Feature Article

Godfall Looks To Create Its Own Genre With Better Loot And Skillful Combat

Creative director Keith Lee explains how Godfall is carving out its niche as a "looter-slasher," and how it'll leverage the PS5.

Among the first games that'll usher in the PlayStation 5, and thus one of the first to bring on the next console generation, is Counterplay Games' Godfall. We've seen Godfall in action a few times now in trailers and videos, but some of the most intriguing tidbits about the game are things its developers have only mentioned in passing, and which haven't yet made it into trailers or gameplay videos.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Godfall is its combination of genres. Counterplay says it sees Godfall as expanding on action-RPGs and loot game genres to create something new--what it calls a "looter-slasher." GameSpot talked with Godfall director Keith Lee to find out exactly what the looter-slasher is all about, more about how Godfall will play, and what's going on in its strange fantasy world.

"The vision for making this game was how we can merge [looting with] third-person melee combat, getting really juicy, tight combat mechanics, the moment to moment flow, and that experience, because a lot of the people on our team love skill-based action combat titles," Lee explained. "Yet, also, there are people on our team, given our background having worked on Diablo and working at Blizzard, that we've always had a love for loot-driven action-RPGs. We love playing Borderlands. So really, the original premise and the concept was, can we have a game where it's somewhere in the middle, meaning that it's one part loot-driven, as well as one part skill-driven. It's more like an intrinsic mastery of the combats while the loot is more of an extrinsic reward system for you to be motivated to play the game."

Lee said that mastering Godfall's broad combat system is going to be a big part of the experience, but that searching for more and better loot will be part of that experience. It comes back to Valorplates, the armor at the core of Godfall's gameplay. There are 12 Valorplates for you to unlock as you play Godfall, each with its own specific set of stats, a passive buff for your character, and an "Archon ability." A Valorplate's Archon ability sounds pretty much like an ultimate ability in a game like Overwatch, or a Super ability in a game like Destiny 2--a unique, powerful thing you can use only once you've charged up a bar to unlock it. So because of the different stats and Archon abilities that each Valorplate offers, they sound as though they'll function much like classes--and you'll want to choose the right Valorplate for a given mission, or for your role in a group if you're playing cooperatively.

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Apart from your Valorplates, you'll have other gear that determines how you play as well. There are five different classes of weapons to factor into your loadout, offering different styles of combat, as well as "augments" you can equip into your Valorplates to add different perks and stat changes.

Your character has an overall level that you'll increase as you play, rather than leveling up your individual Valorplates. Increasing your level unlocks skill points you can allocate on a skill grid that'll give you new abilities. As in other loot-driven action-RPGs, you'll find stronger weapons as you play, but you'll need to keep increasing your level to access them. If you find weapons you like in particular, though, you can use crafting materials to increase their power by upgrading them in the Seventh Sanctum, your character's home base.

As Lee explained it, chasing loot is Godfall is perhaps a little less about always looking for something with better numbers than what you're carrying, and more about finding things to customize your loadout to better match how you want to play, and how you'll deal with different situations.

"From our perspective, we're less about generating an infinite number of combinations, but more thinking about our loot a little bit more like Monster Hunter: World or maybe like God of War, where the loot is a little bit more specific," he said. "But then, each loot piece is very meaningful or impactful if you slot it into your Valorplate or if you get a very specific weapon. So that's been one of the big differences, is focusing on the quote-unquote 'quality' of the loot rather than just pure infinite quantity."

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That focus on a meaningful loot system pairs with Godfall's focus on melee combat, which Lee compared to 2019's God of War or Devil May Cry 5, as opposed to something like a Soulsborne game. You'll be looking to control the battlefield, prioritize some enemies over others, and create combos.

Godfall includes more than 90 kinds of enemies, Lee said, so you'll have a lot of potential combinations coming at you, and learning to skillfully deal with them is a big focus of Godfall's gameplay.

"The way that we've designed our combat pillars from the ground up, when we first started designing in combat, is that offense is greater than defense," Lee said. "So we really think about making sure that the player can get that feeling of offensive power fantasy. So ... most Soulsborne games are much more defensive, meaning that you want to isolate. You want to do only a one-on-one. It's disadvantageous for you to fight two-on-one. You want to always be very systematic with how you play in general. While for us, we want you to feel that you can dominate and completely eviscerate your enemies if you know how to play, plus have the right gear and loadouts. So for us, we have a much broader spectrum of enemies, more variety, and as a result of that, we also embrace many-to-one."

The idea in Godfall is that you're always pushing forward, prioritizing enemies, and leaning into your attack, Lee said. You'll still face tough one-on-one fights, though. Godfall is divided into missions that you'll choose from the Seventh Sanctum, along with your loadout. Story missions will have mid- and end-bosses you'll face as you advance through Godfall's tale, while "Hunt" missions will send you out to track down, learn about, and face bosses in particular. So expect some big fights that are different from the many-against-one battles with enemies you'll fight along the way. Lee said going after and taking down bosses is one of the big structural elements of Godfall, and that you can expect a whole lot of them; story missions have their own set of bosses that are different from the ones you'll seek out and destroy in Hunt missions. All that is part of your overarching mission to climb the Skybreaker Monolith at the center of Godfall and kill the mad god at the top.

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Godfall was among the first games confirmed for the PS5, and as such, it's taking advantage of the new console's capabilities. Lee said the game takes advantage of the PS5's solid-state drive for faster transfers and higher graphical performance, but one of the big focuses for Counterplay is in haptic feedback--the sense of "feeling" the game you get through controller rumble.

"What's exciting about the DualSense controller is the fact that it has stereo vibration in terms of the rumblers, as well as resistance on the triggers, so one of the things that you can do is to create, for the first time, a sensation of your weapon hitting another weapon and how it resonates," Lee explained. "The fact that if you're sliding across the ground, depending on the surface of the material--you might slide on gravel or sand or water--the way the vibrations work really feel like the way that those surfaces would feel. So it's a lot more powerful in terms of creating that experience. For us, a 3D melee combat game, this becomes really exciting, because we have lots of different types of weapons, we can have the clash of weapons, that there could be ways that we can notify the player if an enemy is offscreen about to attack you, because it is always very challenging to get a full awareness of your surroundings in a third-person melee combat game."

Godfall is slated to release in holiday 2020.

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philhornshaw

Phil Hornshaw

GameSpot editor in Los Angeles, and the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel and The Space Hero’s Guide to Glory. Hoped the latter would help me get Han Solo hair, but so far, unsuccessful.

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