Grimm: Dark Legacy is a new rogue-like/lite overhead hack 'n' slash game featuring crafting, MOBA-like battles, randomized loot, and an original story set in the Grimm television show universe.
Developer Artplant decided to avoid the generic action game trap that so many game-makers fall into when creating licensed games, and G:DL is all the better for it. It has a ways to go before it's a must-buy, but it's definitely a fun time-killer, and Artplant has shown it's dedication to the product with a large-scale change planned in response to fan reactions.
The TV show Grimm and it's multiple spin-offs are based around the idea that there are generations of "Grimms" that are tasked with battling the nasty folkloric monsters operating in our world (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, anyone?) The show primarily follows homicide detective Nick Burkhardt, who learns that he's a Grimm descendant, when the world of the supernatural is opened up to him.
Don't worry if you haven't watched the show, as it doesn't matter a lick! Artplant's game functions as a historical tale of a Grimm member who defeats some particularly vicious "Wesens," that being the blanket term for the universe's supernatural beasties. There is a small framing story around the game that's narrated by a pretty good voice actor, which features Nick and his partner in 3D form, but you could actually not know the game was linked to a show, and never figure that out. This is a positive–it allows fans of the show to get some interesting side-story info, while players unfamiliar or uninterested in the source material get to play the game without missing anything.
That said, the plot is pretty generic–stories of bad monsters abound, so you travel across olden Europe to find and kill them. Luckily, the writing is surprisingly tight, and many paragraphs you might come across feel plucked from Baldur's Gate and its ilk. That said, the hints on the loading screens could use some proof-reading, but that's extremely minor.
As in most cases, the gameplay is what really matters in a rogue-like, and we've got mostly good bits in Grimm: Dark Legacy, with some lesser "needs improvement" grades.
G:DL is billed as a survival game, and it is, sporting a health bar and hunger gauge very similar to the masterwork that is Don't Starve. The more you walk, run, and fight, the hungrier you get. Get too hungry, and you start to lose life. In order to fill your belly and (usually) to replenish your life a bit, you need to find stuff to eat. This food ranges from berries and gourds, to rabbit morsels and moose steaks. Cook the food to make it more beneficial, or eat it like a wild animal (my preferred method–there's even an achievement for it titled "You'll Get Worms!")
Battle and scavenging is done on randomly generated maps. Each quest drops you onto one of these maps, and the set pieces in them are of a nice variety. However, most of them really break down into big open rectangles, and there could be multiple touches added to decrease the risk of monotony (perhaps some interactive set pieces, like dig-able graves?) Still, I enjoyed traipsing around from tree to bush to loot crate, collecting materials and blueprints to craft stuff.
Yep, crafting is a big part of the game, and you can make a variety of melee and ranged weapons, as well as potions, traps, and throw-able bombs. You need to find blueprints in order to build an item, most of which will come from completing quests. You can't craft anything on a mission, however, unless you want to cook (and even then, you'll need to have a campfire setup in your inventory to drop and use.) The alchemy (potion) workbench, forge, and engineering (item) workbench are all in the town that you can access between quests, and each workbench is accompanied by a merchant selling related goods. The town, though named differently in each new country you visit, is the exact same every time. I found this a little strange, but it doesn't hurt anything aside from perhaps variety.
Quests & Loot
Quests in Grimm: Dark Legacy are chosen from a location map, ala the world map in Baldur's Gate, and each location map is presented as a different country or region. You'll easily spot the story quests, as they are indicated by larger icons, and are dotted along a line indicating the path to the next world map. All of these quests are randomized to different degrees. Story ones seem to stay the same in terms of type (hunting quarry, finding so-and-so, etc.), but the specifics of your goals change (say, one playthrough may say "hunt 4 does," yet another will say "hunt 4 bucks.") There are also side quests, which appear as small icons on the world map off the beaten path. Many can be repeated for supplies, loot, etc., and can be accessed regardless of how many of the story quests you've completed in the given country.
The loot is pretty much exclusively crafting items, blueprints, or consumables (fire bombs, health potions, etc.), though the latter two are pretty rare. You'll be shown the icons of the loot you'll get just from completing the quest before you take it, though specifics of blueprints beyond their type will be hidden until claimed.
Combat is relatively simple, though it's thankfully not the "click to attack" set up, but rather "click to swing." You can dodge or block (if you have a shield equipped), and timing attacks and blocks will reward you with more damage dealt and less received. This highlights something Artplant did really well in Grimm: Dark Legacy, and that's how it gave good shortcut keys and achieved excellent key bindings (which are changeable). Movement is WASD, X is lock-on to an enemy, Space is dash/dodge when pressed, and sprint when held down. Pressing left Shift will put you into sneak mode, allowing you to attack prey and monsters first, so long as you stay out of their line of sight. In other words, you won't be dancing your hands across the keys too much, and I didn't come across any real funky placements.
