My review on the old school yet made in today’s time dungeon crawler.
Enjoy the main theme of Legend of Grimrock the only track of music the game has. Anyway, onto the review.
History Of The Game or Developers
This is the first game developed and published by indie developers “Almost Human”. This four-man team self-financed the title’s development to launch. It was first announced in June of 2011 and was released in April 2012. The developers wanted to make a game that took the spirit of older dungeon exploration games and combine it with the technologies we have available today. Which resulted in the indie hit Legend of Grimrock.
What Is This Game?
Legend of Grimrock (LoG) is a RPG dungeon crawling adventure. It mixes old-school dungeon crawling with modern graphics and design. It focuses on survival and puzzle solving with some combat. Combat and travel is executed on a grid-based system. You and the enemies move forwards, backwards and sides in squares, an old-school throwback. LoG is now on the Windows, Mac, Linux and iPad platforms. While the graphics feature high fidelity 3D models and environments, you should be able to get by with a duo-core system and a decent graphics card.
The game takes place in a world known only as The Northern Realms. You play as a group of four prisoners of varying races. These four prisoners have been sentenced for their crimes against the King by “The Court”. Your sentence is to be thrown into the pit at the top of Mount Grimrock and once at the bottom of the pit, you’ll be pardoned of your crimes. The only problem is, no one has survived the depths of Mount Grimrock. Can you survive past the creatures, traps and challenges before you? Well, your going to find out soon enough. Your mission is to do just that. You have to find out a way out of the place. Solve the puzzles, unlock the mysteries of Grimrock and survive. You’re also being talked to in your dreams by someone…or something. The story is mostly told in dream sequences and scrolls left lying around in the dungeons. From these scrolls, you’ll get clues to what’s going on in the depths of Mount Grimrock as well as vague hints about the outside world.
Settings Menu and Setup
Being an RPG dungeon crawler, you can choose your characters to take into the dungeon before you begin your experience. There are four races in total: Human, Minotaur, Lizardman and Insectoid and three classes: fighters, mages and rogues. Fighters are your warriors in the front lines equipped with armor and weapons to keep them safe. Mages are your spell casters and rogues can either be ranged archers/weapon throwers or close-ranged assassins. You decide what your group will consist of, though its a good idea to have at least one of each class in it.
Humans are balanced and can handle being any of the three classes. Those three classes are Fightesr, Mages and Rogues, who’s roles are pretty self-explanatory. Minotaurs are better at being fighters, Lizardmen are better at being rogues and Insectoids are better at being mages. You’re also given the option of choosing in-game avatars for each character or given the ability to upload your own. I think that’s pretty cool that you can upload your own avatar (though it requires a .tga formatted picture at a specifically small size) and I regret not having uploaded my own avatar for the human fighter. The default party of prisoners is well rounded, giving you a male Human fighter, a female Human rogue, a Minotaur fighter and a Human mage. I chose the default characters and liked it well enough. But if I did it again, I would probably give myself a much different party to work with. As long as you include one of each of the three classes, you should be just fine navigating through the dungeons.
LoG comes with all the graphics, audio and keybinding settings you’ll need. Resolution options are plentiful and it can display in fullscreen, windowed borderless and windowed. V-sync has a enabled/disabled setting. Texture resolution, filtering, shadow quality and SSAO quality have low-medium-high sliders. There’s also separate audio sliders with mute options. Autosave can be turned on/off with other minor settings included as well. Keyboard controls can be completely configured if needed. You can also enable a touchscreen/tablet mode which is pretty neat. There is no FOV slider and this is probably intentional for game balance. I can’t say for certain if the FoV is fine or not but I think the grid-based movement will prevent any motion sickness from becoming an issue. It should be noted that Steam cloud isn’t enabled for LoG.
You can also choose to play LoG old school and disable the in-game map. This does requires you to rely on making your own maps (or having some great memory). The game developers provide you with a grid-based paper templates that you can print out. This can be found in the “extras” folder where your game is installed. It’s a neat little feature though you probably won’t use it. There’s also the Workshop Integration which has grown to 900+ maps now. When it initially came out, I didn’t really find any satisfying maps to play around with. The main campaign experience was more than enough for me. But, I’m hopeful that the community surrounding this game has done well since its release.
