Review – Grimshade
Indie-developed roleplaying games (RPGs) have had a real resurgence of late, and the latest to hit Steam is Grimshade, the debut title from Talerock. Inspired by Japanese RPGS from the 1990s and Western RPGs from the early 2000s, Grimshade is a fusion of styles and design decisions that works about as often as it falls apart.
I’m a sucker for two things in an RPG: an interesting combat system and good character design, and Grimshade ticks both those boxes. Combat is turn-based and uses a speed system for weapons and attacks that requires you to consider whether using slower, higher-damage attacks is more appropriate to the situation than using faster attacks that might do less damage but would give you two attacks before the enemy gets a chance to swing back.
In addition, there’s a very cool system that uses combat stress as a game mechanic. Attacking or being attacked increases that stress level, which can trigger a variety of effects. One character, for example, has their attacks switch from ‘light’ to ‘dark’ when their stress fills half the bar – an especially critical change as some enemies are be healed by being hit by the dark energy attacks.
I’m also a big fan of the character designs, the highlight of which is a talking badger who specializes in ranged attacks. There’s a bit of cliché here, with the worst being a mystery character who has incredible powers they’re just figuring out, but to be fair it wouldn’t be much a 90s/00s inspired RPG without that touch. Each character has great looking 3D models, but the cheap-looking 2D hand-drawn style for the overlays clashes horribly with the rest of the design.
That mix of good and bad continues on to the audio, which features a stellar soundtrack as the highlight and almost everything else as an also-ran. Cutscenes are voiced, and done fairly well, but there’s no voicework for any of the in-game scenes or even for hit/being hit reactions during combat.
The story, which follows an 18-20 hour run through the world of Ree’fah, is decently written with some plot twists and turns that, unfortunately, are let down by dialogue that often feels forced. Players can make choices here and there, mostly on whether they’d like to engage in combat or not, but the conversation trees never feel all that fleshed out.