Unless you're trying to use the partial controller support, which will let you do everything except confirm, which I hope will be fixed soon. It seems like G:DL could fit on a gamepad quite comfortably, and what's there already feels good.
This is what is awesome about the game, and kept me coming back for more. The battle quests in Grimm: Dark Legacy are really search & destroy affairs, as you start at on a new map at one of the Sign Posts (which are your exits back to the world map), and must scout around for your Wesen or animal prey.
The game has sounds that sometimes direct you to your prey (kind of), but this is a tough method, as I never seemed to catch the sounds at the right time, and couldn't figure out how far the sound traveled. Luckily, there'll be a colored outline that will occasionally pulse somewhere along the side of your screen, indicating a nearby living creature in that direction.
What's much more useful, and fun, is finding and tracing the tracks left behind by moving critters. Different animals and Wesen have distinct tracks, and nothing is as fun as finding some mystery print, then tracking down a terrifying creature you couldn't have expected. Oddly enough, the deer hoof prints seem reversed, which I hope is patched in a hotfix soon (though it's barely noticeable).
The game encourages you to sneak up on animals, and that does work, but only so far–I always had to sprint the last gap, and strike my target when close. Once you hit something, it starts to bleed, and that trails along with the prints. This is a big help, as creatures low on health tend to run, rather than fight.
The quests in Grimm: Dark Legacy that require you to locate a person are irritating, as they tend to utilize sound more than the kill hunts; as mentioned, that's a neat idea that doesn't work so well. You'll end up just exploring the whole map to find your person, though this does force you to scavenge around for loot and components for crafting. I'd love to see a battle worked in around every locate-a-person mission–maybe you always have to fend wolves away from your target, or something similar (as the game does have some rare tower-defense style quests already).
All in all, though, the battle quests are a good amount of fun, and the mechanics (aside form the sound-tracking) work commendably.
Grimm: Dark Legacy needs to be much more difficult. There is an easy mode, where there is no permadeth, and a normal and Iron Man mode that feature it. However, I saw no real difference between normal and Iron Man, and was able to kill the highest rated enemies I came across without dying once.
Likewise, there could stand to be a lot more crafting components, blueprinted items, and weapons, all of which would encourage replayability. That tends to be something that keeps players coming back to rogue-likes after their inevitable deaths, but since I didn't die in G:DL, and I felt like I'd seen most of what could be attained, I didn't come back as much as I might have, otherwise.
A lot of fuss was made about Grimm: Dark Legacy at launch, because it requires players to be online in order to play. This is because it was intended to be a co-op challenge for up to 4 players; it is that, but the fact that the game is very playable solo had people wondering why that option was forced onto the player base.
Artplant heard the call, and has announced that they'll be enabling the game for solo offline play in as soon as a month (which would be December, 2016). They've also been active on the Steam community forums, and have released numerous hotfixes that effectively removed the few glitches I encountered. This care for players is a real rarity, and it's nice to see G:DL getting that kind of TLC.
graphics and sound
I loved the graphical style of Grimm: Dark Legacy, and I imagine that's what called a lot of buyers to it. Envision the style of Don't Starve as done by the geniuses responsible for Borderlands' look. The bold outlines and watercolor-esque coloring make everything pleasing, and got me more disappointed that I could never interact with the crypts and ruins speckled throughout the maps.
The menus are well laid out, and your inventory, map, status, and lore (which is a nice feature, given the games content) are all illustrated nicely. I love the loading screen concept art, and the static images in the intro and cut scenes are also high-quality. The 3D renditions of the TV characters, while not terrible, would have been better served as static images also.
Adding to the solid vibe of the game is the string-heavy music, which is highly reminiscent of the first Diablo game; this, for me, is a big plus, and kept me from pressing the mute button.
Overall, I really loved the combat of Grimm: Dark Legacy, and the commitment that Artplant is showing in getting the game exactly where players want it. If you've got a friend or three, also, you guys can go on group hunts and kill yourselves plenty of Wesens to quell your bloodlust.
Those of us that don't want to always be online will need to wait for Artplant to get that feature implemented, but the fact that they plan to at all gives me hope that they'll also give us more items and creatures to
build and pound, respectively.
|+ Pleasing comic-style graphics||– Always online (this will be removed soon)|
|+ Competent K/M controls||– Let's have some more content–pile it on!|
|+ Extremely rewarding tracking mechanics|