Five hours with the looter-slasher from Counterplay Games shows that the game has potential.
Editor's note: As of November 16, 2020, you can read our final Godfall review, in which Richard shares his full critique of the game and gives it a score. Below are his early impressions, originally published on November 11, 2020.
Developer Counterplay Games has described Godfall and its mixture of action RPG-style loot progression and third-person melee combat as a new type of genre: the looter-slasher. After spending five hours with Godfall--which included an abundance of loot and plenty of things to slash (or stab, crush, and beat to a pulp)--it's clear that this modest twist on the looter-shooter holds up, even if there's little about it that feels intrinsically "new."
Godfall's influences are apparent from the get-go, ranging from games like Diablo and Borderlands to Monster Hunter and Warframe. So far, after fighting my way through the opening few missions, Godfall doesn't yet feel derivative of any one of these influences. Familiar as many of its elements may be, Counterplay presents them in such a way that it never imitates any one game, instead combining all of these facets with some original ideas to create something almost singular.
As with any game like this, however, Godfall will still live and die on the quality of its combat and loot progression. Although you start the game equipped with a basic longsword, your arsenal eventually grows as you loot chests, defeat enemies, and complete missions. Godfall has the usual assortment of gear rarities, from common up to legendary, while your collection of weapon types includes a rangey polearm, rapid dual blades, and a hefty warhammer, among others. Each weapon type dictates your playstyle, although they all share the same basic combos and an array of abilities that can be unlocked via a skill tree.
Light and heavy attacks comprise your basic moveset, and you also have access to a nifty dodge as well as a shield that can be used to block damage or parry attacks if you time its deployment correctly. Each weapon type also has both a Southern and Northern Technique. These are special moves you can pull off by spending energy that's accumulated by damaging enemies. The longsword's Southern Technique, for instance, has a deadly spinning attack that cuts through any opponents around you, while the dual blades can utilize a whip that drags foes toward you. If you need to immobilize, say, a healer who's on the periphery of the action, you can also throw your shield, Captain America-style. There are a number of shield-specific attacks that can be unlocked as well, such as a ground slam that both damages and petrifies anyone unlucky enough to feel the brunt of it.
Combat is satisfyingly meaty no matter which weapon type you choose. Each one feels noticeably different, too, even if you're often repeating the same four-button combo. That's because, while Godfall is relatively simple on the surface, it has a lot of hidden depth that can boost your damage output and keep combat engaging. Weapon Timing Attacks add a rhythmic element to your combos by giving you a brief window in which to execute a light or heavy attack toward the tail end of your initial attack's animation; get the timing right and you'll launch into a flurry of quick strikes that dish out more punishment than a regular attack. Light attacks and Northern Techniques, meanwhile, apply Soulshatter buildup to an enemy's health bar, while heavy attacks and Southern Techniques consume this pent-up energy to deal devastating Soulshatter damage.
There's also Rampage to consider, which rewards your aggression with 20% more damage output--the only catch is you'll lose it if you don't hit anything for 10 seconds--and Polarity Attacks that encourage you to swap between both of your equipped weapons in the midst of battle. You have a number of options to choose from when squaring up with a mob of foes, and even in my short time with the game I've seen a decent variety of enemy types that challenge you to alter your approach and make use of your entire arsenal of moves. Combat also has a surprisingly measured feel to it, mainly because there's no way to cancel out of attacks. You need to be deliberate with your actions if you want to successfully dodge and parry incoming damage. Learning enemy patterns and knowing when to attack and when to defend are key when facing tougher enemies.
The early signs are promising, then, particularly when it comes to combat. Mission design is uninspired thus far, with each one shuffling me from one fight to another with little else in between. Whether the combat has to carry the load throughout the entire game remains to be seen, but it just might be up to the task. I still need to dig into the Valorplates, which are sort of like skins for your character that come with different passive abilities and ultimate moves, and it seems to be a key piece of the game's loot grind. You can expect my full Godfall review once I've finished the rest of the story and explored the endgame.