“The odds are against us”
The story of this game come from afar. It was may 2018 when Talerock decided to lunch a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the game, but at that time Grimshade was already in a heavy development stage.
On Kickstarter the game was described as a story-driven RPG set in a fantasy world, featuring turn-based combat system and non-linear gameplay. Yummy!
From the beginning Grimshade showed many reasons to stand out from the pack: care of the details, an interesting story and an outstanding artistic appeal, and, therefore, the result of the campaign was a real success with over $ 100.000 pledged.
So when finally, a month ago, Talerock launched the game the interest around Grimshade was quite high, especially for an indy project.
Now, with the game on our hard disk, let’s see if Grimshade lives up to the hype…
The story takes place in the world of Ree’Fah. A fantasy world, for sure, but not in a traditional way. Here we can find almost everything, strange races (residences of this strange world are both human and anthropomorphic animals), medieval architecture, flying cars (or some sort of), very old looking weapon and high technological ones, all in a strange steampunk flavor.
The result – that’s for sure! – is a rich world, but not free of contradictions. During the whole playthrough, I’ve had the constant feeling that the developers, in order to create something deeply original, loose along the way some coherence.
Besides, a setting so “rich” doesn’t mean by default an interesting story. On the contrary, even if the game has many characters, each one with his own personality and background, the story of Alister and his friends turns out to be quite boring and predictable.
What a lovely view…
Let’s begin saying this: the artistic appeal of the game is undeniable. Most of the time I spent playing Grimshade I was really charmed by the gorgeous hand-painted graphic, by the rich details of the backgrounds, and by the smooth animations of the characters.
Everything, from this point of view, is really superb, there’s nothing to complain about, and this is true for both the 2D world and 3D models of the game.
But when you gracefully move around the (small) maps of the world of
Ree’Fah, you can’t help but notice that all this wonderful graphic is exactly like a paint where every single object is still, motionless. In many ways the graphic, but also some gameplay aspects, of Grimshade reminded me Shadowrun Returns, the first one of the series. As you may remember, even that game had gorgeous hand-painted backgrounds, but the world was essentially “frozen” and without signs of life. .
Here you will get the same impression: simply there is no life at all and the worst thing is that there is very little interaction too. I can assure you: it’s really a torture to see a so well-designed and detailed world, without having the possibility to interact with it!
A lot of love and a bit of pretentiousness
Talerock makes no secret of its inspiration: the JRPG of the glorious 90s. In this regard, the game starts with a very long tutorial that helps you to understand the main features of the game and also a little bit of the story. The real problem is that, like in most JRPGs, there no freedom at all for the player. Even in their Kickstarter campaign the developers promised the possibility to explore big maps and freely decide to choose, for example, to complete a quest rather than adventure in a dungeon.
The problem is that, despite their promises, for the player most of the time there is no sign of freedom, exactly like in the old JRPGs of the 90s.
The game is essentially divided into two distinct phases: adventure and combat.
The first one is quite boring, because you have to go through long and dull dialogues, little and insignificant exploration and limited party management.
The latter phase is much more interesting and is clear how much effort Talerock put on it. Again, the combat may remind the older Final Fantasy but only in appearance. At the start, you will have to choose your squad and put the members on a stage consisting of two opposite fields. Obviously characters can move only in a defined order, according to their initiative, and each action (e.g. moving, attacking or using a special skill) spends a certain amount of time.
Overall the combat is very well designed and, during a battle, you have to consider a lot of variables, so that even the simplest fight can be a real challenge. Every character and every enemy has his unique features and this ensures diversity of fights, but the battle are slow and require a lot of patience. Sometimes the fights can be so articulated that you can even get the impression to play a chess game instead of a videogame!
The real problem is that, as we said, the game has very little exploration and a lot of fights, so, after dozens of tortuous and tiresome battles, everything becomes really annoying and repetitive.
Not even the dialogues succeed to make the game less boring. It’s true, there are many NPCs that are usually happy to chat, but the dialogues are repetitive, obvious and always unable to make the story fascinating. It’s like you are always able to predict what’s happening next, simply because you have already read/watched something like that dozens of time before (on the TV, on other videogames or on books).
This is really a pity because there are many aspects of the game that transmit the true passion and love behind this game, but simply it’s hard to find a reason to go on and fight the next annoying battle.
The odds are REALLY against us
It’s hard and painful to judge Grimshade. On one side, we have a very stylish and visually stunning game; on the other side, it clearly lacks of substance. I know that, in the indie world, for the developers isn’t always easy to balance ambitions and budget, but the primary goal of a videogames should be to entertain or – at least – to tell a good story…
… and Grimshade simply fails to reach one of these goals.