Sometimes, more isn’t always more. My review of Legend of Grimrock 2.
One of the rare videogame reviews where I talk about a game that I didn’t finish. I put in five hours and got more than enough thoughts to craft this review. I put all of this here as my full disclosure. Oh and I purchased the game myself.
A Paladin’s Review: Legend of Grimrock 2. The Island of Broken Bones and Death Traps
- Genre: 1st Person Old-School Tile-based RPG Focused on Combat with Puzzles.
- Developed and Published by: Almost Human Games
- Platform: Windows, MacOSX and Linux
- Business Model: Base Game
- Copy Purchased by Myself
Legend of Grimrock 1 jumped into the indie gaming scene in 2012. It was bringing old school dungeon crawling gameplay to the next generation with better graphics and ideas learned in modern times. It was a success and one of my favorite games of 2012. Fast forward three years later and I finally get the chance to play Legend of Grimrock 2. Its the expanded sequel that brought a new open world experience as well as new monsters, puzzles and challenges to face.
Overall Gameplay Thoughts
Eschewing its previously more directed experience in a dungeon, Legend of Grimrock 2 takes place on a very large island. The real-time first person tile-based RPG is back with a few new tricks. You now have eight character classes to choose from including magical warriors, alchemists and farmers. There’s a few new races and faces with new skill trees that you’re given far too few skill points to spend into. All of which takes place on an island named….Nex apparently. Your mission is…to…I guess survive on the island and figure out its mysteries. It’s not hard to feel like the sequel was where the developers included anything and everything they could just to do it. I put in five hours before I called it a day, fair warning.
Story and Atmosphere Thoughts
The game starts out with an animated CGI cutscene that depicts your group of prisoners getting shipwrecked on an island. An opening scene that is a little jarring (and an unnecessary expense) change from LoG1’s opening scene with still images. Somehow, that cutscene conveyed even less story about why your group of survivors here and what their purpose is. It’s the first sign that the story just isn’t as good this time around. All you really get is the island’s “owner” taunting you with written notes and giant stone face statues giving you cryptic clues and hints about the island as well as what you should do to move on. Neither of which really does it for me this time. Granted, LoG1’s story was pretty light as well but there was something to it that made me want to see what was going on. Here? There’s no reason for me to explore, outside of just doing it for completion sake.
It doesn’t help that the atmosphere of LoG1 is gone. It’s no longer an old dungeon that has seen far too many people die in it. The soft howling wind, the scratching of enemy’s claws nearby, the sense that danger could be right around the corner, its just not here. Instead, it’s an island of themed areas. You’ve got the graveyard here, the beach there, a giant pyramid over there and a forest behind you, among other areas. When you’ve got the ocean waters acting as a barrier instead of a solid wall, it breaks the immersion. It’s little things like this that hurt the game’s experience.
I said in my previous review of Legend of Grimrock 1 that the combat was balanced on a razor’s edge. If it strayed just a little from that balance, it would cease to be enjoyable. Well, the combat in LoG2 strays. I found myself in combat situations far too many times and against way too many opponents in cramped rooms. Where I would then be easily surrounded and slowly beaten to death in a war of attrition. The only changes to the combat system on your end is improvements to the magic casting system. Which, sure, the magic system is nicer to use. However, the combat system is still largely the same system as before. Circle around enemies, spam your weapons/abilities off cooldown as often as possible and hope the enemies die before your group gets done in. Oh and if you lose anyone, well, you’re going to be done in quickly.
Enemies have new AIs (though I noticed that they would often get stuck with indecision) with new moves to avoid the typical strategy of the previous game. Which I would be ok with this change because it would force new strategies to be developed. But then I get quickly surrounded by enemies and killed off because I got stuck in yet another corner with three or more enemies trying to gnaw my face off. I signed up for a game about surviving with my wits and getting through tricky puzzles. I didn’t sign up for a combat spree-a-thon where I slaughter hundreds of enemies in long battles of attrition.
Dying in Death Traps
There are games that pull off death traps well, as part of the experience. You have to be careful how many times you use them, especially if you’re wanting to advance the plot along. I find the most effective ones are death traps used to teach players to be more careful and wary of their surroundings. But LoG2 doesn’t give you the clues to tell you that what you’re about to do is a bad idea. I died at least seven to ten times in five hours from pointless death traps. It’s a ton of trial-and-error gameplay that I got sick of in a real hurry.
Examples: pressing a pad that was sitting by a pond as if it had a purpose caused the game to surround me with an angry swarm of giant killer bees. Picking up a gun sitting on a pedestal teleported me right into a dark dungeon where I was surrounded by four units of mummies. Going into a room caused four units of soldiers to come out of the wall and surround me, backing me into a corner where I died. And this was just in the first couple of hours. I don’t even want to know if it gets worse because this was a rough enough beginning as-is.
Look, I will grant that maybe the death traps are supposed to be part of its old school charm. But I just view it as a waste of time. And it wouldn’t be so bad if we weren’t tasked with surviving tons of enemies and traps between spread out crystal checkpoints. Only made worse with respawning enemies. Don’t even get me started on the broken bone mechanic, I just don’t like it. Getting stuck after falling down a hole thanks to a trap is frustrating at best.
Puzzles in this game rapidly switch from overly easy to confusing as hell. Mostly because the hints, if any exist, are vague. A problem only made worse with the knowledge that the key or item that you need to pass this puzzle may be on the other side of the world. In LoG, puzzles were often solved in the same room or on the same level. There were some exceptions, but not often. Here, the exception seems to be the norm. It’s greatly frustrating and feels like they were largely put to the side in favor of a more combat intensive experience.
PC Settings Menu & Optimization Problems
All of the settings from LoG1 return and with a few new addition. Windowed, Borderless, Fullscreen and a good selection of resolution options. V-Sync for which you’ll probably want triple buffering because the screen tearing is hideous otherwise. There’s a new Render Quality slider which substantially changes how good everything looks. Texture resolution, texture filtering, shadow quality and SSAO quality sliders with high/medium/low options. Field of view slider isn’t available but the standard field of view should be fine. Music and sound effect sliders are here with individual mute buttons. Settings wise, it has everything you’ll need.
Legend of Grimrock 2 is horribly optimized. Even on the lowest graphical settings, my framerate would tank to 45 FPS just standing around in a forest/desert/beach with no visible enemies nearby. Get some fighting going and it tanks further. It isn’t consistent what will bring the framerate down. Its not even that great a looker. Sure, the underground levels, the creatures and animations look fine. But the outdoor levels? With the trees and plant life? They seem…merely adequate. It’s frustrating though as the game will lag at random times, making travel not nearly as smooth as it should be.
Legend of Grimrock 1 was a title where less was more. Legend of Grimrock 2 seems to think that more is more. I don’t agree. The atmosphere is gone, replaced with themed areas and more frustrating combat. Puzzles just aren’t as satisfying to solve this time around. And exploration? Exploration is hampered by the knowledge that you have to slog through respawning monsters and pointless death traps. LoG2 is a sequel that tries to be bigger and better than what it was, but loses what made the original fun for me in the first place. While I will give some kudos for the magic system improvements, the new classes that add a little bit of flavor to the gameplay and the new monsters with their different attacks, it’s not enough for me. As a whole, it isn’t the fun I wanted and I’m really disappointed by that.
Thanks for reading this review.