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Greed: Black Border Review

By Jeff Buckland, 1/31/2010

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Every once in a while some developer comes along, seemingly out of nowhere, to deliver a solid, fun game with a unique take on an established genre. After hearing a few good things about the futuristic action-RPG Greed: Black Border, I decided to give it a shot. I grabbed it on Steam and fired it up with little in the way of expectations and what I hoped was an open mind.

More than one time I heard that Greed is the sci-fi experience that Gas Powered Games' flop Space Siege should have been. It's true - this one's much better, but I quickly found that all of the nicely-crafted environments and RPG elements are just too shallow to keep my attention for long.

Sure, you can choose between three unique characters, level up, pick new talents out of a tree, and customize weapons and armor, but none of this has the depth that we've been expecting ever since Blizzard Entertainment released Diablo II almost a decade ago. There's also a rather frustrating checkpoint system that forces you to load from the last one (or restart a level entirely) when you die. You can't respawn and give it another shot without a loading screen. This baffles me, because it completely kills anything that would resemble a fast, fun pace.

Of course, it's not like the action here is exactly frantic in the first place. Your character moves slow, has to backtrack a lot, fights the same enemies repeatedly, and collects gear slowly. Throw in some difficult and annoying death traps that you're forced to navigate, and you'll quickly get sick of the game before even finishing the first level.

It doesn't really improve as you go on, though. While the artists did put together some impressive-looking environments to traverse, the level designers didn't seem to know what to do with the assets. Some of the best-looking designs are underused, while more mundane ones are seen repeatedly.

The action fares slightly better. Each of the three characters fights optimally at a different range, and the talents really do help you kill stuff faster, but you'll still have to spend at least a few seconds to kill just about everything you come across, making an encounter of even a few monsters tedious to get through. Your own personal shield system will be absorbing most of the damage you take, especially from projectiles fired from enemies. You can dodge in any direction with a tap of the space bar, but the ability to do this is on a cooldown that just feels too long to rely on most of the time.

Greed has all the makings of a solid, fun little action-RPG, but the developers seemed to want to slow down the pace by reducing the damage everything takes and instituting the checkpoint/no respawn system to force the player to be very cautious. There is a direct IP multiplayer mode, but as far as I can tell, there's no internet-based matchmaking. Since I knew no one who also owned this game, there's just no way to tell whether playing this online is any better.

But either way, the core game of Greed is just too slow and plodding to be worth it compared to loading up the old standby, Diablo II, or even most of its clones. It's too bad, because there's a solid foundation here from German developer Head Up Games, but they've got a long ways to go if they want to keep players' attentions. Games like these are all about hooking the player with constantly improving loot and abilities as well as fast-paced action, and without that, there's little point in pushing forward. If you're looking for something to keep you occupied until the release of Diablo III, this one will barely count as a blip in your gaming history.

Overall: 62%



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