The tragedy of BABYLON’S FALL is that it was honestly not a bad game. I should know: I’ve played bad video games before – the kind of video games that make you go “How and why did this ever get published? Why did no one stop them?” BABYLON’S FALL was not a good video game either. It is not the kind of game that makes you want to pick it up and spam just a few dungeon raids before you go to bed or try to run an extra story mission or two to help a stranger out. Instead, BABYLON’S FALL was a perfectly average game that had flashes of great brilliance that just never quite escaped the mediocrity surrounding it.

In this installment of A Retrospective Look, I will be looking back at BABYLON’S FALL: the good and the bad, through a 2024 lens. This game was originally released on March 4, 2022, and end of service was less than a year later on February 27, 2023. While not a lot of time has passed since the servers were officially shut down, more than enough time has passed to look back at this game and talk about what worked – and what didn’t.

I am one of the few video game industry journalists who can really write about BABYLON’S FALL: I completed the main story and both substories, I carried new players through story content, I had actually competed in Duels (which I will talk about), and I ultimately Platinumed the game on PlayStation 5. I came onboard towards the end of service after the sunset date for the game was announced, but I had enough time to do everything possible. As a result, I saw all of the ins and outs of Neo Babylon and about the curse of having a Gideon Coffin.

Finally, all of the photos taken herein were done by me. I took photos throughout BABYLON’S FALL as I was playing the game, as I knew that I would want to write about this game someday.

So, without further ado…Let’s take a trip back into the defunct world of Neo Babylon.

Worldbuilding And Storytelling In A Cursed World

The world of BABYLON’S FALL was one of its two greatest strengths, with the other being the combat system (more on that later). The worldbuilding was intriguing conceptually: you were a Sentinel prisoner who had a Gideon Coffin integrated into your body and were forced under the threat of torture to climb a ziggurat structure in a fantasy world of different environments until you reached the top. Once at the top, you used your Gideon Coffin to put out the Blue Sun and end the plague murdering the people of Neo Babylon. As you reached the top of the ziggurat while losing friends and gaining new allies, you eventually discovered this fantasy realm exists beneath a dystopian-esque sci-fi society that actually created the Blue Sun and artificial sky Neo Babylon exists beneath.

BABYLON'S FALL | Neo Babylon
These two pictures really show the different aspects of BABYLON’S FALL: Above is the high fantasy of Neo Babylon, and below is the sci-fi of Elysium. (Photos by author).

The two substories, The Resurgence and The Tale of Two Ziggurats, built upon the ending of the first storyline and revealed what happened to Gallagher after he disappeared early on in the main game and turned into a Gallu (think gameplay enemies), introduced a war between different fractions of entities who were all once part of the Empire that controls Neo Babylon, and introduced people from yet another part of the world at large as they dealt with their own sun-infested sicknesses.

And that’s when time travel and teleportation were introduced.

BABYLON'S FALL | Issun talks about time travel
No, really. Time travel. (Photo by author).

BABYLON’S FALL worldbuilding was absolutely bonkers and really cool in concept, even in 2024. I am a major fan of the clash between fantasy and science fiction, especially when there is a realistically sound reason for both existing side by side. The city of Neo Babylon often felt like it truly existed, and while a bit small, was a place I genuinely enjoyed spending time in. Even the different environments as you climbed the Tower to reach the Blue Sun and find out that everything you know was simply more complicated than you could ever understand really drew me in and made me want to see what is next.

All of this makes the game’s biggest problem, the story’s execution, that much more frustrating. There is an old storytelling adage: “Show, don’t tell”, and BABYLON’S FALL often ended up doing a lot of talking with little actual showing.

One of the most egregious examples was in The Tale of Two Ziggurats, when there was a lot of talk about teleporting between Neo Babylon and the city of Waseto and about the dangers of getting stuck in a wall. In the next cutscene, we find out things did indeed go wrong with teleporting from one Ziggurat city to another! Clearly, all of this exposition was about to pay off. Instead…we didn’t see any of that. Frustratingly, we were told it all turned out okay because everyone simply walked the rest of the distance in a bit of exposition and the game carried on like nothing happened.

BABYLON'S FALL | Dialogue inside the tower
Even though you are part of a trio with Gallagher and Sylvi in the main game, you will never, ever see another NPC character inside a dungeon. Instead, so much of the in-dungeon story is told through overheard dialogue and text. (Photo by author).

