Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5
Release Date: March 4, 2022
Genre: Online Action/RPG
Someday, we’ll get a fascinating postmortem of Babylon’s Fall. I’ve spent a week with this multiplayer action/RPG, and I still cannot figure out what inspired two respectable companies to actually release it. Developer Platinum and publisher Square Enix routinely pump out best-in-class games, which deliver exciting gameplay, unforgettable stories and boundary-pushing graphics.
By contrast, the best thing I can say about Babylon’s Fall is that after this review is done, I won’t have to play it anymore.
With ugly graphics, boring gameplay and a story that, charitably, makes absolutely no sense, Babylon’s Fall is an appalling waste of time and talent. And frankly, while Square Enix and Platinum will surely patch the game soon, nothing short of a top-to-bottom revamp could make it worth playing. Read on for our full Babylon’s Fall review.
Babylon’s Fall review: Visuals and sound
Babylon’s Fall left a bad taste in my mouth from the moment I booted it up. That’s because it looks like a late-era PS2 game, no matter how high you crank your graphical settings.
With its dated character models, drab art style, blurry textures and bland level design, the graphics in Babylon’s Fall feel like a metaphor for the game itself. Everything you see here, you could have seen in a game about 15 years ago — and even then, it wouldn’t have been particularly impressive.
When you first boot up the game, you’ll choose a faction (which doesn’t seem to affect gameplay at all) and create your character from a pretty limited range of faces and body types. You play as a Sentinel: a warrior bound by magic, against his or her will, to fight on behalf of Neo Babylon.
From the moment you step off the boat into this sci-fi/fantasy city, you’ll see a lot of forgettable, gray-brown buildings and characters. You should get used to this, as you’ll be seeing a lot more of the same before your baffling quest is complete.
Even if you can look past the dreary visuals, Babylon’s Fall has little in the way of production values. The voice acting is gratingly over-the-top, complete with inconsistent pronunciation and frequent mic distortion. I couldn’t tell you anything about the music, other than the fact that the game has some.
Babylon’s Fall review: Story
Still, it would have been easy to overlook subpar graphics and sound if Babylon’s Fall had provided a gripping story, or a creative setting. Instead, we got something both generic and confusing, in equal measure.
The city of Neo Babylon employs magical warriors called Sentinels to fight against the Gallu: twisted monsters who can (and do) frequently invade the sprawling metropolis. Enslaving new recruits and forcing them to slaughter a poorly understood foe might seem like fodder for an interesting story, but nothing ever comes of it. Your silent avatar doesn’t seem to have any feelings on the matter one way or the other. Your allies, who never actually fight alongside you during the missions, sometimes rail against their Neo Babylonian overlords, and sometimes share drinks or crack jokes with them.
This is not the only area of uncertainty in the game. The game’s central city seems to be modeled after the Biblical Tower of Babel, suggesting Babylon’s Fall will incorporate Judeo-Christian themes and mythology. But then the enemies, such as the Gallu, seem to be based on Mesopotamian mythical archetypes — and the characters constantly reference Roman gods and beliefs. There’s no unifying principle behind this grab bag of religious and mythological references.
I would say that Babylon’s Fall has a lot of thematic inconsistencies, but there’s arguably not enough of a theme to begin with.
Even as the story advances, there’s not much to hang onto. Because your character has no personality and the side characters never actually join you, there’s too much distance to ever feel invested in the cast. The narrative itself is largely just an excuse to fight bigger foes in more distant corners of the city.
Babylon’s Fall: Gameplay
In spite of its visuals and story, Babylon’s Fall still could have been a marginally good time, if it had offered innovative — or at least entertaining — gameplay. Instead, the game is a protracted exercise in making arbitrary numbers go up. You could conceivably have a more interesting time working with a formula-heavy spreadsheet.
At its core, Babylon’s Fall is a live-service action/RPG. You start off in the Sentinel Force HQ hub area, where you can manage your inventory, speak to NPCs and accept quests. When a quest starts, you’ll wait for three other players, then set off into a self-contained questing zone. There, you’ll fight a bunch of unremarkable enemies, stopping occasionally to heal or open treasure chests, before toppling a boss and heading home.
The combat is a bland affair, and yet it can be a surprisingly convoluted one as well. You can string together combos with light and heavy attacks, although heavy attacks tend to land too slowly to be practical. You can lock onto enemies and dodge attacks, although neither one feels precise, particularly in conjunction with a camera that feels outright malicious at times. Most fights don’t require much strategy, relying instead on four players simply overwhelming any enemy they come across through constant button-mashing.
The one saving grace of the combat in Babylon’s Fall is that you can collect and equip a whole lot of different weapons and armor, and each weapon offers a slightly different playstyle. Swords are fast and precise; hammers are slow and damaging; bows give you distance, staves give you magic spells and so forth. Gathering new equipment is also somewhat interesting. The game will tell you the rarity of any new item you pick up, but you won’t actually learn what the item is until you complete a mission.
In practice, however, this is all just window-dressing. Babylon’s Fall is not about mastering the combat system; it’s about making your character’s numbers go up by any means necessary. Every story mission has an equipment level requirement. Underpowered characters can barely dish out damage; overpowered characters dish out a lot. There’s absolutely no reason to equip anything less than the most powerful gear you possess. At one point, I had four bows equipped — two in my regular weapon slots, and two in my special attack slots — because they were much higher-level than any other weapons I could find. And I breezed through the next story mission as a result.
While you can technically play the game solo, there’s no reason to, as it’s a real slog without other players. However, Babylon’s Fall doesn’t require a full four-person party for any mission, and if you stay on the “finding players” screen long enough, it will eventually just ship you out with an incomplete party. While the game’s difficulty adjusts depending on how many players are present, incomplete parties take even longer to complete missions, which only exacerbates how repetitive and shallow the combat feels.
As a live-service game, Babylon’s Fall offers a battle pass that you’ll eventually be able to buy. Frankly, the idea of spending $60 on this game is unjustifiable as-is; I can’t imagine how Square Enix plans to convince people to spend even more. Still, the battle pass has already carved out some interesting weapons, armor and perks, which feels predatory in a full-price game.
Babylon’s Fall: Verdict
Babylon’s Fall is easily the worst game I have played from a major publisher in years. In terms of Square Enix games, it seems to share the most DNA with the questionable Marvel’s Avengers. But even Avengers offered a solid core story and pleasant graphics. The fairest thing I can say about Babylon’s Fall is that it’s technically playable. The gameplay works as advertised, and I didn’t encounter any huge bugs or glitches. But I think it’s fair to expect better from the companies that brought us Bayonetta and Final Fantasy.
I played Babylon’s Fall during its short pre-release period, and had trouble finding parties because the game was so sparsely populated. According to Steam Charts, the game’s official launch has not improved that situation much. I hope that someday we learn the behind-the-scenes drama that led to this game’s launch, because it sounds like it would be a lot more interesting than actually playing Babylon’s Fall.