by Thomas Mikkelsen
reviewed on PC
In a steampunk inspired world of dark and light powers, where Elores (anthropomorphic animals) walk among humans serving as a placeholder for racism since there are apparently no non-white humans in this world, and where mad scientists go through bodies like batteries in their attempts to create people capable of harnessing the world’s powers without mechanical contraptions strapped to them, you find yourself haunted by dark entities and, at the same time and seemingly unrelated, in the middle of an invasion by a neighbouring state. (Confused? You’re not alone.)
A short intro presents you with the game’s antagonist, a mad scientists who has a man strapped to a machine feeding power into his body. The power goes out and the experiment is foiled. Frustrated, he tells his Igor-like minions to discard the body with the others and fetch him a new subject. Later, Alister, an elite soldier, jumps on the back of a Valkyrie who flies far out of the city as they fight on the back of her hoverbike. Alister falls off but manages to break his fall just before crashing into the ground using his dark powered shield. He finds himself in a dark forest, surrounded by bodies, all wearing yellow pants. A lone boy stands among them, whimpering for help. This is Kiba, and through a tutorialized sequence of exploration and combat, you must help him to the city. Kiba has no memory of who he is or where he came from. All you know is that he’s too young to be part of anything that’s happening and where you found him suggests that he’s suffered a great deal. It’s probably better that he doesn’t remember.
The world in which you find yourself is beautifully rendered and the cell-shaded characters fit in perfectly. It’s during dialogue that you’re somewhat torn out of the world by the amateurish character portraits that appear next to the text. Their emotions to help contextualise the tone of the character dialogue, so they function as they should, but the form leaves much to be desired. Entering the city originally through the sewers and making your way to an inn, you are presented with a beautifully hand-drawn map of the city. This gives you context for the different areas discussed during dialogue, but as the map has no interactive function (a “you are here” pin or a “current destination” would have been nice) it serves little purpose. I stopped checking the map after the first few hours of gameplay.
Combat is turn-based and takes place on a grid with friendlies occupying the left and opponents occupying the right. You can move freely on your side of the grid, but not cross over, making flanking impossible, and some characters will protect those behind them, making them untargetable to ranged units. Each character has their own powers and weaknesses and learning to anticipate your enemies’ actions is as vital to success as skilfully utilizing your own. NPCs on your side will operate on their own, so you’ll only have to manage the characters in your party. The further along in the game you get, the less you rely on NPCs during combat, but in the early stages they cause some frustration by not behaving the way you’d like them to. Combat feels satisfying, albeit a tad repetitive. And, although characters do advance, customisation is limited.
Apart from bugs and glitches, which the developers are working hard to quash as evidenced by their frequent Steam Update posts, the game is riddled with typos, misspellings, and awkward sounding sentences. As an obsessive adventure gamer, every one felt like a stab in the eyeball and brought to my mind thoughts of the person writing this as opposed to immersion into the world and its lore. The characters also feel flat and their dialogue is often awkwardly long with no information being added, simply “You’re dumb” - “No, you’re dumb” type exchanges.
Not enough to stand out
Grimshade is not a bad game in any way, but it lacks a whole heap of polish for greatness. The story and its world are quite intriguing but deserve the treatment of more exciting characters and writing. If you’re looking to customise the characters to your will, Grimshade will disappoint to some extent and items, crafting, and other mechanics feel underwhelming. Combat, on the other hand, is quite satisfying despite some repetitiveness.
In this type of game, you often get disproportionate enjoyment from combat or dialogue. You’ll find yourself suffering though dialogue to get to the next battle or trudging through fights to get to the next piece of story exposition. In Grimshade, both are fine. Regrettably, that is all they are.
Intriguing world, satisfying combat
Flat characters, dull dialogue, multiple underwhelming mechanics and features