I thought this would never happen—I fully believed that it couldn't happen—but here we are, on August 4, 2017, and it has happened: Grimoire: Heralds of the Winged Exemplar, an RPG that's been in development since the mid-'90s (1994, I think, but it might have been '97) is now available for purchase on Steam.
This is a remarkable moment because of Grimoire's long history of hype and broken promises. Arguments about the game, and the solo developer behind it, Cleve Blakemore, can be found in archives of old Usenet threads and forum posts going back to the turn of the century. It was meant to be a Wizardry-killer, and who even knows what Wizardry is anymore? An old Indiegogo campaign promised, in italics and with multiple exclamation marks, that "this game will ship in May 2013," and it did not. When it first appeared on Steam it bore a July 7 release date and I let myself believe that maybe, this time, it was really going to happen. It did not.
But now, finally, it has. The manual apparently isn't available yet, and Blakemore said it should be ready to go early next week (although under the circumstances I wouldn't hold my breath on that). Steam keys for Indiegogo backers are slated to go out tomorrow. Blakemore also said that he plans to issue weekly patches and monthly "feature upgrades," and he's already released one patch, accompanied by perhaps the most magical update announcement of all time.
"Sapiens thinks if you have a clinically tested IQ of 183 it means you're better at solving the jumble in the newspaper. This is what Sapiens actually believes. There are other things you can do with a super powered atomic brain nearly 6 full derivatives greater than the intellectual distance between the ordinary man and Koko the Sign Language Gorilla," Blakemore wrote.
"An ordinary man might be delirious and babbling after 72 hours without sleep, these bug reports forced me to bring on another 0.002% of my brain capacity to solve them with a few keystrokes and upload a new binary to Steam."
OK then. As for the game itself, it is 100 percent old-school, with "hand-drawn" 2D graphics, MIDI music, and 8-bit sound effects. It promises up to 600 hours of play "in a single game," more than 244 maps to explore, 240 unique monsters, 64 NPCs, and a slew of other features and mechanics. How, or even whether, it all works is hard to say: Steam reviews were positive when it first went live, but over just a couple of hours have sunk to "mixed," as people spend more time with it; the response on other RPG sites is similarly chaotic, caught between the excitement of the moment and the reality of the work.
Grimoire: Heralds of the Winged Exemplar is available now (it still feels weird to say it) for $36/£27/€33 on Steam. And now, I invite you to enjoy one of the greatest pre-release hype trailers of all time—from 2012.