Review: Greed – Black Border (PC)

Greed: Black Border
Developer: HeadUp Games / Clockstone
Publisher: Meridian4
Genre: Action RPG
Release Date: 01/13/2010

So this is my second action RPG that I’ve reviewed this year, the first being FATE: The Traitor Soul. At first glance this one appears geared toward a much older audience and on the outset has a bit more depth to it. Under all the pretty atmosphere and lighting, does Greed: Black Border have the chops to stack up to what gamers expect?

Greed: Black Border is set in the future, when mankind has set out to colonize new worlds using the tried and true method of long term space travel. Governments have risen up and it’s a grim and gritty future that’s become the staple of sci-fi. A new discovery, an element called Ikarium which has nearly limitless energy possibilities, has sparked an inter-stellar war and a new kind of gold rush over the element. In steps your character.

You’ve got three choices to pick from, the former marine who was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit (the mid range gunner), a former member of a ‘cleaner’ unit who lost his stomach for the job (the short range flamer), and a former scientist who watched her whole team get wasted and is now on the run (the long range gunner). While I didn’t notice too much difference as the story unfolds, each of their back stories is kind of interesting although brief and you can pull them from the manual.

After you’ve picked your character you start off docking with a derelict mining vessel and then promptly get stuck there as the ship’s docking clamps lock your ship down so that the only way to get out is to make your way through the massive ship to the bridge and set you ship loose. Only not all is right on board the ship as the security system lets loose a swarm of robots to deal with you and you find the former crew has all been turned into some kind of zombies. Then there’s the mysterious ‘trader’ you meet who wants to take the ship and the Ikarium aboard out to where he can get the most money despite the risk of infection.

It is an interesting, if linear and straight-forward story line. Learning about the world through accessing terminals throughout helps immerse you in as they’re done up as news reports and journals and are neat to find.

There is a multi-player component to this as well, which my copy was working through Steam. I never actually managed to hook up with anyone while I was playing it, but unlike the single player you can keep going from the last checkpoint with your areas already explored as opposed to the save points where you’ll have to do all the work over again.

Story/Modes Rating: Great

This game looks amazing. From the detail work on the ship, to the layout of the lands, the look of the critters, the effects, the lighting. All are top notch and what you’d expect from a full fledged title. The lighting does an amazing job to set the mood as well as the environmental effects and look. While you’re more or less stuck with one view, you can rotate the camera around, but it’ll snap back. One thing that’s nice though is that as you move into an area, the walls vanish like they would if you were playing The Sims, so you can see where you’re shooting. And even if that wall is up, you can hover your mouse over an area you know there’s an enemy even if you can’t see him and they’ll highlight through wall so you know where your shots are going.

There’s not a ton of customization here. Each character has a pretty set look through a variety of armors, and for the most part there are some differences. I was very impressed with how this game looked while I was playing. Is it Dragon Age quality? No, but it’s damned good looking.

Graphics Rating: Incredible

One thing I always harp on a game about is it’s soundtrack. Developers never seem to put enough thought into this and in most of the games I play the soundtrack is there just for background noise, hell, even the regular sound effects as well. This game handles it a bit differently. The music for the game is this driving techno/industrial theme work that is very catchy (and you get for free on Steam!) and had me humming even after I turned the game off. Very cool.

Add to that the fact that there’s voice over work in this, on top of some great sound effects and ambient noise in the levels and I was in audio heaven. Well mostly. There were a few issues during some of the dialogue exchanges where the music completely overpowered the voice actors and the only reason I knew what was said was because of the automatic subtitles that popped up as they spoke. A bit of tweaking here and there would have turned this into one of my favorite games as far as audio goes.

Sound Rating: Incredible

Control and Gameplay
I only had a few control and gameplay screw-ups while I was playing. Most of the time the game played smooth, but every once in a while my secondary attack wouldn’t go off or went off late, or instead of firing long range on the target I had selected, the character would walk across the screen into the mass of enemies coming at me. Normally neither of these situations would result in me getting killed, but they were almost always at the wrong time.

If I thought FATE played a lot like Diablo II, then Greed is like the long ranged futuristic cousin to Diablo II. You move around with the mouse, but instead of having to click everywhere you can just hold down your mouse button and direct your target around to move. Same with weapons. Once you have a target you can just hold it down to unload on a target until the next one needs to be picked. You also get secondary attacks that fire off with your right mouse button.

