New consoles have an illustrious history of launch-day games that are fairly entertaining and technically impressive, but don’t make much of an impact on the generation they help debut. Godfall feels like a game that will probably occupy that space for the PlayStation 5 (to which it is a timed console exclusive), putting it in the company of games like Ryse: Son of Rome on the Xbox One, Red Steel on the Wii, or even (dare I say) Knack on the PlayStation 4. It’s an amusing loot-based hack-and-slasher with a gorgeous look and loads of loadout choice, but a paper-thin story and a lack of variety keep it from being much more than shallow fun.
Despite a feature list that includes three-player online co-op, repeatable missions with randomized loot, and a grindable endgame, developer Counterplay Games says Godfall is not a “game as a service” in the same vein as Destiny – and it doesn’t entirely feel like one, though the influences of that format are clear as day. Instead, the roughly 10 hours it took me to complete its campaign felt like a more linear game wearing the skin of a “live service,” obviously designed for replayability but without the trappings of microtransactions to avoid and an endless update cycle to look forward to.
You’re Betrayed and Yada Yada Yada You Fight God
Part of that skin is an entirely forgettable story that’s the very definition of passable. Godfall’s opening cinematic (which you can watch below) does the bare minimum to loosely establish its beautifully designed world and a warring feud between you – a fallen king named Orin – and the big bad Macros, your brother who is trying to become a god even if it means destroying the world as a result. Your quest to stop him is a threadbare setup to go fight some dudes that’s mostly told through info dumps at your base, doing nothing to pull me from one mission to the next but also not so bad as to be distracting. Without spoiling anything, its culmination is about as blunt and pointless as the journey there too.
The missions that make up this story take place on three open-world maps called realms, which are dotted with a decent variety of enemies to kill, chests to open, and resources to gather. A mission will give you a specific goal or target to head toward, but you’re also free to wander around and find other stuff like chests and crafting materials as you do it – or even stick around after the mission to complete extra encounters for even more loot. It’s a structure that surprised me, one that reminded me a lot of Warframe’s sprawling, reward-filled levels but with a set layout instead of a procedurally pieced together one.
Godfall really does look great, with vibrant environments and incredible character, world, and equipment designs. All three of its realms – earth, water, and air – are beautiful, and their bespoke designs mean they can occasionally have a logic to them that I appreciated. On the earth map, for example, there’s a large fortress built into a mountain that is visually distinct from the flat battlefield strewn with destroyed siege weapons just outside its gates. That said, part of their “next-gen” feel is that everything in this world is shining like the dang sun with over-the-top bloom lighting. That can be adjusted in the menu, but the effect is so strong by default that it’s sometimes hard to actually see certain enemies underneath all their glowing particle effects.
The maps themselves are full of cool looking areas that are fun to run through… the first few times, at least. They may be extremely visually distinct, but all three realms are functionally identical: basically just a series of plain, mostly circular arenas connected by short paths, with the occasional collectible or easily crossed terrain obstacle (mostly gaps that you clear just by holding Circle) scattered throughout. Godfall’s missions will send you running through these areas over and over again, so while it’s fun to stumble upon hidden resources and neat locations initially, they inevitably lose their luster upon repeat visits.
It doesn’t help that the mission objectives are all incredibly similar too, with nearly every one of them being summed up as “mindlessly follow this waypoint and kill this specific mini-boss.” You’ll occasionally see simple “fight off waves of enemies” or “break these objects” tasks thrown into the mix, but for the most part you are dropped somewhere on the map, pointed where to go, and then fight a slightly bigger baddie when you get there. That’s genuinely fun the first time you do a given mission, but Godfall uses repeat missions to pad out its campaign in a pretty disappointing way (and then builds its entire endgame on that concept).
Enemy variety can wear similarly thin, despite there being some cool differences between each type. Assassins dressed in black have to be approached differently than knights hiding behind giant shields, and I enjoyed prioritizing weaker support targets first while having to avoid their stronger but tankier allies. But when missions repeatedly threw the same groups of them at me, smaller fights on the way to my ultimate target eventually became a chore. (Occasionally I would even simply run past them with no consequence beyond the lost opportunity to gain experience.)
