When PlayStation 5 was originally released I was really excited for Godfall. It looked interesting, had cool bosses and it looked to finally give Destiny a run for its money. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen the first time, with the expansion and certainly not after the Challenger Edition fiasco. Naturally, when Platinum Games, known for Bayonetta, Vanquish, and NieR: Automata revealed they were working on Babylon’s Fall, it looked like there was finally going to be a second major looter out there. Despite some bumps, Babylon’s Fall still had the potential to be something big, even after the divisive demo there was hope, but does it live up to that hope or does it fall into ruin much like the city of Babylon?
Babylon’s Fall’s story is unmistakably Platinum Games. It starts with an interesting premise, people are forced to wear a Gideon Coffin, a device described as a robotic parasite, that either gives great power or kills the user. Naturally, the character you create with the rather modest options survives and is enlisted to fight against various threats.
One of the Three Currently Available Classes
I think it would be fair to say that Platinum Games wasn’t really sure where to go with Babylon’s Fall. Initially, it’s a cautionary tale of people who have this extraordinary power fighting against the Blue Blood and those who lost hope only to become fearsome creatures that ravaged their world. Sometime later it’s about fighting a powerful knight, only to later pivot to us all being pawns to a far bigger threat. Each of these narratives has compelling aspects, with the first one sharing a lot with Attack on Titan, and could’ve absolutely grown into an interesting tale, but instead, it’s a confusing mess of cool feats, poor dialogue that often feels like a chapter is missing, to things happening for reasons that should be obvious but really aren’t.
It’s hard to tell where exactly the issue is. Perhaps I and the content creator I played with just missed some throwaway line of dialogue that explained some of the larger reveals, perhaps the upcoming updates that add the additional story “Resurgence” will explore the events, but in its current form, it just feels amateurish at best. Weak voice actors read equally weak dialogue that is often cliché and predictable. So much so my experience moves from one of playing with my friend to having our own Mystery Science Theater 3000-esque critique of the events unfolding before our eyes. Despite this honestly being expected from Platinum Games, Babylon’s Fall doesn’t quite live up to its legacy in terms of gameplay.
Practically every one of their titles is stylish, but it rarely came at the expense of substance. On paper it holds true for Babylon’s Fall as well, it just simply doesn’t work in practice. This starts with the combat system itself.
Players are given four weapons, basically left and right weapons with two “spectral” weapons on each side. The idea is you can freely use two, with the other two using SP that is generated over time or through damage, various perks, or even enchantment effects. It makes for some interesting combo potential. These can be charged, freely used, or even access unique abilities, like I have a bow that goes into an aim down sights (ADS) mode. The struggle is SP is also used to dodge, along with charging attacks or even ADS mode itself.
Early levels like those featured in the demo present the system as relatively fair. To be perfectly honest, at low-level play it’s actually a nice limitation. I need to anticipate what enemies are going to do and plan accordingly. Sometimes I’ll get greedy and hit, other times I’m too defensive and my spectral weapons vanish as I deplete my SP. This adds some welcome challenge beyond the early metagame of bows, bows, and more bows. Where things go south are later bosses and powerful enemies.
Most major foes don’t just attack, they impact a huge area. The golem enemy punches and then roughly 12 circles appear with follow-up attacks. There are some large enemies that have shockwaves, impact a massive area just outside of their reach, and other things. At this point, it’s still doable, if only for the fact a properly leveled character isn’t going to die with a single mistake. Eventually, there are dogs with like six sets of homing attacks or bosses that force players to deal with their mechanics or take damage. Some of these are worse than others like it’s common for the dog’s homing attack to hit multiple times from a single mess up, but they create a situation where using your spectral attacks are heavily discouraged, making certain fights much longer. This especially hurts given how players progress.
Those familiar with the genre know the story is really more of a tutorial. It teaches you how to play before introducing the real enemies, greater threat, and gets to the fun stuff like making a build. Not only is Babylon’s Fall rather lengthy, coming in at about 10 hours to beat it, but a lot of the mechanics are also locked behind story progression, some even requiring the whole campaign done.
Sometimes the Graphics get Really Rough
These include enchantments on your Gideon Coffin, additional accessory slots, crafting, enhancing, melding to even attack mode. This makes the campaign less about finding a rhythm and more about getting through it. However, the truly bad thing isn’t the timing, as much as utilizing these mechanics. It’s so bad and ill-conceived that I would legitimately believe there was someone in charge of intentionally poor design.
The best way to see it is the party system, though it extends to literally every aspect of Babylon’s Fall. This honestly starts the moment you load Babylon’s Fall with the Square Enix log in. It will ask you to log into your account, except it isn’t the account you use for their wonderful shop or on the main website, it’s a separate one that I assume Final Fantasy XIV players are more familiar with. After typing it in, or making a new account in the event you lack one, something you’ll need to do every time if you don’t select remember me, you can start playing.
