Reviews

Knights of the Round — Godfall review

What the world needs right now is more cooperation, so why not team up, put on glistening, golden Arthurian-esque knight’s armor, and cut through scores of enemies as you collect scads of loot together? In a nutshell, that’s Godfall — let’s get into it.

The actual storyline of Godfall is that the land of Aperion is on the verge of destruction at the hands of a mad god named Macros, but it wasn’t always this way. Once an ally, he betrayed Orin and the other Valorian Knights, a group of god-like warriors. Macros turned on the Valorian Knights and intends to climb the Monolith, where he believes he can ascend into full godhood by completing the Rites of Ascension. The world of Aperion is at stake.

How does a mortal challenge a god? With magic, of course. Using Valorplates, mythical armor that transforms you into a godlike killing machine, you’ll set out across the various realms of Aperion. And like most Arthurian legends, there’s betrayal within the family, massive, named weapons, and mythical monsters. It’s all very high fantasy with a twist, and it works well enough as a premise to unleash players on endless hordes and tons of loot.

Orin, the main character of the game, (who very much sounds like Liam Nieson, delivering his lines with a “particular set of skills”) is betrayed and finds himself (or herself — switching to a female-shaped Valorplate changes your voice to female for unexplained reasons) on the losing end of a major battle. Wounded (aka knocked back to level 1), Orin must rebuild his power and rearm to stop Macros and his minions.

There are twelve Valorplates in Godfall. Each Valorplate represents one of the twelve Archons, and each carries their own passive trait, Archon Fury, and Augment Constellation. Once unlocked, you can switch between them during missions by returning to The Seventh Sanctum, your home base. To build additional Valorplates you’ll need to find Valorplate Cores scattered throughout the world, as well as some elements from where that armor was made. It’s enough to keep you farming for the next cool piece of armor, because who doesn’t want to have the wings and helm of a moth?

I do have one complaint with the absolutely gorgeous Valorplates — they just aren’t all that different in combat. While you will stumble onto opportunities to use an element against its opposite, this most often happens on accident rather than through planning. More often than not, at least till you reach the endgame at least, these end up being a cosmetic choice rather than a conscious combat-focused one.

One of the best parts of Godfall is that each weapon and Valorplate looks like end-game equipment. You will look badass from the beginning of this game all the way to the end — no more “homeless guy wearing a shopping bag out to save the world” period present in nearly every RPG. More than merely cosmetic, the Valorplates each have their own Archon Fury, but also secondary effects that trigger during that Fury that can either help the team, or unleash havoc in various ways that are more tuned to playing with less than a full team. Beyond their ultimates, each Valorplate also has a base advantage. By way of example, Illumina does an additional 15% weakpoint damage, whereas the moth-like Vertigo has a 10% chance to inflict Shock on her foes. Typhon has a 10% chance of inflicting Chill, and Greyhawk has a 10% improvement to their Soulshatter attack buildup. When switching between Valorplates, you can copy your current loadout with the press of a triangle — a real quality of life item for rapidly changing between armor sets. You’ll have more armor than you have resources in the beginning, but the unlock order is mostly up to you.

Visually, this game is an absolute triumph. Every piece of armor and weapon is shiny and meticulously rendered. Once you reach the water realm, you’ll see slick, distorted water surfaces that reflect the brightly lit coral around you. Ray traced lighting is everywhere, and it’s always amazing when you see the soft glow cast across your shoulder pauldrons as you run by. There must have been a fire sale on particle effects because every hit is splashed with steel-on-steel sparks, explosions when you get a shatter effect, and splashing of purple glints everywhere when magic hits. I could write a whole review on just the lighting and effects in Godfall and still probably not cover it all, so just enjoy the video below running at 4K on the PlayStation 5:

Let’s take a moment and talk about bosses. While they aren’t Dark Souls levels of punishing, they require a lot more finesse than just wailing away at them. It is possible to whittle away their armor and health, but you’ll probably die a lot trying to do that. A better use of your time would be to master the timings of the game, countering their attacks, blocking them, or getting a good dodge rhythm. Disrupting these bosses can make them drop faster than Glass Joe in Mike Tyson’s Punch Out, but you’ve gotta figure out what makes them tick first.

