Square Enix learned nothing from Marvel’s Avengers. That much is clear after spending several hours with the Babylon’s Fall closed beta test. This new games-as-a-service action title from Square Enix and Bayonetta developer PlatinumGames focuses — perhaps too much — on retaining players for hundreds of hours as they grind for the best gear. Like most lousy games-as-a-service titles, it forgets to invest in the mechanics that make action games fun, instead offering a terrible grind destined to alienate players in its attempts to retain them.
In Babylon’s Fall, players scale “The Ziggurat,” a gigantic tower based on the Tower of Babel from the Bible and the Babylonian Empire’s Etemenanki ziggurat. This seemingly endless structure is home to all sorts of angelic and demonic creatures, with treasure glittering around every corner.
Players are implanted with the Gideon Coffin, a mysterious ancient relic that allows them to wield two physical and two spectral weapons. These float behind the player like 2B’s weapons in Nier Automata or Legion in Astral Chain. You can potentially pull off three attacks at once, which sounds like it would be a badass visual spectacle. Instead, the execution makes it feel more like a sluggish button-masher.
While it still has lots of other issues, the divisive painterly look of the game has been refined to look better.
PlatinumGames titles are usually fast-paced affairs where attacking, dodging, and reacting to enemies at the right time is the key to stringing together long and flashy combos. Babylon’s Fall combat feels slow by comparison and lacks any satisfying feeling of impact. Because the game must account for parties of up to four players, enemies barely react to any of your attacks as their lengthy health bars slowly trickle downward.
Enemies, objectives, and levels are all too repetitive, and you never feel like you’re working with your teammates so much as standing next to them spamming attacks. Mission rewards include new weapons and armor, but they aren’t exciting enough for such a boring adventure.
After just a few hours of this beta, it’s clear that Babylon’s Fall doesn’t have much to offer PlatinumGames or fantasy fans. It’s reminiscent of early Marvel’s Avengers, where a lack of variety made things stale. Babylon’s Fall repeats all of those mistakes, but in a game that’s slower and more repetitive.
You aren’t playing as famous superheroes either.
The Real Problem
In Square Enix’s 2021 annual report for shareholders, President Yosuke Matsuda brought up the struggles of Marvel’s Avengers. He suggested that Crystal Dynamics caused these issues because it wasn’t the right fit for a games-as-a-service title.
“Taking on the GaaS model highlighted issues that we are likely to face in future game development efforts, such as the need to select game designs that mesh with the unique attributes and tastes of our studios and development teams,” he said. “How we go about creating new experiences by incorporating this trend into our game design is a key question that we will need to answer going forward.”
As the next games-as-a-service title from Square Enix, Babylon’s Fall had the chance to answer that question. It doesn’t, and it won’t. Instead, it repeats many of the same blunders in a way that almost seems intentional. Admittedly, the development of this title overlapped with Marvel’s Avengers, but PlatinumGames still had a year to learn from Marvel’s Avengers’ mistakes to improve their game.
While Matsuda’s statement shifts the blame on the developers, the common denominator of both games is Square Enix.
If the Japanese publisher continues to put out games-as-a-service titles, it needs to reassess the approach. Deliberately grindy games are not fun, and a lack of engaging loot, enemy variety, and location variety will also bore players in the long term. Just look at what happened to Anthem.
Square Enix can’t expect players to embrace a title that is so slow and tedious. Marvel’s Avengers has spent the past year making up for its mistakes and just barely managed it had a solid core concept and recognizable characters. Babylon’s Fall also looks doomed to have a rocky launch, but its core seems too dull to salvage.