RWBY: Grimm Eclipse – Early Access (PC)

RWBY-GrimmEclipse01Rooster Teeth’s international hit series RWBY about 4 girls efforts to become huntresses and defend the world of Remnant from supernatural forces now has a game in early access on Steam. The game was originally conceived as a one off fan project by a lone developer Jordon Scott but after just 24 hours of the tech demo appearing online it was picked up by series creator Monty Oum and is now in full development with Rooster Teeth. Playing as a co-op action based RPG the developers cite games like Kingdom Hearts, Dynasty Warriors and Mystic Heroes as inspiration for the game. As a diehard RWBY fan myself after the Red trailer first cropped up on YouTube, this is a game I’ve been waiting to play since it was announced back at the RTX panel in July 2014.

Grimm Eclipse is said to bring a new plot and introduce a new villain into the world of RWBY but series writers Miles Luna and Kerry Shawcross are trying to keep it canon with the show. The scenario that we are given here actually takes place between Series 2 and the currently ongoing Series 3. Our favourite huntress team RWBY is dropped into the middle of the emerald forest and is asked to investigate the local area after some unusual security reports. As you advance you begin to find evidence of Grimm poaching, strange gang insignias, and a new underground facility beneath Mountain Glenn. Just who is behind these mysterious events is something we’ll have to look forward to in future instalments.RWBY-GrimmEclipse02

You’re dropped straight into the world of Remnant and the beautifully modelled characters and environments really do make it feel like you’ve stepped straight into an episode out of the series. To help get you in the mood is the background music which has been lifted straight off the fantastic OST and it features voice work from the original cast. The currently available scenario plays out in 4 different missions covering two areas of existing Remnant locations and narrated by two of Beacons lecturers; Peter Port and Bartholomew Oobleck. The missions primarily consist of exploration followed by a Grimm attack which usually takes the form of defending against a set number of waves. There’s also an escort mission right at the end to break things up a bit and introduce a new mechanic that’s likely to crop up more in future updates.

All four members of team RWBY are playable within this early access version, each bringing their own unique weaponry and fairly balanced movesets. The energetic childish leader Ruby Rose takes charge with her trusty sniper scythe Crescent Rose to deal large sweeping attacks, aerial strikes and a round of shots from afar. Rebellious Weiss Schnee dons her usual dust rapier Myrtenaster unleashing a series of fast strikes while also utilising ice glyphs to bombard enemies from afar. The cool and reserved Blake Belladonna leaps into action with Gambol Shroud a ballistic chain-scythe providing a mixed ground to air combo much like their leader. Lastly there’s the cheerfully, energetic Yang Xiao Long armed with her duel-shot gauntlets Ember Celica she can deal some great damage to opponents with a flurry of explosive punches and heavy shotgun spray punches. As it stands there is no option to play solo and you’re forced to play cooperatively within a team of up to 4. The difficulty of the game is dependent on the number of players available. Basically this means the higher number of players the more Grimm you have to deal with and it alters on the fly as players drop in and out of combat, which is a very nice touch.

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Grimm Eclipse utilises full controller support and it’s all mapped out very well to make combat feel very fluid. As I opted for the controller most of all this is the play type I’ll talk about here. Your attacks are assigned to two buttons (square and triangle or X and Y for those using controllers), mashing the one releases a single combination of melee strikes while the other offers a single ranged attack. It’s a bit unfortunate that at the moment you’re limited to just the one attack string and can’t combine your melee and ranged attacks other than performing a final knockback attack. As for the ranged shots the auto aim is slightly awkward as you can wind up targeting wrong enemies or bullet resistant Grimm over the one you initially intended to hit. Your repertoire of attacks can be opened up however by specials which can be used by holding down the R2 button and combining it with the X, square and triangle buttons to release satisfying, devastating strikes. Using one though costs you one pip, these are gained by gathering 12 hit combo’s in quick succession.

After defeating enemies you’re awarded with a small number of experiences points which all culminates in you levelling up and gaining an ability point. These can be used to increase the tenacity of your special or can improve one of your more passive abilities like faster heal times and quicker team revivals. Each level and new ability gained gives a nice sense of progression. That said some of the abilities can only be gained by completing certain criteria such as killing a number of Grimm with a certain special which, given the restricted levels, seems like an impossible feat. Plus after the completion of the current scenario your forced back to opening menu with all of your experience removed. It’s a little disappointing but you have to look at it as more an insight of what’s to come.

Of course this game is still only in early access and according to its steam page it’s looking like another 8-10 months before we see the finished product. So what can we expect in the future? RWBY has always had a very good community backing them and the games developers are hoping this group will provide them with some much needed feedback while they play around with some new features and iron out any current flaws. For the purposes of the current version players can only experience 4 levels which makes up one campaign scenario. Eventually an additional two campaigns are planned to be added each with their own unique locations, enemies and features. Once the campaigns are completed they’ll be released as larger updates so that they can repeat the testing and feedback process until they can a fully polished product.

RWBY: Grimm Eclipse as it stands is a solid little hack ‘n’ slasher particularity if you have a close group of friends to play it with. The first campaign is certainly an enjoyable experience but it’s clear to see where things need some work, particularly in the simplified combat. Early access costs £10.99 and at this point the features available in this one hour campaign scenario don’t really justify the cost. However this is one that fans of the RWBY franchise are certain to enjoy and it’s worth getting just to see how this game will develop over time.

This preview is based off an early access code of RWBY: Grimm Eclipse provided by Rooster Teeth Games.

This preview was originally published on the site GamersFTW which unfortunately has now been taken down. It’s been published on my personal blog, DanielVaughanReviews, out of respect for the developers/publishers that were kind enough to give me review copy of their game.

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