by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
Grimshade is an interesting beast, that’s for sure. It has the aesthetic of a fantasy World War I era, but it also blends seamlessly races of anthropomorphic characters. I find this world to be terribly fascinating. Grimshade is a turn-based strategy game set in a world in a pitched conflict. The combat is easy to get into, and the game itself is visually appealing. For every good thing I’ve found, there seems to be something terribly frustrating to go along with it. Alister, our main character is a Champion and trying to defend the city of Brann. A foreign power is invading, and doing their best to overtake everything and kill the champions. Ultimately we will have to set out to save the day because that’s what heroes do. You’ll explore these maps, which is occasionally clunky, and once you encounter an enemy, it will shift into turn-based combat.
It’s important to note that the game does not heal you between battles, and I’ve yet to see heal skills. You can pick up medicine to restore your team, but it’s a bit on the expensive side. This makes sense since we’re in a war, but I find myself holding my gold until I can purchase more. It’s easy to see how many medical kits you have, thanks to the cross on the top part of the screen. I do wish those menu items would have a bit of text to tell you what they are though. There are unique items for each character too, such as a flask for Charlie that when used, prevents his Preparation from being interrupted. Charlie’s an incredible marksman, and his first ability deals a great deal of damage but can be interrupted by taking any damage (or even if they move forward!), so crafting this when you can is very important. There are lots of things in the world to interact with too, so you can receive lots of crafting components from these items in the world, as well as from combat itself.
Combat in Grimshade is solid but very predictable. The enemy AI is not very intricate or smart. The enemies with movement abilities will always move to your Guardian, so the other NPCs can shoot/stab your weaker characters with ease. Guardians prevent the units behind them from being hit by most attacks, unless they’re stunned. Once you’ve fought a few battles, you’ll almost always know how to handle the situation. The frustration comes with initiative and the “avoidance” or shield abilities. Some characters have an armor where they will avoid any non-magical attack sent their way (hover over them and look at the number next to the shield to see how much avoidance they have). This Avoidance recovers every turn, and you have to break through it all over again. Magical attacks don’t seem to do as much to these types of characters unless you can use Kiba’s abilities in conjunction. Kiba is the character you find yourself in command of for the most part, and his choices can influence the game.
Kiba uses a special magical power, where he can use both Light and Dark magic, depending on his level of Tension. Tension builds when you deal or receive damage, but it lowers every turn. When he hits over half Tension, his abilities shift and has a new set of abilities that deal Dark Damage. However, when a character’s Tension builds to the max, they are stunned. This game has a fairly intricate elemental strength/weakness system, but it’s not always clear what is strong or weak to what. The combat is fairly simple to understand, but after a while, it’s definitely gets repetitive, especially since you can head back to a haven on a map to fully heal. The enemies on the way tend to respawn, so you can try the fight again without taking as much damage. Occasionally you’ll have allies help you that aren’t in the party – you can’t control them, but they will aid you in battle. That does lead me to my next thought on what I think is interesting.
During the start of the game, when you just have Kiba and Alister, you learn that your choices have consequences. While the town is under siege, you’ll be asked if you’re going to help do battle against the invading forces. Agreeing to go these extra battles will give you useful items – say no, and the people will remember you. A powerful warrior/spellcaster, who lets innocent people die in the streets? That won’t go over well, and they’ll certainly remember you. It goes well with the aesthetic of the game. While navigating the areas can be annoying, and constantly redoing fights if you perform badly can be tedious, the actual aesthetic of the game is gorgeous. The characters are well designed, the hand-drawn art style is lovely, and the music really sets the tone for every area of the game. It’s a story well told, but it would probably do better with a little less of the ham-fisted dialogue.
A Tale as Old as Time: 3/5
The characters are at first enjoyable; it’s fun to watch their banter. But that style of writing can become redundant. The game is incredibly narrative heavy, and you really have to pay attention everything that’s said in order to glean where you’re going to go next. While it’s useful that you can use the map to teleport to wherever your current Haven is, and then back to the last checkpoint, the map does not show you where you actually are on the map. There’s no blip that says “Hey, this is my party!” and that can be very trying on the patience. I’m grateful that the game doesn’t have you grinding constantly to level up, making the game more about skill and tactical know-how. Some of the fights are very difficult, but I’m more than willing to lower the difficulty a notch.
The difficulty comes with the Avoidance system, and little else. Not all enemies have Avoidance, just the guardians. This is coupled with enemies having very wide areas of aggro, so it’s difficult to avoid fights. Grimshade also auto-saves after every time you enter a map, and after you finish a battle. This could potentially put the party in a very bad position if the party is low on health and without medical kits. If a character passes out in battle they come back with a wound, so that medkit is now incredibly useful. The characters in your party are varied and fun to use, and once the party broadens a bit, you can show off your tactical prowess.
Grimshade starts a little slow, thanks to the lengthy tutorial, but it’s still worth playing. I’ve heard of people hitting bugs that force battles to restart or framerate issues, but I just didn’t have those problems. Being able to craft items and improve your powers is fun, though. Visually, this is a masterpiece to me, but ultimately, I found myself bogged down by the tedium of combat after a few hours of it. I love that acquiring new gear gives additional and new abilities to wield in battle. Figuring out the strategies required for some of the later battles are definitely fun, but the regular encounters? Those are all pretty cut and dry. Grimshade is a game that while I don’t love, I do like.
Note: A game key was provided for review purposes.
Grimshade Images Gallery: