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Legend of Grimrock Review
publisher: Almost Human
developer: Almost Human
|ESRB rating: RP
release date: Apr 11, 12 (released)
|» All About Legend of Grimrock on ActionTrip|
Nostalgia can be a funny thing. We all have memories of things from our past we fondly put on mental pedestals so we can bask in the warm and fuzzy glow of how great things used to be. However, if you try to repeat those experiences in real life, you may find those memories skewed a bit too much towards the positive. It does not matter if its music, movies, TV shows or video games. Some things just don't hold up very well over time. Sometimes it turns out there is a reason those memories are so fond, as revisiting an experience is as rewarding today as it was way back when. I mention this mainly because Vader is still going on and on about how Dawson's Creek changed his life and impacts the decisions he makes today (Youuu... - Ed. Vader). Also, for the past week I have been playing The Legend of Grimrock, from indie developer Almost Human.
Legend of Grimrock (or LoG if you prefer) is an old-school RPG dungeon crawler the likes of which hasn't been witnessed since Dungeon Master or the Eye of the Beholder series. Not much of a backstory is required as you are simply tossed into the dungeon at the start of the game as punishment for crimes you may or may not have committed. The point is getting you into the claustrophobic confines of your prison so as to get on with the tasty old-fashioned gameplay of solving puzzles, dispatching nasty monsters and trying to survive long enough to get better gear. The term 'Dungeon Crawler' is spot on as LoG has players controlling a party of four (either the premade group or a party you create from scratch) through hallways and rooms littered with traps, secret doors, puzzles and monsters of all sorts. Along the way you find new gear, level up your group and in the process learn new attacks and spells.
Always glad to see one of these things.
Prepare to be frozen, you flaming heap of... floating armor?
While you can hold down the right mouse button to change your view around the screen, movement is traditionally grid-based. In other words, when you (or monsters) initiate movement, you do so into the next adjacent square by a single step, but this is still done in real-time and not via turn-based movement. So, if you need to step away from the PC for a minute it's a good idea to hit escape to ensure your idling group does not become a baddie buffet while you are away. While this may be off putting to players who are familiar with modern day first person RPGs, this system does allow for some really fun combat. If you can find a large enough area or hallway section you can literally 'kite' (or lead the enemy around a path) as you pepper them with spells, thrown weapons and sword strokes as you step away from the monsters when they move in close to you. It also makes for some interesting mechanics for evading traps or solving puzzles.
The interface is refreshingly minimalistic for an RPG with the lower right corner of the screen showing your party, the items currently equipped in either hand and six navigation buttons that you can click on to navigate instead of using the keyboard. Character health, status and mana levels are displayed as bars next to the character portraits. The rest of the screen is left wide open so you can drink in the splendor of the dungeon environment: hi-res brick or stone walls with crumbling mortar, patches of moss, wall switches, flickering torches and other flourishes to break up the monotony of hallways that seem to go on forever. The walls can also hide buttons and switches that are used to open up secret rooms or pathways, so it is important to search each section if you are stuck or want to find all the secret rooms. Attacks are initiated by right-clicking on the items held in you characters hands or by 'building' spells by clicking a series of nine symbols then a cast icon. While there is very little music in the game (which is true to classic dungeon crawlers), the selections that are present are well done. The sound effects are also appropriate for each action like attacks, spells or can serve as warnings for approaching monsters.
Gameplay-wise, LoG allows players to decide what sort of experience they want when starting the game. You can go with the normal settings that allow for an auto mapping feature and easier monsters. On the other hand, players looking for the ultimate challenge and traditional RPG experience can choose the hardcore mode where you have to create your own maps using sheets or grid paper (printed from a PDF provided with the game) and much harder monsters. Players who want to experience the 'good old days' of classic role-playing games, this is the setting for us! The gaming is punishingly hard on this mode, hence you must be prepared to save often and to plan carefully when creating your party and assigning skill points when leveling up. The puzzles are typically not hard enough to prevent you from progressing for long, but some can be challenging to those who are used to just run through a level killing everything until they find the required key. These puzzles are part of the appeal games of this type offered so long ago. Back when the Internet was not available to players to look up a walkthrough or strategy guide with a simple Google search, players were forced to keep working on a solution until they figured it out. It is still a thrill today to find a solution to an in-game puzzle all on your own and LoG presents plenty of opportunities, both puzzle and combat related.
8.5 Very Good
Old-school dungeon crawling goodness with updated graphics, challenging gameplay, solid puzzles, fantastic price point from an independent developer;
Old-school gaming may not appeal to new-school gamers, linear gameplay can be frustrating if a puzzle proves difficult, once the puzzles have been solved there is limited replay value.