LoG features combat, puzzle & riddle solving, RPG elements and exploration. Combat is tile based and in real time. Since it has this tile movement, your enemies must be directly facing you to attack. They’re unable to attack at a diagonal from you. The combat system is a bit quirky and wonky. It takes quite a bit of practice to get used to fighting on what is essentially squares and being able to only face four directions. Not only that, it’s in real-time, so creatures may come out of no where and take you by surprise. For the most part, the combat doesn’t have a lot of depth but it’s surprisingly enjoyable. Since you can’t take too many direct hits from enemies, as they hit like a truck, most of the time will be spent sidestepping around enemies and poking them to death with spells and weapon swipes. This also means that getting caught in a surrounded by creatures will lead to a quick death. This can be a frustrating part of the game and it can happen almost too many times for comfort. However, it usually felt like I had gotten myself in that bad situation, not the game. So, you need to be very self-aware of your surroundings and survive as best you can. Fortunately, there’s a finite amount of creatures on every level. Once you kill them all, you’re given free reign to walk around and explore the level on your own terms. Still, I will say that the combat system stands on a razor’s edge. At times it can be far too easy and others it can be far too frustrating. Stray just a little and it will cease to be enjoyable.
There’s also has a variety of different puzzles and riddles you must solve to not only advance but to find hidden secrets. Switches, levers, camouflaged buttons, defeating the right enemies or finding keys are all items used to impede your forward progress. Still, figuring it out is what I enjoy most about LoG. Even if it is tempting to use the Internet or Steam guides to solve a particularly tricky puzzle. (Which I did do that a couple of times. I know, I know). The game definitely shines in this department but if you aren’t a fan of puzzles, then you might not enjoy it so much, as the combat doesn’t have much depth.
RPG elements include a food, weight system, attributes and leveling. When you level, you get points to spend on different skills that your character can use. It’s important that you figure out what your character is going to specialize in early on, because the game doesn’t give you nearly enough points to play around with in a single playthrough. There’s just enough to fully specialize in one skill and a few leftover for some minor skills. I didn’t like how restrictive it felt but the flip side is that it does encourage more than one run. The game requires you to keep a balance on your food and items you collect throughout the game. Collect too much food and that will weigh you down. Consume potions too often and you may find yourself in a bad situation. The inventory system is functional, based on weight and how much each character is holding on them. If they’re carrying too much, your party will slow or stop completely until you unload some items. Just a tip though, keep any odd items you find or mark their locations on the map. You may need them later. For some reason, I enjoyed the inventory management in this game. It never felt like a chore to me.
Looking at Graphics and Aesthetics
This game is a looker. Everything has a fidelity and crispness that you wouldn’t expect out of such an indie project. The creature designs and animations are very well done. It was impressive how lifelike some of the attacking creatures looked when they attacked. Even if a lot of the animations are reused, I still think of these creatures being real, of having substance. The lighting system in this game is excellent, with shadows playing lifelike over the walls and creatures as you move about. It all sells the experience of being in a dark, underground dungeon.
Sound, Music and Everything You Hear
While LoG has an awesome intro menu song that pumps you up for action, there isn’t any music in the game itself. Instead, the game has whistling, quiet winds and other sound elements that sell the atmosphere of LoG. This sense that you’re in an underground dungeon that is out to kill you. That every step forward is both a step towards ultimate freedom and possible death. Just to really sink it in, they let you hear the footsteps of potential enemies nearby. As though at any time, they might pop out of the wall and split you in two. But you wanna know the best part? There are some enemies that stand perfectly still until it’s much too late. Think on that for a while.
Your ears are given a lot to listen to. Between the marching sounds of the patrolling undead soldiers, the flapping of giant winged beasts or the skittering of spiders walking around, looking for their next meal. Then there’s the mountain itself, which has a personality all of it’s own that it conveys through sound. But it’s important to listen to everything because might hear your next door or passageway open up somewhere nearby. All of this combines into a creepy, sutble atmosphere that I truly enjoyed as much as I feared. It kept my nerves constantly on the edge as I continued crawling into more and more dangerous levels. Sometimes less is more and boy does Legend of Grimrock execute that well.
Bugs, Errors or Things Gone Wrong
If there is a fault with the game, its there really isn’t any need to replay the main quest. Outside of playing with different weapons/spells or finding any secrets you might have missed. If you truly need more content, there’s the Steam Workshop and the 900+ levels that you can sink your teeth into. I never gave any of them a shot so I can’t even give any passing thoughts on them right now.
I really enjoyed exploring through the depths of Mount Grimrock. The creepy atmosphere is ever present as you crawl through empty halls expecting danger to popout at any second. The combat is pretty good as well but it can easily tip towards too easy or too frustrating. Legend of Grimrock was an unexpected treat and pleasure for me to play through. It isn’t often that I find a game that just clicks with me like this one did. While a few of the puzzles were a bit of a hair-pullers, some of the riddles moreso, I didn’t feel like they were too opaque or difficult to figure out. Though it’s really tempting to just use the internet or Steam guides to get all the answers. Even so, there’s 20 hours of content to enjoy. Legend of Grimrock was one of my favorite games of 2012.
Buying & Important Links
Legend of Grimrock is available from the developers directly, GOG.com, Steam and Gamersgate. To see all relevant links, visit their website at the link below.[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ae-SmQnTtUU&w=560&h=315]
So until next time, I hope you enjoyed this review.