Now, I have to admit, I’m not a fan of Dark Souls. Not at all. But what I am a fan of are the many clones, imitations, and games which take the best elements and refine the ones which don’t work for me. I love games such as Dead Cells, The Surge 2, Hollow Knight, and even the ultimate Dark Soul clone Bloodborne. All these games add something compelling to the formula and make it their own thing. As the Souls-Borne genre keeps thriving, we see more and more games popping up with intense difficulty, yet a satisfying sense of reward. With so many games now on the market in the genre, what can possibly keep things feeling fresh and interesting?
How about playing as a Blackhole? Sold.What is GRIME?
Grime is a mash-up of Souls-Borne gameplay and difficulty, with the world design of a Metroidvania game and the somewhat Art House feel towards certain subject matters and stories. Making you ask the kind of gritty questions on existence and meaning. Such as, how are Blackholes made? Can they grow consciousness and decide that consume everything in their path for a goal they don’t fully comprehend? Are Blackholes gender neutral? These questions and more.
Players will take on the role of a humanoid figure with the head of a Blackhole. This ominous being has been dropped into the lowest pits of what remains of civilisation and is driven to head back to the source of his creation. But to do so, this being must traverse the wastelands of the world that have long been dead and conquer many mighty foes that stand in their way.
From the outset, you can see the many Souls-like elements infused in GRIME with a vague setup, leading to a mysterious journey filled with more questions than answers and many induvial who sought to destroy you where you stand. But you’re a Blackhole and consuming everything in your path is kinda your thing.
As there have been so many Souls-Like games now, I was thinking that GRIME might have a tough time selling me on its world-building and lore. But I was wrong. The complexities of the cultures that strive for survival in the decaying world are fascinating and the world itself is beautiful yet disgustingly unnerving. I was totally captivated by the bleak underground of Gloomnest to the golden Sun-drenched halls of the World Pillar. As you speak with a few select odd creatures you soon call your allies, you gather more on what the world once was, its tragic end, and possibly what part you play in its survival or total downfall.Gameplay
GRIME is all about fighting your way through difficult situations, in vast and detailed environments, finding a way through by any means, opening shortcuts, backtracking for hidden goodies, and fighting epic bosses. Oh, and dying, plenty of dying and learning from your mistakes. And more dying.
As a humanoid Blackhole, you’ll be venturing through a complex world map, broken up into various sections containing different terrain styles, obstacles, gear, secrets, enemies, and bosses. It’s up to you to explore, discover key items and gear to help you fight strong foes further along the path and discover the path to the ultimate goal. You’ll start with nothing, but soon enough gather armour and weapons to improve your stance in the world and against bigger foes.
Our trusty Blackhole does have one little trick up its sleeve, which also acts as a means to gain health during your adventure. By working down the health of an enemy and parrying at the right time, you can consume that enemy and gather life essence to use for later, when needed.
Of course, there’s a bit of a catch as fallen enemies will drop loot and XP and by consuming them, you won’t be getting much of either. So, it’s a delicate balance of continually gathering health just in case or saving it for when you most need it. This is one of the more taxing problems in GRIME as for a Souls-Like game, it can be pretty forgiving (for the most part).
You will, of course, fight a nice variation of enemies, with all manner of tactics, strengths, and weaknesses, explore a beautiful world where you’ll need to solve light puzzles and collect key items to progress through many of its locked doors or acquire gear to help you venture into the more dangerous places. And there are plenty of those.
There are strong Metroid-Vania elements here at play, whereas the world opens up, you will be presented a choice to go to different locations depending on what you feel will be more helpful towards your goal. Do you stick to the mostly linear path and play it safe? Or do you venture deeper into the dark network of caves, where tougher enemies lay in wait but gather potentially immense rewards and much-needed boosts to your stats?
There’s much here that reminds me of quite possibly one of the greatest Metroid-Vania games “Hollow Knight” and the best Soul-Like game “Bloodborne”. Where a lot of freedom is granted but you’re never given much of a heads up on it. You can stumble upon a random path and decide to venture along with it, not realising it’s an optional part of the map. But making the journey you notice it was worth the hardship and gained something useful for the main road.
As you do venture along the main path, expect epic bosses, death traps, and strange allies who worship you as a Godly destroyer of the world.
Bosses are pretty great, feeling like epic battles of will and determination. They never felt grindy or unfair but do require some work to remember their patterns and behaviors. The world is compelling, with plenty of secrets to discover. While there were some areas that did feel a little tedious at times, especially when you must backtrack or do it again due to a death. But there were a fair number of shortcuts to help out and enough save points to stop this from becoming a major problem.
GRIME is incredibly strong with its world design, amazing boss battles, its risk and reward factors, and engaging line-up of enemies. It’s quite simple, but all these elements do add up to make a rather brilliant game.What does GRIME do to make it Souls-Like?
As you fight, explore and conquer, you’ll earn XP and this can be used to improve your Strength, Dexterity, Health etc. And upon death, what you might expect is to lose it all right?
What GRIME does is allow you to keep what you earned even if you die again and again. It’s a clever little trick to keep you invested and going through what is a rather difficult game. GRIME knows what it’s giving you and how much it’ll kick your arse. So it decides to generously give you a fighting chance, rather than grind your way through and avoids any cheap tricks to stagger your progression. You’ll learn the hard way still as enemies, the world, and bosses are unforgiving.
As you die, you will still learn and gather information on your opponents, but you will still have some setbacks. Usually, you have to venture the same path again (as mentioned, with little shortcuts and save points) or more interestingly losing a certain type of experience that can boost your overall acquisition of XP. There are setbacks and GRIME by the halfway does not mess around. You will die but you will become stronger and never be pushed back in what you earned fairly with XP.
I would say GRIME is one of the tougher Souls-Like games I’ve played and does require some patience at times. But if you do decide to take a risk and venture off the main path, you will get better and find out more on the interesting world and get a goodie here and there.Overall?
I found GRIME to be one of the most compelling and brutal Metroid-Vania games I’ve played. I love the weird, almost Art-House feel of the setup, the beautifully troubled world and its lore, the solid and fun combat made even better with the epic bosses and great variation of enemies, and the engaging world design kept me going forward and sometimes off the beaten path. The difficulty can be a little ridiculous at times and having to venture through the same path over and over with little shortcuts and save points did make it somewhat annoying at times. But there was enough to keep me invested and feeling as though I was progressing, even at the hardest moments.
GRIME gets the highest recommendation for fans of the Souls genre and Metroid-Vainias.
+++ Compelling world design and lore
++ Solid combat and epic bosses
+ Good amount of challenge and satisfying sense of reward
+ Visually pleasing and sounds great
- Can be a little too difficult at times
- Some very small annoying design choices - lack of shortcuts and save points
A Steam review key of GRIME was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.