Babylon's Fall, In Both A Metaphorical And A Literal Sense
Every now and again there's a game that manages to build up hype among its fanbase due to the developers and companies tied with the project. While screenshots and trailers may appear to be different from the originally intended product, fans will continue to uphold the same levels of hype. This tends to keep up until the game releases almost exactly as it was advertised. Then this leads to disappointment. Lots of disappointment. Babylon's Fall, a joint venture between two iconic studios, is the latest game in the hot seat.
Banking on the success of Nier Automata, PlatinumGames and Square wanted to take the same gameplay while making the leap to online multiplayer. Combining Automata's gameplay with an ecosystem similar to Final Fantasy 14 sounded like a perfect match. It was also revealed that PlatinumGames borrowed some of the latter's assets with the blessing of producer Naoki Yoshida himself. Initially thought of as "stealing from the game," It appeared that the more its players cried "foul" the more the developers had to explain themselves.
A Ticking Time Bomb Finally Exploding
After many betas, Babylon's Fall would release, carrying the same criticisms of the past. What was worse was that its release was smack in the middle of one of gaming's biggest months. Sandwiched between titles like Horizon Forbidden West and Elden Ring, Babylon's Fall had to bring something to the table. Something to deter its fanbase away from other quality AAA games and play their earnest project instead. One look at the many critical reviews would say that Square and PlatinumGames failed in doing so.
As always, the more controversial and infamous a game is, the more I'm inclined to develop my own opinion of it. When I finally had the chance to try out Babylon's Fall, I approached with muted expectations. The game greeted me with a familiar mouse cursor that could be moved with the analog sticks. Following this was a log-in prompt asking for my Square Enix account. Players who are familiar with the console version of Final Fantasy 14 should be familiar with this as it's a similar interface. Upon logging in, the player can then create their character.
Babylon's Fall Lacks In Customization But Its Graphics Are Misunderstood
The character creation, much like Final Fantasy 14 is basic, allowing players to select pre-existing head and face types. The skin color choices are rather bland and lackluster, but it makes sense once you consider the art style. Upon actually getting in the game itself, Babylon's Fall takes an aesthetic similar to an oil painting. The best way I can describe this aesthetic is similar to how Capcom's Dragon's Dogma handled it.
The colors are washed and muted, the models all appeared similar to brushed strokes, and it gives an "Earthy" appearance. It's not terrible, but for a PS5 title, the appearance may seem "low-quality." In all honesty, some of the textures looked baked on and it gives an appearance similar to a late PS3 title. Looking at the surrounding environments, however, it does appear like some quality was made for the textures. It's an awkward style choice but it works for Babylon's Fall once you get used to it.
The Gameplay Is Simply Put -- "Nier Automata" Lite
Babylon's Fall starts with your character being held as a prisoner among others just like them. They are all taken in to be used as test subjects to become something known as "Sentinels." Implanted on their backs is a shield-like device known as "Gideon's Coffin," which is the source of the Sentinel's power. However, those who are rejected by the device are slain, giving off the same energy as a Grey Warden trial in Dragon Age Origins. The three remaining survivors, including yourself, are immediately tasked to take on a foreign threat. This serves as the game's tutorial including a tutorial boss at the end.
If you've played a PlatinumGames title over the past decade, you've played Babylon's Fall except with a weird behind-the-back Gears-like camera. You got your light and heavy attacks, lock-on targets, and evasion maneuvers that slows down time just as the enemy attacks land. There is a considerable lack of polish compared to Nier Automata, Metal Gear Rising, and even Bayonetta. Its gameplay is similar, but something about Babylon's Fall feels odd. Perhaps it was rushed or perhaps it was meant to keep its aesthetics. I knew I needed more time with this game before coming to a conclusion.
"Not Terrible, But Not Impressive" - Justine, Persona 5
Babylon's Fall was released ten years too late in all honesty as I feel it would have been more successful were it released somewhere in the early 2010s. During that time, titles including White Knight Chronicles, God Eater, Ragnarok Odyssey, and of course Monster Hunter were released. It was a renaissance of titles that all took cues from the original Phantasy Star Online games. Babylon's Fall features a standard HUB world that includes shops and NPCs. There's a "quest board" that's used to go out on missions. After completing a mission you collect your spoils, progress the story, rinse and repeat.
I think the game's peril fell on players expecting something completely different. It's not a terrible game although the gameplay itself requires some getting used to. In a modern sense, however, it's not impressive especially considering its hype and the unfortunate timing of its release. What ultimately killed this game before it had a chance was simply its hype. That and the fact that things such as "freemium" battle passes are included in a game that players paid full price for.
Babylon's Fall Is A Downward Spiral But It Can Still Spread Its Wings
In games like Phantasy Star Online 2, it's accepted because the game is F2P. Here? Not so much. As a solo experience, Babylon's Fall is a fine experience. The ability to assign a different weapon to each attack button is unique and offers interesting combinations. The feeling is fleeting as it is once again a simple hack-and-slash in its core.
Run into a room, fight bad guys, get a grade, avoid traps, run into another room, rinse and repeat. I've played the first several missions and that was the general rule of thumb. Would I come back to this?
Maybe when the game has the inevitable price cut. I really do want Babylon's Fall to succeed as it's a victim of circumstance, but I'm not holding my breath. SQUARE PULLED THE PLUG alas good night, sweet prince.
Babylon's Fall is available on the PS4, PS5, and PC.