Review – Grimvalor

Sometimes a game doesn’t need to be groundbreaking in order to be good. It might feature gameplay elements from the most saturated genres out there, but if the developers manage to polish everything well enough, people won’t mind. It will be an entertaining game and it will be worth recommending to people. Direlight’s Grimvalor is a great example of this. In theory, it’s a game that couldn’t have been more uninventive. In reality, it’s an excellent, albeit flawed, addition to the Switch’s library.

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You’re not supposed to win your first fight.

Grimvalor is a game that is heavily inspired by two franchises in particular: Castlevania (most specifically, from Symphony of the Night onwards) and Dark Souls. From Castlevania, the game borrowed its 2D perspective, platforming, hack ‘n slash combat, overall level design, and open-ended nature. From Dark Souls, it borrows its enemy behavior, emphasis on evasiveness, progression system, “bonfires”, sound design, and a completely nonsensical plot that needs a team of specialists in order to understand what’s going on.

When you read this description, you may think that this isn’t exactly the most creative of games. Sadly, it isn’t. I’ve seen this many times before, with Hollow Knight and Blasphemous being good examples. You may also ask yourself how the heck can a game like this be, as quoted by myself not long ago, “an excellent, albeit flawed, addition to the Switch’s library”. Well, Grimvalor is not innovative, but it’s extremely competent. It doesn’t invent anything, but it takes tried and true elements used in the past and creates a fun experience out of it. That’s all.

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Look how dope my character looks at the moment.

The gameplay is very straightforward, but very entertaining. You can equip two weapons at a time, usually a sword and a heavy weapon that can be used to break walls and unveil secret rooms. You don’t have a stamina bar when attacking or dodging, as the game basically encourages you to hop around the rooms like Daffy Duck when he starts laughing and going crazy. Enemies telegraph their attacks in pretty obvious ways, so you won’t have a hard time dodging their moves. In fact, this might be the only Souls-inspired game I have ever played in which I’ve managed to defeat bosses without ever getting hit once.

By no means is Grimvalor a pushover, but it’s certainly a lot more accessible than similar games due to your arsenal of moves, weapons, and how quickly you can improve your stats. There are some challenging bosses, as well as “hunters” that trap you inside an enclosed space after collecting an item in a hidden room, but it’s nothing you can’t handle after one or two attempts. Grimvalor is also pretty chill when it comes to punishing you for your mistakes. In fact, it doesn’t punish you at all. You don’t lose your souls when you die, so you can fail as much as you want, even though you’re probably not going to need to repeat boss battles that many times.

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Sorry dude, social distancing and all.

Besides the excellent combat and fun exploration, Grimvalor prides itself in running pretty well on the Switch, especially in handheld mode. This game isn’t exactly a beautiful masterpiece, especially for 2020 standards, but it does have some visually attractive environments, all of which are obviously inspired by Castlevania. It always runs at a buttery smooth 60 frames a second though, and that’s always a plus in my books. The sound department is also quite impressive for an indie title like this one, with some epic boss battle tunes, yet another influence taken from big brother Dark Souls.

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How the hell am I supposed to get those experience points??

Grimvalor is a delightful surprise. Not exactly the most innovative metroidvania out there, nor the most challenge game with gameplay elements derived from Dark Souls, but it manages to provide a satisfactory level of challenge and a lot of secrets to unfold in one inexpensive package. I’d even say that the Switch was the perfect fit for a game like this because you can play it in small bursts, but I ended up playing Grimvalor in very long sessions without even paying attention. It’s a neat little gem for the ever growing library of Switch indies. If you’re looking for more metroidvania shenanigans, don’t even think twice.

 

Graphics: 7.0

It does run phenomenally well for a Switch game, even in handheld mode, but its visuals aren’t exactly the most impressive thing out there, especially in 2020.

Gameplay: 9.0

The platforming is responsive and the combat mechanics are fast-paced and on point. It’s an excellent mixture between a metroidvania and a soulslike.

Sound: 8.0

Some eerie sound effects here, some fitting epic tunes there, and some simple voice effects for the monsters you’re fighting against. There’s also a bit of voice acting and it’s not too bad either.

Fun Factor: 7.5

For a game so clearly inspired by Castlevania and Dark Souls, Grimvalor is not really a big challenge, but it does provide players with a nice world to explore and some excellent combat mechanics. It does what it’s supposed to do.

Final Verdict: 8.0

Grimvalor is available now on Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Grimvalor was provided by the publisher.