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Best of it's genre

Review: The Legend Of Grimrock

by April 28, 2012

I’ll be honest, when I first heard about this game I thought that it was called “Legend of Grimlock” and I was all excited because who doesn’t love the leader of the Dinobots? When I heard that the correct title was “Legend of Grimrock” I knew I had to get on board a different train of thought.

The first thing that hits you when you start the game is the option to pick your dungeon and difficulty. The only dungeon available currently is Grimrock but Almost Human says that we’ll see more dungeons from them as well as user created dungeons. Next you have the option for easy, normal and hard difficulty which applies directly to the monsters you’ll meet in the dungeon. Each difficulty level increases the awareness, speed and durability of each monster. A slow moving monster with little power on easy becomes a speedy powerhouse on hard. The notable thing about the difficulty level is that it cannot be changed once you start the game so if you bite off more then you can chew expect to start the game over if it becomes too much.

After that you have choices to assemble your own squad of four or go with the default set they give you. On easy this default setup will work but if you plan on tackling harder difficulties it’s best to make your own team based on your play style.

Looks dark, why don’t you scout ahead? I’ll be back here.

Lastly you’ll see a mode that will confound most, but for that select few it’ll fill you with glee, you have the option of having no maps at all by selecting old school mode. With this mode on you get out the graph paper and the pen and make your maps as you go. The added bonus to choosing this option is that you won’t be able to know what part of the map you’re in at any given time. For those who like this level of dedication and work in their RPG it’s a great addition, I on the other hand, remember when I had to do that for games and I love the fact that games offer maps now. Just like the difficulty setting, if you choose to go without maps you’re stuck until you start a new game.

When selecting a squad you have four choices for race. Each race starts out with four main components, strength, dexterity, vitality and willpower with 40 points spread across them depending on what race you pick and then ten extra points to help you tweak each character to your liking. Each race has pluses and minuses.

  • Humans (all around): 4 starting skill points
  • Minotaur (tank): Strength +5, dexterity -4, vitality +4, willpower -3, food consumption +20, along with 1 starting skill point.
  • Lizardman (rouge): Dexterity +2, willpower -1, along with 3 starting skill points.
  • Insectoid (mage): Strength -2, dexterity +1, vitality -2, willpower +4, food consumption -15, along with 3 starting skill points

After choosing your race you select one of three classes, they’re broken down to three choices and all have individual skills that you’re able to level up.

  • Fighter: Athletics, armors, axes, maces, swords, unarmed combat
  • Rouge: Assassination, daggers, dodge, missile weapons, throwing weapons, unarmed combat
  • Mage: Air magic, earth magic, fire magic, ice magic, spellcraft, staff defense

Lastly, you’re able to choose two traits to apply to each created character: Aggressive, agile, aura, cold-blooded, evasive, daemon ancestor, fist fighter, head hunter (minotaur only), healthy, natural armor (insectoid only), poison resistant, skilled, strong mind and tough.

I thought that it was called “Legend of Grimlock” and I was all excited because who doesn’t love the leader of the Dinobots?

The game starts with still images of you and your companions being taken to the top of mount Grimrock, you and the members of your party have done something against the empire and this is how you’re going to pay for it. You’re dumped into the top level of the dungeon and if you can make it out you will live a life absolved of any wrongdoings, if you don’t make it out then you have paid for your crimes. While it’s short on story it allows you to create a scenario in your mind about the back story of these characters. When I played I had a Minotaur called Mork and I imagined his crime was acting out scenes from Mork and Mindy in the town square completely naked.

You’ll appear in a dungeon and this is a classic 3D dungeon crawler. I remember the dungeon sequences from Phantasy Star on the Sega Master System and this is like the HiDef revival for me. Anyone who has played an older RPG will feel right at home with this style. Your party will move in the dungeon a block at a time and they’ll travel in a square with two party members in the front and two in the back. The front line should have your heavy hitters who use melee weapons and the back should be made of mages and rouges who can hit from a distance.

Phantasy Star top, Grimrock bottom

(above)Phantasy Star on SMS, (below)Grimrock’s evolution of the genre

From this point on, the goal is to escape the dungeon at all costs and each level will have the dungeon throwing more and more at you to stop you before you make it to freedom. The learning curve is wonderful with your party doing the basicĀ  movements and combat while adding in some puzzles early on. There is nothing in this game that shouts “spike in difficulty” as you navigate the dungeon you’ll find that it prepares you for the next trial. Your health, and in the case of the mage class your magic power, will come back over time. As long as you fight off a monster or trap and are alive at the end you can find a safe place to rest for a few and get your strength back.

