The Same Old Story:
We know the story, it’s an old one, passed down from generation to generation the fabled tale of the launch title. The plot points are always the same, incredible graphical fidelity that mystifies the potential of the next generation, clunky gameplay systems informed by the trends of the previous gen, millions of copies sold and traded in within the month, leading to a game that will be labeled a “best seller” despite no one really remembering its name. So is the timeless retelling of the next-gen launch title, the latest of which looks to be known as Godfall.
The upcoming action-RPG set to launch in late 2020 is the first officially announced next-generation title for Sony’s Playstation 5, seemingly set to be announced at some point before the end of the year. It has the usual traits of a new IP launch title, a relatively unknown developer: Counterplay Games who’s only prior release, a fairly well-received cardgame, Duelyst. Being gives a chance to prove themselves with new technology and a content ready audience excited to have the expense of their shiny new console justified with something visually impressive.
It echoes the same traits as Ninja Theory’s PS3 launch title Heavenly Sword, a game that stunned audiences with motion capture tech that for the time was truly next generation. It also had the backing of Andy Serkis playing the games main villain. Despite this, Heavenly Sword was a launch title, meaning what it had in impressive tech it lacked in originality. It was unashamedly a God of War clone, and once the high fidelity dust settled on its relatively short campaign, the game and IP received little fanfare, beyond a terrible animated movie and Nariko’s appearance in the ill-fated PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, despite selling 1.5 million copies.
Before the story of Heavenly Sword, there was Kameo: Elements of Power, Rare’s long in development action-adventure game that was similarly left behind once exclusives like Gears of War and Halo made their way to the Xbox 360. Godfall fits the bill of the forgettable launch title perfectly, generic hack n’ slash gameplay, encompassing the design trends of the prior generation with its heavy focus on co-op loot and an art style so generically, over the top badass its lion helmeted designs look like they come right out a twelve-year-olds notepad.
Earlier today, a gameplay trailer for the game originally intended for internal viewing was leaked online. Though it should be noted the trailer shows gameplay the devs say is now a year old, it mostly confirms the initial thoughts I had towards the game. The game’s graphics, even a year out, look absolutely stunning with armor detail and lighting usually reserved for the CGI cutscenes of a Final Fantasy game.
Combat looks weighty in that way action RPG’s typically are, and overall, the game looks like its hitting all the points it’s trying to hit, it’s just that the points it’s trying to hit aren’t exactly interesting. The world and designs look like they were bought on the Unreal Engine marketplace, combat looks like to be the usual brand of button mashing, likely infused with the required amount of Dark Souls mechanics that is now required of all melee combat systems for the foreseeable future.
Truthfully there’s nothing outright wrong with the way Godfall is shaping up so far; it’s just that the game is shaping itself around premade cutouts. There’s little anyone can say about Godfall so far beyond “the first PS5 game revealed,” and it’s easy to see that the game is banking on being the first on a piece of hardware rather than be the first to do anything unique of its own.
This is all, for the most part, conjecture, but gamers have gotten better at spotting patterns in gaming over the years; we’ve all seen this play out before. Godfall looks to be a benchmark piece, the game bundled alongside a day one release pack for the PS5 and being displayed on 4K monitors in the local Curry’s store. A spot previously reserved for the blood-soaked sands of Crytek’s Ryse: Son of Rome.
It’ll be the mindlessly enjoyable hack n’ slash game that posts record sales of millions and create big success for its relatively unknown developer among a sea of 5s and 6s before linning the aisles of second-hand stores when genuine new experiences arrive on the system.
And maybe there’s a place for this title, like an outdated, sort of irrelevant tradition, the story of the forgettable launch title will likely continue. When those particle effects, ray tracing lighting and unseen levels of armor detail grace the tv’s of millions later this year for a short few months before gathering dust on second-hand shelves, we’ll truly know the next generation has started.