RWBY: Grimm Eclipse

Grimm Eclipse.png

RWBY Grimm Eclipse
PC, Playstation 4, and Xbox One
Developed by Roosterteeth Games
Released in 2015

When RWBY began airing in 2013 it really served to hook me back into anime, a medium I once really enjoyed, but which fell by the wayside in favor of gaming when I couldn’t find any new shows that appealed to me. There was also a bit of peer pressure involved as I was going through school at the time I stopped, but when the “Red” trailer first began circulating on forums and I was fresh out of school, the amazing action scenes courtesy of 3D animator Monty Oum had me eagerly awaiting the show’s launch.

After season 1 finished I began pursuing anime once again and actually never turned up to watch the rest of RWBY until I recently got the steelbox collection of volumes 1 to 3 and began watching them with my cousin. Playing the tie-in game was an inevitability.

Go Team!

Grimm Eclipse covers a side-story that takes place between the end of volume 2 and the start of volume 3 and has either team RWBY or team JNPR (if you have the DLC for it) investigate a series of technical problems with security stations around the city of Vale. What starts out as some basic maintenance then leads into a mystery involving the Grimm, a lost scientist, and the abandoned city of Mountain Glenn.

For a side-story it manages to find a nice spot where the events of the game don’t interfere with anything from the main story, while at the same time featuring events that are interesting enough to make the adventure feel significant and expand upon the universe RWBY takes place in. Throughout the dozen-or-so levels familiar and new characters provide exposition and explanation, and the heroes you play as will also have reactions of their own to the events that happen and the places they see. It’s not much, but all of it fits the personalities of these established characters and these comments are often pretty funny.

Story score: 8.5/10

Grimm tidings

The game is a 3D hack & slash title where you play as one of the eight characters from the two main teams of the franchise. Each level is a fairly linear path that leads you from arena to arena, where you then fight off a group of foes before moving on. This usually concludes with a fight where you must hold off waves of baddies while a task is being completed, though there is some variety here and some of the arenas throughout the level also work with waves.

RWBY docks

It’s a simple setup for a game and, in my opinion, a bit too basic. There is little to do between the big fights besides walking to the next one. These spaces between are a bit too long and there is nothing to do here besides breaking a few boxes hoping they contain experience points. I also don’t know if it’s because I was playing this solo (due to the absence of local multiplayer), but these parts were also eerily silent. A lot of the downtime in the show is alleviated by the conversations between the characters, which just doesn’t happen here.

To make up for this the control scheme is actually quite fun. If you have ever played a Warriors game it will be immediately familiar; you have light attacks and heavy attacks, which string together into neat combos when mixed together. The trigger button allows you to shoot foes from a distance and you can jump to perform aerial attacks. You have an aura bar, representing you health, and a blue bar that fills up as you string together attacks. Once full, it can be unleashed by hitting both shoulder buttons to perform a character-specific special move.

RWBY yang.jpg

While it doesn’t start off as much, the game quickly forces you to think through the moveset of your character to stay alive. While the Grimm in the show are easily beaten, here they are weirdly competent. Two or three strikes is all it takes to knock your character out if you don’t manage to stay safe long enough for the aura to regenerate between. Each enemy type has its own tells and behavior to work around, including windows where they can be counter-attacked for a temporary stun. Trying to counter too early or too late is immediately punished though, and against a group of Beowulf that is generally an instant death sentence, even on “normal” difficulty. Nearing the end of the game the difficulty had ramped up considerably and the mixture of different foes with tricky moves really made the later stages tough.

Defeating enemies and finding glowing orbs provide you with experience. Each character can rise to level 10, unlocking skill points along the way that you invest in a small upgrade tree. There are only every 3 levels with the first already unlocked by default, with one focusing on team attacks, one on the character’s special move, one on their ranged attacks, and a cluster of standalone buffs. Some will be locked off until you fulfilled specific criteria and you can refund all your points at any time, free of charge.

RWBY Jeanne.jpg

Like the rest of the game it’s a bit barebones, but at least the upgrades are useful with several being specific for certain characters, and they do help you find a playstyle that works for you.