The conceptually clever enemy designs extend to bosses and mini-bosses as well. All of them have unique abilities and specific strategies to take them down, and I really enjoyed the challenge they could initially present. Mini-bosses include a giant alligator that can turn invisible, a spectral knight that summons ghosts, and an absolute jerk of an assassin who will throw knives at you and teleport away when you get close. The big bosses that (mostly) cap off each realm are even larger and more elaborate encounters with special arenas, and they are really fun… again, the first few times you face them. By my count there are only around 12 or so mini-bosses and six proper bosses, the former of which are recycled during the campaign itself and all of which are reused in Godfall’s endgame. Even before the story is over, it becomes fairly clear Godfall has mostly run out of new stuff to show you, and that’s when it quickly stops being novel.
And if you can abide a bit of speculation, it strikes me as incredibly conspicuous that there’s an earth boss for the earth realm, a water boss for the water realm, and then inexplicably the fire and air bosses are both in the air realm, with one of them unlocked mostly by repeating previous missions. If that doesn’t scream “we had to cut the fire realm to hit the PS5 launch date” I don’t know what does – but even if I’m off base with that assumption, at least the feeling that some chunk of content is missing here is very real.
Pick Your Poison
What keeps Godfall going for as long as it does is that the combat itself can be very amusing. While it is certainly clunky at times – for example, there’s no way to easily swap between locked-on targets, and while the camera is pulled in close like God of War, the indicators for what enemies are doing outside of your vision are significantly less clear – but the rhythm I eventually settled into was satisfying and impressively flexible. Godfall has loads of different combat mechanics to explore, all of which feel like powerful avenues no matter which of its distinct-feeling weapons you decide to use.
Some of it is familiar, like using heavy attacks to quickly build up an enemy’s Breach gauge, exposing them to finishing moves and more damage when full. But while that emphasizes leading with heavies (especially against guarding enemies), the novel Soulshatter mechanic encourages the opposite: on top of their regular damage, light attacks will essentially bank part of an enemy’s health bar, and when you follow up with a heavy hit it triggers that effect to deal all of the damage you banked in a single burst. Use that to finish an enemy off and they’ll actually explode in a lovely puff of particles. Soulshatter adds an engaging and easy-to-understand combo mechanic to every fight, and I enjoyed trying to figure out just the right amount of light attacks to hit with before using a heavy to pop an enemy like a balloon.
On top of that, there’s also the Polarity system, which is an interesting method of incentivizing you to both stick with and also swap between your two equippable weapon slots. Dealing damage with one weapon will charge the Polarity of the other, and switching to a fully charged weapon will empower its attacks for a while – but if you switch too early, the charge starts over. Gear effects can use this in interesting ways, too: I spent a chunk of the campaign using a Longsword (which provide a good balance of speed and power) that charged Polarity faster, while my secondary weapon was a set of Dual Blades (a much quicker alternative) that would cause a status ailment when it had its Polarity buff active. It’s a neat mechanic that made my choice of secondary weapon feel just as important as my primary.
There’s even a Weakpoint system that reminded me of Fortnite of all things, occasionally adding little symbols to parts of an enemy that you can point your reticle at while swinging to deal even more damage. Layer that with dodges, a parry with a very forgiving activation window, and a whole bunch of ways to modify all this with equipment and Godfall certainly gives you a lot to mess with and think about during combat. The main thing that sells this all a bit short, however, is how well straight up hacking and slashing can work too, at least on the Normal difficulty setting (which also undercuts things slightly by making death almost entirely inconsequential, sometimes even respawning you directly in front of the enemy that just killed you). Playing in co-op with friends is of course a welcome treat, but it makes this issue even more apparent as you all swing madly at whatever enemy is unfortunate enough to be in front of you at the time.