Anyway, once inside Babylon’s Fall you need to head to the community tab and will see simple options like friend list, create private HQ, and other common options. Unlike most games where both your PlayStation friends list and the online account are used in conjunction, the friend list is separate from any existing system, meaning you need to actually add your friends again. You also need to look up account names, not profile names, have them accept, and go from there. Now, neither my friend nor I could find a way to invite people, so instead, we had to join the other’s HQ, either through code or their account, followed by then going up to the quest board, selecting Party Quest, and then, finally, joining their quest. This needs to be done each and every time if you want to play with someone. Mind you, there is seemingly decent matchmaking if you don’t care who you play with, though we simply could not find an easy way to connect with one another.
Unfortunately, Babylon’s Fall has no shortage of bad choices. Here are just a small number of examples. Pygmalion, the shopkeeper, eventually sells crafting materials. However, at the point I’m at she only has green tier items and can sell up to 30 a day. This isn’t uncommon for a mobile game and honestly isn’t a huge deal-breaker, except each item has its own timer. So if I buy a bone at noon and then a horn at 3 p.m., I can’t purchase another bone until noon or a horn until 3 p.m.
Better Buy All Your Gear at Once
Now I head over to Ishum to craft my weapon, assuming I purchased or obtained the blueprint, which costs 20 of two aforementioned materials and some other quest rewards/rare drops to make a blue tier weapon. But, let’s say I want a purple one, it’s now 40 of each and some even rarer materials. Not a huge problem for slower players, but anyone hoping to finish the story with their desired weapon type won’t be able to rely on the crafting area more than once if they want it done in a day.
An Example of the Differences in Costs
Another option is meld, which works like Destiny 2’s infusion where you can bring a low-level item up to a higher level in exchange for materials. The cost seems to be proportional to the ask, a choice that is honestly fair, though after finishing the campaign I’d be nearly wiped out bringing a single item up 20+ levels. Even the cost of bringing an item up a single level is pretty steep for what it is. Enhanced is another one that is pretty costly for what it is. Despite never using it, I still don’t actually have enough resources to enhance the Acanthus Frontlet (the deluxe edition accessory) a single time.
Quests are filled with needless elements. Like my favorite example is the ready option when starting a quest. The second you join a quest, you lose your ability to interact with anything. I can’t talk to Ishum, make a last-second purchase from Pygmalion, let Leto the bard sing my praises, or any of that. It also disables your ability to change gear. So if I have the wrong build or want to change anything, I simply can’t. Outside of infamous enemies, you don’t even get decoded drops during a mission, yet you’re still locked out. Given there is a point where the level difference in weapons makes it so they do zero damage, it would be a shame to create a situation where you either deal with it or abandon your companions/the quest, yet that is the system Babylon’s Fall has created. And, worst of all, if no one joins in like four minutes it starts regardless. So I am at a loss what I’m supposed to be readying up for, outside of going in solo or with less than four players, both of which could instantly be solved by allowing players to just make a room with however many slots they want.
Even the post-game activities currently available are pretty weak. Skirmishes are basically harder versions of story stages with additional modifier(s) and have the chance to spawn rare enemies who have unique gear and better drops. The other mode, Sieges, is basically just gauntlets with a couple of quirks. The other major grind, divine gear, is long and unsatisfying.
Contrary to Destiny’s exotics or Borderlands and Outriders’ legendary gear, the divine gear I encountered was underwhelming and thoroughly unimpressive. One was a piece of leg armor called Achilles Greaves. Their unique ability is, unsurprisingly, the Blessing of Achilles. The perk increases your dodge window when you have 50 percent or more HP at a higher cost per dodge. Just doing some light testing, I went from being able to do about 16 dodges consecutively to about four. I also got the same Secpter of Sekhem staff a couple of times, which is a little better. Subduing Blows I increases the time required to do a charge attack, though the next enemy you hit with one will take additional damage for five seconds.
While it’s entirely possible the six pieces I encountered are the worst six in the game, it’s very unlikely any of them actually do much to change the flow of Babylon’s Fall. That, coupled with the fact you’re limited to a single divine for weapon and armor, exactly like Destiny’s exotic system, they’re fairly disappointing. At best they play into a very specific style and at worst it just makes the ones like the Scepter of Sakhem more valuable for the passive damage increase. That said, fans of lore will be happy to know each has a sentence or two with some kind of background.
Babylon’s Fall Review Verdict
Unlike Destiny, Outriders, and even to an extent Godfall, which released with some questionable elements, Babylon’s Fall simply lacks the gameplay to back it up. Even if a patch is released tomorrow decreasing the cost of materials, increased drop rate implemented a party system, gave divines a bit more impact and more, it simply isn’t that fun to play. Normally I would wait to see the new game modes, or at least Duels, but even if that mode is as good as Destiny’s Vault of Glass, it simply can’t make up for everything else. And, unfortunately, even if Babylon’s Fall could eventually become a good game, I don’t think there will be enough runway for that to happen.
[Editor’s Note: Babylon’s Fall was reviewed on PlayStation 5 and a copy was provided to us for review purposes.]