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RWBY: Grimm Eclipse

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Developer: Rooster Teeth
Release Date: Jan. 17, 2017

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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PS4 Review - 'RWBY: Grimm Eclipse'

by Brian Dumlao on April 26, 2017 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

RWBY: Grimm Eclipse is a four-player, online co-op, hack and slash game based upon Rooster Teeth's RWBY series.

Thanks to the success of its series Red vs. Blue, Rooster Teeth has grown into its own little internet media empire. While it still does plenty of machinima-based shows and live-action ones, its animated series RWBY caught most people's attention. It was also popular enough to warrant a spin-off series that's more comedy-oriented than the action-heavy main series. It should come as no surprise, then, that the team would make a video game about the hit animated series. What is surprising is how dull RWBY: Grimm Eclipse is.

One of the first things you'll notice is that Grimm Eclipse doesn't have much of a story. As soon as you select your character, you're rushed into the gameplay, and there isn't an introductory cut scene to fill you in on the world or the characters. Radio transmissions throughout the game eventually fill you in on the fact that you're investigating malfunctioning security nodes, something that leads to the involvement of Merlot Industries. Given the lack of narrative, fans of the series will only be able to generate faint excitement for the bare-bones tale, while those who aren't familiar with the series will find no incentive to dig further.

At its core, the game is a standard third-person, hack-and-slash title. No matter which character you choose, they're all equipped with light and heavy attacks as well as the ability to use projectiles. While the game features no blocking, you have the ability to perform counterattacks when an opponent is about to attack or finishing up their attack. Killing enemies builds up a meter to let you unleash a stronger attack at any time. It also allows you to gain XP, which lets you level up your stats and strengthen your attacks.

One of the highlights is the combat system. It's pretty basic, since only a few combos exist, and the lack of new moves or combos can make it feel tiresome long before you reach the game's halfway point. However, it has the tendency to flow smoothly if you're paying attention. The key is in the counterattack. When the counterattack button prompt appears, hitting it immediately stops your current animation and goes straight into the counter instead. When used in a decently sized group fight, you'll notice that the counter appears at a particular cadence much of the time, so there's a smooth, rhythmic flow to your attacks.

The counter system is indispensable, since you'll quickly discover how fragile you are. At the beginning, it takes two good hits from an enemy before you're into a critical state, and one hit in that condition spells instant death. Get away from combat for a while, and that'll replenish. Your only option is to jump or run away if you have the space and don't see a prompt for countering. It would've been nice if the game had a dash mechanic, as there is a disconnect between the fast-paced action and the much slower jumping and movement speed, which rob the combat of some style.

From here, though, things take a turn for the worse. Whether you're using melee attacks, projectiles, or a combination of both, the camera fights you all of the time. Even if you're standing still, the camera has a tendency to drift and zoom in on its own, and during hectic fights, you have to rely on the audio to tell you what to do, since the camera zooms in too close or gets so low that it hides the action.

The linear progression of the levels is expected, as you've seen other games use closed-off monster rooms to compartmentalize the action. However, with such a limited variety of enemies and they tend to bunch together to attack you, the action quickly becomes tiresome. This is especially true when you discover that most levels require protecting towers from countless enemy waves, hardly an exciting prospect when you've spent most of the game doing just that, only in smaller doses. Once you finally reach a boss fight, it goes on for way too long and has some pretty broken hitboxes.

Since the game is difficult even on the easiest setting, you get the sense that Grimm Eclipse was never balanced for or intended to be a solo experience, especially since finishing each level takes you back to the main campaign menu. That idea is further strengthened when your immediate death means restarting the level, unless you were lucky enough to cross an otherwise invisible checkpoint. In lieu of local multiplayer, there's the online variant, where you team up with up to four other players to go through the whole campaign or horde mode, where you'll again protect towers from enemy waves. Playing with others gives you certain advantages, such as character revives on death and the ability to execute team moves, but you'll never get to experience it since no one is online. Unless you can wrangle up other people to join you for a session, you're stuck with an unbalanced solo experience.

At first glance, the graphics look fine. The environments stand out mostly because they have a nice uniform color, and the models for both characters and enemies look authentic, though they're missing some detail here and there. It doesn't take long before that perception is broken and only decent animations are provided. Both textures and shadows tend to stream in as you're moving, so there's a constant update of detail just a few feet in front of you. It also doesn't help that some textures are so bad that they appear as nothing but pixels. There's not much lighting to speak of, so the game has an overall flat look that neither mimics the source material nor elevates it.

Sound is another area where the initial impression is positive. All of the characters have their original voice actors reprising their roles, and the music provides an epic adventure vibe. The lack of cut scenes and minimal banter from the main characters reduces the impact of the voice actors, though, and there are times when the secondary characters have their monologues cut off for no reason. Sound effects have the same issue, as jump sounds are simply missing, while others just don't sound as impactful as expected.

There's a germ of a good idea in RWBY: Grimm Eclipse. The counter system alone makes this button-masher feel more refined. However, the rest of it — the presentation, the actual gameplay, and the lack of story — does such a terrible job at supporting this system that the overall game feels unfinished. Only a handful of fans may be fine with the title, but everyone else can easily ignore this offering.

Score: 4.5/10

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