Having a bad deity
Videogame subgenres are the Marmite of the gaming community – you either get behind these labels, which often take their names from other popular titles, or you think that the silly pigeonholing of games into “It’s like x but y” detracts from a titles individual potential to stand on its own feet.
But, from the Soulslikes to the Metroidvania’s I always think applying these vague labels allows for a degree of base understanding for what a title can offer to a player. The most vague label though, is perhaps that of the Roguelike, often going hand in hand with other genres and subgenres to create games that are either hugely compelling or a little too ambitious for their own good.
Gods Will Fall is very much a Roguelike to a point, but it’s also an arcade dungeon crawler with some light RPG elements. Set in a mythological Celtic world where people have decided to rise up against the old gods who have betrayed them, the player takes control of a band of eight survivors of a shipwreck who lead a bloody swath across the gods island, hunting them down and murdering them and their most faithful zealots and minions.
Players will guide their hardy band of warriors across the mystical Island, exploring various landmarks and diving into dungeons to face the gods. When you decide to tackle a dungeon, you approach the door, select a warrior and take them forth to either victory or certain doom. If you defeat the god then your character of choice and some of the rest of your band will get buffs and stat boosts – lose and your warrior will be trapped until they are rescued by their comrades. Lose ALL of your warriors and it’s game over.
The combat mechanics are fairly solid. Action is rendered in a nice, chunky faux cartoon style and viewed from an isometric perspective ala Diablo with the left stick controlling your character. Light and heavy attacks are on X and Y, with jump mapped to A and a dash on B (I played this on Stadia using an Xbox One controller). Dash into enemies as they’re about to attack to parry and stun them, pick up their fallen weapons to throw or use on their fellow monsters and pick up additional items to buff your attacks and defense to gain an advantage. All standard stuff but all pretty well implemented.
The dungeons themselves are tough affairs – learning best timings for parry windows and how best to deal with certain enemy types is fairly critical, as is picking the best hero for the task. Healing is worked into the combat in a smart way as well, with attacks on enemies filling up a meter that can be used to tell forth a battle cry, healing your heroes health – it’s kind of similar to Bloodborne’s rally mechanic, rewarding aggressive play.
The bosses themselves are large screen filling beasts with huge health bars, but Gods Will Fall’s neatest trick comes in how it handles these big encounters. The more you explore the dungeon, the more enemies you defeat, the lower the bosses health gets. A careful warrior will reduce the boss to a half or less health bar before taking them on, making the fight far more manageable.
So, all in all, Gods Will Fall is a fun little action romp with some solid mechanics and an interesting story. But, it’s unfortunately let down to a massive degree by is roguelike aspects.
While the island you venture round and the gods dungeons remain static between runs, the group of warriors you start with as well as the difficulty of the enemies in those dungeons are randomised on every new game. As with many a roguelike, this can lead to a bad run, something I’ve experienced countless times in Rogue Legacy, for example, where I’ve rolled a bad character and had a particularly aggressive set of rooms to tackle. The problem with Gods Will Fall, however, is that each run lasts a significant amount of time, and by the point at which you realise that one dungeon that was easy last time round is now full of tricky enemies, you’ve burned through half of your war band.
The game doesn’t really give you any pointers as to what dungeons are going to be tricky, either, meaning you’re in for a trial and error approach. Couple that with the possibility of having a crappy bunch of warriors and a game of Gods Will Fall can go from fun to frustrating really quickly.
Players do have a mechanic at their disposal whereby they can leave items for future plays to pick up, but there are no permanent upgrades or perks to work towards as you get in the likes of Dead Cells or the aforementioned Rogue Legacy which only further compounds the frustration when you have to start over again from scratch.
It’s all a shame; the art style and overall mechanics are great, and when you get a good run Gods Will Fall is a lot of fun – until it’s not.
It should also be said that, as previously mentioned, I played this on Stadia. On a solid connection the game plays beautifully, keeping it’s 60fps presentation with little to no lag. If you’re connection drops, though, be prepared to miss parry windows and have a tougher time keeping up with harder enemies. One thing to note, however, is that I transitioned part way through my time with the game from using an Xbox One controller on Bluetooth to actually picking up a proper Stadia controller to run on wi-fi – the difference is night and day. We should have a run down of our thoughts on Stadia soon, but it does seem that using the proper controller dramatically reduces any chance of lag, even when streaming on wi-fi.