I’ve seen the sentiment a few times that parrying in Grime feels weak beacuse there are usually options with better risk-reward than parrying. I’m going to talk about Grime for a little bit now.
Grime’s combat, like the combat of most combat-centric games, is predicated on the assumption that as you repeat an action, you become better at it, and therefore any risk associated with that goes down. You do have a dash, as well as a backstep, and they’re actually both very good, but particularly with bosses, the payoff for landing a parry compared to backstepping or dashing was pretty big in my experience, provided I was going for them every time I was being attacked. The reward stays the same, but the risk goes down with practice, so the ratio becomes better, so it’s worth it to go for them more, which means you get better at them… etc. Let’s examine some Fromsoft parries now, because each one of their IPs have parries that function pretty differently between each other and each contribute to the feel of the game in their own way.
Dark Souls games have parries that have fairly slow windups and a lot of recovery, leaving you wide open if you miss. They also cost stamina. Upon parrying an attack, the attacker is staggered, allowing you to riposte them. Ripostes deal the highest consistent damage in the game and allow you a lot of time to reposition after dealing your damage.
Bloodborne’s parry still rewards you with a riposte, but, being a more aggressive game, has a parry that starts up faster and is also a gunshot, meaning that this is still an offensive maneuver if you do it too early. However, the fact that it’s a gunshot also means that it has ammunition associated with it, so if you’re consistently doing parries too early you’ll eventually find yourself wanting more value out of your bullets.
Sekiro’s parry is done by blocking an attack at the correct time, is instant, and instead of dealing damage immediately, slightly fills the enemy’s posture bar. Posture is a mechanic that is new to Sekiro, and when its bar is filled completely, the enemy is staggered, allowing you to kill them instantly, or, provided they’re a boss, deplete one of their health bars fully.
Dark Souls games are slower and (arguably) more methodical than their contemporaries, and their parries reflect this. When you’re starting off, rolling is much “better” than parrying because of their larger invincibility window and the fact that they can get you away from whoever you’re fighting, who you’re probably scared of. But as you learn the patterns of enemies and bosses well enough, you might get the confidence to attempt parries, and with enough practice, you’ll end up hitting them consistently. However, the average player probably won’t be attempting many parries (if any) on their first playthroughs of Dark Souls games.
Bloodborne’s parry, given the faster pace of the game, allows you to be more aggressive. You still need to know how the enemy you’re fighting works and when their strike will hit, but being slightly rewarded even if you miss them against smaller enemies means that first-time players will probably be incentivized to attempt them on these enemies more, which will translate to attempting them against bosses, even on first runs.
Sekiro is even faster-paced than Bloodborne – so blisteringly fast=paced, in fact, that oftentimes watching an enemy prepare to attack and then pressing the parry button isn’t a viable option long-term. Enemies often wind up one strike, which it isn’t too difficult to react to, but this is sometimes followed by flurries of strikes that are so fast that at some point the player has no option other than to mash the button and pray – with the parry mastered, Sekiro has been compared to a rhythm game.
In each of these games, your character is relatively weak from a narrative standpoint. A resurrected corpse in Dark Souls, a faceless, nameless Hunter in Bloodborne, a disgraced shinobi in Sekiro. But in Grime, you are much more powerful – you are The Endgiver. You have the potential to raze the world, which is in fact your goal.
So now let’s look at Grime’s parry.
Grime’s parry – called Absorb – is instantaneous, often kills normal enemies instantly or otherwise staggers (“Repels”) them while dealing damage, interrupts most boss attacks, fills Ardor (which increases Mass, the game’s experience, by a multiplier), costs no resource, and can be cancelled into from the startup of (to my knowledge) any normal attack in the game.
It’s pretty good.
In addition to this amazing parry, you also gain access to a pull ability after defeating the second boss. While it’s often used for mobility and to pull otherwise invincible flying enemies down to the ground and disable them for a time, allowing them to be damaged, it can also be used on enemies who are preparing an attack that has an (often reactable) yellow flash associated with it, staggering them and allowing for some damage.
After I got access to the pull mechanic, the combat clicked for me in a very interesting way because suddenly you had the option to make the entire game about interruption. When I was on point with these two mechanics, it felt much better than dodging everything because instead of dodging attacks and retaliating I was actively punishing enemies for even trying to hit me. If there were just parries to do this with it would probably have gotten pretty stale pretty fast, given how good the parry is, but the pull being a second option made it varied enough to feel extremely rewarding when I was pulling it off consistently. The fight against Vulture is still one of my favorite bosses in any game I’ve played because of this.
Grime gives you the tools to get by, and then it gives you the tools to dominate. At the start of Grime, I didn’t enjoy its systems too much either because oft he emphasis on its parry. But when I sort of threw Grime a bone and thought “Fuck it, they clearly want me to parry everything, I’ll just parry everything! I’ll just learn all the timings and then I’ll parry everything. Whatever” and then eventually things just stopped hitting me, it brought the power fantasy of this game to a crazy new level and I found it to be very enjoyable.
I think this experience of beginning the game as a small, weak animal thing and gradually progressing to completely dominating everything is a deliberate part of Grime’s design. Unlike the other games discussed, where it’s expected that you’ll barely scrape by on your first playthrough, Grime expects you to completely consume the world, because that’s what your character is doing in the narrative. The strength of this one mechanic creates a very strong relationship between the game’s story, your place in it, and the game’s play and feel.