GrimGrimoire OnceMore Review (Switch)
Lillet, we have the worst luck.
Publisher: NIS America
To be honest, I haven’t played any games from Vanillaware, nor did I even know about the studio before the announcement of GrimGrimoire Oncemore and reading about people talking about playing it when it originally released and talking about their experiences with Vanillaware’s other games. Well, okay, technically I do have 13 Sentinels (which I haven’t played yet oops) but I didn’t realize it was from them until recently. So you can guess that I had no idea what GrimGrimoire was, but after looking up the trailer and how the gameplay was I decided to check it out. I don’t play many real-time strategy games (or tower defense if you classify GrimGrimoire as one), but I still wanted to check out GrimGrimoire Oncemore! So how is it, at least from the perspective of someone that doesn’t play RTS games…at all?
In GrimGrimoire OnceMore, you play as a young girl named Lillet Blan who has just been accepted to attend a prestigious magic school at the Silver Star Tower. Lillet was even invited by the headmaster, Gammel Dore, who recognized her talent and saw her potential. Since Lillet always dreamed of becoming a great magician, and she wanted her younger brothers to have a better life, this was a dream come true. Her first week of school was a nice one, she got to meet the other students who were mostly nice to her and her teachers. While a certain teacher seems too suspicious and mischievous to keep around, they all are good teachers that eased Lillet into magic and the type that they specialized in. All was good with Lillet making steady progress in her studies until the fifth day. Everything went to hell on the fifth day as not only was a devil named Grimlet awakened, but also the Archmage Calvaros was released and proceeded to kill everyone in the tower.
Well, saying Lillet’s first week was a disaster would be an understatement. Who would imagine that by the end of the week everyone you just met would be killed, with you being the last one to be killed? I certainly did not expect it. Well, good thing that this isn’t the end for Lillet Blan as right as the bell rang, right before she would have been killed, she blinks and finds herself in her pajamas. Except, it wasn’t a dream she woke up from but she leaped back in time to her first day in the Silver Star Tower. And when she gets to the fifth day again, she is saved by the bell and sent back. What’s going on? Why is Lillet stuck in a time loop? Who is truly behind starting the events of the fifth day? And most importantly, can she stop Grimlet from awakening and Calvaros from killing everyone?
I absolutely loved the story of GrimGrimoire. Not only was learning about how magic worked in this universe interesting, but the characters were interesting to get to know as well. Strangely enough, my favorite character (not counting Lillet) was Advocat. I also loved how the loop was handled. While you are going through the same week, you do get new information each time. Lillet does something different each loop, whether that be when she’s trying to find out what’s going on or using knowledge in previous loops to try and get the perfect week. This lets you (and Lillet) piece together a timeline of events of the original week and guess what could change due to Lillet making different choices or having a grimoire that she’s not supposed to have yet. It also helps that Lillet is a smart protagonist. There are some things she lets slip, but she’s smart and takes calculated risks. Plus you have to admire her dedication to having everyone survive.
GrimGrimoire Oncemore’s gameplay is definitely one that looks super confusing when you look up gameplay videos, but makes sense once you actually get into the game and learn the basics. There is also complexity to it, which the game does hint at and leaves you to piece it together so you can use it in your strategies. GrimGrimoire is a real-time strategy game, with a hint of tower defense, that uses the halls of the tower as its backdrop. It all starts with grimoires that contain the spells that will let you summon runes onto the battlefield. These runes will then allow you to summon the familiars (or units) associated with them. Seems simple enough, but there is more to it.
There are four branches of magic that you’ll unlock, which have their own advantages and disvantages: Glamour, Necromancy, Sorcery, and Alchemy. Plus each branch is strong against and weak to another which will influence who you end up bringing out. Not to mention the different body types units will have which will also influence who you bring out. Of course, the obvious is that flying units will be able to move more freely from grounded ones; but astrals, being intangible and all, are generally immune to substance attacks and require you to bring in anti-astral units in.
At the start of battle, you do start with initial runes, units, and mana to get you started, but after that it’s all up to you. It is pretty easy to get overwhelmed, especially in the beginning once you get out of the tutorial missions, but as you battle more you’ll get the hang of it. First of all, mana is probably the number one thing you need and you need to make sure to put the gatherer units to work at a nearby crystal. Once you have a steady source of mana, you can then summon units, create more runes to get access to more units, and level up the runes so you can summon a more powerful unit and boost units by giving them access to abilities and raising their stats. Once you have a big enough army, hopefully with match-ups in your favor, you can then send them out into the unknown against your enemy.
