Saturday, September 21, 2013

Review: Legend of Grimrock

Legend of Grimrock is very much a throwback to an older way of making role playing games, and that is a good thing.

Four prisoners are taken to the top of Mount Grimrock and given a pardon for their alleged and unspecified horrific crimes before being tossed into the gaping maw at the top. The mountain is filled with a sprawling dungeon, and while many have been pardoned upon that mountain top and thrown below to fight their way down through the mountain to freedom, no one has ever emerged from the other end.

And from that opening, your adventure begins.

Legend of Grimrock is a 3D tile-based RPG that has been clearly influenced by the 1991 Dungeons and Dragons game Eye of the Beholder and the game 1986 game Dungeon Master, and it is almost a love letter to those two earlier games, using modern technology, so it looks lovely too. 

At the beginning, you build a party of four members, which can be made from 4 races (human, minotaur, insectoid and lizardman) and 3 classes (the classic warrior, rogue and mage). Other games have come out where you have a lot more choice in this regard, but I think having slightly limited options led to a stronger experience overall because there is a nice crisp difference between them.

In game, there are no shops and no NPCs to talk to... it is basically just your party vs. the dungeon.You may find a note here in there giving you advice or maybe relaying a bit of story from someone who was thrown into the dungeon before you, but in general, the setting is very lonely aside from the monsters that want to kill you, and there is no healing magic, so most of the time, you will have to rest while you aren't hungry to replenish your health and mana, which means that keeping some food in your inventory is essential, which again is in keeping with those older dungeon crawling games.

The visual design of the dungeon is consistently well done, as is the creature design, and each element contributed well to the overall aesthetics of the game. I was also a fan of the way the game uses light, whether it is the flickering of the torches around you to the way distant lights cast long shadows.

I also applaud the sound design. Rather than load the game full of music, Almost Human made the decision to let you explore the depths with ambient sounds and the sounds of enemies as your guide, giving the journey a lot more tension and it provides you with valuable information since each enemy has a specific movement sound, and from the volume and direction, you can tell where they might be when you can't see them, and hear things like teleporters, trap doors and floor switches which helps you figure out some of the puzzles.

Speaking of which, the puzzles themselves were tough, but completely fair, with most of the tougher one giving better weapons and equipment rather than advancement in the dungeon and were therefore optional. You still feel the pull to solve them though, especially since the rewards are so good for figuring them out.

It took me about 30 hours to complete the game, but if you really enjoy it, there is a lot more adventure waiting for you. You see, the team behind the game gave their players the tools to make new content for it, and boy, has the fanbase ever delivered. There are so many new user created dungeons, as well as projects to recreate older games with those tools, like the aforementioned Eye of the Beholder and Dungeon Master. The first Legend of Grimrock was so successful, Almost Human is currently working on a sequel as well. 

So if you like this kind of game, or you have never had the chance to play one of those old tile based RPGs and you want to try one out, this is certainly the game for you. It goes on sale a lot it seems, so there are a lot of opportunities to get it for a great price.

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