GreedFall E3 Impression 2
After only hearing about GreedFall for a couple of years, I was pretty thrilled to finally get to see it in action this year! Getting a chance to sit down and speak with Johanne Rousseau, CEO of Spiders and lead writer of the project, was equally exciting. It can be hard to come up with an accurate mental image of any game by merely hearing it being described, much less a grandiose mix of fantasy and history as GreedFall.
It doesn’t seem like we really learned all that much about the game that was necessarily new, though perhaps a bit more fleshed out. Sent to a recently-discovered island with magical properties, players take on the role of a member of a merchant guild who is searching for a cure to Malichor, an affliction that is ravaging the Old World of the seventeenth century. But the natives of Teer Fradee, naturally, don’t take kindly to seeing their home invaded by strangers intent on colonizing and taking over. This is where the game’s focus on diplomacy comes in.
With six disparate factions all vying for the biggest foothold on this new continent, building and maintaining relationships can be key to your victory — or, of course, they can be thrown out the window entirely. Rousseau points out that the entire game can be played as peacefully or hostile as you like, and quests have multiple paths of resolution, each affecting your standing with certain factions. Likewise, dabbling in diplomacy when dealing with the different factions is directly influenced by which characters are in your party at the time. Over the course of the game, one member from each faction joins you on your quest, and can potentially insert some turmoil when interacting with an opposing faction.
Now, after seeing GreedFall in action, immediate comparisons to BioWare games are inevitable. Characters indeed look like something from the Baroque era, the technology on display historically appropriate. The game offers up an open world to explore, which Rousseau says contains deep lore for those who want to search for it. Uncovering and learning information isn’t just for the sake of interest, but can even be useful to progress through tricky bits of politics, for example being able to bribe your way to a desired outcome because you took the time to dig up some dirt on a prominent figure. In fact, Spiders emphasizes storytelling to the point of rewarding players with experience for completing quests, not for grinding by slaying countless creatures. Quests will always be story-centric, instead of mindless fetch quests.
That’s not to say that combat isn’t necessary. In our demo, the merchant player character is sent on a quest to accompany a princess of a tribe of natives, to find and make contact with her mother, the queen. When they arrive at the tribe’s village, it has been raided by violent mercenaries, with most of the inhabitants mercilessly slaughtered. The party joins the final moments of the fray to protect the few survivors. Combat is real-time, with the two AI-controlled party members fighting according to their faction’s natural predispositions. However, a tactical pause option is also included, so players can stop the action to reassess their current situation.
It was encouraging to put a face with the name, so to speak, and to have finally seen a true visual representation of GreedFall in front of us. I certainly feel optimistic about the game, and am interested to find out for myself how well Rousseau’s claims of lore-rich world-building hold up. Additionally, I’m curious if and how the game tackles realistic issues and situations that naturally develop with such a historically-influenced story of colonization. Will the game face sensitive issues like the treatment or possibly enslavement of the native people? What about further issues, like famine or disease, especially in a fictional world already suffering from pestilence? A game this reliant on its narrative may live or die depending on how well it pulls the player into its world. I guess we’ll find out in 2019, when GreedFall releases for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
The developers have a spotty past, but they are certainly being original here. That’s got to be worth something.