Babylon’s Fall (PS5) Review: Paint By Numbers

Our review of Babylon’s Fall, developed by PlatinumGames. Available now for PS5 (reviewed), PS4, and PC.

Babylon's Fall (PS5) Review: Paint By Numbers


Yet another grind and microtransaction-heavy co-op online game. Except this time, one of the greatest studios in the world is making it!




Anyone willing to carry a PS5 around in their pocket.

Babylon's Fall (PS5) Review: Paint By Numbers


I miss Clover.

For a brief, glorious period from 2004-2007, Clover Studio was the Capcom subsidiary responsible for Viewtiful Joe, God Hand, and Ōkami, the second-best JRPG ever made. Ōkami is an outright masterpiece, a Japanese watercolour painting come to life, a Zelda-alike that’s better than any Zelda title (and yes, I’m looking at you, Breath of the Wild). Ōkami is beautiful, refined, funny, moving, epic, personal, and brilliant.

When Clover died, some of that Ōkami spirit died with it. Even after Clover was reborn as indie studio PlatinumGames, something was missing. In theory, Platinum’s total independence, no longer shackled to Capcom, should have allowed it to make any game it wanted. In practice, however, Platinum tends to churn out big, loud, brash action games. Some are the best ever made – Bayonetta, Metal Gear Rising, NieR: Automata – and some are the worst – there’s a god awful Ninja Turtles game lurking in there somewhere – but they’re all action-centric, lacking the quiet, elegant beauty of Ōkami, a game in which a wolf gradually heals the world by painting over it with a magical paintbrush. Nothing that Platinum has made since Ōkami, not even the critically revered NieR, has come close.

Platinum’s latest, the cheque-cashing Babylon’s Fall, represents everything gone wrong with the Studio Formerly Known as Clover. It’s okay to look at, it plays decently, but it’s an ugly and embarrassing example of the “live service” model that spoiled the otherwise decent Avengers game not so long ago. In Babylon’s Fall, you play as a loot-obsessed warrior taking on an endless cycle of missions where you kill foes, collect loot, grind out your stats, and then do it all again to score bigger and better loot. Mostly, though, it’s a microtransaction-centric loot box game, where you’re encouraged to spend real-world money to purchase items, abilities, or make cosmetic changes to your character’s appearance. Square-Enix is the publisher for both Babylon’s Fall and Avengers. It shows.

Babylon's Fall (PS5) Review: Paint By Numbers


Babylon’s Fall is being sold as the “painterly” action game, with an aesthetic supposedly inspired by European watercolour art. That’s a bold claim coming from the team that gave us Ōkami, and it’s also, like, not true? I’m genuinely confused by this. The ad copy and pre-release trailers all played up this supposed aesthetic, but when you finally boot up the game, it looks like any other action-RPG, albeit one released in the early-to-mid 2010s. The environments are blurry and washed out, the enemies are generic, and your character (you’re given three classes to choose from) is an unimpressively-rendered dude or dudette in medieval armour. If I squint hard enough, I can sort of see how the washed out visuals might have been intended as a “watercolour” style, but it mostly just looks dull.

Sadly, however, Babylon’s Fall‘s hollow core is its gameplay: there’s not much to do here, and yet there’s way too much of it to do if you want to make any progress. Babylon’s Fall is structured as follows: at any given time, there are a series of online-only missions that you can take on solo or with other players. It’s an action-RPG, and a Japanese one at that, which means your character wields a comically oversized sword, some customizable equipment which hovers directly behind your back (a mechanic lifted directly from previous Platinum games such as NieR), and the ability to fire off magic attacks. Also, if you dodge at the right moment, time slows for an instant – which is probably the most Platinum thing ever. Honestly, gameplay isn’t terrible, but it’s also nothing special. It’s also noticeably slower than previous Platinum games, and you may find yourself wishing for Vanquish‘s slide boost or Bayonetta‘s impossibly quick stiletto heels.

Babylon’s Fall most closely resembles one of those mobile gacha titles which are the bane of contemporary gaming. For the uninitiated, a gacha is a game in which the goal is to build a bigger and better collection of stuff – abilities, items, equipment – by acquiring randomized loot boxes. These loot boxes are either (a) unlocked through repetitive gameplay, or (b) purchased with real-world money. Gachas are designed to maximize addictiveness, inducing players into logging in daily to complete certain tasks. That’s insidious enough in a mobile game, but at least doable on your phone on the ride to work. Babylon’s Fall is structured identically, but it absolutely is not the type of game to merit booting up a PS5 for every day. Which, somewhat ironically, is exactly what I’ve been doing with Elden Ring, a fellow action-JRPG with zero microtransactions or gacha mechanics, but which offers, well, actual gameplay and meaningful rewards for conquering its challenges.

Babylon's Fall (PS5) Review: Paint By Numbers


Babylon’s Fall‘s release seems particularly ill-timed, coming so close on the heels of Elden Ring, that other JRPG for 2022. Like Elden Ring, Babylon’s Fall is an action-heavy role-playing game set in a fantasy landscape. Like Elden Ring, it asks players to grind for dozens of hours to improve their stats and unlock new equipment. Like Elden Ring, it has a central multiplayer component, rewarding cooperative play. And to its credit, Babylon’s Fall, unlike Elden Ring, is not controller-breakingly difficult. I actually won my first boss battle in Babylon’s Fall, and it was fairly satisfying. (If you want to see how I fared with Elden Ring‘s first boss, check out my review here.)

That last point highlights one other similarity, which probably explains why Babylon’s Fall is sitting here, unloved, on my PS5 hard drive. Which is this: both titles cater to fairly specific audiences, and both are equally reviled by those who do not “get” them.

Elden Ring, despite its blockbuster trappings, is fundamentally a game for masochists. It punishes you at every turn, even as it rewards you with more enthralling content the deeper you go. A lot of people think Elden Ring is a masterpiece, but a lot of people really despise its particular brand of “masocore” gaming. I don’t blame them. It’s okay to not want to bang your virtual head into a virtual wall for twenty hours in order to defeat a single boss.

Nobody could mistake Babylon’s Fall for a masterpiece, but, like Elden Ring, it’s out here doing its own thing, indifferent to the hostility engendered by its chosen genre. I, for one, loathe all this gacha nonsense, and I will never not criticize a game that tricks players into spending real money on random virtual goods. (Did FarmVille teach you people nothing?!) But for those really into this sort of thing, who don’t mind the stress of logging in daily to your PS5 for a chance to claim random loot, Babylon’s Fall might be right up your alley.

Do yourselves a favour, though: in between those daily logins, please, please check out Ōkami. As it happens, it’s on sale for $14.00 on PSN right now.

Final score: 5/10 goddamn loot boxes.

Visit the official page for Babylon’s Fall here.