Grim Tranquility (PC) Preview

By Jenny Geist 05.09.2021

Review for Grim Tranquility on PC

Poorly Timed Games is, despite its name, the rare studio that fully reflects the era of game development that it was made in. Their mission is to create unique and diverse games that won't be held back by the cisgender, heterosexual, and white monoculture that plagues the rest of the industry. 65% of the employees are either women, people of color, and/or LGBTQIA+ individuals. The founder, Chris Wright, is a former Activision-Blizzard employee that left his position to form the studio in March 2020, right as the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world. All of this is to say that Poorly Timed Games' debut title, Grim Tranquility, feels extremely relevant in all of the most important ways.

In the distant future, after a long-ignored climate crisis ravages the Earth's environment, humanity's remains take for the stars to find a new home. Along the way, they encounter hostile alien forces, divide into opposing factions, and experience a narrative that is bound to go in some unexpected directions. Grim Tranquility is a rogue-like strategy RPG with a heavy narrative component, described in a nutshell as "XCOM meets Hades." This comparison, while apt, is still fairly surface-level, as the complete game is already setting up to be so much more.

A typical run will begin with the player gaining five randomly-generated crew members that will traverse through procedurally-generated alien environments. Maps are isometric and hexagonal, full of enemies to engage in strategic turn-based combat with. Units themselves can be divided into three distinct classes: breakers are the offensive heavy-hitters, oracles use long-ranged drone attacks, and artisants are essentially the team's support. While each of them will start out with archaic Earth gear, scouting planets and discovering outposts will quickly level up each of their stats until they become formidable warriors. Still be careful, though, because a single mistake is all that it will take to lose an important crewmate entirely.

Screenshot for Grim Tranquility on PC

Despite the roster mostly consisting of generic mooks, there are still established characters that will drive the game’s plot and world-building. Alexandra Gray, known for her work on Empire and Transparent, provides the voice of black and transgender lead Malva Clark. Acclaimed actors Steve Blum, Ray Chase, Darin De Paul, Xela Lloyd, and Misty Lee will also provide the voices of other important characters. Additionally, the comic-esque cutscenes are drawn by Kyle Lambert, who has previously created official posters for Stranger Things, Disney's Jungle Cruise, and more.

Screenshot for Grim Tranquility on PC

The star-studded cast isn't the only ambitious part of the project, either. Cubed3 spoke with lead developer Jeff Meador, who confirmed that the story will contain two diverging paths that each provide 25-30 hours of gameplay. He wasn't able to confirm the exact number of chapters or story beats, but the concepts spoken about are fascinating nonetheless. The world of Grim Tranquility contains two separate types of Earth refugees — those who chose to get cryogenically frozen as they were sent into space, and those who didn't. The latter are accustomed to life among the stars and have gained their own customs and traditions, while the former still think of their time on Earth as recent memories. These differing philosophies lead to conflict as the remains of humanity travel the universe, conflict that will inevitably escalate as the voyage continues.

Screenshot for Grim Tranquility on PC

Cubed3's Jenny Geist was only able to preview a single mission, but the demo alone already showcased a lot of creativity. For instance, the player starts each run by spinning an influence wheel, which either grants useful boons or negative bains to one's team. However, if you have the credit, you can bribe the teller and not have to risk gaining any combat disadvantages at all. Spending too much money is also a risk, though, as cash is also needed to upgrade one's gear in the world's many outposts. The player is constantly presented with dozens of options that can either end really well or really poorly, and it is up to you to navigate this fine line to keep your crew safe.

If there is one criticism to be had from this early preview, it would definitely be the visuals. The aforementioned hand-drawn cutscenes look fantastic, but the actual in-game models blend in with the typical Fortnite-esque style. It doesn't look bad, per say, and it should be noted that this was an early pre-alpha build, but if there were one aspect that needed significant polish, it would definitely be that. Some sort of stylization to make the characters look closer to the comic-style cutscenes would do wonders for this game's visual identity.

Screenshot for Grim Tranquility on PC

Final Thoughts

Grim Tranquility will not release until next year, but it is absolutely worth keeping an eye on in the meantime. If this strategy rogue-like lives up to the hype RPG fans will have hours of content to consume and science-fiction fans will have a meaty narrative to chew on. Most notably, the progressive and diverse ideals of Poorly Timed Games promise that the story will not blend in with the countless other science fiction games out there. Chris Wright founded the studio to help elevate minority voices, and actually following through with this important goal is admirable in its own right.

Developer

Poorly Timed Games

Publisher

Poorly Timed Games

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  n/a

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date 2022   North America release date 2022   Japan release date 2022   Australian release date 2022   

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