Is GRIME a Souls-like? In short, yes. Is it a good one? Again, yes. Like the comparison, this is a game that will test both your skill and patience. If you’re fortunate enough to possess the first one, then lucky you. For the rest of us, brace yourself for a rocky road.
Emerging from the earth, you’re an enigmatic rock formation that is defined as a living weapon. Humanoid in appearance – that is, two arms, two legs and a black hole for a head like your mate Dave down the pub, you’ll piece together who or what you are, as you aim to return to whence you came: the stars…
GRIME isn’t the game I remember from the Steam Next Fest. Initially wooed with the visuals, that sentiment didn’t return this time around, though the gameplay experience was much better; playing with a controller and playing the way I want. Mostly.
Following the same mechanics as the Dark Souls series, you’ll enter a dark fantasy that’s somewhat ambiguous, with a plethora of nasties intent on stopping you from proceeding or being the source for your swift-evolution. Killing an enemy will accumulate XP and mass, opening the path for a strength, dexterity or resonance (magic, sorta) build. Aesthetically, it’s closer to Death’s Gambit or Blasphemous than Dark Souls.
All paths in GRIME lead towards an end of level boss or prey. While the story element is linear (not a bad thing), you’re pretty much free to do as you please and at your leisure. If you like to level up, it’s easy to grind areas as each time you die or return to your respective bonfire, in this case, a surrogate, the enemies will respawn. That said, if you’re a speedrunner, GRIME, a game from Clover Bite and Akupara Games, is one of the more forgiving in the genre that allows you to run, dash and jump past enemies without the need to engage.
Regardless, it’s wise to invest the time in levelling up. Though you can spend hours raising your stats, it’s only marginal gains other than health and force (stamina). The most significant benefit of increasing the stats allows you to equip weapons and improve them with scaling. Armour can be equipped too, but this was for cosmetic value. In short, it’s worth getting your health and force up, but there was never a point in the game where I felt overpowered.
No matter how big your health bar is, you need to learn the absorption skill. Consider it a counter. If you trigger the absorb action at the right time, you’ll damage the enemy but potentially take their breath away. Stack up enough in the gauge, and you can then transfer this breath to restoring health. There are no health potions in the game; save a couple of consumables, so get the hang of this as it’ll keep you alive.
More Absorbant Than Your Pants
Besides using it to gain health and inflict minor damage on lesser enemies, it can be used against the bosses, which I found to be the most reliable tactic if you can get your timing right. I still struggled to beat a boss after raising my health and strength stats to a suitable level, so I tried absorbing their attacks instead of heavy attacks. As may expect, it worked. Additionally, I turned their projectiles against them to cause damage and replenish some health, too.
You can even level up the absorb efficiency with traits. Said traits unlock when you absorb a quota of enemies, offering perks such as health, faster force recovery, and what-not. Unlike stats, the only way to level these up is by hunting specific prey; regrettably, these don’t respawn. Traits change the game up quite significantly; hence the resources are scarce. That said, there’s no need to work out how to respec as you can do this on command, pending you have some motley pearls, also in limited quantity.
My first encounter with GRIME was using the keyboard. Swapping over to a controller was spot-on, as your character movement is fluid, especially in the platforming sections. Do watch out for knockbacks from enemies, though. You may not die, but you’ll respawn a few paces from where you get hit, and this can feel quite random, resulting in a few frustrating deaths. The good news is you don’t lose any mass (currency), but you will lose ardor.
A Rock And A Hard Place
One last feature to mention is the ardor. For every successful absorb/parry you perform and kill, you’ll create a modifier that goes up to infinity (actually 100). This will boost the amount of mass you accumulate – the higher, the better. If you die, you’ll be able to retrieve your former self, much like collecting souls, but if you die on the way, you’ll miss out. Collect the ardor, and it will be half of what you had. In summary, if you’re going to grind, stack up your ardor for a higher mass.
GRIME is a decent Souls-like with a nice variety of enemies, well-structured level design and a reasonable amount of freedom for your playstyle. Regardless, you’ll need to master the absorb feature. Like its counterparts, boss battles can be overly harsh but manageable once you learn the patterns. Just note that the phases with bosses can change quite significantly. Early on, a pair of bosses gave me as much grief as Ornstein and Smough. You’ve been warned.