[Update] A PC RPG 22 years in the works has missed release day…again

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Clipped wings

[Update:For the last two days I have been checking the Grimoire Steam page frequently only to find this morning that holy crap, it has actually been released! The game is now available with a 10% discount. The sale ends August 11th so if you’ve been waiting to get your incline on, this might be the best time; Cleve has claimed that this will be the only time the game will ever have a sale. Not much word yet on how good a game in the works for 20 years is, but it’s finally out and available for purchase!]

Grimoire: Heralds of the Winged Exemplar has to go down in history alongside Duke Nukem Forever and others as having one of the longest development cycles for any video game, ever. Headed by Cleve Blakemore of Golden Era Games, ex Sir-Tech employee, a company responsible for the Wizardry series of computer RPGs, and eccentric madman with an extensive history of software development under his belt, Grimoire in Cleve’s opinion is going to be the “best RPG ever made.” Inspired by the Wizardry games of old, including other dungeon crawling “blobber” first-person PC RPGs, the art style and presentation is not made intentionally to reflect the look of those old games; it IS those old games, having started development in the late nineties, enduring a troubled Indiegogo campaign several years ago that raised over ten thousand dollars, and being announced as completed several times over the span of a decade much to the disappointment of backers and fans when the game ultimately failed to be released.

Most recently it was announced for release on Steam back in June after being on Steam Greenlight and has since missed the mark several times since its original release date of July 7 of this year. Cleve continuously cites bug fixes as the reason for this, stating that he wants the game to be “perfect” upon release. But frequently announcing firm dates and then announcing that more bugs have been found, or that the game has to go through the Steam approval process again is making people anxious and frustrated.

On the one hand, this is the man’s apparent magnum opus. The claims of 600 hours of gameplay, and of the game being the best RPG in existence go hand in hand with the arrogance and bravado Cleve has exuded over the years. He claims to be a genius, compares his game to building the first space shuttle, and though the Indiegogo campaign seemed to have a very tongue-in-cheek sense of humor to explain away some of his gloating, it feels like Cleve does take at least part of his bolstering to heart. This is a guy who is extremely confident in the project he is working on, but there is a darker side to his ambitions.

Fan claims of not being given requested refunds after waiting way too long for their game are common. Cleve stating that the game was finished at the time of the Indiegogo campaign despite there being numerous obvious issues in demo builds, and people accusing Cleve of racism and abusive behaviour on his forums and elsewhere are just a few of the things that have muddied the project. And fears that the game is ultimately an elaborate troll and will turn out to be vaporware are ever present, and justified due to the extreme wait time its followers have had to endure.

My personal feeling on the matter is that, at the very least, it is really bad form to announce a firm date on your Steam store page or elsewhere and not follow up with it. To delay the game a few days one time, I can understand. But to consistently push it back after making concrete promises that you will hit that next promised date is a nasty practice. There are folks that have been waiting decades for this, so it’s reasonable to assume at least a few of them are going to feel let down and miffed, and ultimately not want to continue waiting for and supporting it.

But why? If Cleve is guilty of the things people are saying about him, why continue waiting? Namely because Wizardry style RPGs are not very common. Over winter I went back to the first Wizardry on the NES and played for countless hours, constantly hitting permadeath walls along the way and barely making any progress. This style of RPG is not for the faint of heart, but there is an avid group of people out there who adore them for nostalgic reasons and otherwise. So I can understand why there are some holdouts among them still hoping the game will be released. I just hope it doesn’t take much longer.

The game looks good, in all honesty. I think if it finally hits it will find a comfortable niche among fans of the genre. Currently Cleve has claimed that the final product is now done and has been submitted to Steam for approval, but this is not the first time he has said that by a long shot. So time will tell if Grimoire: Heralds of the Winged Exemplar ever comes to light, or if it truly is perpetual vaporware that will never spread its wings and fly.