IGN Review of GrimGrimoire
There are two words that sum up how I felt after playing my first few hours of GrimGrimoire: blown away. The stylized look of the cutscenes, the depth of battle techniques and the sheer fun of the 2D gameplay is enough to turn anyone from a real-time strategy onlooker to a full-fledged fan.
It did for me.
The gist of Grim is simple and complicated all at once. You're Lillet Blan, the newest student at the Magic Academy. As you get to know your fellow students -- including easy on the eyes Bartido and frog-wearing Margarita -- and mysterious teachers -- Dr. Chartreuse is a lion -- you start to begin your education on the four categories of magic, which are Necromancy, Glamour, Sorcery and Alchemy. It's a good thing, too; on your fifth day in the academy someone goes rogue and unleashes the spirit of a badass Archmage of Fear. Seems Archmage Calvarous got iced by the headmaster of the school awhile back and has now killed just about everyone in the school except for you as revenge.
What's Lillet to do? Why, fix things Bill Murray-style of course! Doing her best Groundhog Day impression, Lillet keeps on reliving her first five days at the school and trying to make different decisions to keep the archmage and another baddie named Grimlet at bay. With each run through the work week, Lillet amasses more grimoires, the books that contain the spells for the aforementioned categories of magic, and becomes a stronger magician who can stand a chance with the big bad guys in the game.
There are three grimoires for each category of magic. Lillet will need to know the spells from each of the twelve books to best the black cats, dragons and ghosts she'll face in the halls of the school. See, these magic books exists in a unique relationship. Each category has a magic it can kick the crap out of and another magic that can kick the crap out of it. Necromancy is gangbusters against Sorcery, but it's weak as wet toilet paper against Glamour. You'll need to use the stronger magic to best whatever your opponent brings to the battlefield -- this is where the strategy comes in. As the game goes on, you'll get new grimoires and unlock new spells in the books you already have.
Keeping up so far? This is Grim 101, and I don't want to stick you with the remedial kids in Hogwarts right off the bat.
Ok. So lets run you though a simple battle: you start on a large map broken into levels with two elves, two fairies and a Fairy Ring (a rune, or creation point, from the Glamour category). Now, only your fairies are capable of attacking. You could run out and attack the bad guys with your two fairies, but that'd be dumb. There's going to be a lot of bad guys out there, and you need to amass an army. To do that, you'll need mana, which is basically money that you can use to create forces. To harvest mana, you'll need to send workers -- the elves in our scenario -- to the crystals around the map. They'll harvest the dough, bring it to the closest rune and you'll have the assets you need to build your army.
For argument's sake, let's say you've harvested a bunch of mana and bought the most fairies you could with the mana. What now? Although each level will detail its own win conditions, most are simply to destroy your enemy's runes. To do this you'll choose a fairy -- or all the fairies -- by selecting one of 'em and then pressing up on the D-pad and move the attacker(s) to different parts of the map. See, the map's going to be dark everywhere that you don't have troops. You'll be able to see the crystals on the map even if that area is dark, but you'll never know if the enemy has control of it. As you move, you'll uncover enemy positions, and from there, you can do what you want with the info. Attack, build some new forces or move to new crystals -- it's up to you.
Sounds easy, right?
By the end of the game you'll need to hold off advancing unicorns and ferrymen to Hades with flame-shooting gargoyles while your phantoms and skullmages do battle with devils and imps to the north. Then giant chimeras show up and spin their hooves that obliterate your forces, and you'll somehow need to whip up a dragon to defend your honor, but you don't have 500 pieces of mana for the dragon, so you'll have to wait and hope that the imps trucking mana back and forth aren't killed by golems before you can get the Chaos Nest up and running.
It's as confusing and hectic as the text would have you believe.
The story in Grim isn't much clearer itself. Each battle is bookended by cutscenes featuring Lillet and whomever she's involved with at the moment. Each character has their own role in the deadly events to come, and keeping it all straight can be a hassle. Luckily, Grim lets you review any cutscene or battle you want through its main menu bookcase. You simply choose the chapter of the story you'd like to see again and can either read Lillet's review or watch/play.
It's a nice breather that really fits with the bookish, colorful style the game's going for, however you shouldn't get used to these play-at-your own pace moments. Battles that last 45 minutes or more aren't unheard of in Grim. Heck, when I got to one of the final showdowns, I was spending 80 and 90 minutes trying to take out a stubborn group of hell spawn. For the most part, I didn't mind the lengthy gameplay sessions, but I don't have a life and get to play these things at work. If you don't get to game for 10 hours a day, you're going to have a sticking point with Grim.
Namely, there's no way to save mid-battle.
Did that hot girl in your history class suddenly call you and ask if you wanted to go to the naked limbo contest with her at the Hot Girl Club downtown? Too bad, buddy -- you've already committed 50 minutes to brawling with a team of imps and dragons. If you quit now, you're going to have to do that all over again. Seeing attractive, naked people is well and good, but who wants to lose their progress?
Grim is a trial and error game. You're going to get bested in battles because you didn't use the correct grimoire or the correct formation of turrets, and that's ok, but to ask someone to commit 90 minutes of their time in one sitting and lose is tough to do. Lengthy battles are going to keep some of you from ever completing this title, and that's a damn -- but understandable -- shame.
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