REVIEW: ‘Grimvalor,’ Shines Bright in the Darkvania Genre (Switch)

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Grimvalor is an action-adventure role-playing platformer developed and published by Direlight. In this dark Metroidvania, you take the role of a warrior investigating the kingdom of Vallaris, a kingdom corrupted by its own doing and its inhabitants turned into abominations. Vallaris was all but lost and forgotten until these abominations started crossing into other lands. Your investigation into the kingdom of Vallaris goes awry when you go toe to toe with an indomitable foe who tosses you into an abyss upon your defeat.

I’m not a fan of Metroidvanias due to the exploration and various puzzles, however, Grimvalor may be the first. For those unfamiliar to Metroidvania style games, you are given a giant map with different areas that you explore and you visit each area more than once, solving puzzles and completing objectives. The word is derived from Metroid and Castlevania, two series that are popularly known for this type of gameplay. You traverse Grimvalor‘s world in a side-scrolling fashion, jumping and going down corridors when the need arises. In this game, exploration is everything with very few puzzles to contend with. Early on in Grimvalor, you are given the tools to adeptly traverse this world through dashing, double jumping, and dodging. While all easy to do, it’s hard to master when confronted with many enemies.

Combat is pretty easy. You can hack and slash or simply hold the attack button to dish out pain and punishment to your enemies. You have a powerful charge attack you can periodically use but to pull off this life-saving maneuver, if you have to have enough Focus. To build up Focus, you must defeat your enemies and collect Soul Shards.

Combat may be simplistic, however, you can equip Trinkets that allow for passive perks on your character. These perks can range from gaining energy at a crucial moment in a fight or adding an effect to your attacks in and out of battle. You can further kit out your character to better your playstyle by leveling up by resting at a shrine. If you have enough Soul Shards, you can level up and raise your stats. There are four stats you can choose to focus on Vigor, Savagery, Mastery, and Focus. Vigor has to do with the amount of life you have and an increase in Vigor means you’re less likely to be stunned by enemies. Savagery controls your weapon damage and gives you a chance to stun enemies. Mastery increases your attack speed and gives you the chance to deal critical damage. And, lastly, Focus increases energy gained from Soul Shards and items. This also allows you to gain additional trinket slots.

Grimvalor

When in safe areas, known as the Nexus, you can rest and level up and forge new weapons and armor. You forge using loot scattered throughout the world but it’s scarce so it is best to think carefully about your playstyle and what you need. While carrying a sword and ax may seem the way to go, and make you look like a powerhouse, gauntlets as your primary weapon and a sword as your charge weapon could give you the mobility you need to get in and out of harm’s way.

While gameplay shines, the story lacks. The world of Vallaris is shrouded in mystery and you reveal what little of the story there is through finding lost texts. The lore that is found is interesting, piecing together how the world became the way it is, but it stops right there. This meager lore is just not enough to keep me engaged. Besides your own character and the way you craft them, the NPC characters are not interesting. The one highlight is a mysterious figure who is pivotal to the game’s plotline. So, what really draws you in, besides gameplay, is the changing environments and the game’s ominous soundtrack. Oddly, that’s enough to make Grimvalor work well.

Grimvalor feels like a well-crafted game that’s a great entry point for gamers new to the Metroidvania genre. Though the plot is meager, the lore is quite interesting as you traverse Grimvalor‘s corrupted world. The game’s soundtrack and everchanging environments sink its fangs into you, keeping you invested. The simplistic gameplay evolves, furthering the “easy to pick up but hard to master” theme for a Metroidvania. Grimvalor has a little something for everyone.

Grimvalor is available now on Nintendo Switch.

Grimvalor
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

Grimvalor feels like a well-crafted game that’s a great entry point for gamers new to the Metroidvania genre. Though the plot is meager, the lore is quite interesting as you traverse Grimvalor‘s corrupted world. The game’s soundtrack and everchanging environments sink its fangs into you, keeping you invested. The simplistic gameplay evolves, furthering the “easy to pick up but hard to master” theme for a Metroidvania. Grimvalor has a little something for everyone.