As you glide about its burnished hallways, flitting from one glittering, cavernous hall to the next, it’s hard not to be impressed by the pomposity of Godfall. Its opening is unapologetically ostentatious in a way that’s somehow both majestic and faintly repellent, like an ageing casino decorated by a man who thinks he has taste.
At first, it all feels reminiscent of Destiny 2’s Leviathan raid. It’s those interiors; the slick, polished metal and all that gleaming gold. It’s an undeniably gorgeous universe, and later, when you step outside and weave through the crumbling ruins of the Earth Realm, fiery leaves dancing above your head, or explore the aquamarine-soaked environs of the Water Realm, you’ll realise just how breathtaking this world is.
The problem with Godfall is that beauty is pretty much all it’s got. Though it dresses itself up as a Diablo-esque looter-slasher and drenches you with gear and weapons at pretty much every opportunity it can get, there’s so little else to sink your teeth into here beyond its gratifying aesthetic. The story – a tale of two warring brothers, of which you, Orin, are one – is intriguing, however fails to deliver its plot or central characters in a convincing or meaningful way. The loot is plentiful, yes, but with so much gear available at virtually every turn, it cheapens – maybe even negates – any desire to upgrade or retain favourite pieces.
And while the combat is initially meaty and weighty – well, when it’s not stuttering to an untimely standstill or temporarily bricking my PS5, anyway – it fails to innovate or evolve as you progress. Within hours, not days, combat starts to feel a tad monotonous, regardless of how many of those impressive-looking swords and hammers and blades you keep cycling through. It smells faintly of God of War – which is no bad thing, let’s face it – but God of War’s combat is but one ingredient of its spectacular recipe. Without solid worldbuilding or an engrossing story, Godfall’s lofty aims fall sadly short, leaving it a tad too repetitive and one-dimensional.
On the plus side, Orin levels up pretty speedily if you take on every enemy you see – that’s something, right? – and most players, even those new to the looter-slasher-whatever-genre should be able to get to grips with the basics pretty early on. Defensive moves feel every bit as significant as offensive ones – parrying is immensely satisfying here, and necessary, too, given the bulky defences of some foes – and I appreciate the Soul Shatter mechanic that rewards those able to pull off a flurry of light attacks and then a successive heavy one. Very occasionally – usually when you’re travelling between realms on the world’s most eventful elevator ride – you’ll be asked to dispatch hordes of enemies in a particular way. This pulls you out of your comfort zone, forcing you to experiment with various techniques and combos in a way that undoubtedly develops your arsenal in an organic and exciting way.
But there’s so little here to do. There are collectibles, yes, but as threadbare as the world itself, they do little to add meat to the bones of the scant worldbuilding. There’s an endless sea of cookie-cutter enemies, ornate goblets, and terracotta pots to destroy, but smashing pottery essentially becomes Orin’s full-time job. It’s undoubtedly satisfying to level-up – in fact, any success, no matter how insignificant, is announced with a delightful flourish that I absolutely can get accustomed to – but the skill-tree is unremarkable, hard to read, and offered few ooh-that-one-looks-awesome skills that had me chomping to try them out. Outside of combat, you’ll spend your time trudging between two dull NPCs, moving from one side of the room to the next until it’s time to trigger that all-important prompt – which is about as reliable as a chocolate teapot – to escape the bloody place.
Valorplates – essentially full armour sets that not only change how Orin looks and fights but also how they talk and interact, too – seem a little shallow and underwhelming in practice, and it’s a long, slow, grindy process to unlock them, particularly as they don’t impact the gameplay as much as perhaps you were anticipating. Your world is littered with resources with fancy and vaguely exotic names – Sunsteel; Infused Jasper; Incarnate Essence; Coin of Valor – all of which can be used to upgrade your gear or perhaps unlock previously inaccessible areas, but there’s so much of the stuff, it’s hard to keep track of what you need, let alone why.
For a game so highly polished visually, it’s a shame the same can’t be said for the UI, either. You can equip gear by entering each item’s sub-page on the Equipment menu – so far, so what, right? – but you can’t dismantle or salvage from there. That has to be done from the Armory. This forces you to endless leapfrog back and forth between the two sub-menus to whittle down and equip new gear, and while you can examine items in either menu, regardless of which you choose, returning to the main Equipment page will automatically send you to the top of your inventory every time, forcing you to scroll down again to whatever item class you were fiddling with. It’s a small thing, granted, but you’ll spend a lot of time mooching in these menus; it’s simply not good enough to have a game soaked with loot and then craft a loot menu system that fights intuition at every turn.
Perhaps the most egregious crime is that for a game that would undoubtedly be improved with an ally or two fighting alongside you, there’s no public matchmaking. It’s such a curious omission, particularly as the end-game – which I reckon you can get to in a single weekend, even if you take your time – offers little to keep you hooked and engaged beyond its gorgeous setpieces.
This is the problem with Godfall. Ultimately, it’s all style and little substance, and the promise of its bombastic opening fades a little with every repetitive mission. I could cope with an opaque story if the combat was consistently smooth and fluid, and I could be tempted by mediocre gameplay if the story was gripping, but as it stands, Godfall offer the worst of both worlds, and you’ll soon understand that it doesn’t matter how gorgeous a world is if there’s naff all to do in it.