Inside Pulse 12

Review: Grimoire Chronicles (PC)

Grimoire Chronicles
Publisher: Big Fish Games
Developer: Gongoria
Genre: RPG
Release Date: 01/06/2012

You know I’m not really sure why I volunteered to review this game. I have a bad history with “traditional” RPGs. I’ve played plenty, but I’ve only finished a pathetically small percentage of them. A good number of those come from games I’ve reviewed as well, so that doesn’t say much. I’m the guy who owns every numbered Final Fantasy game (apart from the MMOs) and played most of them. However, I’ve only ever finished the PSP port of the first game, and I beat VII as well. The latter was actually the first time I really played a JRPG, and it was during a time when I had incredibly limited access to new games. I’ve since tried to play through it again twice, but neither attempt lasted longer than a couple of hours.

Anyways, I guess I’ll just review anything. I played the demo for this game, saw plenty of flaws, and still jumped right in. Still, I thought the story could prove interesting, so there was hope. It’s this kind of naïve optimism that gets me to play through a lot of stuff I don’t enjoy.

Story

This game takes place in a fantasy setting fresh off of the “Magic Wars”. These wars were essentially a massive undertaking to excommunicate all magic users from society. As the game picks up, two young witches are being hunted down by “predators”. Mikayla is captured, while her protector, Myra escapes . You pick up the story with Myra trying to figure out how to retrieve her charge.

From here, it all goes to hell. After witch and predator are forced to work together to stop an attack by rebels, it becomes clear that the government is controlled by crazy religious zealots hell bent on genocide. Oddly enough, when a bad guy states this outright, it disturbs a couple of predators to the point of joining Myra, even though they had made a career of hunting down and executing witches. The plot holes don’t end there, but there’s more to talk about.

The dialogue is atrocious. The writers tried way too hard to make the characters cool, and instead created a group of chauvinistic jerks and sarcastic jerks, with only a couple of exceptions. These exceptions don’t get enough screen time. There is also a ton of anachronisms in speech. This includes references to scuba gear, and a villain telling Myra “welcome to primetime”. It’s just stupid. On top of that, the number of references to other famous magic users run rampant to the point of being too much. Just in case you didn’t know that Elphaba was also the name of the Wicked Witch of the West, this game reminds you, as well as that Harry Potter exists. These attempts at humor fall flat every time.

The story is told though written conversations, as there is no speech in the game. However, there are CONSTANT typos and misspellings throughout. More than just annoying to grammar Nazis, there are times when these typos impeded your progress. For example, the game will tell you multiple times to go west when it means east, and vice versa. Even worse, this isn’t a consistent problem, so you’re never sure if you’re being given the correct information. I’m also pretty sure that buffs are supposed to “boost” your stats, not “bust” them. If I’m wrong on this, then may I just say how stupid it sounds.

All told, this story is actively bad. I didn’t even get into how it runs through just about every fantasy trope in the book, or the ridiculous number of needless sacrifices. There was nothing I enjoyed here. Most people I talk to who defend these games tell me they play for the story. I’m now going to start using this as a counterpoint.

Graphics

This game was made with RPG Maker, so it goes with the retro 16 bit style. I suppose this is done because it’s cheap, and because the heyday of the JRPG was during the run of the SNES. Either way, the game sports a retro look. As such, I’m not going to attack it for dated visuals.

I will go after the horrid design though. You can phase through some solid objects, enemy models are ugly, and the lack of animation can be jarring at times. The latter problem is best exemplified during a train sequence. Several minutes in, I didn’t even realize that the train was supposed to be moving. The backgrounds were completely still. The only way to tell what was supposed to be going on was the wheels, which were spinning in place. I wasn’t impressed to say the least.

This is not a great looking game, but that’s kind of to be expected.

Audio

The music for this game is actually quite decent. The tunes are very similar in tone to what you’d find in many of the great RPGs of the 16 bit era. I found myself tapping my foot along to many a town theme. However, the songs are short, and loop constantly. The audio also skips when this happens, which is annoying.

The sound effects are generic and get boring almost immediately. In once case, they got downright annoying. While running around a maze-like burning city, the crackling of fire was ever preset and didn’t even stop during battles. It makes a degree of sense, but it was nonetheless extremely irritating.

It should be noted that if you go to turn off the audio from the menu, it will only affect the music. The sound effects will remain. Instead you want to press F1 and work in that menu in order to turn it all off. This was also quite annoying.

After the first couple of hours, I exclusively played this with the sound off. The radio was very helpful here.

Gameplay

There are two different control types. Basically, you can use the mouse or the keyboard. With the mouse, you can click a spot to move there, scroll through menus, and basically run the entire game with two buttons. It’s certainly convenient. If you go the keyboard route, you have more direct control of your character, but you’ve got a few more buttons to press. I actually suggest a hybrid of the two. Use the mouse for menu navigation, but spam the crap out of the space bar for combat.

Speaking of combat, it follows the basic setup for the Dragon Quest games. You fight from a first person perspective, and chose all of the moves for your party at the start of each round. Moves are performed based on each character’s speed. Almost every fight can be won by spamming the basic attacks. More often than not, I’d just mash the space bar and win. Towards the end, there’s actually some strategy required, but that amounts to finally using recovery items, because the boss will attack the entire team with negative status effects every turn.

