RWBY, pronounced ‘Ruby’, actually stands for Ruby, Weiss, Blake and Yang which represent the games 4 main playable characters. If like myself you’ve never heard of RWBY before, it’s an American anime series that started back in 2013. The game slots in story wise between the anime’s 2nd and 3rd volumes and chronicles the teams investigation into some happenings around the Emerald Forest which has recently seen several of it’s security nodes fail. The game itself was pretty much single handedly developed by Jordan Scott as a fan project until it caught the attention of RWBY’s owners, Rooster Teeth, who rather than release the lawyers scooped the game and Jordan up into a newly formed video games department. It’s actually a refreshing story compared to the vast number of fan projects who meet their end at the hands of cease and desist notices.
The game is a pure hack and slash game, with a couple of close quarters moves coupled with a ranged attack and a special attack that charges as you rack up the kills. Imagine a very watered down version of the FreeFlow combat system from the Rocksteady’s Batman Arkham series of games but without any of the sensation and polish. From the off, the first thing that struck me was the lack of any form of tutorial for the game, instead you’re just left to pretty much figure it all out. I’m not sure how I felt about this, sure in some games these days tutorials can be far to patronising to the player but they still have an important role to play in teaching the player the fundamentals of the game play. Movement is of course obvious, but experimentation to work out move sequences and combos leaves you always wondering if your actually playing the game right. To expand on this, the game rewards you with skill points to spend on new abilities as you level up. As well as a certain number of points, some skills require you to complete a specific challenge before you can unlock it. Some of these are pretty obvious, perform 100 successful counters for example. Others however require you to perform a specific move a certain number of times, but without any reference it took me a fair while to figure out what the specific move was and how to perform it.
You have the choice to play as one of 4 characters, which can be extended to 8 with an optional DLC purchase. I didn’t myself find any real variation between the characters beyond a different model and slightly different animations, Each played the same and as such you’ll pretty much just end up choosing the character which you like the look of most.
The enemies, or ‘Grimm’ as they are known in the game, feel very artificial and seldom present a challenge. For the most part they’ll encircle you and simply wait for you kill them. It’s initially enjoyable, but becomes drab pretty quickly. Later on in the game the balance shifts somewhat with the game becoming a lot more difficult. A particular enemy, a humanoid gladiator equipped with a ‘Pugil’ stick, that you encounter towards the later part of the campaign is particular vicious by relentlessly getting right in your face simply forcing you to forever dodge and stun from range.
Multiplayer extends the life of the game somewhat by allowing you and up to 3 other players to team up and tackle either the single player campaign or a ‘horde’ mode which sees you defend points against 10 waves of enemies. Difficulty scales through quantity rather than quality, with the wave sizes increased proportional to the number of players playing. I found multiplayer more engaging, and certainly more enjoyable than the single player.
Coming at this from a fresh perspective, and no prior knowledge of the RWBY anime series, I found the game rather underwhelming. Beyond first impressions, the veil lifts to reveal monotonous gameplay that lacks any variety or challenge. At the point where some variety is introduced, a timed section that sees you frantically collecting fuel for a mine cart to dispose of a bomb, it felt so poorly executed that you actually just wish that it had been left out of the game in favour of a straight up fight. It’s mindless action, but not in a particularly fun or enjoyable fashion. Its appeal is most certainly going to be to fans of the show, although I’m not convinced that there is enough in the franchise to glaze over the games failings. The single player frames the game for exactly what it is, poor, and beyond allowing you to get comfortable with the controls it’s better to avoid it and stick to the multiplayer where things are at least a little better. The addition of the horde mode helps, but overall there isn’t enough depth, challenge or mastery to keep you engaged for long.
I commend developer Jordan Scott who for the most part created the entire game single handed, but that passion for the series that he must have had when he started hasn’t materialised into a gameplay experience that I could resonate with, and it certainly hasn’t peaked my interest in finding out more about the franchise. RWBY: Grimm Eclipse is a jack of few trades, and a master of none.
RWBY: Grimm Eclipse was provided to us by Xbox via a digital download for Xbox One.