While the gameplay could use more work and variety, like a better jump to facilitate some platforming between the battles, or anything else to string together the fights, the combat itself develops nicely. A final complaint I do have is that, with a franchise like this, more characters are always a good thing and it’s a shame there is no DLC to play as characters outside of the RWBY and JNPR. Sun, Velvet, and Coco would certainly have been welcome additions to the roster in my opinion.

Gameplay score: 7.5/10

Inspired by the Roadrunner

Visually RWBY has always been a hot topic and the show has certainly seen its up and downs. The same applies to the video game: the areas you visit are pretty neat to look at and are nice representations of familiar locales. The characters too look neat and their moves are definitely cool, but everything else is kind of a mess. Animations bug out constantly, such as enemies rotating on the spot, positioning problems when doing special moves, and my favorite, the walking cycle looks ridiculous when you run, which is pretty much all the time.

RWBY Mountain Glenn

The levels, while nice, are barred off on all sides by walls both physical and invisible, limiting the degree to which you can actually explore them. In a lot of places I felt this was a shame, as some of these areas definitely look like you should be able to go in them or would take little effort to open up. Add a few boxes in there and it’s already worth the effort. There are also clipping issues with both Grimm and player characters getting stuck on small bits of terrain or stairs.

The same patten can also be seen, or rather heard, in the sound department. This is really a no-brainer, the game features the voice actors from the actual show reprising their roles and re-uses some popular lines. The new lines are all in-character and I was particularly fond of Yang’s stupid jokes and Nora’s deranged excitement, making it certainly worth it to replay the same level with different characters to hear all the different dialogue. The music by Jeff and Casey Lee Williams was pretty much lifted straight from the show and still sounds absolutely fantastic.

RWBY Ren.jpg

What’s the issue then? The sound mixing is terrible and really inconsistent. I had times where the music was so loud you couldn’t hear the dialogue, times where the battle was so loud you couldn’t hear the music at all, and times where the sound just messed up entirely. The game fortunately has subtitles for such situations, but it was just a tad unprofessional and a bother when you need to play an entire level with music and voices that sound strange due to a bug.

Presentation score: 5/10

Found a thingie!

Each level features a number of hidden collectibles styled after the chess pieces from one of the early episodes of the show. Finding these provides you with an immediate 100 experience points, the equivalent of four boxes worth of glowing orbs. You can recollect the pieces anytime you play the level with any character. It’s fun to do and gets fun reactions from characters, yet I feel it would also have been nice if the game kept track of the pieces you found in each level, so you could work towards finding all of them. As it stands they are just some free experience points that you can ignore after hitting level 10.

RWBY Nora.jpg

Four different difficulty setting can be selected and I can recommend not starting out on the lowest. What setting you go with doesn’t change how strong the Grimm are, it only adds to their numbers. On Normal the Grimm are sparse and fights a bit unexciting, so consider starting on hard once you have grown accustomed to the controls.

Multiplayer is a prominent feature with most of the achievements requiring you play with others. Four players can go at it at once and play as their favorite character, since there is no limit to how many people can pick the same one. You might want to look into getting a few friends on board if you plan to play however, since on Steam there are about a hundred people active at any given time and not all of them will be queuing up for the multiplayer. Since duplicates are allowed, getting 3 friends along for the ride also makes it easier to get achievements that require specific team-mates, like the one where you need every Team RWBY player on the field at once.

The game also features a horde mode, but this presents a problem on consoles. You can’t enter the horde mode from the main menu, you need to start up multiplayer to select this game type. The issue, then, is that horde mode can be played solo, and with the amount of people actively playing you might end up doing so a lot anyway, but since it’s hidden away in the multiplayer you can’t access horde mode without a subscription, at least on the Playstation 4. This is a bit of a niche problem, but as somebody that only uses the PS4 once in a blue moon and mostly for singleplayer games, it’s pretty lame to have to purchase a subscription to access something I intend to play alone anyway.

Extras score: 7/10

Verdict

While Grimm Eclipse is certainly not the best hack & slash game out there, certainly not for its steep $20 entrance fee before DLC, it does manage to be a very entertaining game directed at fans. Even if you are unfamiliar with the web series this can be fun anime-like action game if you manage to get three friends along for the ride. 

70/100

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