Ever since its debut in 2013, Rooster Teeth’s computer animated web series RWBY has been a viral hit with a huge dedicated fanbase. The show has spawned spin-offs, a manga adaptation and a video game that began life as a fan project in 2014. In the same year, Rooster Teeth themselves hired the game’s creator, and RWBY: Grimm Eclipse became the first game developed by Rooster Teeth Games. The game entered Steam Early Access in December 2015 but wrapped up development in July 2016, and now it’s finally available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
RWBY: Grimm Eclipse is a co-op hack n’ slash game where 4 players take the role of the members of team RWBY (and team JNPR with DLC) and take on the waves… and waves… and waves of Grimm. It’s all very similar in design to a Dynasty Warriors game but with barely a fraction of the effort. Grimm Eclipse is nothing more than a button-mashing mess. Every battle results in nothing more than mashing light and heavy attacks, eventually using an ultimate attack, and when they decide to work, dodging and team attacking. You can power up ultimate and team attacks using a tree-branching upgrade system which can also be used to increase health and other stats, but good luck weighing through the nauseatingly dull combat system to try and even level up your character. Enemies are unnecessarily strong within the game’s opening fights, and you truly have to wonder who thought it was a smart idea to allow the enemies to block attacks but leave the player unable to do so.
Bad game design is unmissable in RWBY: Grimm Eclipse, as I found out before I even started playing. Since I was playing alone, I decided to jump into the game’s single-player and was surprised to find that even though this is a 4 player co-op based game, I was not accompanied by AI-controlled teammates. Instead, while going solo, the player is forced to play a game designed for 4 players all on their own, resulting in a borderline unplayable campaign. In order to actually make progress in the story, I was forced to play with random players online, and when I did, I was forced to play from the third level without even being given a level select option. It took way longer than it should have for me to be given the ability to start my own online campaign.
Level design is non-existent. An ugly remapping of the same assets that are practically glorified tunnels just to get the player from one battle to another, because that’s just as far as RWBY: Grimm Eclipse ever goes. It’s just dull, repetitive, lifeless button-mashing that arrogantly refuses to be any more than that.
Penned by writers of the show, the plot takes place between Volumes 2 and 3 of the show and follows team RWBY investigating a security breach at Beacon from Merlot Industries, a previously defunct corporation who appear to be capturing and studying Grimm. The team then takes it upon themselves to find out what Merlot is up to and what they’re doing with Grimm. The story here has potential to be good, and with the writers and voice actors returning, the field is set. But Grimm Eclipse makes a baffling decision to tell the story through supporting characters conversing in gameplay rather than through cutscenes. This ends in a cheap feeling experience and causes the entire story to become unmemorable. The story features little to no interaction from any of the main characters!
One of Grimm Eclipse’s saving graces is that the character models, even though they feature very stilted looking animations, do look on point when compared to the show. The levels may feature the same dull assets repeated throughout, but at least the characters look like they do in the show, and their voice actors return as well. One of the show’s most popular assets is its music composed by Jeff Williams with vocals from Casey Lee Williams. Grimm Eclipse features only one song from Jeff Williams, the rest are stock orchestral tracks that help add to the game’s empty atmosphere. Compared to RWBY’s brilliant orchestral and rock tracks in the show, Grimm Eclipse’s near absence of all of these further cements the game as a disappointment. A more favourable option would’ve just been reusing the show’s soundtrack. Sure, it’s lazy, but it at least would’ve made the dull fights a little more vibrant.
RWBY: Grimm Eclipse has one advantage over every other licensed video game ever: It’s developed by the studio who makes the show. By all accounts this should stand as one of the best of its kind, but inevitably it ends up as a bland, empty co-op brawler with terrible design and ugly visuals. At least it looks like the show though!
Developer: Rooster Teeth Games
Publisher: Rooster Teeth Games
Platforms: PS4, PC, Xbox One
Release Date: 17th January 2017