I can’t say enough about this gameplay, it’s so simple but so refined with a “just one more level” gameplay. Movement is simple with your W, A, S, D keys doing your main movement and Q and E turning. If you want you can also open up mouse controls which give a little arrow box on the right hand of the screen with buttons that you can click to move, overall it’s intuitive and you’ll be running around the dungeon fluidly after a few hallways are under your belt.

Combat is another simple yet refined system. In the bottom right hand portion of the screen you are shown each of your character’s hands and when you equip something it’s just dropped into one of their open hands. During combat you right click on the weapon or item your character is holding, once you perform your action the image fades and appears fully again to show you can use the weapon again. It’s simple but perfect. In the case of the mage there’s a wall of symbols and by learning the right patterns of the symbols and leveling up your spells you can create a deluge of devastating spells to hurl at your opponent.

The other side of the dungeons are the puzzles and traps. Sometimes there are hints on the walls that will help guide you and sometimes it’s just what you take in and see in a particular room or level in the dungeon. Overall they’re very well done and they have you interacting with bricks in the walls to moving stones on certain platforms to moving torches around. When it comes to traps you’ll find some switches are better left untouched as they unleash a wave of monsters at you. Other traps can be used in your favor, sending a particularly nasty beast plummeting to it’s doom, letting you save your potions for another fight down the road.

mushroom

Oh, giant walking mushroom monster, typical Tuesday.

That leads me to resources in the game, you’re at the mercy of whatever you can find to survive. Torches eventually burn out, food must be eaten or you’ll starve, and medicines and health potions must be created and bottled before you can use them. In many ways this is a very unforgiving game when it comes to consumables. You will have to manufacture the majority of items you use in your quest to escape. There will be times that you find medicine and other things hidden away but in most cases you’ll be finding scrolls with recipes for making a healing potion or an anti venom to recover from the giant spider attack you just fought through.

The graphics are beautiful with wonderfully animated monsters and effects. The monsters all move with a distinct motion and some of them help make the monsters all the creepier. You’ll run into a variety of beasts and they all have personalities of their own. Since the dungeon is such a straightforward design without much deviation, it’s the monsters that really bring it all to life and make each floor feel unique. The effects are superbly done with lighting effects from torches shining off walls and the way a torch flickers when it’s at the end of it’s life helps fill you with dread that soon you’ll be in the dark with whatever else is out there.

Sound is a perfect example of less being more. After the music at the start of the game you will hear silence from the music department. All you’ll hear is the atmosphere in the level of the dungeon you’re currently in. Your feet on the bricks, the crackling and snapping of the fire at the end of a torch, the slow dragging sound off in the distance as something is prowling the halls, still hidden in the dark. The sound is the layer that ties everything together giving you relief when it’s perfectly silent and a sense of dread when something off in the distance gets louder and you know it won’t be long before they appear in the light.

Saving is thankfully abundant with the ability to save everywhere and often. There are also giant glowing spires in various parts of the dungeon that are set save points, what differentiates these from normal saving is that these will bring everyone in your party back to health as well. You’ll want to use these at the last possible point since resources that restore your party to full health are few and far between.

COULD BE HELPFUL WITH ANXIETY BECAUSE

  • Simple gameplay
  • IntuitiveĀ  controls
  • Great “just one more level” gameplay

COULD BE UNHELPFUL WITH ANXIETY BECAUSE

  • Very dark and gloomy
  • Must pay attention to surroundings, listening to noises and noticing subtle hints for puzzles

WHY YOU SHOULD BE PLAYING THIS

I just can’t say enough good things about this game. It’s like you took everything from dungeon crawling and polished it until it was near perfection. The way everything works together from the sound to the controls to the gameplay is a masterpiece. I will say that personally I can’t play this when I’m really anxious because I find myself taking a lot of damage because I can’t concentrate on every little nuance in the game but when I’m fine and even a bit panicky I love playing this game.

This is the kind of game you will stop playing and think about when you’re not playing and then gravitate back just to play one more level of the dungeon. The fact that this is only the tip of the iceberg because we’ll soon have new dungeons makes this a wonderful opening course. Everyone should find a way to get this into their collection.

This review was based on the PC version that was provided by the reviewer.

Overview
Release Date

Apr 11, 2012

Digital or Retail

Digital

Platform

PC

Developer

Almost Human Games

Publisher

Almost Human Games

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Fantastic gameplay, intuitive controls, great graphics, immersive sound

Negatives

None

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