Legend of Grimrock Review
Genre: Action, Adventure, Dungeon Crawler, RPG
What we liked
What we didn't
Do you dare to enter Grimrock?
Ever wanted to play an old school style game? Don’t want to play it with 8-bit graphics with terrible colour sequences? Then allow me to introduce, Legend of Grimrock, the first game from indie developer Almost Head studios. Launched just a couple of weeks ago, Almost Head’s debut game hit digital download sites. As I take an interest in indie games and especially anything that is old school, I thought I’d give the game a go. So the question, is the game any good?
Firstly lets look at the game itself. The story is about four prisoners who have been convicted of crimes they may or may not have committed. As a result they have been sentenced to enter Grimrock, a legendary mountain housing a multi-layered dungeon that is used as a prison. However your four convicts can earn their freedom, that is if they can traverse the mountain and avoid the numerous nightmares that await them, as they also are led through the mountain by a mysterious stranger speaking in their dreams.
That is the basic premise to Legend of Grimrock you are a prisoner, your aim is to survive and escape Mount Grimrock, and at the same time slay some monster and solve a mystery within the mountain. Its a small and simple story to a game that doesn’t particularly concentrate on it, your aim is to survive. However, if you want to know the games story, then the only way the story is told is via these dream sequences and by finding scrolls and parchment around each dungeon level about another prisoner known only as Toorum who has once traversed the mountain. All in all I followed the story of Grimrock and found it quite interesting, however the game doesn’t engage enough of it in the game, you are essentially left to your own devices, you don’t have to sleep in the game or read any of the parchments, so you pretty much won’t know what is going on within the mountain. Its one of the flaws in the game, the story is there but it won’t be told unless you engage it.
However the story isn’t what makes this game fantastic, its pretty much everything else. Almost Head have captured old school dungeon crawlers at the heart, making the game play like the old games by obeying the same principle game play. For instance, everything moves in one square at a time, thats not to say this game is turn-based, no the game is all in real-time. All four members of your party and every enemy in the game moves forwards or backwards. You can turn around and look about, you can strafe or look in the right direction and move but diagonal moves are prohibited. This was an old school method of play, it restricted what the player can do and what the monster could do, they had to obey the square. This goes the same for combat, you can only attack something if you are facing it head on, whether you fired an arrow or cast a spell, you must face your foes and your foes must face you if you wish to inflict any damage. This incorperates a little strategy to the game where you have to plan your attacks because if you get it wrong it could be kudos to your party.
Now away from combat, the game still has its roleplaying game roots. For instance, your characters which you can choose the races and classes. In the game you can be either a Human, Minotaur, Lizardman or an Insectoid, then for each race you can choose to be a fighter, rogue or mage. Fighters are stronger and tougher and great for a close attack and taking damage. Rogues are adequete in combat but best at the rear firing bolts or arrows at your enemies. Or finally the destructive but weak mage at the back, capable of cast destructive spells that could even effect your own party if you are not careful. From there, for each character and class you have in your party can gain experience by slaying monsters in game, each monsters XP varies on how dangerous it is, so the more experience they give you, the tougher and stronger they are! When your characters earn enough XP they can level up, and you then need to choose what they upgrade depending on what their class is.
Then there is the inventory system in the game, you have to choose wwhat exactly you want to carry, such as a weapon you might use later or food to stop you from starving. This us one of the many things you have to take into consideration when playing Grimrock, you have to think through what exactly are you going to need. You need weapons and armour, but you don’t need multiple weapons and armour to carry around with you, for instance when you get a better one you really don’t need to keep the old ones. What you will need is herbs, torches and food. Herbs is for alchemy, you will find yourself making countless amounts of health, energy and antidote potions to stop your characters from dying and your mage from running out of juice to cast spells. The torches are for your light source, without this your in the dark and trust me, you really don’t want to be in the dark, it becomes harder to see whats ahead of you and you really don’t know what could be around the next corner, so you have been warned. And lastly you will need food since your characters will all get hungry and like other games being hungry affects you in game. When you are starving, you don’t die like in The Sims games, you in fact don’t heal any more over period of time, your health remains the same till you have some grub inside your characters, to get food you can sometimes find it on the floor or by killing some of the creatures in the game like a monsterous snail that looks ugly and probably tastes disgusting if it was a real creature, but if you wish to survive you will eat it regardless.
And then there is the dungeon itself, although the game appears to be linear on the cover, it is in fact a vast dungeon system which allows you to go anywhere in the dungeon, however it will not allow you outside of the dungeon walls, and each dungeon level in the game is far from being small. Some dungeon levels cover vast spaces which you can explore. On top of which, Grimrock has many secrets and puzzles and riddles throughout each level. The secrets are not so easy to find, you have to look out for them, it could be seen as a riddle or puzzle but sometimes its a crack in the wall that turns out to a button or switch, but to what? It could be treasure or it could be danger. Then there is the games vast amount of puzzles and riddles that will infuriate many of you, because they infuriated myself. The puzzles you find in this game are some of the hardest you will ever find in a game and at times I found myself literally standing in front of one for so long that I gave up and walked away, only to come back hours later having finally worked out the riddle or puzzle in my head. It is truely something to respect since so many puzzle games actually challenge you throughout the game.
And finally we come to the presentation to the game and does it compare to other games on the PC and consoles? I feel that the game stands pretty good against any new title. Despite Legends of Grimrock being a digital only title, the graphics in the game are second to known and the detail that has gone into the dungeon walls and the creature design is award worth. The dungeon looks emmaculate and by looking at the surface you feel like your are in a fantasy dungeon with cobbled walls and paved flooring, you feel like you are inside a tight corrider when playing the game thanks to the first-person perspective. Then you have all the games creatures that look very unique and you certainly will not have seen them anywhere else in another game, in fact the only creature I can think of in the game that isn’t very unique is the skeleton warriors, but then again how else are you going to design a skeleton warrior? Then there is the games supreb lighting effects, they simply shine in this game. The idea is your party should carry around a torch so that they can see as they are wondering around the dungeon, however as the torch is lit more and more, so is its kindle and soon enough the light will start to dim till darkness is all that is left (like I said before keep torches on you at all times). Fire in the game is your friend, it is what allows you to see in game and without it you certainly won’t be able to do a thing.
However despite the creature design, the lighting effects and the detail in the dungeon surfaces, the gameplay and story, the game t does have its down sides. The game does have a story to it, but you have to engage it like I mentioned, it is one of the games fewest flaws and one that can be easily rectified in future games and then there is the games graphics, yes all the creatures look fantastic and the world is crafted brilliantly, however all that prettiness does become very dull because, you are in a dungeon, you have walls all around you and no where to see the outside world, however without that then this game wouldn’t be a dungeon crawler if you could explore the outside world more, but it is something I would love to see the developers try in future projects by taking it outside and giving lighting effects from the sun.
Overall, Legend of Grimrock, is one of the best indie games I have played. I loved the look, the style and the design and the way the game plays and how it brought back the old school dungeon crawler format. It is these few things that makes the game a worth while buy. It will keep you occupied for several hours with lots to discover, in fact I am pretty sure that I didn’t even uncover all the secrets in Legend of Grimrock. This is what adds to the replayability in the game, you can create a new party, try different strategys and find every secret in every nook and craney in the game. It certainly is a game to pick up and play if you love your old school titles, role-playing games, or if you just want to try something different for a change.