Grimoire: Manastorm May Leave You Feeling…Grim
If, like me, you’re still waiting for your Hogwarts letter, the idea of spellcasting and magic slinging isn’t all that foreign to you. Raw power, ancient magic, and the adventure of discovery attributed to learning the craft are enticing, even if just left to the imagination. And besides, who isn’t enchanted by a little magic once in awhile?
So when I learned about a game where you can do just that, I was excited! Sure, it doesn’t have to have all the bells and whistles. Lengthy casting times, complicated menu systems and nearly impossible to find items for upgrades need not always apply to make a magic-heavy game fun. Furthermore, the FPS format seemed exciting in its own right. What could go wrong, really?
Turns out, a lot. I’d wager that nearly everything, in fact, went wrong when it came to the building of Grimoire: Manastorm.
Now, listen, I went to school for video game design. I know how tough it can be to make mechanics seamless and aesthetics mesh all while nailing down a combat flow that’s fun as well as intricate. It is, in truth, an art. So when people who aren’t familiar with what makes a game work make a game, it shows. Grimoire: Manastorm is a perfect example of exactly what can happen when the balance of gameplay isn’t considered, or even studied, prior to execution.
Double, Double Toil and Trouble
For what it’s worth, the game’s core concept isn’t a bad idea. Fight waves of enemies alone, or go head on in versus mode until the clock runs out. It’s a great test of skill, when there’s skill to be had, and these techniques work best when put up against a mechanics system that operates intuitively.
One could suppose that the mechanics in Grimoire: Manastorm work well enough, but that’s up for debate. Awful lag, cluttered maps, literal invisible walls, and oddly counted cool downs make for some really, well, interesting gameplay. And I don’t necessarily mean that in a good way.
Players have a total of six spells no matter which school of magic they choose. All but two of those spells vary in nature, dependent wholly on the wizard selected. You have your classic elemental mages: earth, fire, ice, as well as nether, nature, and lightning. Don’t get too excited though. New players only have access to the nether and fire casters in the beginning.
Don’t fret though, as there are two ways you can unlock the other casters in your roster. The first is to play multiplayer mode. Victories grant you Arcane Points, and with enough of those (2000 total) you can purchase either casters or upgraded spells. If you’re not into working for it though, you can simply buy a caster for a whopping $2.99! That may not sound like much, but given how little bang for your buck you’ll be getting with this game, that’s a steep asking price. Especially since there are four unlockable casters to be had.
The most obvious issue with Grimoire is it’s balancing. And by that I mean that there really isn’t any of which to speak. For starters, the aforementioned fire caster is excruciatingly overpowered. Equipping them with the trap ability (one of the shared spells among all the mages) and then using even their basic ultimate can cause a team wipe almost every time. Yet this is about the only character to have this kind of combat strength. It may be intended, given that the fire caster is probably the lower bar to entry, especially for the multiplayer. However the scale at which the complexity increases for the remaining characters seems nearly nonexistent. It’s less a scale and more of a gap jump that plateaus out beyond the fire caster.
Another annoying albeit small gripe I had with this game was the maps. While pretty in their own right, most of the maps I played were too cluttered for this game style. Combat was almost always interrupted by a fall to my death, or a death caused by getting stuck on something in the environment. A map this dense could at least benefit from some health packs strewn about the area, because even though health regenerates it’s not always at a rate fast enough for the player’s preference. I also ran into an invisible wall at one point which, after confirming with the rest of the players that round, was apparently not isolated to just my game.
The Power of Three Will Set Us Free (It Won’t)
Despite the fact that the maps were attractive enough to get a passing grade, the game’s particle effects left much to be desired. I mean, if we’re going to be honest with ourselves, the least a game about magic can give the player is a cool looking effect when casting said spells. They’re not bad exactly, just boring. It also seems like some particle effects are reused between different casters which seems like a poor design choice. Given the amount of bugs this game has however, this could be unintentional.
The menu system was also something of a nightmare. Going to the settings tab and switching between the pages didn’t clear out the previous display. In the end I had this nightmarish overlapping of the three pages attributes which continued until I selected the back button. And speaking of buttons, the button mapping in Grimoire: Manastorm doesn’t work at all. I attempted to map all of the spells to my side mouse buttons. The display showed that the entry registered, but when I got into the arena they didn’t work! Thankfully they still responded to their original mapping settings, but I was nonetheless irritated at this oversight on the developer’s part.
Something that isn’t necessarily bad (it doesn’t affect gameplay) but was certainly amusing was the teleport mechanic. I found that a few of the casters, when using this ability, found themselves temporarily rid of their outer robes. It’s really nothing more than an aesthetic glitch, but it was probably one of the few aspects of this game that amused me.
Be A Dummy, Be A Fool. Switch Off Your Brain So Please Don’t Drool!
The game wasn’t all bad though. When I got into the multiplayer side of things I had a good group of folks that I played with. We spent as much time talking as we did zapping each other, and everyone was a good sport. Since this is essentially Grimoire: Manastorm’s bread and butter, my final grade for this game is slightly better than what I was originally going to give it. It does still take a hit for balancing issues and poorly designed maps.
I also can’t forgive this game’s single player campaign, which really doesn’t even need to exist. At the time of writing this, there’s only one level: a five minute experience in which you fight waves of skeletons and – what I think are – rock and ice trolls. You’re also randomly shot at from above by other wizards for…reasons? I don’t know, but at any rate I’d say it’s safe to wager that the single player mode is not what this game is about.
Grimoire: Manastorm is free, so it at least comes at an asking price that you can’t argue with. The add on casters are a bit too highly priced for my blood, and given how lacking the community currently is for this game I can’t see the purchases being worth it at this moment. Still, free is free, and if you have a few friends that just want to get together and try something new for a few hours, this game is available to you for just the right price. It may even get better with updates and patches, but for the moment it’s a pretty rough experience.
Final Verdict: 2 / 5
Available on: PC (Reviewed); Publisher/Developer: Omniconnection; Players: 1 ; Released: Oct 26, 2017 ; ESRB: M for Mature ; MSRP: Free ($2.99 for separate add-ons)
Full Disclosure: This review is based on a Steam review copy of Grimoire: Manastorm given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.