There is also a real problem with how the characters were depicted. Gallagher, who was one of your ‘Sentinel trio’ at the beginning of the game, overused his Giddeon Coffin and became a Gallu early on in the main story. He was a fairly disagreeable character personality-wise who then disappeared for the entirety of the first game, only to return as one of the antagonists of the two substories. Sylvi, who was the other member of your ‘trio,’ keeps talking about Gallagher throughout the remainder of the main story and tried to use him as an emotional focal point of the story that…just did not work because of his awful personality was and how little of the story he was ultimately present for. The most interesting character out of the entire cast through all three stories was Sophia, who lead the Sentinel force and was the daughter of the emperor of Neo Babylon. However, her turn from torturous and forceful imperial dog to stalwart ally and believer in the Sentinels came out of almost nowhere during the main game, and it didn’t feel truly earned beyond something we were told happened.

BABYLON'S FALL | Galatea and Pygmalion
Galatea (top left) and Pygmalion (top right) are two halves of a Sentinel who sustained a nearly fatal wound on a mission, Ishum -think wise person who knows more than he lets on about the world, as seen below- (below) split them into two parts that are inextricably linked. Coincidentally, Galatea/Pygmalion and Ishum are my favorite characters. (Photos by author).

BABYLON'S FALL | Issun warning player.

All that said, one of my favorite story beat moments of BABYLON’S FALL came at the end of The Tale of Two Ziggurat when two characters actually listened to each other, and a conversation solved everything.

Gallagher had the key (a literal key!) needed to stop the sun over Waseto from killing its people with disease. He and Sophia, who tortured him when he was still a Sentinel early on in the main story, stop and talk. Galagher talks about the Sentinels and how they should end, and he talked about his friends called ‘The Creatures’ that managed to keep their minds intact despite the Gideon Coffins taking them over. Sophia listens and tells him the Sentinel program will be ended. Gallagher was then willing to give up the key in exchange for a fight with the main character, no matter who wins, because Sophia was willing to end the Sentinels for good.

BABYLON'S FALL | Sophia Disbanding the Sentinels
A simple conversation, and two enemies listening to each other, is all it takes to resolve the central conflict of The Tale of Two Ziggurats. (Photos by author).

BABYLON'S FALL | Gallagher conceding in exchange for a fight.

It is rare in video games when you have two people who resolve their issues and the central plot conflict by listening to what the other has to say. This peaceful story resolution and the ensuing fight between my character and Gallagher felt more like a demonstration match than anything that had the fate of the world hanging in the balance. And honestly? Whether in 2023 or in 2024, I loved that. I just wish that brilliant bit of BABYLON’S FALL’s storytelling wasn’t wrapped in such frustratingly awful writing in so many other places.

How Many Buttons Can You Mash At Once, And For How Long Can You Do It?

I have gone on and on about the story of BABYLON’S FALL, and now it is time to turn to the other major aspect of this action-adventure game: combat. You could equip four weapons at once: A light attack weapon that uses the Square button, a heavy attack button that uses the Triangle button, and two additional weapons tied to the L2 and R2 triggers that also utilized a special meter at the top left of the screen that constantly refilled. One of PlatinumGames’ signature game design skills is to create a unique combat system, and they absolutely did that here as it was fun to see four weapons flying around and attacking everything on the screen all at once.

BABYLON’S FALL’s level system seemed to almost be a carbon copy of the Light system from the first Destiny game: your character level did not matter so much as your average equipment level did. The higher average equipment level your character had, the better you’d do in dungeons. This was especially relevant as each stage had a recommended gear level, and your character would honestly struggle if you weren’t at or above it. Every chest your character encountered, and a lot of Gallu or bosses you fought, dropped randomized gear around the same level as your character.

BABYLON'S FALL | Gear and weapon options.
There are many different weapons available, but the most important characteristic is always weapon level. As you can see here, there are also multiple slots to fill for multiple weapons and gear items. (Photos by author.

This constant gear loot system, coupled with the ‘suggested’ gear levels for each stage, had the amazing effect of forcing me to try out every single weapon in the game. I wanted to initially only use ranged bows and magic to fight with, but I kept getting swords and heavy axes, and so I would have to switch up my combat style constantly in order to ensure I was continually creeping my power level upwards as I marched upwards through the ziggurat. You couldn’t simply just equip your ideal weapons and mindlessly go through BABYLON’S FALL, because you would absolutely fail if you tried to do so. There was a lot of real strategy in figuring out how each weapon worked in battle and how to have them all work together in a way to kill off enemies as fast as possible.

In additional to getting drops after each dungeon, you could also craft higher level weapons and gear by melding weapons/gear together. As you got into higher and higher gear levels, this proved to be essential in order to complete the game.

BABYLON'S FALL | Melding Gear.
Melding gear was essential to complete BABYLON’S FALL, and you would have to provide Ishum with various required materials to make it happen. (Photo by author).