A nice change is the addition of the keyboard. Well, kind of. The one real mechanic you’ll be going to your keyboard for is the ability to dodge out of the way of incoming blasts or other attacks. It takes a bit to recharge but it saved my butt on more than one occasion especially playing the somewhat weaker long ranged character. There are a nice variety of puzzles in the form of locked doors needing a keycard and a pass code that don’t take a genius to figure out, but you do have to find the clues to get the combination.

As with all action RPGs, you do run into inventory issues, but like Mass Effect, you can take gear you can’t sell right away and scrap it out. Instead of getting gel like in Mass Effect, sometimes you get upgrades for your weapons and armor, or you get leftover material that stacks in one slot that you can sell for a tidy sum for better gear, if you haven’t found it already.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Good

With three different classes, a set of difficulty settings and multiplayer, there’s a nice chunk of options to keep you coming back to this game, but really the game isn’t going to play out any differently story-wise. So really all it’ll offer on another play through is the chance to play with a different set of weapons and abilities, or to play through with some friends or other players online. But unless you’re obsessing over leet gear, you’re not going to find anything to really collect here.

Replayability Rating: Above Average

The game itself starts off pretty easy and as you move through each level the monsters and the challenges get progressively harder. So, the learning curve is far from steep, but even within the first level you’re going to find some real problems to get around if you’re not ready for them. Don’t expect to breeze through everything your first go around but don’t expect it to be impossible.

With the addition of multiplayer and several difficulties as well as lots of sprawling areas, you’re getting a pretty good deal for the price they’re looking for on Steam. It’s very reasonable, and the production values left me wondering why they didn’t charge a bit more for it. That is until I got to the end. The game is a bit on the short side, but again, there’s multiplayer and several difficulty settings to work through.

Balance Rating: Great

Wars over materials in a sci-fi setting and the survivors of traumatic events just trying to eke it all out? It’s been done before. Greed puts a fresh coat of paint on this, throwing some interesting bits into the mix, but really it feels like you’re playing Diablo II in space without the magic, and with technology in its place. Through all of this though, it does feel like something new and maybe even something that could be built upon with a few expansions or games to really flesh out this new universe.

Originality Rating: Good

Aside from getting frustrated at boss battles and trying to figure out puzzles, there was enough here to keep me interested and playing for a few hours on end. I do tend to wander quite a bit and never really stick to much of anything for very long, which can make reviewing some games a real chore. Not this one though. There was enough to keep me into it and wanting that next level to unlock another special agility and up my shields or health. Or maybe that next locker will have an even bigger gun. Or how do I kill that swarm of flesh-eating bugs?

Addictiveness Rating: Great

Appeal Factor
As good as this game looks, plus the option to play with friends, and the great price, I can’t see a reason to pass this one up. Sure the action RPG isn’t the most popular genre at the moment, but this game can and does have a decent enough audience to keep players interested even if you’re not actually playing it online. Especially considering the fact that the economy still sucks and the price point this game is at, you’re getting a great title that runs amazingly well on a machine that’d be a few years old or more.

Appeal Factor Rating: Incredible

PC games generally have a ton of bugs, especially given the amount of systems that can run games. I didn’t have any problems running this. In fact it ran smoothly. Just make sure before you try to play online to unblock the program in Windows or you really won’t connect to anyone, which isn’t the games fault. It’s more Microsoft being paranoid for you. Even if you have Steam unblocked and get this game that way, you’ll still have to unblock the executable.

I didn’t have this game do anything funky other than the few issues I had with gameplay. No weird crashes or anything like that. My one real complaint is that I couldn’t save where ever I wanted in single player and could only save at the checkpoints that are in the same places as they are in multiplayer which could lead to some long hikes to get back where I was if I had to turn the game off.

Miscellaneous Rating: Good

The Scores
Story/Modes Rating: Great
Graphics Rating: Incredible
Sound Rating: Incredible
Control and Gameplay Rating: Good
Replayability Rating: Above Average
Balance Rating: Great
Originality Rating: Good
Addictiveness Rating: Great
Appeal Factor Rating: Incredible
Miscellaneous Rating: Good

Short Attention Span Summary
asheresize Greed: Black Border really brings to mind a sci-fi version of Diablo II. With its simple control scheme and inventory set-up it’s easy to learn and play and offers a nice uphill challenge level that won’t leave first time players cursing themselves for picking it up. From the amazing visuals and effects as well as a well done sound track, you’ll get sucked into the world and want to keep amassing your own wealth and weapons. For the price-conscious this game is a no-brainer, and for the action RPG fan this is a must have.



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