It’s not easy being a new console launch game. These titles have an unfair weight on their shoulders to highlight the new console’s advanced features, while also being fun to play and not just an expensive demo. For Godfall on the PlayStation 5, one of the very few new IPs launching for either next-gen console, it does a little of both, though doesn’t do either extremely well.
That’s not to say there isn’t a fun game here. It’s very enjoyable to play, and it doesn’t ignore all of the new features of the PlayStation 5 — it runs smoothly with near-zero load times, and the features of the DualSense controller, like the adaptive triggers and haptic feedback, are on full display. In the end, Godfall doesn’t push any boundaries, staying safe in a time when gamers want a little danger.
Godfall tells the simple and well-worn story of two brothers, Orin and Macros, powerful knights who keep a power balance in the world of Aperion. The game opens with Macros deposing his brother, and the rest of the story centers on Orin trying to stop his brother from achieving godhood. To do so, he must first track down the Oracle and other allies to aid him, and then take out Macros’ four lieutenants before challenging his brother for control.
Orin can switch out armor sets, here called Valorplates, gaining new abilities and oddly enough, personalities, even though, at the end of the day, he’s still Orin. There are 12 Valorplates to unlock, and trying to get them all is where Godfall rests its crown. These suits of armor look fantastic and make use of various themes and designs from mythology. It’s a little jarring to be playing as a male Orin in a female Valorplate, like Phoenix, and I’m not sure what the developer was going for here.
The game markets itself as a looter-slasher where players fight their way through four distinct lands, one for each of the natural elements (fire, earth, air, and water). The end of each world features a powerful lieutenant, and Orin must use all his earned skills, weapons, and Valorplate powers to overcome them, only to repeat the process in the next world.
Godfall is generally a melee game with a few abilities thrown in to offer limited range attacks. As such, players will spend the majority of their time mashing the trigger buttons and dodging attacks, pulling off cool finishers when an enemy is stunned. You can also make use of a few techniques to weaken bigger enemies, like bleeding and soul-shattering, which leads to some devastating finishers. I really, really enjoyed the combat for the first few hours, but by the third land, I started to get bored by the repetition.
Even though this is a new game on a new console, Godfall plays like a 3D version of classic 2D sidescrollers like Golden Axe and even the original Ninja Gaiden. The flow of the game is very familiar — you’ll start on a level, push forward killing enemies until you come to a boss. Once it’s defeated, you’ll get a small snippet of story, then begin again on a new level, only to do it all over again.
There are a few sidequests and plenty of opportunities to explore for loot and supplies. In fact, Godfall is pretty generous with the prizes, so leveling up and finding new and powerful weapons, artifacts, rings, and other equipment steals most of your time. The loot comes in the standard rarity scale (common, rare, epic, legendary), so don’t even bother getting used to any loadout as you’ll be tweaking them often with new, more powerful gear.
The combat flow of attacking, dodging, parrying, and attacking again recalls games like Ghost of Tsushima, and Orin can choose between five different weapon types (long swords, dual blades, hammers, polearms, and greatswords), each with different bonuses and play styles. Dual swords have fast attacks with lower damage, while the hammer is slow and powerful. Finding the weapon you like best is part of the fun.
There are plenty of enemies of varying strengths to take out, and the game is best when all hell breaks loose and you’re forced to stay aware of enemies at my rear flank. Thinking ahead in an action-slasher — especially one this fast — is a welcome change to the sometimes sluggish combat of a Demon’s Souls or Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. You still need to understand the dance, but you have to do it much, much quicker. I appreciate that.
Orin does have a level cap at 50, and reaching it takes only a few dedicated hours of play; presumably, developer Counterplay Games wants players at the highest level for any endgame runs for better loot.
Unfortunately, the issues with Godfall start here. There’s really not much to do after the story besides hunting loot. You can team up with up to two friends online to play together, but there’s never really any challenge — and that includes the Tower of Trials, a floor-by-floor ascent to the top of a tower where the best loot and powerful enemies reside.
But it’s not all bad. Godfall looks stunning in every way imaginable, and the combat is fast and violent. The worlds are alive with flora and fauna, with plenty of nooks and crannies full of treasure chests and other items. Each of the four worlds has its own distinct aesthetic, and exploring every square inch of a map is good fun.
However, no matter how good it looks or how fun it is to play, Godfall is still a launch game, and it will most likely soon be relegated to the trivia bin of gaming history. There’s a chance it could hit cult status, like Ryse: Son of Rome did for the Xbox One, but it’s more likely that it will be regarded with the same warmth that Knack received when it launched on the PS4.
I’ve, for the most part, generally enjoyed my time with Godfall, but in the latter half of the story, I was playing not for enjoyment, but simply to see things through to the end. There’s a possibility that post-game content and paid DLC could bring me back, but once more new series and franchises make their way to the PlayStation 5, Godfall will have a hard time making a case to stay installed.
This review is based on the PlayStation 5 version of the game. A copy was provided by Gearbox Publishing.