Title: Grim Soul: Dark Fantasy Survival
Developer/Publisher:  Kefir
Genre: MMORPG (Online role-playing game), Survival
Platforms available: iOS, Android
Platform reviewed: Android
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Review: I’ve been missing my fantasy RPG (role-playing games) recently and so when searching through the app store for nothing in particular I was excited when I stumbled across Grim Soul Survival.  Referred to as a dark fantasy MMORPG it’s got aspects to it that mimic games like Dark Souls and is very much a survival game set in a fantasy style setting where you try your best to live in a plagued world of dark creatures that are all, mostly, former humans turned the undead.

Installation & basic info:

I downloaded this from the Google Play Store with no problems and I was also impressed by the fact that, currently, the app asks for very few permissions to run on my phone (something I’m always keenly aware of when downloading apps).  Once the game is loaded you have a few settings you can change such as the volume of music and sound effects and you can also choose three different graphics settings which is good as I currently have a 1 GB RAM phone and the game works really well both on low and normal settings.

Grim Soul screenshot one
A dark night out!

Grim Soul is a game where you’ve woken up in the plaguelands and have to survive and find out what has happened.  You’re not presented with much information at the start, you find out what has happened to you and the world you are in, through aquiring scrolls but these are mostly given to you at randomly and occassionally (when you find items) and the game keeps you deliberately in the dark about everything.  Having your character being dumped on a random lot (which later becomes your base, your stronghold) with little more information except a very basic tutorial mode makes you feel uneasy from the start.  I like this aspect of the game though, it makes me feel as if I’m actually there, in the Plaguelands, ready to see if I can survive and find out what happened.

Gameplay

Playing the game and actually progressing beyond a beginners level is really hard and athough I’ve only been playing this game a short time compared to others, I’m finding the gameplay both fun but also very difficult.  However the developers have deliberately kept the gameplay difficulty high which can be frustrating if you are new to the game and don’t know what to do or aren’t used to the style of role-playing games in general.

In Grim Soul, because it’s a survival game, you have to fend of more and more undead creatures, as well as ,often, running away from more powerful ones in order to live, survive.  The game begins with you creating your own character, giving it a name, choosing the head and hair (both style and colour) and also skin colour.  You can play as both female and male which is good, although an in-game scroll about you (which refers to you as a friend who caught the plague does refer to ‘he’ – disappointing as I thought this scroll meant someone else until I played the game more!).

You begin the gameplay on your own base but soon you are given access to the province map which shows you different locations you can travel to, to obtain items which you will need to collect in order to both build your home up (to protect against future invaders as well as unlock new features) and to create armour and weapons and tools.  Tools and weapons constantly break so you have to create new ones more than once and armour and clothing also deteriorates every time you enter combat with an enemy.  When your character doesn’t wear any clothing they are basically wearing underwear…my own female character sports a lovely grey tatty looking bikini!  This is the reason that the game becomes so difficult, as you literally spend half your time re-making your armour, tools and weapons instead of being able to concentrate on moving forward with the levels.

Grim Soul screenshot two
Scrolls tell you the story of what happened.

Also, the survival aspect means that it’s inevitable that unless you are a brilliant and very blessed with luck player (and nobody is when they start their game) you will die…frequently.  Every time your charcter dies they can be revived, for free, and re-appear on their base.  Dying means that whatever your chracter had in their inventory is gone, but at least you get to stay at the same level that you died at, and your home also retains any building and improvements you’ve done to it, making you feel that you can still progress through the game, albeit very slowly.  Dying on certain lots (those without skulls or a scroll to mark them) is worth returning to as soon as you can as your old body is still there and anything you had in inventory can be picked up, it’s this aspect that makes the game a lot like Dark Souls (a game I have yet to play but will do so in future!).

Travelling to different locations via the province map can get you all sorts of items, some seem useless at first but become useful later on and others are surprise finds, scrolls with more information on what happened in the in-game story as well as upgraded items you can use as armour or weapons which you normally don’t have access to at a beginner level.

Controls

The controls are very simple to understand although the game really doesn’t give you any clues on how to play it when you start and you have to click around a bit on different things to figure out what you are doing.  It’s all quite intuitive though and there’s a on-screen control stick seen on the left which you can drag in any direction, at any speed, to make your character move around.  On the right there are several different buttons to press on including using the weapon, using an axe (when standing next to a tree), etc.

The movement and response of the game is good.  Overall the controls make sense and there are tips online on how to better control your charcter in combat in order to get a better hit.  The only time the controls haven’t fully responded well for me has been when clicking on the word CRAFT to craft an item.  Often I’d have to click it twice before my item was crafted, there’s a bit of frustration with this though as the inventory and crafting screen appear while the gameplay is still happening, it’s not paused, so you could be being attacked by the damned, lepers and a bear, all while you’re trying to make another weapon!  Other than that though the controls are smooth for me, although I have chosen to play at a low graphics setting just in case.

Graphics & Sound

I want to say something about the graphics of this game because they are simply beautiful.  My game screen is pretty small and the scrolls aren’t the easiest to read, but wow the graphics are pretty beautiful in this.  You get a real feel for being in the middle of a forest, out in open grassland and the creepiness of where you are.  The game has gnarled trees, mist, and even weather, rain as well as night and day, all which culminate in producing a game with a very vivid atmosphere.

