Babylon’s Fall Review (PS5) – Platinum Games’ Fall From Grace

Platinum Games has been known as a developer of high-quality, frenetic action games that are a solo affair. They’ve decided to climb into not only the multiplayer arena, but the “Games as a service” model. Does their first effort in this crowded section of the gaming landscape warrant a purchase? Find out in our Babylon’s Fall review, and try not to be shocked.

Babylon’s Fall Review – Technically Unimpressive

First off, from a technical level Babylon’s Fall does not impress. Load times are quick, but that’s more likely due to the PS5’s blazing-fast SSD than anything else. Though, even the progress bar of the loading screens isn’t quite right, since its progress often jumps back and forth as apparently even determining how much of a level has loaded is tough to calculate. The DualSense’s adaptive triggers are used, but only as trigger points – once you hit resistance in the trigger, your ability fire off, rather than the resistance serving as a cue to apply more pressure. It’s an unintuitive use of the adaptive triggers, but at least they are being used here.

Graphically, Babylon’s Fall almost has something cool going on here. The fidelity of character models, environments, and visual effects leave a lot to be desired, as this is not a showcase game by any means. There is an overarching theme of the game being an oil painting brought to life, and while some cutscenes are fully in-game, they include such shortcuts as generic mouth movements that continue whether the character is talking or not. Some “cutscenes” have a whimsical flourish applied to them, where the story is presented as a slideshow of various characters moving into different poses as they speak. Meanwhile, the player’s character is incorporated into these, with all current gear being properly rendered in this painting-like mode. It’s neat, but not nearly novel enough to make up for the fact that the story is rather uninspired. The player is basically enslaved as a lackey to an evil empire, and while eventually some of the curtain is drawn back on the world at large, the payoff hardly seems worth it.

A VERY Slow Start

This is one of Babylon’s Fall’s biggest problems – it begs the player to stay invested for around ten hours before unlocking some of the more crucial customization and upgrade systems. At that point, though, most people will be worn out from the middling combat experience if they weren’t already annoyed by the multiplayer options, or rather lack thereof. What happens when you stumble upon a piece of gear with a “god roll,” but its power level drags the rest of your build down? Your only option for what feels like forever is to simply equip something with a better power level but fewer enchantments, or not those that you particularly care for. Then, when the ability to merge equipment is finally unlocked, it costs a ton of resources and you’ll likely only have acquired enough materials to perform one merge, if you’re lucky. Be prepared to grind like you’re playing Warframe for free, only it’s not nearly as fun of a time, and you paid for this “privilege.”

The crux of Babylon’s Fall is that it is a multiplayer, four-player co-op game that consists of short levels which can be completed in around ten minutes or less with a full team. The first obvious problem, however, is that even at launch the game’s population is so low, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a full lobby except in the early and late stages of the campaign, where most players can be found. What’s more, if you wanted to wait around for a full team, the game does not let you. After what feels like a random amount of time, all player waiting for others to join will automatically have their status forced to ready, and the level auto-launches. If you’re going up against a tough boss, well, the game seems to say “good luck” as it boots you from the queue and drops you in alone. There are never any late additions of players coming in to help out after the level has loaded.

Rough Combat

Combat in Babylon’s Fall is so stiff, you’ll think you’ve gone back three console generations. Unskippable attack animations mean you’re locked into a move no matter what, while the combos available to players are more reminiscent of a Musou game than Platinum Games’ previous endeavors such as Bayonetta or Nier. Two unique aspects to combat do keep it from being completely banal, however. The Gideon Coffin strapped to the player’s back allows for spectral attacks to be unleashed. Every piece of gear can be used in these slots, which are fired by the L2 and R2 buttons. Most of these can be charged, and this can be done while also using traditional light and heavy attacks performed with the square and triangle buttons. This is something most players will need to adapt to – holding a shoulder trigger while still performing regular attacks takes a bit of training to remember, but the payoff is extra damage or defensive capabilities against enemies.

Speaking of enemies, many of them spawn in each level’s chapters, in what can feel like endless waves at times. A chapter consists of an enclosed space, where players must defeat all enemies in order to proceed. Players who are not in the area must enter it by approaching the forcefield and pressing circle – not too dissimilar than those mist fields you’ll find in a Soulsborne game. Many of these enemies are seemingly scaled with co-op in mind, since attempting to defeat them solo will be a challenge without being close to ten power levels above the recommended number. Dodging and parrying attacks are also options, which can give combat some sense of an ebb and flow like in other games.

There is a fun time to be found in Babylon’s Fall, for those who seek it or really love the grind. Earning a season rank will take at least five missions, oftentimes more. Finding a gear loadout that enables you to constantly bombard enemies as your health and SP recharge at a quick clip can be entertaining. Stacking enough buffs to make Dungeons & Dragons maestros blush is a testament to the surprisingly robust enchantment system Babylon’s Fall has buried within its code. But slogging through roughly ten hours of unenjoyable combat and an uninspired story will make any gamer question if they are having fun, or if their time could be spent better elsewhere. In most cases, the answer will unfortunately be yes.

Overpriced Premiums

Charging full price for a humdrum dungeon crawler is one thing. But we were given review codes for the digital deluxe copy of the game. Dear reader, please heed this warning: the digital deluxe version will probably anger those who purchase it. This edition includes some extra, presumably limited, accessories for player characters, which do shine in a nice animated way, and 1000 Garaz, also known as this game’s premium currency – about ten US dollars’ worth if purchased separately. Considering all owners of the game receive the premium Battle Pass for the first season, this is hardly worth the extra $40. There’s not even artwork, nor a soundtrack; one of Babylon’s Fall’s greatest aspects is its sweeping music, and even that wasn’t included in the ultra-premium copy. In case it still isn’t clear: the digital deluxe edition is not a good deal.

Babylon’s Fall seems like it needed a lot more development time. The core combat feels stiffer than my left wrist, which is currently recovering from a broken bone. Combining that with lackluster graphics and limited multiplayer options would be bad enough, but locking out key features of the game behind ten or so hours of gameplay makes Babylon’s Fall a very tough sell. Stacking microtransactions on top of it all leaves a nasty aftertaste that Platinum Games is going to have to wash out for a long time to come. Babylon’s Fall is good for some mindless, repetitive dungeon crawling, but certainly not for the launch MSRP of $59.99. This may be seen as Platinum Games’ fall from grace, but we’ve seen plenty of redemption stories in recent years. If any developer could do it, it could easily be Platinum Games.

5.0
  • Unique "cutscenes"
  • A good musical score
  • Combat can be interesting, occasionally...
  • ...but combat is generally stiff
  • Many features locked out without major campaign progress
  • Lackluster graphics
  • Already a ghost town online