I feel like I should probably give a brief disclaimer before starting this review: I like rogue-lites and games with rogue-like mechanics. Most of the ones I end up playing fall into the same two sub-genres: 2D platformers or top down dungeon crawlers, and they almost always feature pixel graphics. Not long after starting Clever Beans’ Gods Will Fall I was delighted to find out it was not only a hack and slash dungeon crawler, but that it also contained a few rogue-lite elements as well. I was equal parts intrigued and fascinated, and I quickly realized it also appeared to have the difficulty curve of a typical rogue-lite. It was very tough at first, but clearly I stuck with it and my admiration grew the more I played. Not only is Gods Will Fall graphically beautiful but it’s also equal parts entertaining and frustrating, which makes your victories that much more satisfying.
The game has a simple premise, explained in an animated introduction. After many eons the human inhabitants of the game universe had grown tired of their gods’ cruel and merciless treatment. Not only did they require their worship but also demanded each vassal’s unwavering fealty. Eventually the humans revolted, and every man and woman capable of wielding a weapon boarded ships stretching across the horizon. But as I said before the Gods were cruel, and without even facing the warriors themselves they simply created a massive storm that destroyed all the ships.
Each time you start a new game of Gods Will Fall it begins with eight warriors washing ashore, each randomly generated based on multiple factors. They can be male or female and their build can range from skinny to muscular to heavy. The game is based on Celtic lore and sometimes your warrior will be covered in blue battle paint and just wearing a tight pair of shorts, whereas other times they are fully clothed. Each fighter has a random starting health (Vigor), strength, and speed value. These can change throughout your journey based on both the individual and the group’s successes and failures. Each character also gets a one star or occasionally a two star starting weapon from the following pool of weapons: Spear, axe, sword, mace, twin mace, twin axe, war mace, and war axe. Each character is limited in what weapons they can use based on their size, only the really big (rotund) characters can use the huge war maces and war axes, but they can’t use spears or any twin weapons. Each weapon has its strengths and weaknesses. The spear (my go to weapon) has a good reach, the mace does extra damage to enemies on the ground, the twin weapons’ attack animation can be cancelled at any time by dodging, and the war weapons are good for hitting groups and can easily knock down regular size enemies. The large war weapons are also the only ones that have a charge attack. The weapons range in rating from one star to four stars, and inflict more damage to enemies as they increase in stars – there is also a single five star weapon in one particular level that you can craft. The characters might also have a random ability; there is a wide variety of these abilities, all with unique names such as ‘whitewood oak’ for example, which gives the character increased sturdiness making it difficult for them to be knocked down, or ‘harnessed fear’ which gives the character increased damage dealt when below half health. There’s also ‘man at arms’ which increases the damage the character inflicts while using an enemy’s weapon. These are just a few of the many abilities you could end up with.
The goal of the game is to defeat the ten malevolent gods who conveniently all happen to reside in the land where your party just washed ashore. The overworld has a similar viewpoint as the levels except the camera is zoomed out so you can see all your characters running in a group with the slow ones lagging behind. There’s a map that can be brought up by pressing (Y) while in the overworld to see where each god resides. When you reach the doorway to one of their domains you must decide which warrior you will send in; however they can only enter one at a time. Sometimes when you reach a domain one of your characters will say they had a vision of this doorway and they’ll either get a stat boost if it was positive or a debuff if it was negative. When your character fails in a level the camera view goes back to the rest of your waiting party and some of them might lose morale, causing their stats to temporarily go down. Alternately one could valiantly claim that the lost person helped them before so they’re going to go save them, and with that they get a nice vigor boost only for that level. When you beat a dungeon and the god within it all the characters in your party that had fallen in that dungeon are returned to you, which makes the game somewhat forgiving; however if you’re down to your last warrior and they perish then it’s game over. In addition to saving any fallen comrades when you beat a dungeon you also get some new weapons that you can assign to your party members, and you usually get a few consumable items as well. The items range from food that restores your vigor to buffs that temporarily increase your speed or strength; there’s also ranged weapons that have limited uses like a bow and arrow and throwing knives. There’s a few other things as well – overall it seems like a decent selection, some of which can really make a difference when you’re in a tough spot.
