Thursday, January 19, 2017

RWBY: Grimm Eclipse ~ Team JNPR Bundle (PS4)

Where do I start? I suppose my lack of knowledge of the RWBY series would suffice. Going into this review I honestly did not expect to get caught up on the entire lore surrounding Rooster Teeth's RWBY series. The game description on the PSN store clearly stated that this was a new scenario that was to tie-in with the series main characters, and enemies. At the same time though I kind of expected the developer to at least give some kind of background on the main characters, and their predicament in order to possibly gain the attention of people like me who may not have followed the RWBY story progression. This did not happen. In fact the story that was told through faux smartphone chat for the duration of the game's campaign by four of RWBY's doctors only hinted at what was going on, and in no way really fleshed out a new story. I was left with a lot of questions, and did not feel any closer to learning about RWBY than I did before doing my playthrough. Needless to say there was a great opportunity missed to connect with a new audience, and to stay connected with the audience Rooster Teeth had already amassed. Not only that, but the gameplay I'm about to describe is flawed to a point that the game does not really earn the asking price it so boldly requests ...

RWBY (Grimm Eclipse) is an action RPG experience that carries a lot of flash, but hardly anything in the way of substance. While it looks visually impressive, and has a noteworthy soundtrack the game suffers greatly from repetitive content, and almost barren levels among other things. The game itself features a chapter-by-chapter campaign that is playable through both a single player, and multiplayer experience. A campaign that allows gamers to play as one of four RWBY female characters while building upon their stats, and skill trees in an RPG fashion. You'll play level after level, and chapter after chapter in a third person perspective as you traverse a fairly linear path with wave based combat, and environmental interactions in place that are meant to get you deeper into the game. While there are objectives in the form of safeguarding an area/object, or getting an object from 'Point A' to 'Point B' you'll find you'll mostly be clearing out repetitive waves of enemies that are the same time, and time again. The only difference being orientation in which enemies are grouped.

When you first begin your single player playthrough and choose either Ruby, Weiss, Blake, or Yang as your protagonist you'll be thrust into the gameplay with absolutely no instructions, or tutorials. This is, but one of many oversights the game developers made in the creation of this latest RWBY adventure. I had to feel out the controls, and figure out what did what in order to be able to make it as far as I did. In my struggle to figure things out I learned that SQUARE/TRIANGLE were Ruby's melee attacks, that CIRCLE was a situational parry, that R1 was a stun follow-up attack, that L1 was an evasion roll, that L1 + R1 was an ultimate attack, that X was jump, and that R2 was for Ruby's ranged gun attack. Why this wasn't even laid out in a controller diagram, or through an in-game tutorial is beyond me.

Once you grasp the controls combat becomes second nature. You basically evade, attack when able, and recover your aura (life) when damaged by dodging attacks until said meter refills. Keep in mind though that each character including those four from the "Team JNPR (Jaune, Nora, Pyrrha & Lie)" bundle inclusion have their own unique melee, and ranged attacks making your approach to battle different accordingly. Ruby, for example has a melee scythe, and a ranged rifle weapon that can fire a third combo shot which will sometimes stuns nearby/distant enemies. As you kill off the Grimm creatures that have been mutated with your heroine, or hero of choice you'll earn XP, and build up your ultimate meter which in turn will allow your to rid yourself of the waves of Grimm quicker. The XP, or experience points you earn double as a means to both level up in the numerical sense, and to earn skill points which can be applied to the "Ultimate", "Team Attack", "Ranged", and "Base" skill trees. These skills, or bonus perks make your character more formidable in combat scenarios, and build upon attacks while strengthening things like aura regeneration, and defense. Some of the earliest available skills can be purchased for one skill point while the latter require two, or more.

Killing off Grimm isn't the only way to earn XP though. During your travels you'll find breakable boxes, and pottery that sometimes contains XP orbs. There's that, and 'artifacts (chess pieces)' that can be collected for 100XP each. Finding the artifacts usually only takes a short deviation from the set path. When it comes down to combat XP on the other hand how you fight does hold sway on how much XP you earn. Parries, which are done by pressing CIRCLE when the enemy Grimm has a CIRCLE highlighted above their head will reward you with more points. This, and the R1 stun finisher add to the stacked melee, and ranged combos that are required to ultimately deplete an enemy's life bar.

Aside from the single player campaign you'll find that "RWBY: Grimm Eclipse" also has a multiplayer mode with two extra modes of play. You can choose to join three other gamers in a four player campaign playthrough, or you can attempt to tackle the game's 'Horde' mode which is very much like GearBox's 'Gears of War' mode of the same name. Like that horde mode you'll be killing off waves of Grimm while earning a currency which can be spent on defenses against the increasingly difficult waves of enemies. As you try to survive, and revive downed playmates you'll also have to protect stations which carry with them a health bar. From what I gather players can select the same RWBY characters which in itself makes matchmaking go more smoothly. The downside to online play is that the chat (which can be opted out of) is a bit muffled. That, and there is a certain level of frame rate issues due to the busy onscreen action.

Now about them issues ...

RWBY (Grimm Eclipse), as a $20+ gaming experience suffers greatly from repetitive enemy encounters, a lackluster level/chapter layout that is almost barren at times, abusive enemy AI, and bad camera angles that present themselves in the more smaller areas. Let us address the enemy Grimm first. While you will encounter a few new Grimm along the way more often than not your combat encounters will be a mixed matching of the same enemy types you faced in the earlier levels/chapters. At first you'll be bombarded by aggressively attacking lesser enemies, then by mid-boss types, and sometimes even a boss that is more or less a bullet sponge. The battles in which these similar looking beasts reside become a tedious task of keep away, and retaliation. Often times it's difficult to distance yourself from such a pack of attackers in order to be able to attack long enough to kill off at least one Grimm. In the later levels when the robotic lancers, and grenade launching robots are introduced this type of situation only gets worse.

When it comes to the sloppy camera angles things tend to be alright in the more open areas, but when you get into the smaller more cluttered spaces the camera angle zooms in a bit too much on your character leaving you at a disadvantage. This is very concerning, because in most wave combat scenarios you have to constantly keep on the move. This sometimes means moving into one of the spots where the camera's focus is messed up. Another thing that bothered me about combat was the fact that the developer did not include an aiming lock. This becomes a problem when there are multiple targets, or enemies in the area. You'll find yourself intending to shoot a Grimm, but your shots will be fired at something else entirely.

With the overly aggressive AI, the bad camera angles, the lack of background info and story content, and the issues with combat in general "RWBY: Grimm Eclipse" fails to deliver a quality product worth the $20+ asking price. It could have been better, and definitely should have been more polished than it was. As I said before I feel 'Rooster Teeth Games' missed a golden opportunity. They had the chance to WOW a new crowd, and to impress their faithful audience at the same time. Both are things which they did not do. Even with the bundled four bonus characters from the "Team JNPR" bundle I cannot recommend this game. It is flawed, and made me quite furious at that last boss fight.

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