Gear you find in the world is split up in the typical looter game color scheme – grey being vendor trash, green is uncommon, blue for rare, purple for Epic, and gold for Legendary. Following that same standard, Common gear has no special traits, and Legendary has a primary and three secondary powers.

Gear is split up MMO style

Once you’ve rescued the Godsmith, you’ll have the ability to upgrade your weapons, life stones, rings, charms, amulets, and banners. Each can be upgraded up to five times, with each upgrade costing more resources, and adding fresh requirements to push even higher. Beyond upgrades, you can also enchant your weapons to raise the classification of an object. Common becomes rare, rare becomes epic, and yes — epic becomes legendary. These are extraordinarily expensive, but if you have a particular weapon you like, or have upgraded, this is a way to keep it.

Around the time you defeat the first major lieutenant you’ll earn your first augment. These are globally applied to your armor and can provide more powerful effects than what you get from your Valorplate or weapon, but you have a budget of power to spend on them, so you’ll have to choose wisely as your options grow. These are the one element that doesn’t transfer between Valorplates with a single button press, so don’t forget to equip them before you head out on your next mission.

Another way the game recognizes your work is through Merits. Merits track how many times you’ve done a particular thing, like defeating a certain number of enemies, frozen or set them on fire, performed a takedown, opened a chest, and a ton of other objectives. These are tiered bronze, silver, and gold, providing rewards for each achievement level.

One of the things I like most about Godfall is that it isn’t prescriptive about your approach. If you are a fan of dual blades, get in there with dual blades. If polearms are your jam, you have but to equip it. Giant hammers are slow but devastating, and sometimes exactly the right tool for the job. Whatever your fighting style preference, it’s here for you. I can’t say I’ve ever felt locked into a particular style of fighting. That said, you’d be wise to pay attention when your brand new charm says “+8% Longsword damage” as you might be wasting that effect if you are a hammer swinger. I just know that I look like a badass and fight like one too.

Mission types are split into four different categories — hunt missions, story missions, boss fights, and “unique” moments. Hunt missions are often used to farm specific objects that allow you to unlock other story missions and boss fights. You’ll return to the same maps multiple times, but with vastly different destinations depending on your mission and level. In that way, Godfall avoids some level fatigue, but as I worked on leveling a bit I began to see the seams on this part of the game a little bit. As I pushed through Earth, Air, and Water I finally saw the full picture — there are pieces missing here.

Each area in the game is essentially built of a handful of missions, some elements of object gathering, smashing a mini-boss, a little bit of leveling, unlocking the boss fight, and then taking them out. The minibosses and bosses are a real delight, making you work hard to take them out, though you’ll be taking them on again during the endgame run as you work to shore up your equipment for the final fight. That said, it was when I saw the fire boss running around the air level that I realized that Godfall is missing an entire world. I suspect a hard-coded PS5 launch date had a great deal to do with it, but all evidence points to cut content. It also speaks to the elemental combat system that was likely tweaked to allow 25% of it to be cut. I can imagine the original design document had a far stronger emphasis on pitting elements against their polar opposite. I don’t know if we’ll see that hard work appear in the form of DLC or not, but I’d like to think it could even out the endgame grind a bit.

From a technical perspective, the game runs like a top, though I did run into a few hiccups. The game tends to hitch for just a moment when you accomplish a sub-objective or have slain a new enemy type for the first time. Towards the end of the game I saw this happening more frequently, and sometimes more severely. I’ve captured a video below that shows this stuttering — that’s not the video, that’s precisely how it happens in-game. I also ran into a situation where I got stuck on the environment and had one lockup where I could hear everything going on but the screen was locked in my inventory. On PC we had two crashes to desktop in the first two hours of the game, though thankfully those were before the mission started.