But Godfall gives you plenty of tools to flex your playstyle preference, most noticeably in your choice of Valorplate – basically a suit of armor that slightly alters your capabilities and looks incredibly cool. There are 12 total that are unlocked at a fairly fast pace as you progress, and each one shares your overall character level and equipment. Every Valorplate is designed to amplify one of Godfall’s other mechanics: one increases Breach damage while another increases Soulshatter buildup, and there’s one for each status ailment, including Ignite, Chill, Shock, and Poison. One of my favorites for a time was Bulwark, a Valorplate that increases Bleed chance, since I could pair it with powerful weapons that also caused Bleed and dealt extra damage to enemies affected by it.
Every Valorplate in Godfall
It’s very fun to find combos with your equipment and build around those synergies – the only problem is that every Valorplate is actually only a slightly different flavor of the same puzzle. Whether you’re using Phoenix for fire damage or Typhon for water, it doesn’t functionally change much in the heat of combat. In fact, according to the load screen tooltips, status ailments like Ignite, Chill, Shock, Poison, Bleed, and even Curse all share the same generic “deals damage over time” effect, which essentially make them and the Valorplates built around them little more than palette swaps. That’s slightly less true for Valorplates built around other systems, like the Soulshatter-focused Greyhawk, which was a favorite of mine and had me leaning into that mechanic more – but even each Valorplate’s “unique” Archon Fury ability is practically identical across the board, giving you a temporary boost to whatever mechanic or ailment they are centered around. As a result, how you play is influenced far more by the weapon types you choose than the fancy armor you put on.
As you might expect, using a Greatsword or a Warhammer is a very different experience from a pair of Dual Blades or a Polearm. And despite my gravitating toward the faster options, so much loot is thrown at you that I found myself content to swap fairly frequently as stronger options were picked up. The different effects these can have are compellingly diverse, tweaking Polarity charging, weapon abilities, ailment effects, and more, and really letting you decide what direction interests you most. And in case this trend wasn’t already clear, they are also extremely cool to look at, with a massive amount of visual diversity even within a single weapon type – swords can range from fantasy cleavers to ornate hybrids of ancient and futuristic design, and I never stopped finding new options that continued to impress.
However, I do wish Godfall’s menus and upgrading systems were just a little less cumbersome to use. Inventory management and equipment upgrading is fairly simple, and I appreciate how much opportunity you have to keep your favorite pieces of gear relevant longer if you can spare the right resources, but there are a lot of rough edges when picking your loadout: The descriptions of items take a moment to slide onto their card when you hover over them, which slows down the process greatly when weighing your options or just looking for that one hammer you had with fire damage; you can’t salvage an item from the screen you equip on, and you can’t equip from the screen you salvage on; and perhaps most frustrating of all, you can’t salvage an item if it’s equipped on a different Valorplate, but there’s no indication for which of the dozen suits it’s attached to and no easy way to find out apart from slowly checking every single one. These aren’t huge issues, but they add friction to the always laborious practice of inventory management.
Once you beat Godfall’s campaign, it attempts to keep the ball rolling by introducing an interesting but incredibly repetitive endgame mode called Dreamstones. These are designed to shuttle you to the level 50 cap, slightly tweaking the same exact missions from the campaign and grouping them into small sets as Orin “explores his memories” – not that I found any of these missions particularly memorable in the first place. There are some interesting ideas behind Dreamstones, but let me be upfront when I say that if I wasn’t reviewing Godfall I probably wouldn’t have completed more than two or three of them at most before losing interest and walking away.
Probably the most compelling tricks Dreamstones introduce are the elements they borrow from roguelike game structures, applying randomized modifiers to runs that weaken or buff certain mechanics and elements, encouraging you to explore different Valorplates and weapons builds. You’re also offered your pick of two different missions to complete each round, and given a choice of temporary boons between them, all culminating in a harder version of boss fight you’ve probably already beaten multiple times – or will have soon.
All the while you’re getting more gear with stronger effects and higher numbers to help you scale into the higher numbers of the escalating Dreamstones. But since everything you are fighting has been fought before, no amount of modifiers or loot can keep this endgame interesting for very long. Like I said, there are plenty of playstyle choices and combat mechanics to tinker with, but grinding for all of that stuff is only preparing you for statistically stronger versions of the exact same grind you just did to get it.