Grid Force – Mask Of The Goddess is the definition of genre-blending. A grid-based bullet-hell tactical action RPG (a lot to chew on, I know) in which the player control a team of four unique characters, swapping between them to defeat an enemy team. Simple enough, right? Well, at first, but with varied characters, level designs, abilities and more, the game’s simple premise quickly becomes a challenging test of skill and strategy. Read on to find out what we think in our Grid Force review.
The game begins with the protagonist, Donna, being reincarnated, having completely lost the memory of her previous life. Met with a ragtag trio of women, she learns that she is a champion – a chosen individual tasked with protecting her Goddess, the ‘Machinae’ Cleo. With next to zero explanation, Donna and her group are sent to another planet to defeat the local Machinae, beginning a journey which will see her take on each one of these Goddesses, in a bid to prevent the destruction of reality.
The tutorial introduces the player to the combat mechanics, a quick attack, abilities unique to each character, parries, and type matchups. While the first few levels may lead you to believe that it will be a simple matter of spamming attacks while parrying the odd enemy blast, it quickly becomes clear that this will not be the case. Each character and enemy also has an elemental type, allowing players to build teams based on type effectiveness to get the upper hand on the opponents. Completing levels provides ‘signs’, a form of currency that can be used to level up each character, much like experience points. We also experience the game’s charming comic-inspired art-style, as well as the upbeat 90s pop inspired soundtrack, both of which perfectly fit with the fast-paced gameplay and fun, laid-back characters.
As the tutorial progresses, Grid Force introduces Donna’s companions, Pan, Koniko, and Bird, who join Donna as the four main characters of the game, who are present throughout the main story. Every world you visit also provides the chance to meet and recruit new characters, each with their own playstyle and abilities. From brick-wall defenders meant to whittle down opponents to glass cannon spellcasters who offer high-damage potential in exchange for low defences. The addition of type matchups too, allows players to build teams based on their own preferences, as well as for each individual level, factoring in grid layout, enemy type, and how a team works together. It’s not uncommon to reach a point where you hit a brick wall with a level, only to try out a new character or team setup and find that a new strategy was what was needed to breeze through.
Each level presents unique quirks, which prevent the game from becoming too same-y, while also presenting new challenges that force players to change strategies on-the-fly. It’s easy to overly rely on certain mechanics early on, as I did with movement: rather than parrying attacks, I found it simpler to upgrade my characters speed stat and dodge attacks altogether. However, when I reached a stage with a tiny grid, it was nearly impossible to dodge without immediately being hit with another attack, forcing me to change my plan and use parrying to progress. Furthermore, as the game progresses, you often come face to face with groups of enemies, turning the game into the aforementioned grid-based bullet-hell, which really tests everything the player has learned.
I found however that there were elements of the game that were poorly explained, if at all. Allies healing when switched out in battle or being unable to parry when the shield meter (also, not explained) were things I had to figure out on my own. Additionally, the shield level, along with health and ammo, are difficult to keep track of. They do appear next to the character, but are definitely too small, while, at the same time,there are larger meters constantly on screen , which tend to get distracting when things get rather busy on later levels.
Beyond the combat, the game’s story is, while a bit lacklustre, sufficiently interesting to keep the player engaged. Where the story really shines, however, is the way it’s told, through beautifully illustrated manga-style panels. Between certain levels the player is greeted with a few pages of exposition, fleshing out the main characters and their relationships as well as furthering the story and filling in missing pieces of Donna’s memory. I often find myself caring less about what happens to the Machinae, more about the relationships between Donna and her friends. The game also provides the player with ‘game-changing’ choices, but for the most part these appear to lead to different paths allowing certain characters to be unlocked. Still,all of these decisions can also be reversed, making them feel rather less impactful.
Playtra Games also deserve plenty of kudos for the character designs. The cast is hardly a cookie cutter bunch, with a hugely diverse cast of characters – the four main characters being black, East-Asian, plus-size, and disabled respectively, and all female. Everyone is well-designed, looking distinct in style and interesting for their backstory. Their design even plays into some of their stories, with the disabled character for example attempting to fight against conceptions that she is weak or unable to fend for herself. Playtra Games also partnered with the It Gets Better Project, a non-profit formed to support young LGBTQ+ people, in order to help more people get access to resources and help they may need.
Our Grid Force review was made possible with a key sent by the developers. Grid Force is available on Steam.
Platform : [PC]
Developer: Dreamnauts Studios
Genre: Tactical RPG
Release Date: September 2022
Grid Force – Mask of the Goddess: Grid Force – Mask Of The Goddess takes a simple combat system and combines it with a huge and diverse cast, and varied and challenging levels to create a solid and fun experience. Story is kind of bland, but it is enhanced by deep and likeable main characters, plus beautiful hand-drawn manga-style storytelling. – AlexR