Stardew Valley has reinvented the life game genre, directly inspiring Stardust’s roguelike dungeon crawler, Grimoire Groves. The premise, however, is much lighter than a typical dark and dreary hack roguelike, instead tasking players with feeding plants and befriending woodland creatures.
When you think of a roguelike game you think of the likes of Cult of the Lamb or Hades, defined by their somewhat bleak environments and a whole lot of blood, guts, and gore. The colourful world of Stardew Valley likely isn’t what comes to mind.
Grimoire Groves seeks to fuse roguelike gameplay with a peaceful, life game-style aesthetic. The brainchild of Swiss indie developers Stardust, the game champions making friends and farming over hacking and slashing, shattering the stereotypes associated with the genre.
“We wanted to make something happy!” developer Annika Gerber tells me with a smile. “We play a lot of roguelike games, but they’re always so dark. We wanted to do something that asks you to make friends instead.”
And that’s exactly what you do in Grimoire Groves. During my Gamescom preview courtesy of Swiss Games, Gerber introduced me to Primrose, the only character that’s currently playable in the beta. She’ll be joined by three other characters – Lavender, Camellia, and Sequoia – whose names were “chosen by the community.”
Each witch can control the four elements (earth, fire, wind, and air), and they use these to feed the forest’s vegetable inhabitants. What element said adorable minion wants is denoted by the colours on their antenna – so, in the image above, the adorable little turnip wants you to feed it water.
Bosses will also start to sprout elements of different colours – in my experience, the first boss has ever-changing flowers. You beat them by befriending them – perfectly capturing the essence of this adorable indie title.
You also have a collection of spells that you unlock throughout your adventure, and these are usually tied to the upcoming boss battles. The first boss, for example, has a line of different flowers in a row, You unlock a boomerang spell which sends out a raincloud inspired by your chosen element, which is perfect for feeding the line of flowers.
As you progress, you find out more about the game’s underlying narrative. It turns out that a collection of forest spirits (one of which is pictured in the main image of this article) are at odds with one another as they have lost a pair of rainbow socks. Adorable as this premise sounds, the forest has spiralled into disarray and it’s your job to fix it.
We also learn a little more about each of our characters. “Primrose is very stubborn, likes to get things done, and is very headstrong,” Gerber tells me, joking “she reminds me of me.” While the other characters remain relatively mysterious, the team assures me they have sprawling backstories chock full of lore.
Grimoire Groves is currently available as a demo, with a release date pegged for late next year. You can download it via Steam, and add it to your Wishlist, too. If you can’t wait until then, be sure to check out the best rougelike games on PC to keep you busy.