Character customization is very limited. You gain experience for each fight, but the characters level and gain skill automatically. You have no say in that. You can fiddle with the equipment, but there’s no reason to use anything other than the latest thing you find at the shop. The one area here is the accessory slot, which you can use to buff your stats or protect you from status effects. Beyond that, you’ll pick up a ton of status boosting items throughout the game. Pretty much the sole customization in the game is deciding who benefits from these items.

When not fighting, you’re pretty much wandering around in long winding roads. These roads branch off, but each branch ends in a treasure chest, and only one moves you forward. There’s the typical maze level, and insanely basic puzzle solving as well. The one interesting thing added to this gameplay aspect is the relic system. By completing sidequests, you can earn relics. These relics are used in specific areas to help you find new treasure.

What kills this game is that it is exceptionally linear. You simply aren’t allowed to go most places because your character decides that the plot point can’t wait. Even with a fairly open overworld, this creates a sense of constriction.

Overall, this is a boring game. It does nothing to elevate itself above a generic, by the numbers RPG. The combat is overly simple and not challenging in the least, the lack of character customization means you have no reason to grind for levels or hunt for rare items, and it’s linear to a fault. This is probably the lamest RPG I’ve ever played.

Replayability

Unless you spend undue amounts of time on the sidequests before you get the ability to travel freely, this game is not going to last long. In fact, I beat it in barely over ten hours. This makes it the shortest game I’ve ever played in this genre, discounting a couple of Naruto games. The sidequests add maybe a couple of hours to that.

The craziest part of this whole thing is that almost the entire is fluff that could have been cut. You could trim several hours and walk out with a better experience. This is due to waves and waves of mind numbingly simple battles against lousy opponents. Not to mention, the poor level design that has you march through endless corridors in order to grab a book, which you then use to unlock a door to another series of corridors.

This just isn’t a good value.

Balance

I didn’t lose a single battle until the final hour of the game. Even then, I only lost because I forgot to heal up before the penultimate boss fight. For almost the entire game, I was listening to music or even watching TV while my left thumb pounded on the space bar. That’s all it took to win.

The final fights only achieved their relative difficulty because of cheap tactics and the fact that I never once went out to level my characters. I also hadn’t bothered collecting the better equipment. From all accounts, I should have lost the boss fight, but it was so easy, I went through it on the first try.

The rest of the game merely amounts to wandering around until you talk to the right NPC or enter the right room to trigger the next scene. Nothing hard there. This game is just a breeze.

Originality

I’ve had to read a lot of comments that claim the story was ripped from Final Fantasy VI. Those people are wrong, but there is still nothing original about this game. Hell, I’ve had a D&D campaign that used this same setup, except it was much more interesting. I mean, I was a ghost with possession abilities I would possess high level characters and walk them into my lair. I was basically collecting different suits of armor to use for any situation. I know this is off topic, but I can’t think of anything interesting to say about this game.

Every chance it can, the game references something better. That’s a telling sign.

Addictiveness

This is about the least addictive game I’ve ever played. I’ve played truly atrocious pieces of work, but they were at least so bad I had to see how it turned out. This game just had nothing going for it. It was bland at best. The only way I was able to complete this game was by playing while watching something else.

Anyone who can play this game for an hour straight and do nothing else, you are a freak of nature. You should be given a freaking medal. I was literally put in a zombie-like state while playing this.

Appeal Factor

With classic RPGs being constantly ported to online services for every major console, there is no reason anyone should pay more money to play this game. Seriously, take your money, and go replay Chrono Trigger or something. You’ll actually enjoy yourself.

Even the most desperate and hardcore of fans should avoid this. There is nothing here. Move along.

Miscellaneous

I encountered several bugs and glitches while playing this game.

During the train level, you need to hop from one car to another. On half a dozen or more occasions, my character failed to hop to the next car. Instead, he got stuck floating in the air between them and I couldn’t move him in any direction. This forced me to restart the game every time.

There were numerous areas in the game where you could warp through walls and cliffs. This also allowed enemies fifteen feet below you to attack you if you got too close to the edge. In some cases, this was unavoidable.

The one time that I lost a fight, I got a pop up message that read something like “we can’t load the graphics for the game over screen” and then the game crashed.

Bottom line: I was not happy with this game.

The Scores
Story: Awful
Graphics: Poor
Audio: Below Average
Gameplay: Poor
Replayability: Worthless
Balance: Dreadful
Originality: Worthless
Addictiveness: Worthless
Appeal Factor: Worthless
Miscellaneous: Dreadful
Final Score: Dreadful Game!

Short Attention Span Summary

Grimoire Chronicles has managed to take the crown for lowest score I’ve ever given out. I didn’t exactly have high hopes for this game, but it still managed to disappoint me. Games are supposed to be fun, or at the very least, engaging. This game never came close. The story is chock full of awful dialogue and groan-inducing plot points. The gameplay is as basic and nondescript as it gets, and I’ve never been so bored while playing a game. I’ve played game that were broken, yet more enjoyable than this.

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