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Review: Grimshade (PC)By Ofisil At 03.05.2019 23:16

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This follows Alister, a valiant, plus charmingly dense warrior, who, while defending his hometown from an invading army, gets lost in the woods, and stumbles on a young boy named Kiba. The two become a team, and, thankfully for our simpleton of a hero, the "Force" is strong with Kiba, as he does his magic thingy without the need of a weapon or trinket - too bad he can't remember anything from his past. Yes, this uses the 'Mysterious Amnesiac' trope, with said character soon turning out to be crucial to the plot. Combine that with a world where 18th century architecture and steampunk gadgetry collide, and the result is something that gives out some pretty strong Final Fantasy vibes, complete with the expected ragtag team of unlikely heroes, who will get things fixed, and unveil a couple of things about themselves while at it.

Like another "indie Final Fantasy" game, called Septerra Core, however, Grimshade was made by an inexperienced developing team, and it shows. From its slow pacing and the weak introductory chapter that doesn't really set things up very good, to the actual quality of the writing, this ends up being something that a first-time fantasy author would create; a promising author, yes, but one that has a long road ahead of him/her. That isn't to say that the story and its characters are completely forgettable, but they aren't as memorable either... and the Russian-to-English translation could definitely use some polishing, as well.

Design-wise, things are a tad better, without that meaning that the visuals avoid looking amateurish altogether. The hand-crafted backgrounds are certainly the best part when it comes to the graphics, and not just when it's a majestic temple or ancient temple, but also when it's just a dark sewer or generic inn. The NPCs, main characters, and their respective portraits leave a lot to be desired, however, and while they follow the, theoretically, quite fitting, cel-shaded approach, it doesn't really work as intended, as most don't really blend that good with their surroundings, which many times feel like they actually have more life in them than moving, breathing characters.

Other than the story side of things, this is basically an RPG with a Baldur's Gate-like isometric map, where you roam around a variety of locales, gather clues, talk with people, and, occasionally, come upon some shiny loot. Most missions are a mixed bag, with the better among them managing to get you more engrossed to the game world than the main ones, and the worst of the bunch not giving you enough info to work with, resulting in the player going around in circles, until the next step is discovered out of almost pure lack. The bulk of the experience, though, revolves around the tactical, turn-based battles.

Luckily, this never becomes a tedious grind, with random encounter upon random encounter thrown at you while you do your dungeon crawling, since Grimshade has a nice balance between talking and fighting. Sadly, fighting is where things get ugly in here. The concept is a pretty standard fare that's easy to grasp. Battles take place in a grid, with each character being able to use one skill per turn, with said skills being a nice break from the simplistic attack/defend/buff found in the genre, as most abilities are truly unique, and can force the player to think a little more before acting. Too bad, then, that the actual implementation of the various mechanics is disappointing.

What should be the most enjoyable part of this adventure is actually the worst, with the main reason being that, in the end, and despite the pleasantly varied battle elements, you won't really have much freedom in what will be done with them, as many encounters will almost demand from you to follow a specific set of steps. You can win by doing something else, but, more often than not, this will leave you severely injured, forcing you to spend your extremely hard earned medical supplies, as there are no healing abilities on offer. In fact, most will prefer teleporting to the local shelter to recover from wounds, than using any resources.

Battles have other problems besides their annoyingly "linear" nature. Without going into much detail, most issues stem from how unbalanced everything is, which leads to the second big flaw of Grimshade - the fact that it feels rushed. Gaining new abilities is super-slow; crafting is a rarely-used aspect; loading takes too long, and happens way too often; and, finally, there are plenty of game-freezing/quest-ruining bugs. On the plus side, the developing team is very active in fixing its product, evident at how most updates that have occurred since the release have vastly improved things. It's the battle system, however, the one that is mostly in need of a major overhaul.

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Final Score
[i]Grimshade[/i] is a love letter to the JRPGs of the '90s. Trouble is it's one that wasn't as eloquently written as it should. The weak-to-decent presentation cannot be fixed, of course, but there's some hope for this, if the developer ever heavily rebalance the tactical battles.



User Comments
#1 x4@77g (guest) - on 15.05.2019 at 15:33

Seems I like the game more than you do, but appreciate another point-of-view.
All-in-all; this is a very good review, agree with your suggestions, thanks.

#2 Ofisil - on 15.05.2019 at 15:36

Glad you've found it to be enjoyable.
I DID like certain parts of it, but as a whole, this didn't manage to keep me hooked.

Anyways - thanx for reading!

( Edited 15.05.2019 16:37 by Ofisil )

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