With games like Breath of Death VII and Cthulhu Saves the World gaining notoriety in the Xbox Live Indie Games marketplace, the indie scene for the 360 has seen a marked increase lately in the number of large-scale role-playing games coming to market. Just last month I reviewed Doom & Destiny that was part of the Indie Games Summer Uprising event. While that game held a lot of promise, it ended up suffering from poor design choices and far too many typos to really be the next great RPG. With the release of The Fall of Gods from Geex, what we end up with is another mixed bag that is buggy and lacks the polish needed to elevate its status from passable to must-play.
The game begins with an introduction told through a well-animated sequence of parchment-like pictures with captions. The basic premise is that you’re a direct descendant of the first man created by the nine old gods. It’s up to you to defend the world against the oncoming Darkness, and the entire game is just the first chapter of an ongoing saga. Your travels will take you from one land to another as you search for magical energies that will help you claim victory. By and large your time will be spent exploring the world and trying to find the next NPC who will give you a clue as to where you should go or what you should do next. The story is serviceable, but you don’t get the impression that things are actually amiss in the world aside from the occasional warning about the Darkness coming. This may be a byproduct of the fact that this is only the first chapter in the story, but there’s really no dramatic pull here.
A lot of the game progression has you going on fetch quests that require you to solve a puzzle to unlock an item to give to someone. In turn you have to give that item to someone else and so on. After awhile this becomes tedious. Although you’ll often get a marker placed on the map indicating a point of interest, there’s no running quest log to remind you what you’re supposed to do next. I found this very frustrating at times, particularly when taking a break from the game for a day or two and trying to remember where I was supposed to be going next. While a lot of your time is spent exploring the overworld, you will encounter the occasional dungeon as well. Both are full of enemies and puzzles, though the dungeons have far more of the latter.
The puzzle designs aren’t half bad and might be one of the few bright spots. A lot of comparisons are being drawn to the early games in the Legend of Zelda series and rightly so. Often you’ll have to find and/or gain access to wall switches that will open previously inaccessible areas. There can be a bit of backtracking involved, but it never felt excessive except when I overlooked some clue that was staring me right in the face. At times you’ll need to search the environment for visual clues on the order of operations for certain puzzles. There’s nothing here that’s treading new water – especially old classics like the slide tile puzzle - but what’s included is competently done.
While you’re exploring you’ll often encounter enemies in real-time, rather than random battles. Unfortunately, the combat in the game is one of its weakest aspects. You can equip one weapon and spell at a time. Weapons can be either melee or ranged, and spells can be used in an offensive manner as long as you have energy left in your magic meter. The enemies themselves don’t do a lot of damage and therefore won’t kill you unless you’re incredibly inept. There’s no real challenge or tension especially considering that early on you get a shield that allows you to stand in front of the enemy and take no damage as long as you don’t move. I only died once and that was my own fault for not monitoring my health status for awhile.
The movement controls in the game are far too loose. Your character will often move a lot faster than you intended which can cause you to accidentally move from one overworld area to another, particularly when so many paths place you right at the edge of the screen. Because there’s a load time every time you move from one area to another, this can get old very fast. Your wild movement can also lead you to accidentally run into enemies that you’d rather avoid. On the one hand I can understand that they’d want your character to move fast because you’re running around a lot, often when backtracking during fetch quests, but it can really be problematic with the number of glitches found in the game.
While everything negative I’ve mentioned up to this point has been more along the lines of design issues, there are actual bugs within the game that have to be pointed out. While not nearly as rampant as in Doom & Destiny, there are still a few typos or cases of word misuse in the game’s text. Few problems can pull you out of an immersive game more quickly than a mispelled word or nonsensical sentence. In the spirit of journalistic integrity I must admit that I stopped playing the game about 6-8 hours in – the developers claim the game is at least 10 hours – after a bug made me completely unable to continue. At least a dozen times during my playthrough I found my character caught on some piece of the environment. Sometimes it was a tree or a rock, other times it was an item. Often I could save the game, load that save, and everything would be fine. However, I hit one point when exiting a cave where that trick didn’t work. Even reverting to my previous save from when I was within the cave still had me stuck in place. Therefore I could not progress in the game, nor would I choose to start over. This game is simply not good enough to repeat hours of work a second time.
I really wanted to like The Fall of Gods. I’ve been waiting for that next top-tier indie RPG, but this isn’t it. The game doesn’t do anything great, but it does a lot of things well like the puzzles and the music. For every quality that was passable, there was a bug, control issue, or design choice that left me either scratching my head or turning off the game in frustration. If you’re willing to take a chance that you won’t run into the same game-breaking bugs that I did, what you’ll find is a solid, but not spectacular RPG. Even at 240 Microsoft points, though, I have a difficult time advising that risk.
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