Grimmwood: They Come at Night is one of those games that not everyone will like at the first go around, but could come to appreciate over time. Obviously, something about it drew me in because I logged in consistently for a whole week (and at the time of this review still am) to check on my fellow villagers. In one breath, Grimmwood is a strategic co-op MMO that uses a map of over 600 randomly-generated tiles for you to explore, survive, live, and thrive (or eventually die) in an odd take on a genre you’ve probably experienced before, but never with such a vivid reimagining.
The premise is simple: you’ve escaped the war by fleeing into the mystical woods where monsters and other unknown horrors reside. You’re lucky enough to come across other survivors who share a similar outlook and together you build a village to protect yourselves. Each night monsters come out of the woods and attack the village, so the black abyss is inevitable. It’s only by working together, not alone, that you’ll be able to survive the nights and live to see another day.
Grimmwood’s focus is being social with your fellow players and clear communication between each other. There are two modes you can play that are standard mode and blitz mode, each has the same mechanics, the only difference is time and the amount of people you’ll play with. Standard mode is playing in real time where you choose a randomly generated character and join a village. Up to forty people can be in a village and every twenty-four hours monsters will attack at night. Sounds simple, right? Blitz mode is just a sped-up version of this, with each day playing out in fifteen minutes instead of twenty-four hours. I chose to play the standard mode because it seemed truer to the core concepts the gameplay attempts to promote.
Surviving in Grimmwood plays out like a pretty standard survival game where you have to give your character food and water regularly to stay alive. The main resource everything revolves around is stamina (SP), which is in short supply so you’ll have to keep an eye on it. The amount of stamina you have determines everything you’re able to do anything from gathering to fighting, alongside the randomly-generated character stats you have. Combining this with a new map you’re given to play on during each session, what could possibly go wrong? Everything, basically, if your villagers don’t hunker down and help out the rest of the team.
The downside to Grimmwood’s mechanics is that it takes time to play when you’re doing everything in Standard Mode. At most, I would get 20-40 minutes of gameplay in before I had to stop to rest to regain my stamina. You can regenerate it by either consuming food or taking a potion, but your character can suffer from status effects that prevent them from doing each of these constantly. Most of my time was spent moving around the map gathering supplies and bringing them back to put in the communal storehouse for my village. I did have my own house and storage to put items away I wanted to keep for myself, but I never saw the need to use it since the storehouse was replenished daily by other members.
Remember I mentioned surviving night attacks? Well, these attacks happen every 24 hours, during which there’s a good chance of dying each time they occur. You can choose to either hide in your house when the attacks come or to guard during the night. Each carries with it the risk of death if the monsters are able to overcome your village’s defenses. My village luckily was well organized and there were always messages about which projects were being worked on to strengthen the village. You can build stronger walls, towers, a moat, etc. to increase your village’s chances of survival for each oncoming night. One person can’t do it all on their own since a large amount of resources is needed for each of these projects and stamina is needed to build these defenses. If each person doesn’t contribute, the entire village will fail.
Besides the daily busywork of checking in with your fellow villagers and gathering supplies there is action to be had in Grimmwood beyond the resource gathering – if you look in the right places. My fellow villager and myself prepared to do battle with a few dwarves we discovered in the forest. Our fight only lasted about thirty seconds, but being able to go on a mini adventure with another person felt great compared to just doing it solo.
I’ll give Grimmwood credit where it’s due because you’re pushed to work with other people and potentially make new friends along the way. The pressure to give back to your virtual community as a collective rather than a selective is an experience I don’t get often, in the real world or the gaming one. And I’ve only scratched the surface of what this game has to offer because there’s a hint of being able to secrets and lore about the forest. Being someone who loves fantasy and adventure, it felt like the perfect mix of both worlds.
The only downside to all this being you’re forced to wait to play and at times I wasn’t sure if I had the patience. Again, this is fixed because of blitz mode for faster play sessions so there is another option for those players wanting a condensed experience. Regardless where you may fall, Grimmwood: They Come at Night just has a certain charm that kept me coming back for more. And probably will for the foreseeable future.