And yet, once you got to the recommended gear level or even just a level or two above it, every fight turned into a button mashfest as I was constantly just pressing Square and Triangle and L2 and R2 as fast as possible to slaughter all the enemies in my way. Even when I was engaging in a boss fight, with the sole exception of the first and third substory final bosses (Nergal and Ereshkigal), I did not have to learn any battle mechanics or boss patterns in order to survive. Instead, I would find myself simply slaughtering the boss’s HP down to nearly zero just by walking up to them and spamming button presses as quickly as possible. And unfortunately, the end of mission fights often repeated the same boss fights over and over and over again, with the only difference being they were now stronger than before.

BABYLON'S FALL | Weapons attached to the Gideon Coffin.
The Giddeon Coffin allows you to access four weapons at once in a way that reminded me of the Power of Kings (aka Armiger Arsenal) from FINAL FANTASY XV. Below is what most battles would look like- just a mash of buttons to kill everything quickly. (Photos by author).

BABYLON'S FALL | What combat looked like.

This repetitive gameplay was very anticlimactic, and the glee of combat wore off as my hands started to ache from the nonstop quick and mindless mashing. Ultimately, I took dayslong breaks from BABYLON’S FALL not because I wanted to, but because my hands were hurting enough that I felt like I had to. This kind of button-mashing gameplay doesn’t really have a place in 2022 or 2024, unfortunately, and it is a shame that such an intricate weapon and gear system was reduced to such mindless gameplay.

BABYLON'S FALL | Tale of Two Ziggurats Final Boss
Unfortunately, you only needed to really learn fight mechanics for the final boss fight of the main story and of A Tale of Two Ziggurats. (Photo by author).

Cutscenes As European-Style Oil Paintings

One of BABYLON’S FALL‘s game directors, Kenji Saito, participated in a SQUARE ENIX-hosted interview published on May 18, 2022, and talked about the game’s development and what players could expect in Season 2 (which turned out to be the last season) of the game. Among other things, he dove into the art style of BABYLON’S FALL: they “debated lots of options and ultimately decided to go with quite a distinctive visual style” of “very high fantasy, so we set out in a fairly old-school ‘classic fantasy art’ direction with an European oil painting aesthetic” that “employs a palette of strong hues with deep contrasts to create painting like graphics that convey a sense of weight, presence, and colour.”

Triple-A video games have, since the days of the Sega Saturn, Nintendo 64, and PlayStation One, pushed for more and more realistic graphics in cutscenes and the gameplay world and you don’t have to look much further than SQUARE ENIX’s own FINAL FANTASY XVI to see how true this is. Alternatively, there has also been an 8-bit and 16-bit renaissance of pixelated graphics emerging as well.  This constant pushing of more polygons and more realistic graphics (or reversion to age-old graphics) makes PlantinumGames’s BABYLON’S FALL all the more unique, and I genuinely think they succeeded.

BABYLON'S FALL | Storytelling through still images.
Above, we have a moment with Arwia that is shown as a still painting. Below, we have a final boss fully animated out. Both of these scenes are important to the overall story of BABYLON’S FALL, but the inconsistency in how they are shown to the player drove me crazy. (Photos by author).

BABYLON’S FALL stands out among video games as having, whether you love it or hate it, a striking and distinctive graphical design that doesn’t fit in in 2024 in all the best ways.  When you see an image from BABYLON’S FALL, you KNOW it is from BABYLON’S FALL. The European oil painting aesthetic, as they put it, is absolutely gorgeous and one of the things that I could not get enough of.

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There was also that one time when Ishum told the history of the world through drawings.

That said, I wish PlatinumGames would have picked a cutscene mechanic and stuck with it. I talked earlier about showing and not telling, and how that is an important story mechanic. When so much of the storyline is told through still images that the game shifts between, no matter how absolutely beautiful they are, it has the effect of dragging BABYLON’S FALL into visual novel territory (and I do love visual novels). And ultimately, that would be fine, if the game had used it uniformly throughout. Yet, for so much of the game as well, BABYLON’S FALL used traditional cutscenes with in-game graphics to tell the story, too. And it wasn’t even that one cutscene method was relegated for important scenes over another – both would be used interchangeably for everything, and it proved to be distracting as I would often wonder why they picked one method over another instead of just enjoying the game ‘in the moment.’

Ultimately, despite the gorgeous graphical style, the inability to pick a consistent cutscene storytelling method hurt BABYLON’S FALL more it than it helped.

Skirmishes, Duels, And The Art Of Having Optional Content

If you weren’t completing the main story content for BABYLON’S FALL, then could complete option side content that really fell into two groups: Skirmishes and Duels.

