I wish I could somehow start Elden Ring fresh. I don’t mean simply begin another playthrough; I want a repeat of the first time I experienced this magical game. I want to rediscover how everything works all over again. Get lost in its open word without knowing what’s around every corner. I wish I could forget all the minute details that kept me hooked so I can come across them again for the first time.
But I can’t do any of that. The only thing I can think of is to put enough distance between me and Elden Ring, just long enough that I can forget most of it, in the hopes that when I return, I could maybe re-create those magical first few hours.
The last time this happened to me was – surprise, surprise! – with another FromSoft game: Sekiro. Once I was done with that one, I went looking for something that could provide even a hint of it. I didn’t really find anything that fit the bill, so I just stumbled from one game to another until I eventually caved and played Sekiro again start to finish (and again).
The landscape is a little different this time around, so I find myself facing a similar dilemma after having spent over 150 hours in Elden Ring. Knowing that nothing could ever really come close, I decided to revisit games that might instead recreate some of its sensations. Maybe a game could offer similar or better combat, or another's world could convince me to spend hours exploring it.
One game I’ve been meaning to get back into and give another shot is Godfall. I’ve had my eye on Godfall since reveal, and I was really looking forward to its release. I was there on day one on PC... and it was major letdown. I had evidently built it up in my head to such a degree that it couldn’t reach. I found its combat fun on a base level, but marred by multiple maddening decisions that consistently undermine it. Its structure relied significantly on revisiting the same static maps over and over to progress the story.
These narrow zones didn’t encourage exploration, offer any mysteries or wow with their sheer beauty. They were all closed-off, predictable corridors of varying sizes, rotating through the same few puzzles and enemy types allowed by the realm they’re based in.
Godfall was a PS5 launch game in November 2020. More than a year-and-a-half later, the game hit Xbox alongside its biggest (and likely final) update ever. I thought now would be a good time to really give the game a fresh, honest try.
It didn’t take long for me to start enjoying it again, particularly as the gameplay changes made since then quickly became apparent. One of the most infuriating mechanics in the original release was how your character could get knocked on its ass by any enemy attack. This is now much less of a problem, as it’s limited to certain attacks, and you even get a window to shorten that stagger.
Godfall has also gotten much better about communicating which attack is coming your way, and clearly explain what you can block or parry, and those you need to dodge. This improved the readability of combat, but it only went so far.
Pretty quickly, I started running into the same problems that had me shouting expletives back in November 2020. Godfall’s camera is still atrociously tight. Even after pulling the FOV all the way out, the camera consistently closes in on you when you engage an enemy. It’s sort of the same problem God of War 2018 had, and the developer of Godfall implemented the same solution.
That being, of course, indicators to warn you about off-screen attacks. Though I managed to stomach that in God of War, mostly because the rest of the game had me hooked enough to ignore such a terrible mechanic, I can’t do the same for Godfall. For one, Godfall’s screen is considerably busier. This is a game that was meant to be a showcase of the PS5’s power, and that intent to wow players often overpowers the rest of its design.
At every moment, the frame is awash with particle effects, excessive shine, bloom, and outrageous flare that makes the game look stunning in videos, but hard to actually navigate. The aforementioned attack warnings are simply drowned out by everything else going on that I found myself dodging around needlessly just to not get hit by an enemy I can’t see.
This is a problem that could have been lessened through some tweaks to enemy behaviour, or even the addition of other indicators – such as audio cues. Elden Ring, for example, never forces too many enemies to fight you at any given moment. If you alert an entire camp, only two or three enemies will engage, while the rest will be standing ready behind them. Games do this a lot, so I’m surprised to see Godfall has made no changes to its overly zealous enemies.
Just as I thought then, I still believe the game’s combat works best when duelling a single enemy, or two at most. At that point, much of the camera and enemy aggression problems won’t be there, and you’ll be left to read and react – which is Godfall at its best.
I was also disappointed to find so many smaller annoyances still remain, such as the lack of campaign matchmaking (in a loot game, no less!), how your cursor always resets to the top in the inventory screen, how uneven the audio mix is, and how clunky the menus are.
Godfall is a rare game whose individual components are often well made, but the way they’re all put together makes for an uneven, often aggravating experience. Polarity attacks, the Breach system, Soulshatter damage, weakpoints, Rampage mode, weapon techniques, and the large array of skills at your disposal would make Nioh envious. The game is full of nuanced combat mechanics that raise the skill ceiling and can make some moments quite mechanically engaging – when you’re not cursing the heavens because of the other problems.
Godfall has been the butt of jokes for a while; it comes across as the sort of gaudy, hollow game that exists to sell new consoles. But I find the whole thing frustrating more than funny. Most of those forgotten console launch games aren’t usually mechanically worthwhile. Godfall, frustratingly, has a lot more going for it than its visuals.
If the developer makes a sequel, I have no doubt it’s going to be significantly better, so that’s what I’m going to wait for instead.