As I’m playing on the PlayStation 5, let’s talk about the DualSense controller — the team at Counterplay Games put in the work and it shows. Executing a heavy attack gets progressively more “heavy” as you pull the trigger. You can feel the feedback telling you that the weapon is heavy, and swinging it is difficult, and I’m absolutely here for it. The haptic feedback really adds to the equation, and smashing your sword against an enemy hammer is downright immersive.

Godfall is built for three players, but surprisingly it works remarkably well as a single-player game. The bosses are no joke, and they require a bit of timing and forethought, but it’s nothing you can’t handle solo. Adding friends to the mix only adds to the equation, letting you mix and match your skills to the situation ahead.

Teaming up with your friends isn’t a drop-in/drop-out situation, so you’ll want to join up when you are back at the Seventh Seal. Popping into the Social tab you can start a party, inviting your friends from your list. When you launch your next mission, the game will pull your friends into your game, and you are off to the races. Simplicity itself.

Multiplayer allows you to tag up and take on all of the various beasts in the game, making the scenarios easier, and bosses more manageable. What surprised me is just how well-baked the netcode is. Whether on PC or PS5, the matchmaking was quick, and the game stayed perfectly in sync. No lag, no stuttering, no rubberbanding — well done.

Loot in Godfall isn’t split between players. When someone opens a chest, it opens for everyone, and whatever they see is theirs. Having everyone get their own loot rather than fighting over it also means you also won’t be trading it either — you keep what you kill.

Whether together or solo, my favorite part of Godfall has to be, surprisingly, the combat. Fighting feels impactful, and every weapon feels not only viable, but powerful. If you have a particular playstyle, Godfall has a weapon for you. I found that I liked a set of paired short blades for speed, with a massive hammer for when I needed to put the hurt on with something heavy. This leads into the central reason why I’m enjoying Godfall — it’s perfect fun for my wife and I.

My wife is more of a casual gamer. She’d take one look at the likes of Demon Souls and run away screaming (admittedly, I’m not great at them either). Godfall works for her. The combat is simple but nuanced, and over the course of the first of the worlds she had already nailed down the gameplay. Hearing her literally squeal with glee when she ended up with a legendary sword while I was still plunking around with common gear was a treat for me. Too often we as critics can forget that we need to review the game in our hand, not the game we want it to be. That’s not to say it’s all hack and slash and casual-focused, instead it is to say that it is easy to pick up but with enough nuance to make it feel engaging and whole. What’s more, the game doesn’t punish you for failure. Sure, you can die, but you often respawn either exactly where you died, or very close to it. Similarly, the bosses often have segments to their health, so you’ll respawn at the last full health pip for them, but you are fully healed and restocked with healing consumables. Godfall is forgiving, and that’s precisely what a more casual audience needs — it’s not Dark Souls, and it’s not trying to be.

The endgame of Godfall centers around “Dreamstones”. These Dreamstones are essentially Orin remembering his adventures, which is to say, introducing randomizers and modifiers to the same missions you’ve already tackled. This lets you revisit an area, but with tweaks to the Valorplate’s bonuses like ice, fire, or soulshatter. It’s like you’ve probably beaten the game long before you hit the level 50 cap, but if you want to keep plunking away for bigger and better gear, it’s here for you.

In a horde-like bit of fun, Godfall features a “Tower of Trials”, delivering a fiendish amount of infinite challenge. There are a bunch of special gear to be had in the Tower, so don’t think of it as a separate mode, but more gasoline as fuel for your loot fire.

75

Good

Godfall

Review Guidelines

Graphically, Godfall is an absolute triumph while also delivering fun pickup and play combat that will appeal to a more casual crowd. With up to three in multiplayer, or a very viable solo implementation, the game is a fun but repetitive romp through a faux-Arthurian world. While there are some technical hurdles to patch, there’s a lot of fun to be had here. Now let’s just hope we get to someday see the rest!

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming. Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter. Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 21 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
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