Imagine a chair. Like, a really good chair. The kind of chair that your Pop-pop used to have. The one that he would sit in for hours watching Mel Brooks films and sipping on his “adult juice.” This chair has everything you need. Soft cushions, a heating pad, reclining mode, and excellent lumbar support. Now, start to strip away all of its components, remove everything that doesn’t serve its function as a chair. What you’re left with is a hunk of mass that you can sit on. That’s how I’d describe Babylon’s Fall in its current state: Technically a chair.
Platinum Games recently held a closed beta event for Babylon’s Fall, where players got a brief peek at what the game looks like and feels like. The Bayonetta developer is highly regarded as a development studio that focuses on high-speed and visceral combat that’s filled with flamboyant flair. The beta test for Babylon’s Fall strips away most of everything that Platinum Games is known for, and mainly showcases its combat, with very little fanfare.
Without the stylized art, unique characters, or a sense of progression, Babylon’s Fall is currently difficult to grasp. If the final game adds everything Platinum is known for, then this could be another hit for the studio. If it doesn’t, it could wind up being a shadow of the studio’s better games.
Babylon’s Fall is about heroes venturing into the Tower of Babylon to confront the evils that reside there. I think? Knowing very little about the game, I went into the beta test to try and see if I could learn more about the story and the world that encapsulates it. Unfortunately, that did not happen. I was dropped into an underwhelming character creator and was told to pick a lineage for my character with very little context. Each lineage has unique abilities, but since most of them overlapped with each other and I didn’t know what “tethering” means here, I felt completely in the dark.
After character creation, I entered the hub city that was populated with other players but had very few NPCs to interact with. This made the hub feel very hollow. There were plenty of spaces, rooms, and buildings that will clearly have important characters to interact with, but for now, it was just empty space. The only characters I could interact with were a shop owner that I could sell my equipment to and the quest giver, who would not give me a quest and instead just directed me to interact with the quest board right next to them.
This was clearly deliberate, as the developers wanted us to just focus on the main core of the game: Going into a quest and fighting. The quests themselves are a collection of fighting stages separated by some weak platforming puzzles. Once a player gets to a fighting stage, they are welcomed by scores of enemies or a boss, or sometimes both. This is where the beta test really begins and introduces the players to the Gideon Coffin, which is basically the magical reason why players can use four weapons at a time. Each weapon is assigned to a different button or trigger and will do different things depending on where you slot them.
For instance, a sword in the light attack slot will be your main weapon to attack, whereas a hammer assigned to a trigger will do a devastating area-of-effect (A0E) attack at the cost of the player’s spirit meter. Depending on how a player customizes their weapon loadout will determine the kinds of combos that they can execute. There are plenty of ways to do that, and many combinations that can fulfill a variety of playing styles.
It did feel good to figure out what weapon loadout worked best for me. It felt great using two hammers on my triggers to wreak major AoE damage to initiate combat before flowing seamlessly into a flurry of light attacks from my sword and then picking off enemies with my bow in my heavy attack slot. I could execute aerial combos with ease and do devastating damage if I timed my attacks correctly. If you’re familiar with the combat styles of other Platinum Games’ titles, then this should be an easy flow to get into.
However, once you take a step further and look at what else the game has to offer, you might be disappointed, as there really wasn’t anything else there. The enemies aren’t as inspiring as usual Platinum foes, and their rudimentary tactics were blatant and easy to exploit. The combat encounters do very little to differentiate themselves from each other. Besides the occasional flyer or ranged enemy, each encounter feels exactly like the last. There really isn’t a reason to change up tactics, as any combo will generally work on an enemy. The platforming aspect of the game isn’t engaging yet and feels like it’s only there to fill time.
After completing a quest, I was showered with new gear options to outfit my character. In the beta, there was some room for customization, but nothing out of the ordinary. There were options for lighter armor for faster dodging or heavier armor for more defense. The weapons only offered raw stat increases, which made progression feel dull. The only reason why I would grind for new gear is to make sure your damage numbers go up. There was nothing to look forward to, or a build to plan.
Games like Monster Hunter Rise fall into a similar rut, but have built-in mechanics to help hide these shortcomings. Rise offers raw increase in gear, but also has passive effects that can drastically alter playing style. Not only that, but thanks to the A.I. of the monsters, each hunt feels dynamic. Even if you are hunting the same monster, with the same party, the same gear, and the same location, the fight can be completely different thanks to the actions of the players and the monster they fight. In Babylon’s Fall, there is nothing dynamic happening in the fights. They start to blend together, which leads to mindless grinding.
My experience with Babylon’s Fall felt like a showcase of combat and nothing else. It simply highlighted the actual mechanics of combat and how it feels to execute them. Fortunately, the combat feels good (as you’d expect from Platinum), but everything surrounding it lacks character so far. No bells, no whistles, no over-the-top characters, and no colorful lights. Without those hallmarks, Babylon’s Fall’s combat doesn’t seem like enough to hold my attention. However, if those other components are lurking deeper beyond the limits of the beta, then this game has the potential to be something special.