The core gameplay of Gods Will Fall is very familiar and is explained in a mandatory cave level the first time you play. Movement is controlled by the left joystick. It’s a hack and slash game so (X) is regular attack, (Y) is strong attack, and (A) is jump. You perform a jump kick by pressing (X) while in the air and a ground pounding weapon attack by pressing (Y) in the air; this is the only way to hit enemies that have fallen down. (B) does a dodge, and if you dodge into an enemies attack at just the right time you’ll parry them and they’ll be temporarily stunned as well as briefly taking extra damage; the game doesn’t do a good job of telling you this but you can also throw a stunned enemy by parrying them and then dodging into them again once they are stunned. You can throw them off of platforms if you point the left joystick in the direction you want to throw them. I’m kind of surprised they don’t do a better job explaining this mechanic since there are three achievements related to throwing enemies, one of which seems extremely difficult (the elevator one). (RB) lets you interact with things like scrolls which give hints or backstory, there’s also a few level-specific things you can interact with like the forges in Morrigan’s dungeon which have a chance of strengthening or weakening your weapon, or the pillars in Krannus’ domain which will teach the reader a random new skill. (RB) is also the button that is pressed to pick up enemy weapons, which are highlighted in white if your character can pick up that weapon type. You can use them for a bit instead of your regular weapon until they break, or you can hold (RB) and a throwing line will appear at which point if you press (X) you will throw the weapon – it has a slight aim assist, but you won’t hit an enemy if they are moving side to side. One of the most useful mechanics in the game is the roar ability that every character has. If you are missing any health your missing vigor segments will fill with a lighter color red as you draw your opponents blood by landing attacks on them. Once at least one is full a little white diamond will appear over the top most point that is now full and you can press (LT) to regain all that health. So you could have one health point left and regain it all with one roar. There’s notches on the empty health points indicating if it will be a medium or large roar. Both will knock back any nearby humanoid-sized enemies as well as temporarily increasing your damage output. A large roar gives you bloodlust and makes you temporarily invulnerable. The D-pad lets you choose among up to four items you’ve picked up or brought with you and (RT) activates the selected item.
As I said before there are ten Gods to defeat, and all ten are accessible at the start of the game. There’s a wide range in difficulty between each one, and the ones closest to the starting point aren’t necessarily the easiest. It took me a lot of trial and error and starting many new games to slowly work my way through all the bosses and their lairs. Each one is relatively unique; most have their health visible when you first enter a level and as you kill enemies the health drops little by little, encouraging you to not just rush through the level to the boss, but instead to take your time to traverse and explore each level, some of which have some pretty good bonuses. Each time you enter a level the enemy placement and selection will be somewhat randomized, you could get mostly easy enemies one time and then the next time end up with a lot of armored enemies and larger, more difficult enemies. The bosses health bar can vary from one attempt to the next. It’s sort of discouraging when you enter a level and see a massive health bar looming above you. There’s never any way to know how hard the level will be beforehand.
The art style is one of the highlights of the game for me. Everything has a painted look to it, and each level has its own unique look and color palette (although there do seem to be a lot of cave-like areas). Some of the locations include a shore that leads to mountainous cliffs with creepy trees that appear to be made of bones; once you reach the top the giant spider Osseus awaits you. Boadannu, a giant squid, also inhabits a seaside location but this one is more of a broken shipyard as well as a ramshackle prison; this level also includes a brief raft ride. Belenos’ domain starts in the mountains but eventually you get to an overlook of a burning field and village in the distance at which point you work your way down the mountain and through that burning ransacked village. One of the more interesting levels belongs to Methir-Shirraidh, a strange harp-playing leafy-winged demon who inhabits what look to be ancient ruins. The color palette here is especially vibrant and the level looks amazing, it’s made up of white stone that’s being overgrown with red grass; there’s also waterfalls and pools of blue water in the level as well as a bluish green mist below all the platforms. There are a fair amount of precarious ledges and short platforming sections scattered throughout most of the levels. The game might be called Gods Will Fall, but it’s more than likely that You Will Fall to your death at least a few times. Methir-Shirraidh’s level is also unique in the fact that the layout changes slightly each time, each section has multiple doorways and the one you use to exit is random each time (you can tell which one it is because there’s mist inside the one you can use). Once you reach Methir-Shirraidh you learn that her harp doubles as a super powerful bow, and after getting destroyed the first time I faced her I immediately had flashbacks of a notorious section of the first Dark Souls game that also features a ledge and someone shooting arrows at you. The variety of the levels and bosses and the randomness of everything gives the game a decent level of replayability.
All the music in each level seemed to fit nicely, oftentimes sounding very ominous. A lot of the soundtrack had a tribal sound to it, which makes sense since you’re essentially playing as members of a Celtic tribe. All the sound effects also sounded good, I especially liked some of the funny sounding grunts the larger characters made when dodging. When you reach each boss the music picks up in tempo making a tough situation feel even more tense.
Gods Will Fall doesn’t hold your hand. It can seem difficult when first playing, but it’s one of those games where you get better as you learn the mechanics and which bosses to tackle first, as well as their weaknesses. Eventually you’ll be breezing through most levels, picking up weapons and chucking them at enemies, parrying them and launching them off cliffs to their deaths left and right. You’ll feel like maybe you’re the god, and if something does happen to you, you have seven more chances. If you like hack and slash games but want more than an average challenge then this is the game to try. Clever Beans has done a great job designing a harsh and atmospheric world while also providing an excellent set of tools and mechanics to conquer it.Become a Patron!
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.