Perhaps a testament to how much video games have changed since 2007, when GrimGrimoire was first released for the PlayStation 2, the remaster smacks of mobile tower defence games crossed with a very rudimentary Age of Empires-style upgrade system. Whilst GrimGrimoire OnceMore pleases the eye with a vibrant, mystic aesthetic that translates well to combat, I found it’s core gameplay loop to be a bit repetitive at a basic level and a little too involved as the game progresses.
GrimGrimoire is best described as a 2D, side-scrolling, real-time strategy game that borrows from some of the fantasy genre’s classic mythology, including demons, spirits, elves, witches and the like. The remaster has updated graphics, general quality of life improvements, an art gallery, a new voice cast, and the addition of a skill tree for your units. The overall impact of each of these can be debated but the overall package is well produced.
The art gallery in particular is an excellent addition, each battle you win will reward you with an illustration by a different artist portraying various scenes from our protagonist’s life. Each image is superbly detailed and is a great way to champion differing art styles.
Its Hogwarts Jim, but Not as We Know it
Our story follows budding witch Lillet Blan, who joins the magic academy at the Tower of Silver Star to find a school in chaos. Over the course of a repeating 5-day loop, she must solve mysteries and battle demonic forces to save the lives of the menagerie (quite literally in some cases) inhabitants of the school.
The cast of characters that Lillet meets and interacts with are well-voiced and intriguing enough to propel the plot forward but the paint-by-numbers mystery involving a sinister dark lord called Calvaros who just seems hellbent on just killing everyone and being super evil. Whilst Lillet is a decent protagonist and the addition of a Groundhog Day-style time loop keeps the plot afloat, it cannot get away from the lack of true threat, especially since most of the tower’s inhabitant weren’t all that likeable to begin with.
Why Learn Spells when You Can Enslave Minions?
Combat revolves around a loop of collecting mana using worker class units, allowing you to build bases, towers, units, upgrades etc. that, in turn, allow you to conquer your opponents bases (known as runes in-game). It’s a gameplay loop that I found startling similar to basic tower defence games commonly found on mobiles. At its core, the gameplay loop is satisfying enough but the controls do not make it particularly easy to operate. Oddly enough, this game is not available on PC where I feel a mouse and keyboard approach would be far more suited to selecting units, moving around, and attacking. But that’s possibly due to my experience with Age of Empires and the like.
Adding to the relatively simple gameplay is a rock-paper-scissors matchup system that pits Glamour, Alchemy, Necromancy, and Sorcery against one another as the different schools of magic. Each school has its own abilities, unit, strengths, and weaknesses. After the first couple of hours, a skill tree is unlocked for each school as well, giving you the ability to further enhance your units with the goal of tailoring your playstyle to specific challenges.
However, it is exactly these complexities that detract from the overall experience for me. I was quite happy early game, farming mana, creating units, and sending them into battle. As soon as I was promised a 1.5% increased to attack my eyes glazed over. Others may well enjoy this element to GrimGrimoire, but I found myself both slightly overwhelmed and uninterested. I understand the idea behind this addition, making the combat loop less repetitive but I can’t help but feel this could’ve been achieved in some other way that didn’t involve miniscule percentage increases.
Gathering the Magic
Graphically, the game is very simple, using a visual novel style to move the plot forward with excellent voice acting for each character, even if some of those characters are, in a very Japan-produced game way, bizarre (there’s a lion teacher and it’s like no one cares). The graphical style in combat is slightly more cartoony with units making various comments as you move them throughout the stages which works well even if the shift is a tad jarring. All-in-all, it makes for a well-presented experience even if the music could stand to be less repetitive in the menus, but that’s a criticism I could level at many games.
Although I personally didn’t gel with GrimGrimoire OnceMore, I can see that it will have its fans. It’s a well-produced, aesthetically pleasing title with a fantasy backdrop that serves it well. Combat is somewhat repetitive but has enough mechanics to make it challenging on higher difficulties. The voice cast and art style are superb, and I greatly enjoyed the art gallery.
If you’re into RTS games, I’d definitely consider this but maybe not at the expense of more well-established titans of the genre.