Greed: Black Border ReviewJoe Shaffer
I'm known to make some terrible decisions. For instance, I once bought a whole slew of cheap games during a Steam Winter Sale, in spite of being in financial trouble. I also have a tendency to stay up until the wee hours of the morning either working overtime or playing video games. I then awaken at 7:30, scoot my older son off to school, and battle yawns for the rest of the morning before gulping down a serving or so of Essential Amino Energy to keep from zonking out. Do you want to know what the hell of it is? Sometimes, I fail to spend those late night relaxation hours playing or watching anything meaningful. I have scores of AAA titles in my backlog that I've neglected for years so I can play tripe like Greed: Black Border.
You might ask, "What would possess you to purchase that game? There are very few positive ratings for it found anywhere online." You see, we've come full circle now:
Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying Greed is a horrible game or anything. It's just your standard dungeon crawler, except set to a sci-fi theme instead of the familiar fantasy trappings found in just about every other roguelike. The rules haven't changed: you traverse an intricate network of corridors and rooms, off foes with high-tech weaponry, nab money and new pieces of equipment that might fall from their corpses, level up your character by manually boosting his stats and/or skills (which take the form of passive perks and special attacks or defensive techniques), and eventually encounter a boss. There's a merchant who appears after the first stage who's willing to buy your loot or sell you fresh armaments and restorative goods. Basically, I've just described Diablo and piles of other products that have aped it over the years.
The key difference between Greed and more effective Diablo clones is that Greed is a vanilla, by-the-books sort of game. For starters, you don't charge through a rich, intriguing game world with its own lore as you do in Titan Quest or Torchlight. Rather, Greed's stages take place in only three different locations: on a spaceship, on the surface of a desert planet, and through a cave, all three of which have been done to death in numerous video games. We're not talking three brief stages, either, as each area consists of three sub-levels that drag out each chapter's theme to the point of insanity. I mean, each sub-level lasts more than an hour if you're a thorough player like I am, so you're looking at close to five hours per theme. I honestly never wanted to look at another spacecraft or sand dune in a video game again.
It's funny when you think about it. The game loads you up with hours of familiar sights that seem bold and fresh at first. The visuals and lighting really are delightful, which is a shame. After about two or three hours of sand dunes or cave walls, even the heartiest of environmental graphics become banal. Thankfully, the game's animation remains thoroughly impressive, allowing for fluid movements and rarely succumbing to lag when villains begin to amass.
Sadly, one element shatters the game's solid animation: combat. At first glance, Greed might appear to be an Alien Shooter knockoff. However, in actuality it borrows more from Diablo than just its genre and rule systems, as even the mechanics from Blizzard's classic make an appearance. Let that sink in now. Greed's arsenal mostly features ranged automatic weapons, which would have worked wonderfully in a fast-paced, run 'n gun-ish game (ahem, like Alien Shooter). Diablo had ranged weapons as well, but plucking an arrow or throwing a spear required you to stop, which is understandable when working with more antiquated projectiles. Likewise, if you want to open fire in Greed, your character has to stop and aim his gun, which makes little sense. No, you cannot wag your barrel side-to-side and rain bullets on everything. You can only concentrate your fire on one monster at a time, though there are skills that allow bullets to pass through targets and damage others. The worst part of this, though, is that once you've defeated an enemy, you can't simply fix the cursor on another beast and continue unloading lead. You actually have to remove your finger from the fire button, aim at the next goon over, and press the Left Mouse Button again.
As you can imagine, Greed's biggest issues have to do with pacing. Here you have immense levels full of monsters you must pick off one at a time, unless you've managed to build up your multi-target offensive skills to the point that they can dish out a significant amount of punishment. Even then, skills have cool down times, so it's not as though you can barrage the opposition with frag grenades. More than anything, Greed is a tedious, repetitive game with some of the slowest and dullest shootouts I've seen in a long time.
I'm pretty sure there aren't a whole lot of people nowadays wondering if Greed: Black Border is worth their time. However, if you should chew your way through every roguelike on Steam, Desura, and GOG, you might find yourself getting desperate. You might then reach into the middle depths of the barrel and grasp the mediocre goods suspended there. That's where you'll find Greed, floating along with Fate and Legasista, but miles above games such as Ancient Evil. I suppose what I'm trying to say is that there are copious roguelikes and dungeon crawlers superior to Greed, but you can certainly locate lower quality products. Only download it if you've exhausted the good stuff.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.