The fighting genre has been one of the cornerstones of videogames, and remains hugely popular to this day. Even though it was over 30 years ago, I still remember being enthralled by the likes of Way of the Exploding Fist, Yie Ar Kung Fu, and Barbarian. Don’t get me wrong, I loved beat-em ups like Target: Renegade and Double Dragon, but there was something pure about facing off one on one against the computer or a friend. Griefhelm takes me back to those halcyon days where smashing my opponent gave me a sense of pride and satisfaction.
Griefhelm is a 2D fighting game where you control a knight. After completing the tutorial, I was ready to go, or so I thought. Although there are only a few moves at your disposal, Griefhelm is definitely a tactical fighter rather than a button masher. Defence plays a big part of your success and you can press up, right and down to block in the corresponding areas. Pressing in those directions, and using the trigger lets you strike at the head, midriff, or legs of your enemies. You can also jump and use an elbow to knock your foes off their guard. The combat feels solid and weighty, but it did take me a little while to learn how to read my enemies and their attacks.
There are three different modes available including a campaign, encounter and online. Encounter allows you to choose from various game types including tug of war, skirmish, free for all and horde.
- Tug of war is a battle where you face off against multiple enemies. Every opponent you defeat gets you closer to your goal. If you lose a match then you are pushed back.
- Skirmish is a battle between two teams and the last team standing is the winner.
- Free-for-all is a battle where the last man standing wins.
- Horde mode is fairly self-explanatory where you face off against a horde of enemies until you, or they, are defeated.
Four players can play at once, but I started my journey with Griefhelm in the campaign, as I was playing on my own. The campaign has branching paths and is made up of the different modes I’ve already mentioned. Once you beat a level you are rewarded with a perk. These perks give you different abilities which generally only last for one level. Some of the perks include extra dexterity, a fire sword, or an additional life.
There is also different equipment you can obtain if you beat a level, including changing you helm, armour, weapon, and plume. There is a roguelike element to the gameplay as you keep any new equipment you find after you die, so you are a bit stronger than when you first started. The regular enemies aren’t particularly difficult to defeat, however the end of level boss is a lot tougher.
Graphically the game is very striking. Although in some ways it is minimalistic, the backgrounds and animation definitely jump off the screen and hold your attention. The music is also very good and has a Game of Thrones style which suits the overall presentation.
So far so good, but I do have a few criticisms. First of all, there is no real variation with the enemies, as they all look like armour clad knights.In some ways Griefhelm made me think of Moonstone: A Hard Day’s Knight on the Commodore Amiga. Moonstone was a wonderful action RPG where four players went on a quest fighting various enemies using tactical combat. Whilst Griefhelm doesn’t have the same level of dark humour, over the top gore, or different enemy types, it still feels similar in some ways. Greifhelm plays everything very straight and serious, but personally I would have loved to have seen some of the above traits, especially different enemies such as dragons, ogres, and monsters. I appreciate Griefhelm isn’t going for this style, but I feel it would have brought some much-needed personality to the game.
Despite this I quite liked Griefhelm. The look of the game is very striking, and the combat is different to other fighting games I’ve played. I like the setting and the overall tone, and even though there isn’t a great deal of variation in terms of enemies and game modes, what it does do, it does well. The fact Griefhelm was made by one person gives it additional plus points, and is definitely worth checking out.
Griefhelm is available now on PC.
Review by Chris.