Reviews - Updated on April 10, 2022

Grimshade was supposed to be released last fall, when I wrote about this project in an article dedicated to the potentially bright future of Russian RPGs. However, for the game of the Moscow studio Talerock, after that, as luck would have it, times were not very bright: various problems began, the release was constantly postponed. And even the PR man who brought me to the authors sadly reported that he no longer works with them. However, in spite of everything, the Muscovites persevered and released a game that, on the whole, justified my autumn expectations – the Russians really learned (or rather, remembered how) to make good RPGs. Even if for a full acquaintance with them you need to survive a couple of patches. Three is better. Or four…

Traditions must be kept

Both the world itself and the plot of history in Grimshade as a whole are built according to the usual patterns: the coexistence of two races, people and anthropomorphic animals; separate use of sources of light and dark energy (ether), which sooner or later, of course, does not lead to anything good (especially if you uncontrollably indulge in Darkness); bad experiments with this same Darkness, allowing you to subjugate people and their kings.

And it all starts with the fact that one kingdom attacks another – for reasons associated, of course, with the same energy sources. We play for those who are on the side of the defenders. Among them, in particular, there is a wise upright badger, a red-haired and sharp-tongued thief, a brave but naive and too straightforward (if not dumb) champion warrior. And the main character is a kind (sometimes impossibly) and precocious boy named Kiba, who – and this is shown to us from the very beginning – was a participant (or rather, the result) of experiments with the ether.

In general, the program of events seems to be clear. We defend the city from invaders, complete quests and listen to empty bickering between companions at the level “You are evil and harmful!” – “And you are a stupid handsome!” “Calm down already! Let’s live in peace!”. True, in the game this burden is spelled out in much longer sentences.

It is clear that the authors did not intend to create characters at the level of party members from Pillars of Eternity, Baldur’s Gate or Planescape: Torment – everything here is at the level of archetypes (albeit with its own twist) from some JRPG. But there, these dialogues are often made at the level of short remarks, and here you have to “skip” entire paragraphs of text.

Grimshade game review

“Bosses” are sometimes not easy to defeat even on a low level of difficulty.

The best is certainly ahead

However, in reality, Grimshade is not so simple. The robbers who attacked us at the very beginning, then may turn out to be almost friends and comrades. And yesterday’s enemies become allies. And questions constantly arise: why do the attackers sincerely consider us to be the fiends of evil (especially a straightforward warrior with an ethereal glove), what kind of nightmares does the main character dream of? And anyway, who is this boy? Why do we not leave the feeling that the boy is not at all as simple as it seems?

With all the banality of the plot, the writers of Talerock constantly support not only the intrigue (the essence of what is happening is still approximately clear), but rather the incentive and interest in passing.

And the passage is quite long. Having rewinded about a dozen hours in the game and received a story quest to catch the main reptile with an urgent recommendation to complete all the other things before that, I decided that the finale was close. But it turned out that the most interesting is just beginning.

Time of chauvinism and adventure

The heroes were still waiting for a lot of adventures, visiting new locations and even a forced march on yesterday’s still enemy territory. At the same time, a Valkyrie girl from the camp of the enemy joined us, accused by her own of treason. And with it, even in relations between party members, a real peppercorn finally appears.Grimshade game review

The boy is clearly developed beyond his years.

The usual stamps, of course, have not gone away. The girl grew up in a chauvinistic state, where anthropomorphic animals are destined for the role of a maximum of laborers, so from the very first minute she began to argue with our badger. But at the same time, there were also hints of a love triangle involving her, our champion warrior and a red-haired thief. Also, of course, not news, but any more fun. In addition, extremely interesting facts emerge in the biography of the robber.

And there are also many side quests. And not at all in the spirit of “Go, find and bring.” We are investigating the death of an officer in a brothel, or, for example, looking for a traitor who killed the captain – the hero of the whole kingdom. In the process, you even have to communicate with the dead.

In some tasks, difficult moral dilemmas arise – whose life, for example, to sacrifice. In addition, from time to time our young hero is faced with the question of what intentions he should be guided by and which of his partners to support in the dispute – to allow, for example, as the warrior demands, to arrest deserters and doom them to certain death, or to heed the arguments of the red thief and let them enter into a gang of robbers, preserving at least such a life.

