What is it? Face god(s) and walk backwards into hell
Expect to pay $25/£20
Developer Clever Beans
Publisher Deep Silver
Reviewed on Radeon RX 580, AMD Ryzen 5 2600 3.9GHz, 16 GB RAM
Link: Official site
With the exception of Spelunky 2's moles, it's been a long time since a game has wrung quite as many swears out of me as Gods Will Fall. I've turned the air blue with eulogies to fallen comrades, cursed its pantheon to the heavens, and generally effed and jeffed my way across its god-infested island. Make no mistake: this is a good thing. Most of the time, anyway.
The main target for this barrage of f-bombs are the ten deities at the game's centre—a cruel and unusual bunch, who rule over humanity with an iron fist. Or, in many cases, an iron claw or hoof.
But you can only oppress a populace so long before they rise up against the abhorrent creatures who have declared themselves in charge, and humanity decides it's finally time to enact the title of the game. Their plan to do so, alas, is slightly flawed, involving as it does a fleet sent across the sea to attack a group of celestial beings who, oh yeah, have control over the elements. And so you find yourself washing ashore, an army of thousands whittled down to eight. A little salty language is probably to be expected.
Luckily, these eight survivors are a real bunch of Celts, each handy with their weapon of choice: twin maces perfect for getting the first hit in, the blessedly long reach of a spear, heavy axes that drag along the ground and release in a killer upswing. You'll likely warm to a particular playstyle, and whichever warriors happen to wield it, something the game smartly doubles down on by giving them a randomly-generated name, look and implied story.
And then they start dying. As you wander the island you'll find 10 doors, each leading to a dungeon overseen by a different god and themed to match whatever they're god of (war, fertility, all-you-can-eat buffets, et cetera). Slip up while battling your way through their minions, or the boss fight at dungeon's end, and your warrior will be claimed by that god. Cue: much swearing.
Back on the island, you can choose to have another try—essentially gambling another of your Celts—or go and see what's behind another door. The latter might be the smart choice, thanks to difficulty levels that vary hugely from god to god—but you never know which ones will be harder or easier, because they're randomised for each playthrough. And besides, if you can make it to the end of this one and slay the god-boss, you'll free any warriors currently under their thrall. It makes for a proper tooth-grinder of a choice, and some incredible highs and lows. Let me show you what I mean.
A single Celt stands outside the gates to Morrigan's forge-themed realm. This is Gwenn of Little Kaelaff, and thanks to a combination of serious incompetence on my part and the fact that the dungeon includes the occasional bit of jumping (very much not Gods Will Fall's strong suit), all seven of her compatriots are trapped within.
Gwenn wields a sword, my least favourite weapon, meaning she's not seen battle so far—which in turn means that she's not picked up any of the buffs or skills that more experienced warriors accrue. None of her predecessors even reached the final boss fight, and if I lose Gwenn it's right back to the start with a freshly-rolled band of warriors.
I load her up with all the equipment gathered from previous realms—throwing knives and spike traps and healing skewers of meat—and take it very slowly, my heart beating so hard I can't tell controller vibrations from my own pulse. I know the whereabouts of every enemy now (this only changes with a full game-over and restart) and have developed a hamper's worth of cheese strategies. Weapons are grabbed from fallen foes, only to be chucked headlong at the next. Tough enemies are jump-kicked into the abyss before they can make a move. I kite like Charlie Brown to ensure I'm never facing more than one fight at a time.
And somehow, Gwenn makes it all the way to Morrigan, in the form of a giant crow, who turns out to be one of the easier boss fights I've encountered. It helps that I've got a backpack of throwing knives, of course. Her razor-sharp wings harden into stone, then crumble… and Gwenn stumbles into the light with an entire troupe of Celts in tow.
Obscenities are yelled, but cheerfully. I have to stand up and walk away from my desk. It's the single most exhilarating moment I've had in a game so far this year.
All the other things I'd spent the previous couple of hours swearing about are washed away: the insta-kill trap that claimed my favourite warrior, the odd bit of overly labyrinthine level design, the eternally baffling decision to put platforming sections in your tightly-honed combat game. It gets away with these rough edges because, like Dark Souls and Spelunky before it—titles to which it owes a clear debt—Gods Will Fall is a game that runs on frustration.
It's less punishing than those games, and considerably shorter than your standard Soulslike—a successful run should take around eight hours. But you'll still step away with war stories that feel hard-fought—albeit ones that, with no inns or taverns to tell them in right now, might never leave your room. But it doesn't matter too much, because most of these stories can be summed up in a single word. Specifically, the type with four letters.