Skirmishes were optional side content that really existed only to obtain incredibly rare items for crafting. While said rare items were often available also through story missions, they had a much, much rarer drop rate than in Skirmishes. Thus, there was a real incentive to play that content. Unfortunately, Skirmishes were just waves of enemies being thrown against you that you had to kill over and over again. Just like enemies in the main storylines, this turned Skirmishes into a button-mashing spamfest more than anything else since the Skirmishes just repeated themselves over and over again in content – and once you found one that you liked, you had no real reason to do any other for drops.

BABYLON'S FALL | Free and Premium Battle Pass
You could also get some rare crafting items through the free and paid battle passes. (Photo by author).

While Skirmishes weren’t well developed, Duels were the complete opposite, and it was absolutely the best content BABYLON’S FALL had to offer. In a Duel, you took a boss fight you had previously just button-mashed through and it turned the fight up to 11. You now had to learn the boss mechanics, learn when to fight and when to dodge, and how to equip yourself for the strongest chance of winning. And if you won? Amazing drops that would make your character even stronger.

BABYLON'S FALL | Start of a Duel.
Duels were the absolute best part of BABYLON’S FALL. One slip up, and you can easily lose. And if you win? You get amazing, unique, drops like below. (Photos by author).

BABYLON'S FALL | Duel drop

Duels were what I wanted all of the boss fights in BABYLON’S FALL to be, instead of the mindless fights they turned out to be if you just spent some time increasing your gear and weapon levels beforehand. They really showcased the handcrafted care and love that PlatinumGames put into BABYLON’S FALL, and I couldn’t get enough of it.

While Skirmishes were not exactly riveting content in 2022 or in 2024, Duels felt fresh and new, and I still crave content like that in 2024.

Playing Well With Others

BABYLON’S FALL‘s greatest strength was the fact it was intended to be a multiplayer game where people would work together to complete everything outside of Duels. If you had someone to play with, storyline dungeons went quicker, Skirmishes were won faster, and you could even interact with people in Neo Babylon with emotes!

BABYLON'S FALL | Different Emotes
While you could not actively chat with other players in BABYLON’S FALL, you could use a set of default emotes -or buy them from Pygmalion/Galatea- for use in Neo Babylon. (Photo by author).

I was lucky enough to play story content with a handful of other players a few times, and that hooked me hard. While, yes, the battles were still mindless button-mashing, you could also see other people with different weapon and skill setups fighting alongside you. I completed part of my initial storyline run with another player who kindly shepherded me through some of the content early on until I understood how the weapon and gear level system worked and could manage on my own. Towards the end of service, I found myself frequently helping new players trying to achieve that Platinum in getting through storyline content by shepherding myself.

Unfortunately, there were only few players who really spent time in BABYLON’S FALL. This photo, from when I started out, was one of the few times that I partnered up with someone for the main storyline. (Photo by author).

Unfortunately, I was never able to party with more than one person at a time – and with the low player base, that wasn’t really a surprise. BABYLON’S FALL would have really shined if more people could have been enticed to play the game – though I don’t really know how that would have been accomplished other than to make it free-to-play. Good multiplayer experiences are timeless and makes it incredibly poignant as a gameplay mechanic in 2024.

And there you have it!

While BABYLON’S FALL had elements that are still fresh and incredibly relevant in 2024, there are a number of development and storytelling elements that held it back despite its incredibly recent 2022 release. Unfortunately, with BABYLON’S FALL now being permanently offline, gamers will no longer be able to experience the good – and the bad – of this SQUARE ENIX and PlatinumGames title. And there really was plenty of both in this game.

If BABYLON’S FALL was released today, I unfortunately think it would still suffer the same reception. The storytelling methodology and the combat needed more work, and that wouldn’t change whether it was 2022 or 2024. That said, when BABYLON’S FALL got something right, it landed hard and all of that – be it the atmosphere, weapon leveling, or Duels – would still work in 2024. Ultimately? BABYLON’S FALL is, as I stated at the very start, not a bad game. It just is not a good game either, but it could have been with more players and more time to really develop Neo Babylon and the world within it.

Next time, I turn my attention to what is seen as a classic: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker as we approach its 21st birthday later this month. Please be sure to check in then to see my thoughts about this entry in the storied The Legend of Zelda franchise!

BABYLON'S FALL | end of service sign
End of Service and of Neo Babylon. (Photo by author).

What are your thoughts on BABYLON’S FALL?

Do you wish we could have gotten more stories set in the world of Neo Babylon?

Let me know in the comments below!

Quentin H.
I have been a journalist for oprainfall since 2015, and I have loved every moment of it.