What is a god? Is it a protector? An idol? A provider? In Gods Will Fall, the recently released top-down dungeon crawling roguelike from developer Clever Beans, gods are tyrants. The game introduces a world based on Celtic culture where, for untold generations, a consortium of deities has ruled over humankind, demanding endless sacrifice and blind worship. And they get exactly what they demand. You see, unlike ‘regular’ gods, these deities don’t rely on human faith. They’re living, breathing creatures that live sequestered off on an isle of their own. You can see them, feel them and—indeed—fight them, if you’ve got the courage.
That’s where the game begins, with a fearless band of human warriors setting out to visit the island of gods. There are 10 of them to fight, each hidden away at the end of a winding, semi-open dungeon like some kind of horrific lovecraftian hermit. Their designs are based on real-world animals, if those animals were let loose near the Necronomicon and scaled up in size by a factor of anywhere from five to 500. Take Boadannu, for example (oh, and yes, they do all have names which look like anagrams). This semi-aquatic god resembles a seal mixed with a horse and a squid—perhaps a dragon too. It towers up, reaching at least 15 feet tall without even trying to sit up straight. And you, dear warrior, must take it on in battle, armed with only a mace, sword, spear or other modest weapon. Of course, before you can do that, you’ve got to make it to the gods’ island in one piece first.
I say that because it doesn’t take long for the voyage of human liberation to take a bad turn. In fact, it happens in the opening cutscene. The ship carrying our band of warriors falls afoul of the gods’ wrath, manifesting in this case as unnaturally treacherous waters. The ship is wrecked before it reaches the shore, leaving all but eight of the warriors dead or otherwise unaccounted for. That’s eight warriors: our protagonists and the only ones who can overthrow the gods, securing a life free of needless sacrifice for themselves and their families back home.
Despite the colossal task established in the game’s opening, Gods Will Fall is quite a short ride once it gets started. From start to finish, it’s composed of 10 dungeons, each capped off with a boss fight and with a short overworld hike between every one. The party of eight moves as one unit across the island towards each of the dungeons, which can be tackled in any order, adding a Mega Man style of open-endedness to the proceedings. When it comes time to venture inside, however, they enter one at a time. Should a character die in the dungeon, they can only be resurrected upon the defeat of that dungeon’s respective god (AKA: boss). Essentially, then, the game gives players eight chances at beating any given dungeon before it gives them a no-backsies “Game Over”. You shouldn’t worry too much about losing your progress: this game is intended for multiple playthroughs, and besides, I never even came close to exhausting my eight lives in any of the dungeons. Trust me, if I didn’t struggle, you probably won’t struggle either!
The eight survivors are an odd bunch. Some large and robust, others gangly and fleet-footed. Despite their varying attributes—and the effect this has on their health, strength and speed stats—none of them look particularly battle-ready. That’s by design, obviously. I very much enjoyed how the irregular physical features of the game’s heroes and their plodding movement added to the underdog factor of their quest. It truly captures the feeling of being a misfit gaggle of regular folks who have grown sick and tired of oppression. Sure, the game wasn’t really that difficult, which hampered the effect somewhat, but it still felt gratifying slaying gods as a troop of fighters who barely look apt to take on a couple of rowdy badgers. It strengthened the core point of the game’s story while looking pretty striking from an aesthetic perspective to boot.
The dungeons themselves, while fairly short, are varied enough to keep things interesting. The game explores otherworldly caves populated by strange fauna; grand, ancient-looking temples with elaborate stonework and ornamentation; abandoned villages with burning huts and wide open fields; and dense jungle environments with yet more obscure plantlife, just to name a few. The enemies which populate the dungeons must be fought using a fairly simple combat system combining light attacks, heavy attacks, dodge-rolling, parrying and healing using energy gained from successful attacks. Enemy weapons can also be picked up from the ground and temporarily used, or else thrown as a projectile (a very useful strategy, might I add). It’s nothing too complex, certainly nothing groundbreaking, but it serves its purpose and only starts to get dull around dungeon seven or eight. That’s still not great, mind you. For a game which only lasts a handful of hours, having the core mechanics get stale is a major strike against it. I do feel as if the boredom wouldn’t have set in at all if the game wasn’t so easy, though.
On the topic of easiness, it’s possible, for example, to sprint through a dungeon, avoiding all enemies and beelining straight for the boss. Wiping out foes does sap the boss’ health bar prior to the final battle, but just like with the rest of the game, assistance hardly feels necessary. Naturally, I resisted the urge to bypass the entire dungeon, largely because I mostly enjoyed the combat for its own sake. Still, it felt a little bit silly spending 15 minutes picking off every last enemy in a winding dungeon just to scratch one-fifth off the boss’ health bar, only to ultimately sweep the boss off the mortal plane in about 30 seconds flat anyway.
There are consumables to collect throughout the dungeons, in addition to weapon and stat upgrades which the eight heroes will accrue as they clear each of the 10 dungeons. These continue to make the game easier, which in turn, only make it more tedious. Stat boosts are often accompanied by a small chunk of text chronicling how the powered-up warrior has become “emboldened by the feats of their comrades and vows to strike with additional force” (paraphrased), or some other such nugget of character insight. These are small touches, but they go a long way towards giving the group a sense of identity. When combined with their scrappy appearance and their not-so sure-footed movement style, it made them genuinely quite lovable, in an odd sort of way.
It’s far too easy and a little on the short side, but the charming presentation and solid core mechanics of Gods Will Fall go a long way towards making up for those faults. The lack of content in the base game might turn you off—although there is paid DLC planned for release—but if you can get it on sale, Gods Will Fall will leave you smiling, even if you won’t ever be worshipping it.
Gods Will Fall (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
A charming top-down dungeon crawler without quite enough challenge or content. Gods Will Fall is worth grabbing on sale, even if you won’t ever be worshipping it.