some games surprise you. others give you exactly what you expect. There are games that are really good to be completely mediocreand those who are too bad they are great. All kinds are needed. What type is Square Enix’s aRPG The fall of Babylon? Genre everyone tells you is bad, but you play anyway because you don’t believe them, only to find out it was even worse than they said. Step aside Balan Wonderworld: the PS5 has a new worst game.
The fall of Babylon is a live-action RPG where you tediously battle your way through a mysterious tower while pushing the numbers up. Unfortunately, it’s controlling like Jell-O and combat is often a mess, while everything in between feels unpolished to incomplete.
It can be played solo or online with others, but the game will by default match you with strangers whenever you embark on a new mission. Between these escapades, you collect quests, upgrade your gear, and mingle with NPCs. The basic elements of a Destiny clone are there, but none of them fall into place, even remotely. It feels more like Anthemminus the visually arresting world or the satisfying Iron Man costumes.
English voice acting in The fall of Babylon varies between goofy and obnoxious. The menus and fonts, by which many live services have lived and died, seem torn from an old, long-forgotten MMO. Almost everything in the game is extremely blurry. An intentional design choice to try and imitate European oil paintings, in practice it just feels unfinished and ugly even after improvements would have been made. Cyberpunk 2077 looked better on my PS4 at launch than The fall of Babylon watch on my PS5 over a year later. The overall layout of the game, save for the music by composer Hiroshi Yamaguchi, made me squint, cringe, and roll my eyes all at once.
What about fights? The fall of Babylon is made by PlatinumGamesthe action powerhouse behind games like To deny: automata and Bayonet 2. It’s a house that could collapse in on itself and it would be fine, as long as the combined enemies were still satisfying. Unfortunately, it is not the case. The sprint is slow. Jumping is janky. Most fights turn into a rapid alternation of attacking and dodging until everything in front of you is dead The seeds of Automata are therebut it’s buried under chaotic fights geared toward bigger co-op squads and endless rehearsal in order to sustain post-launch live service ambitions.
The game is certainly not all bad. There are lots of cool ideas. A box magically grafted onto players’ backs, called Gideon’s Coffin, lets you telekinetically wield additional weapons powered by a meter that builds up as you land and dodge regular attacks. As a result, you can shoot someone with a bow, get in close and stab them with a sword, then finish them off with dual-wielding hammers. But it’s still too messy as it’s currently implemented to even begin to compensate for the game’s other issues.
Five hours into the game’s story feels similarly diluted by its live-service ambitions, which is to say it’s mostly nonsense piled on top of more nonsense like kids who make drip castles at the beach. You play as a sentry, conscripted into the army against your will in order to fight monsters in towering ruins known as Ziggurat, which are guarded by magical zombies and consist almost exclusively of narrow, sunny corridors. Many scenes offer only stilted exposition dumped by comrades in the dining room. Instead of exploring the ruins of the Ziggurat, the characters describe embarking on the current mission with text superimposed over static images.
There are mysterious prophecies, political intrigue, and plenty of idiosyncratic high-fantasy world-building, but none of it has much room or resources to shine in any meaningful way. Early on, a scene stuck out to me when a giant Sentinel – who seemed to have mutated and warped by the power of the Ziggurat – gave me his best warning in Jacob Marley before he was executed for apparent treason. The rest is somewhere between forgettable and “Oh my god, if you walk by and ask me what I’m doing in this game, I’ll die of embarrassment trying to explain it.”
But you don’t have to take my word for it. The fall of Babylon is currently the lowest rated PlayStation 5 game on Metacritic. That puts him under the busted-at-launch Grand Theft Auto remastered trilogy, Werewolf: Apocalypseand almost 10 points below Balan Wonderworld, the game where most buttons do the same thing. Out of 300 rated PS5 games on OpenCritic, The fall of Babylon is number 299, just in front of the most disastrous sports launch in recent memory, eFootball 2022.
The most positive review gave the game three out of five stars and said it gets really good after 3pm. According to IGN, however, the new modes and abilities unlocked in the final game “do little to change the actual gameplay experience”. Morbid fascination alone won’t propel me far enough to find out. I suggest you don’t let it get the better of you either, until The fall of Babylon ends up in the $5 bin. Even publisher Square Enix has tacitly acknowledged the issues, urging fans and gamers to provide investigative feedback on how it can fix the game. The fall of Babylon is apparently already planning his live service buyout tour.
Right now, that’s $60 for a game that should have been at least delayed, possibly canceled all together, or launched as a free Early Access experience aimed at gluttons for button mash. Although currently full price, The fall of Babylon also sports a season pass and microtransactions, and while most of the rewards are cosmetic, a few also affect weapon crafting and XP earned. That’s a bit crude, but publisher Square Enix, apparently unhappy with the record-breaking success of Final Fantasy XIVseems determined to try to force everything into the games-as-a-service model (I’m looking at you CU of chocobos).
The fall of Babylon opens with an unsuspecting crew of castaways forced to become Sentinels, through a painful and sometimes fatal ritual rendered in a cutscene that feels like a remake of a PS2 game. I have no idea if this doubles as a metaphor for the making of the game itself, but that was my first hint that the road ahead would be anything but fun. Creating games is hard. Making live service games is particularly difficult. I wish fewer companies tried to force them to exist.