Of course, you do need to keep an eye on your base just in case the enemy decides to attack. Though, just leaving units behind isn’t enough sometimes as I sometimes found my attackers just sitting there while my runes were being attacked (and I could swear sometimes it was right beside them). You can use your gatherers to set up symbols, after creating the needed rune of course, as well which are stationary units that act like turrets (bringing in that tower defense element in). As you can guess, depending on the branch the symbols have advantages and disadvantages to take into consideration.
However, each stage does have a max capacity so you can’t summon units without thinking. Especially since the more powerful units take up more space. Trust me, you do not want the majority of your units to be gatherers when the enemy decides to launch an attack. Thankfully, a way to dismiss units was implemented through the new skill tree.
Each mission has a variety of victory conditions. Usually, it’s to destroy all of your enemy’s runes, but you do get some that require you to defeat all enemy units, last for a certain amount of time, or protect certain runes. Granted though, this remaster did add the ability to dismiss units, located within the new skill tree.
With the release of this remaster, some new additions were added in to help modernize it. Aside from the overall visual upgrade, one is the ability to fast forward. You can also save in the middle of a battle if you need to step away. Grand Magic was also added, giving Lillet the one time ability to do a huge spell to hopefully turn the tide in her favor. Grand Magic can unleash a powerful AOE attack, an AOE heal for your units, grant yourself a ton of mana, or rewind time. If you happen to fail with Grand Magic left, you can even use it to rewind moments before your defeat.
A skill tree has also been added in, which from what I can gather replaces the old system of these being unlocked as you progressed through the story. Each grimoire has its own skill tree and you can spend coins to enhance and give new abilities to the units that belong to that grimoire. However, aside from a few exceptions, units don’t get these outright in battle until the rune is upgraded to the level it’s on. But how do you get coins? Well, you get coins by completing stages for the first time and doing the optional personal mission which may or may not cause you some hassle. It’s pretty important to engage with this as there are abilities/enhancements that will help you in battle. The coins are also refundable if you feel you made the wrong choice or need a boost to a grimoire that you especially need in the upcoming battle.
GrimGrimoire Oncemore also comes with a Gallery where you can see the art used for each character and significant item as well as illustrations (with a blurb accompanying them) from various artists that unlock as you progress.
There are 25 story missions and guess what, there are 25 more stages that you can do! As you progress through the game, you’ll unlock 25 trial stages that are optional and cranks up the difficulty. Though, it’s probably best to either wait until you complete the game so you have everything unlocked and most of the skill tree learned. These levels are hard when they unlock and they are still hard even when you go in after completing the story.
In terms of negatives, there are a couple things I can think of. Since the whole game takes place in the tower, you will just be seeing the same background for stages. It’s not so much a big thing for those that tune it out, but it will for those expecting different backgrounds or just hoped more background variety would be in the list of additions for this remaster. I also did sometimes find it a bit busy and having difficulties selecting specific units. There are also some aspects of the story that isn’t explained as clearly or just given a passing mention.
I may still not like RTS games, but I’m happy that I still gave GrimGrimoire Oncemore a chance. The RTS gameplay was a tough challenge for me, but I did end up having a fun time with it. After all, I don’t think I would have completed it in two days if I didn’t like it at some level. I may not have played the original GrimGrimoire, but the additions they added were very welcomed and I even thought most of them were in the original version. I also loved how beautiful the art style is, the voice acting was great and felt like they fit the characters, I liked that I could have the text on auto without worry, and I loved the story. The story itself was unique and interesting enough to keep me going.
I’m a bit iffy on the $50 price tag, but I’d say if you’re a huge RTS fan GrimGrimoire OnceMore would be worth it especially if you’re going to try your hand at the hard difficulties and do the optional trial stages. For those that are fairly new or don’t play RTS that much, I’d say it’s still worth it as the difficulty does gradually build (and there is an easy mode you can go down to) and the story itself is worth experiencing, but maybe wait for a discount. You can also just try out the demo to see if it’s something you would possibly like (or tolerate if you’re mainly going in for the story).