Grim Soul screenshot three
You never know what you’ll find when looking for loot!

On top of the atmospheric scenery you have the music and sound effects which work well.  I’d advise right away turning the music up in the settings menu to hear the beautiful soundtrack when in the map view as well as hearing more the of the eerie music that plays when you are visiting somewhere dangerous.  The sound effects are deliberately loud compared to the music when you first play and this is probably to give you a bit of a shock when you’re first attacked.  The sound effects are good though and I still find myself creeped out every time I hear a zombie-like growl, but it’s the music and the lack of, sometimes, that gives this game that really scary/eerie vibe.

There are times you’ll play this game and just enjoy the music and the fun of cutting trees down for more logs (not really that fun but sometimes a rest from the undead is good!), and at other times you just hear this sound of an undead creature and the eerie soundtrack that plays when you enter a dangerous area will play spookily slowly, low and sometimes it will end leaving you with nothing and just the sound effects.  This really does make you feel a bit of fear as you play this game, especially when a sudden enemy like the ‘damned’ charges at you out of nowhere in that freakishly speedy manor.

Bugs/Problems?

There haven’t been any problems for me in terms of gameplay, except for having to re-press CRAFT more than once to get an item made.  I also sometimes notice a slight lag in the game when I’m somewhere which could mean the game is planting new enemies in the location I’m in.  This seems likely as you often begin in an area with just a few random enemies spawned and suddenly another player (an NPC player) will charge at you out of nowhere, especially after a second or two lag when I’m moving.  This isn’t really a big issue though and if you keep an eye on the map in the corner right of your screen you will be aware of any enemies coming at you.

Grim Soul screenshot four
Who knows what different locations will hold? Food, resources, the undead…

Monotization

Grim Soul has a lot of things you can buy in-game to give you a boost when you’ve died and revive without any weapons in any inventory.  The game also makes it hard to play for long periods without having to re-charge (or pay for the re-charge using real money) in order to continue.  This happens on the map view screen.  Travelling to different locations uses up energy if you choose the ‘run’ option and to recharge the energy you have to wait a very long time (minutes to hours depending on where you want to go) or you can opt to ‘walk’ somewhere which can result in waiting anywhere between 14-45+ minutes to play.

Given the high difficulty level of the game, it does get frustrating that to progress there seems to be a heavy emphasis on paying for extra items.  Luckily these aren’t forced at you, there’s no pop-up screens suggesting what you should buy, and you do have access every 12 hours to a chest with a random item in it that you don’t have to pay for, but the game is very difficult to progress, without using real cash.  I’ve tried to get past the same level over and over but don’t have access yet to crafting more powerful weapons and armour so keep dying at the same location whenever I try.  I’m choosing to see how far I can play this game without paying for anything though and although I’m really not that far along, there’s something really enjoyable about the gameplay and I find myself drawn to constantly playing this again and again.

Age range/Concerns?

Grim Soul isn’t a young kids game although I wouldn’t put a particular age on it given that different people have their different threasholds for when children should be allowed to play.  The game is scary in the way it does give off a creepy vibe and occassionally does genuinely scare me when I’m not concentrating too much.  For people more used to scary things this won’t really seem scary, but if you like the odd ‘what?’ or ‘eek’ moment then it certainly does deliver.  As well as that there is the combat.  Almost every person/creature is after you to attack and you have to fight them with either bare hands (fist punches) or with a weapon of some sort (usualy some sort of blade or blunt instrument).  When attacking either an enemy or an enemy attacking you, you do hear you character getting hit and there is the occassional mini spray of blood.  The blood isn’t a large amount though and it doesn’t remain on the floor afterwards, it’s also very occassional although I see no setting to turn it off completely.

Grim Soul screenshot five
“DIE! Undead fiend!”

The sound effects are creepy but there’s no speech and the worse words I’ve come across so far are things like ‘damn’.  There are also very creepy looking creatures that you will inevitably fight in future levels but hese look no scarier than your average RPG creature.  Given the complexity of the game, and the story idea of being in the plaguelands and fighting the undead creatures that want to kill you, it’s probably a game better enjoyed by teens onwards although I really don’t like adding a specific age and would rather leave it at what I’ve said above.

Conclusion

I’d love to give this game 5 sweet strawberries for the gameplay and how amazing the music and atmosphere they’ve created really is.  But having played for only a short time and seen just how steep the learning curve is, I can see myself getting frustrated in the future and maybe even getting fed up completely if I don’t make progress without having to resort to paying for the game.  There are in-game adverts (which only play if you choose) so I shouldn’t have to pay for other items to give back to the developers, if I don’t want to, but this game with it’s difficultly ramped up means many people do.

The gameplay, beginning with hardly any knowledge of what to do and, in a way, teaching yourself how to survive is fun though and I can see myself wanting to re-try this game again and again.  I have an old-school mentality when it comes to videogames, having grown-up in the retro era of the 90s where online connectivity and pay-to-play didn’t exist yet, so re-playing a game and being patient are easy for me.  I’ll keep this post updated in future if my views on the game change but for now I’ll say it’s 5 sweet strawberries for the gameplay, but an overall 4 because of the difficulty, especially for beginners.

-All screenshots come from my own gameplay but any images of game are ©copyright the deveopers/publishers.


Have you tried playing this game?  Do you like fantasy RPGs in general?  What types of games do you like to play?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