RWBY: Grimm Eclipse: Six Months Later
A code for the Xbox One version of RWBY: Grimm Eclipse was provided by Rooster Teeth for this review.
As is often the case when looking at game reviews, there’s a divide between the critics and players of RWBY: Grimm Eclipse (GE). On one side you have the critics who are quick to mention how repetitive the combat is and talk about level design. On the other side you have the players of the game who are largely made up of Rooster Teeth fans and talk about the game very positively, whether through a willingness to overlook certain flaws or as a response to the initial critic reviews.
I fall somewhere in between.
Now that some time has passed since the console versions of the game came out back in January, we can have a really good look at the updates, DLC, and general fallout from the game's release.
It can’t be denied that there are shortcomings in GE. Much like in Gears of War when you see a room full of waist high walls and you know a fight is about to kick off, the same can be said here for dropping into an area from a two story tall cliff. The lack of a tutorial, or even letting the player know what button does what from within the gameplay itself, goes against the grain of most video games in the current era. I’m all for reducing the hand-holding we usually see, but this example takes it to the extreme.
To me the level design feels at times like a student project in Unity or UE4. That might sound harsh but I see the surrounding mountains, vast hilly areas with blended grass and rock textures, and abundance of invisible walls as something I have done in the past when playing around with the available toolsets. Level design is an incredibly tough thing to get right and is often overlooked by players as a skill, but when sections of the game are separated by stretches of moving from location to location, the level itself almost becomes a character in its own right.
Speaking of characters, I was a little disappointed with the character fighting styles available within the game. When I think hack and slash games, I think Devil May Cry, and that means juggling your enemies in the air until you eventually kill them. While two of the characters (Ruby and Weiss) can do exactly that in a pretty simple button mashing combo, the other six characters (two more from the base game and four from the DLC) feel lackluster by comparison.
My biggest issue with the gameplay was the camera. I found it too slow to correct itself into position behind the character being played, and that's an issue for games in this genre when you're surrounded by groups of enemies and you need to know exactly where you're being attacked from. The right thumbstick is used to move the camera, the same as almost every other game, and there's even a button to snap the camera to behind your character. Even with those measures in place I found myself fighting against the camera quite frequently.
None of this is to say that GE doesn’t have any redeeming factors, because it does. The character design, animation, and voice performances are all very well done and true to the base material, but that makes sense because these are the things that the RWBY series is known for and the team involved has been doing for years now.
The team should be commended for the state of the game at launch. In a seemingly rare move within the games industry, GE wasn't a burning car wreck needing multiple updates to get it to where it should have been from the start. The Rooster Teeth Games crew put out a very stable version of the game and have only put out a couple of minor bug fixing updates since. I think that speaks volumes for the thorough development process that GE went through.
I played the first few levels solo and that is definitely not the way to play this game. Dying means waiting 20-30 seconds while you load back in for another shot starting in the previous area, the waves of enemies have little variation and the AI is telegraphed. A much better experience is had if you can get a few friends together and hang out for a couple of hours while swinging your scythe or shooting your shot gauntlets.
Comparing this game to a AAA title with a near limitless budget isn't fair. For what GE is and being the first hit out by Rooster Teeth Games, I am excited to see where they go from here. If you have a group of friends who are RWBY fans then by all means give it a go and tell me how wrong I am, but for the average gamer I wouldn't recommend picking this one up.
What I will say is watch this space because I can see big things coming from the Austin company's game division in the near future. With the recent acquisition of David Eddings (the voice of Borderlands' Claptrap) to oversee indie game publishing, and the already built in marketing machine Rooster Teeth has with their Let's Play network (Achievement Hunter, Funhaus, Kinda Funny and more), Rooster Teeth Games may very well be the next Devolver Digital.