Tell me what you’re wearing…

The reward for completing quests, as a rule, are items of equipment that increase certain characteristics, provide useful effects, and in special cases even unlock new skills. It is with the equipment that the characters are pumped here. We also collect crystals and other ingredients that are used not only to craft useful potions, but also to develop the unique skills of some heroes and unlock new ones – each, respectively, spends their own crystals on this.Grimshade game review

Before the battle, you can place your fighters, which is very important. At the same time, some characters are able to protect those who are behind.

Actually, the entire role-playing system of Grimshade is limited to this – there is no concept of experience at all, in battles we only earn resources. Such a Spartan approach to leveling, on the one hand, is typical of Japanese RPGs, which the authors are guided by. On the other hand, the focus on equipment is interesting in its own way. True, obviously not everyone will like it – after all, many are accustomed to taking a more active part in the development of the character.

Not easy to learn – not easy to fight!

But everyone should appreciate the local battles – they are the ones that fuel interest in passing until the final. There are a lot of non-trivial aspects, but there are three key things. Firstly, characters, much like in Disciples, cannot look at the side of the enemy (although they are free to move freely along their side of the field). In close combat, as a rule, only the first rows participate.

Secondly, all attacks and skills increase the character’s stress to varying degrees. When it reaches its maximum, the fighter will be incapacitated for some time and extremely vulnerable – he seems to be resting and gathering strength. Finally, almost all participants in the battle have evasion points. And in order to start dealing direct damage, you first have to reduce them to zero. Therefore, it is better not to waste attacks that greatly strain the character on an enemy with at least one dodge point – stress management plays a huge role.

At first, a lot of things here may seem uncomfortable and artificial – as if they came up with it, just to stand out. In addition, some characters (like the same badger with a gun) look frankly weak and superfluous. And the increased complexity, shortage of medicines and permanent injuries to those who were unconscious in the previous fight are leveled by the possibility of being transported to the shelter at any time, patching up, buying and immediately returning back. As a result, the game turns into constant running back and forth, accompanied by a loading screen.

Grimshade game review

Note that she is talking to a child.

However, even here perception changes over time. Gradually, you understand the nuances of the system, which turns out to be really interesting and unique in its own way, the battles become even more difficult, and everything turns into a kind of tactical chess. In almost any fight, to win, you need to carefully weigh each step, take into account the pros and cons of the enemies, correctly place the fighters, shuffle the composition of the party and select equipment for the wards for specific situations. And the notorious badger becomes simply irreplaceable in some cases.

Laughter through tears

It should also be noted that the authors of Grimshade, trying to follow the traditions of large, serious RPGs, did a good job of setting the setting. Here you can find many books and records, even some frescoes about the history of the world. In a large city divided into districts, there are many NPCs with their own replicas, and many items have interesting descriptions. It is only surprising that even during the most difficult siege or massacre, brothels and taverns work in the streets in the city, and merchants stand at their ranks, justifying themselves in different ways.

Perhaps this is another manifestation of local humor. In general, the authors now and then try to joke. The only pity is that often the humor is at the level of talking surnames or jokes in the spirit of “There was a bank, and now it’s nikrena.” “Dragon roll” is, if anything, the name of a brothel. Not Petrosyan, of course, but not Monty Python either…

However, the main problem of Grimshade is not the traditionally average level of humor for domestic screenwriters, but technical problems. Characters, for example, have a very poorly developed algorithm for finding their own way. And most importantly, even after several patches, there are impossible quests. Or situations where, for example, you are asked: will you go ahead against an obviously stronger enemy or try to find another way to get rid of him? You, like a true warrior, choose the first, heroically win, and after that nothing happens – the enemies are in place, and the game again asks: through or around?

Dirty tricks of our red-haired robber are very useful.

***

It’s been a long time since a game has made me feel this way. Then you curse the authors on what the world stands for “broken” quests and empty, banal dialogues. Then you get sincere pleasure from winning the hardest battle, which you have not felt in other modern tactical RPGs for a long time. In any case, what is happening is really addictive – an indicator is the fact that you spend half an hour on the forums to no avail looking for a solution to a broken quest and still do not lose hope. It can be seen that Talerock tried very hard and knowingly postponed the release, trying to make a full-fledged RPG, and not a stub with claims. And in general, she succeeded. I really want to believe that we will see other works by Muscovites – the potential of the studio is more than obvious.

Pros: the story and the gameplay itself are addictive; well-written setting; there are bright characters; interesting and often non-linear side quests; unique combat system; complex tactical battles; the game looks and sounds great.

Cons: a lot of platitudes and clichés in the dialogues; not too funny jokes; technical errors.

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