Square Enix and Platinum Games’ troubled action RPG Babylon’s Fall sank to a concurrent PC player count of just one when the clock struck midnight BST on Wednesday last week, despite only launching a little over two months ago. It's a dire state of affairs for a multiplayer-focused online service game, but what exactly is it like to play a game like this on your own? Well, we found the lone warrior keeping Babylon's Fall alive, and sat down to have a chinwag with him about the appeal of the game, and exactly what they were up to when they found themselves the only living inhabitant in its Tower of Babel.
It wasn’t entirely surprising to find out that the individual drawn to virtually abandoned games would work in the field in some way. Dashiell Wood, who writes for esports site Gfinity in the UK, popped his hand up on Twitter over the weekend to claim the honour of being Babylon’s Fall’s most dedicated player when the game’s exceedingly low player counts came to light.
Not a joke this is literally me https://t.co/bSB3dfCId7— dash (@dashiellwood) May 7, 2022
Wood quickly took to heart the title of “Square’s bravest soldier” bestowed upon him by one commenter, even briefly changing his Twitter profile to read “World’s only Babylon’s Fall player, 00:00, 04/05/22”. Top lad. He must've been having a snooze yesterday at 1am though, because nobody was playing Babylon's Fall then, according to Steam Charts. Here's what Wood had to say about his new-found status:
RPS: What’s the appeal of Babylon’s Fall – is there something about the game you really enjoy?
DW: I suppose the appeal is in its unpopularity. Despite being an MMO, no one is really talking about it and I don’t imagine many people have even played it. When you factor in the fact that you can finish the vast majority of the game’s content solo, there’s something appealing about being one of the few people to experience it. It may not be a good experience, but it’s certainly unique.
RPS: Can you remember what you were doing in the game when you were the only active player last week?
DW: I was about to go to bed but just wanted to log on and check out the new Nier collaboration items in the in-game store. Unfortunately, the hub world isn’t particularly well designed, so most of the time I was just following an online guide to actually find the store’s location.
RPS: Do you think those kinds of issues contribute to the game's lack of active players?
DW: Not really, I think the foundations of a decent online game are there. For me the biggest problem is the visuals. Everything has this grimy, muddy brown filter to it. When you look at the screenshots on the store page or see gameplay in trailers, the last thing you think is “oh wow, this looks like a game I want to play”. They’ve tried to implement a few patches to mitigate it, but the graphics still look pretty dismal and I imagine it’s a huge turn-off for a lot of potential players.
RPS: Do you think you'll carry on playing Babylon's Fall? Could Platinum and Square Enix do anything with season two to add to those decent foundations?
DW: I’ve managed to finish both Balan Wonderworld and Left Alive, so I don’t intend to stop Babylon’s Fall anytime soon - at least not until I’ve got through the story content.
In terms of updates, I guess the best thing they could do is finally fix the visuals. Removing that filter would be a small, and presumably cheap, change that would do the game a world of good.
RPS: So you like underdog games? Is there any other little-loved live service game you think might appeal in the future?
DW: Not really. Maybe that’s what makes Babylon's Fall so appealing to me, there’s never been an AAA live service title to fly under the radar like this. Even the likes of Battleborn or Lawbreakers had a few weeks in the limelight.
Reactions to Babylon’s Fall at launch in March were a mixed bag, and it racked up a similar amount of positive and negative Steam reviews. Like Dashiell, reviewers thought the visuals weren’t up to snuff – one even said it “looks like a PS2 game” but cost as much as Elden Ring. Square Enix and Platinum Games ran a survey a few weeks after Babylon’s Fall hit Steam to ask what players thought of its graphics, so at least they took the criticism seriously. Enough that they took to Twitter not long after that to insist the game wasn’t “in danger”.
Ed was more complimentary about the graphics, although he called Platinum Games’ latest a “live disservice” in his Babylon’s Fall review. “The game hits you with the occasional stunning oil-painting backdrop, draws you in with the story for a split second,” he said. “Sometimes the bosses are super cool, or you'll do an awesome last minute dodge and you'll feel unstoppable. Somewhere, deep down, there's a sliver of the fantastic Platinum. But it's mired in what it thinks makes a live service game tick and loses itself as a result.”
Babylon’s Fall is on Steam for £60/$60/€70, but there’s a free demo if you want to try to take Dashiell’s crown as the lone active player when he’s busy with other things. Someone has to keep the Tower of Babel open.