Babylon’s Fall is a disastrous collaboration between PlatinumGames and Square-Enix that fails both as an action title and a live service game.
- Title: Babylon’s Fall
- Release Date: March 3, 2022
- Date of Death: February 28, 2023
- Suggested Audience Age: Rated Teen by the ESRB
- Availability: PlayStation 4/5, Microsoft Windows
- Recommended for fans of: Loot-based action games (such as Torchlight 3), masochism
It’s no secret that PlatinumGames’ “live service” action title, Babylon’s Fall, is a nearly-complete disaster. The last time the developer teamed up with publisher Square-Enix, we were blessed with the amazing Nier Automata, so I was looking forward to Babylon’s Fall despite the less-than-impressive trailers. Initial reviews and impressions were extremely negative, but I was undeterred and purchased a physical copy of the game after a significant price drop.
Shortly after my purchase, Square-Enix announced that all support for the title would cease on February 28, 2023, and that the game would be unplayable after that point even as in single-player. Given the hard deadline and a hefty dose of FoMO, I girded my loins and committed myself to playing through the entire story. I am sad to report that I am not a more enlightened human being for having done so.
Babylon’s Fall Squanders a Decent Premise
The story of Babylon’s Fall is centered around an enormous ziggurat within the city of Babylon and draws heavily from Mesopotamian mythology. That’s a decent start as not many games focus on the religions and customs of ancient Mesopotamia, but the story and its fusion of mythology and science-fiction (spoiler//not spoiler) sadly never lives up to the potential.
You play as a Sentinel of the Empire – a prisoner who has a mechanical device called a Gideon Coffin fused to their body, giving them superhuman abilities at the cost of their humanity. Sentinels are tasked with protecting the city of Babylon from the Gallu – a race of creatures that descend upon the city from the central ziggurat. The emperor’s daughter, Sophia, provides mission briefings and orders you to fight through the tower in search of a solution to the Gallu problem.
As you journey through the ziggurat’s cloisters, which are actually radically different biomes, you encounter a handful of NPCs who eventually become a ragtag squadron to aid your Sentinel – in cut-scenes only, of course. I bet you’d be shocked to hear that these NPCs happily lay down their lives one by one to help the chosen Sentinel progress through the ziggurat! Babylon’s Fall‘s story is chock-full of these writing cliches, with noble sacrifices and double (sometimes triple!) crosses occurring at regular intervals.
Traditional Combat with a Twist
At first glance, the action in Babylon’s Fall looks like it does in most other PlatinumGames efforts. You have light and heavy melee attacks, a dedicated dodge button, and a (strangely floaty) jump. Spectral attacks are the sole fresh idea here, allowing you to equip two additional weapons that are used by spectral tendrils emanating from your Sentinel’s Gideon Coffin. Spectral attacks differ from standard light and heavy attacks, often focusing more on ranged combat. Mixing and matching four weapons to find the most effective combination is satisfying and one of the few genuine compliments I can pay the game.
While experimenting with load-outs is fun, the game is surprisingly stingy about giving you decent loot for the majority of the core story missions. Babylon’s Fall lazily relies on the color-coded loot tiers popularized by games like Diablo, with grey and green items being common, blue being rare, and purple and gold being legendary and divine respectively. You’ll likely only get a handful of purple items while playing through the entire story, but that’s alright because you’ll likely be equipping entirely new armor and weapons between missions anyways.
Babylon’s Fall’s Mind-Numbing Gameplay Loop
Even if you are able to deck your Sentinel out with a full set of legendary equipment, Babylon’s Fall‘s mission structure becomes tedious very quickly. Each mission is separated into roughly four “chapters,” which are essentially closed-off arenas in which you battle several waves of Gallu enemies. After completing a chapter, you’re given a rather arbitrary rating based on performance, and then you work your way through a narrow corridor with some traps and platforming sections before reaching a large room with the next chapter. This is the structure for every single mission with the exception of major boss battles, and it gets very old very fast.
Crushing enemies with charged attacks and dodging at just the right time to trigger a devastating counter-attack bring back memories of PlatinumGames’ finer moments, but there’s really no reason to even bother with melee combat once you discover how effective the charged shots from a pair of spectral bows is. It didn’t take long before I developed a go-to strategy of running around in circles while charging up bow attacks. It’s a boring way to play, but more fun than being subjected to enemies’ infuriating invulnerability windows and paralyzing “roar” attacks.
It’s time to address the elephant in the room, which is the live service/”Games as a Service” (GaaS) aspect of Babylon’s Fall. GaaS has been a divisive topic for years now, with the publisher’s promise being that you can stick with a single game that is updated regularly over the course of years. The caveat here–and it’s a major one– is that live service games often require an Internet connection at all times, even when playing solo. And in the case of Babylon’s Fall, the end of support means the end of being able to play the game in any capacity.
The controversy with Babylon’s Fall is that pre-release marketing focused on single-player content, but the actual game heavily encourages multiplayer. It can be difficult to find others to group up with when you’re the only person playing on your platform of choice, and I had a hard time finding anyone to assist me even with a spurt of activity in the game’s final days. I did eventually have a couple of opportunities to group up with others online for missions and bosses, but it doesn’t make the game any more fun; it simply makes the missions go by faster.
A Remarkably Poor Presentation
It has become cliched to compare ugly graphics in modern games to the PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 generation, but it’s honestly the most viable comparison here. Environments are mostly brown and grey (though sometimes grey and brown), textures are muddy, and character models are hideous things-that-should-not-be. Cut scenes are shown through a painterly filter in an effort to make each shot look like an oil painting, but the end results are so far off the mark that it becomes laughably bad. It’s evident that this decision was made to mask the lack of budget and animation, but it still could have been handled better.
The soundtrack is somewhat generic and repetitive, but the operatic themes are occasionally rousing when used in the midst of an intense boss battle. The sound design in general is competent, and I especially appreciate the distinct chimes used for the rarest loot drops, which always trigger the desired Pavlovian response. Voice acting is one of the game’s bright spots, with a more-than-capable collection of UK-based talent. The voice actors give it their all, which is honestly more than this game deserves.
Is Babylon’s Fall Worth Playing At All?
I was afraid that I would be missing out on something–anything–worthwhile if I didn’t get to experience Babylon’s Fall before service ended. Those fears turned out to be unfounded, as the game has very few original ideas and is an absolute slog to get through. I played through the entirety of the story, including two post-game stories that combined are even longer than the base story. Heck, I even went a step further and got the Platinum PlayStation trophy, which requires a lot of grinding the dull “Siege” missions.
Would I recommend anyone with gaming FoMO check out Babylon’s Fall before it becomes unplayable? Nope. You’re probably better off watching videos of the cut-scenes and boss battles if only to admire the strong voice acting and laugh at the pitiful presentation. I’ve played worse (even from PlatinumGames), but it’s just too dull a slog to recommend to all but the most dedicated loot hounds out there. Here’s hoping PlatinumGames can bounce back from this disaster soon!