to the cusp of landing that breakout hit. As it is, they have found a niche in telling stories and exploring settings that others haven’t yet touched and they have more than a few fans. Greedfall, though, looks like it’s swinging for the fences and it might just connect.
The setting is one that hasn’t been really explored before. Drawing inspiration from 17th century European Baroque art, the game is certainly stylish. Characters sport tricorner hats and muskets, monsters have the “here there be dragons” look of a beast just glimpsed by a terrified explorer, and the actual landscapes have the illusion of having been created with oil paints on canvas. Outside of the human character models, who reach the level of acceptable but not stellar, Greedfall is a gorgeous game, easily the best that Spiders has ever done. The day/night cycle of the world lends the look an ever changing beauty, keeping revisited areas from getting staid.
With the excellent art direction comes a free form role-playing system that focuses on giving the player freedom. From the robust character creation system to the interactions with the other actors in the play, the shape of the story is meant to be determined by the player, with some expected guardrails to keep things from going completely off kilter. With five different possible companions, each with their own emotional thrust, there are innumerable options for pleasing or ticking off comrades.
The story itself is quite deep, with plenty of old world political intrigue, natives with their own power struggles, and factions that all have their own motivations. The primary focus is that of a mysterious island. Rumored to hold untold riches, the land is soon colonized by settlers hoping to earn their fortune. They quickly discover that the land is also home to magic, which is soon weaponized. As the tale progresses, it will be up to the player to make allies and uncover the secrets of the island, while contending with supernatural protectors that would rather the hidden remain hidden.
One of the things that Spiders is really stressing is the open questing system. The tasks placed in front of the player are designed to be solved in different ways. If there is an aggressive faction looking for blood, the player could meet them head on teach them the folly of such discourse through force. Another route to take would be diplomacy, calming taut nerves and convincing the enemy to settle matters with speech. Both routes are rewarded. Even something as simple as deciding which path to take on the way to an event can have drastic outcomes on the story. While the fighting that was shown looks cool, I’m very interested in attempting to play this game as peacefully as possible, and it looks like Spiders will allow that.
With Spider’s grandiose vision, unique backdrop and a wealth of role playing options, the developer isn’t taking the easy track to game creation with Greedfall. It’s reasonable to have doubts as to whether or not they can pull it off. Based on what they have shown, it seems like they absolutely can. This is a title that has a unique graphical polish, intriguing setting and a wide open philosophy for world interaction. I’m looking forward to donning a tricornered hat and exploring this world when it releases for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC in 2019.