Mobile ports making their way to the Nintendo Switch are a dime a dozen these days, though there can be quite a disparity in quality between a lot of releases. Some are cleverly designed games that are a lot of fun to play, and some are… well… crap. There was something about Grimvalor that caught my attention immediately though, with its frantic hack-and-slash escapade looking like it could make for a good time. I’m happy to report that it’s a whole lot of fun to play too, with its simple yet satisfying gameplay mechanics ensuring that its adventure is certainly a worthy one.
Grimvalor casts you as an adventurer that’s seeking out a lost King, though things take a sour turn when a deadly battle against a mysterious foe sees you getting cast into a strange abyss. With no clue as to where you are and some vicious enemies out for your blood, you’ve got to battle your way through and find out how to make your way back home – all whilst helping out any fellow abyss-dwellers along the way. It’s a decent little tale that’s easy enough to get on board with, though don’t expect it to go into TOO much depth with lore as you progress.
I know it’s a bit of a cliché to say, but the best way to describe Grimvalor would be as a 2D Souls-like with a Metroidvania touch added to the mix for good measure. This means you’ll be exploring a variety of expansive environments, killing an assortment of enemies and vicious bosses, and improving your character’s capabilities as you progress. You’ll collect Soul Shards when you defeat enemies which act as experience points too, whilst you can also equip trinkets to give yourself little boosts here and there. Basically, it’ll all just familiar to anyone who has played Dark Souls before, though there’ll be a few details that remind you of Castlevania too. Sounds like a good mix really, doesn’t it?
So the fact that Grimvalor is a Souls-like in design might be a pretty intimidating thing for those anticipating a tough time, though it does have one feature that I’m sure plenty of players will appreciate: you don’t lose your experience points when you die. Whilst I’ve always enjoyed the challenge brought by the Souls-like genre in the past, there’s no denying that seeing all your hard work go to waste if you’re killed and don’t recover your experience points could be PRETTY frustrating… that frustration is completely absent here.
It’s a good job too because levelling up is naturally pretty important, with the boost to your stats making it easier to take out foes and survive the deadlier hordes that come in the latter stages of the game. You can level up at one of the many checkpoints that are littered across the world, with the player able to improve four stats: Vigor, Savagery, Mastery, and Focus. Each stat brings something different to the table, with Vigor focusing on health, Savagery on your strength, Mastery on your Speed, and Focus on the amount of energy you absorb when defeating enemies. Naturally, a good mixture of all four stats goes a long way in giving you a balanced character, but you can prioritise what suits your playstyle if you prefer.
Combat in the game is fairly straightforward, with the player able to unleash a standard and charged attack on their enemies… yeah, that’s about it. Additional weapons do spice things up a bit, but for the most part it’s all very simple in design and doesn’t require much strategy from the player outside of dashing away from incoming enemy attacks.
That might sound like a complaint, but it’s actually something I appreciated about Grimvalor. Stringing together combos of hits upon enemies with ease just felt really satisfying, with the 2D nature of the game making it easy to beat up multiple opponents at the same time. Whilst Grimvalor wears its Dark Souls inspiration like a big badge of honour, the combat felt as slick and stylish as the likes of a Platinum Games release – albeit in a MUCH simpler form. It’s fun.
One thing I really liked about Grimvalor was just how nimble the protagonist is, with the player able to dash, double-jump, and wall-run with ease as they work through each level. It’s almost a little floaty in places, especially when you pull off aerial attacks, but it just works so well and feels especially fluid when your manoeuvres are strung together in quick succession. Fortunately, the expansive levels have plenty of different secrets to uncover, so there’s a big incentive in place for you to use these abilities to explore your surroundings in depth – with plenty of hazards to be wary of and new platforming mechanics introduced along the journey though, there’s always a sense of excitement to exploration that ensures that it never grows boring.
This genre of game is typically associated with a nasty difficulty, but Grimvalor is actually pretty easy… maybe even a bit TOO easy in places. Most enemies go down with minimal fuss and their attacks are easy to avoid, whilst even the bosses don’t always provide too stern of a test for players. I rarely died during my playthrough, though even when I did it was never too difficult to avenge my death. It’s hardly a flaw, but it’s something that’s worth bearing in mind if you’re looking for a typical Souls-like challenge.
It’s also worth noting that this was a mobile game that’s been out for a few years, so you shouldn’t expect stunning visuals. That’s not to say that Grimvalor looks bad at all, because it can actually look pretty sharp – some of the enemy designs were particularly neat too, whilst everything flowed together nicely at a steady frame rate. It can just feel a little bit bland and simple in design in places, especially when compared to similar titles that have released in the genre. It would have been nice if it had a visual hook that really made it stand out in the crowd, but instead it just feels a little bit samey and by the numbers with its gothic-styling.
Grimvalor offers an enjoyable hack-and-slash adventure that is quite simple in design, but always satisfying to play as you slice away at your foes. It’s clear that it was heavily inspired by the Dark Souls games too, though it certainly offers a much easier journey for players to complete when compared to other titles in the genre – that could be both a good or bad thing depending on what sort of challenge you’re expecting from the game. Admittedly, It doesn’t always look that special on a visual basis, though what else would you expect from a mobile game that released a couple of years ago?
Grimvalor is definitely a title that’s worth paying attention to if you’re a fan of the Souls-like genre, with its satisfying combat and slick platforming coming together nicely to make for a really good time.
Developer: Direlight Games
Publisher: Direlight Games
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch