Grimoire: Heralds of the Winged Exemplar Early Impressions

Grimoire: Heralds of the Winged Exemplar, the RPG that took over 20 years to make, was recently released to everyone's great surprise. Upon spending a few days with the game, the folks at Rock, Paper, Shotgun offer their initial impressions of the 600+ hour title. Without Richard Cobbett's deep RPG knowledge to guide them, the RPS folks can't help but make constant quips directed at us, RPG grognards, but apart from that, the article seems pretty fair, coming from a layman. Have a look:

I enjoyed gradually figuring out mysteries, intuiting from words alone what some new terminal or station might be for. But I hated the tiny strip of icons that is my inventory, the hideously drawn-out process required to work out what anything was or how to use it, the constant sense that my time was being wasted by click-click-clicking through all these small arrows and icons and numbers to get anything done.

I appreciated the imagination and characterfulness that has gone into much of the art. It looks very much of the time it seeks to evoke, but there’s a big, cheery cheesiness to its monsters and character portraits which tickles me. But the sound design is so monstrously wrong-headed that I had to mute the thing entirely. The hateful music is still audible with the slider set to zero, some enemies will repeat the same irritating sound effect on a rapid loop until they are dead, and all told it’s like being tortured by some idiotic early-noughties police procedural vision of what videogames sound like.

On top of that, my savegames have been repeatedly rendered unusable and custom-made characters wiped by daily patches, and I cannot face grinding through the arduously clicky character creation process, let alone the early hours of a new campaign, yet again. To bear that, I would have to intensely love what Grimoire intensely loves. It’ll settle down in a couple of weeks, I’m sure, but as much as I’m genuinely curious about what secrets and challenges it holds further down the line, it’s unlikely I’ll ever go back.

I admire the size of this thing, the vision of it, the dedication. The labour of love is clear, and I have no doubt that it is going to absolutely delight those who have flown the flag of The Olden Days Did It Best for decades. But I think of 600, 300, 100, even 20 more hours of my life spent this way, this glacial churn, and I cannot accept such a fate.

I’m glad Grimoire’s real after all this time, I’m glad it’s done what it set out to do 20 years ago, and I acknowledge entirely that its development began in a very different age of game design, that it has all been handled by just one man and, as such, certain expectations are entirely unfair.

Neither that or my curiosity about what it will throw at me next means that I can abide the grind, the desperately cumbersome user interface or the sound that makes me want to throw my speakers into the sea. I like Grimoire in many ways, but again, I would need to truly, madly, deeply love it in order to endure all that. I’m afraid that I do not.