Release Date: April 11, 2012

Developer: Almost Human Games

Platform: PC

Legend of Grimrock is a classic experience with a modernized look, and the gameplay experience throughout continually reminds you of this. If I had a buck for every time I picked up a treasure and then suddenly was surrounded by enemies, I’d have a pretty well-paying job for staring at the “Game Over” screen.

The game is challenging on your first playthrough, I have little doubt of that at this point, and the puzzles and the enemies are equally difficult to handle. Sometimes I had to deal with both at the same time, and the game continued to throw unexpected twists in my direction that required me to think fast and improvise to the best of my ability. If I died, then that would be a learning experience and I could spend a moment to strategize prior to jumping into the same trap again.

Legend of Grimrock officially won my love when I progressed to the next level only to have the door close behind me and find that I was surrounded by enemies. After managing to best them and taking a minute to heal, a massive ogre emerged from the shadows and violently charged towards me. I managed to slay the monster on my first attempt without even expecting it, and I felt like a boss.

This game provides exactly what I want to see in an RPG, and the reason why I play them at all: because it’s rewarding. Thanks to the hand-crafted nature of Grimrock’s level design, enemy placement and item placement, the developers make sure that something entirely new is in store behind every door. The game, however, is extremely linear as a result of this, so there’s not too much of a sense of adventure or freedom. But when you think about it, you’re in a dungeon prison and aren’t supposed to feel free! It feels more like a horror survival in a classic dark fantasy setting. And at times I found myself scraping the floors for anything edible or useful, and managing my inventories as not to become overburdened.

It’s a classic RPG experience in just about every sense except for the real-time combat which, ultimately, makes the game more exciting in a lot of ways. One thing that I found from playing this game is that no area of the dungeon exists for no reason; every single room has a use to the player while progressing through the game. If there are any puzzles that you are able to pass up before progressing to the next level, it probably means that you’re missing out on some useful treasure.

The combat mechanics can grow a little bit stale at times, and dancing around enemies to avoid getting hit could make you rather dizzy. But the feeling you get when that last enemy finally dissolves into ashes is very satisfying, especially if they were really challenging to face. Your chance to hit enemies with melee attacks is random, but certain weapons are more or less accurate than others, and some weapons attack faster than others. Weapons are very scarce in the game, so when you find one it really is quite special. Often powerful weapons or important items are guarded by hidden traps, and you have to be ready to deal with being trapped in a room after picking up a key and taking on a dozen enemies that just came out of the walls.

The art style in the game also looks gorgeous; the lighting effects are especially nice to look at and the whole game consequently has a very earthy feel to it. Without a lit torch being held by one of the characters in your party, it will be very dark in most places and you may struggle to see anything, and it’s also often inconvenient to take up an entire hand with a torch instead of something else. The game forces you to make compromises and determine what you think would be the best way to equip your party. There is no shortage of strategy involved and I really love that about this game.

The story is also quite interesting, and you run into unexpected twists along your journey. It also successfully justifies why there is a massive sprawling dungeon with traps and mechanisms that seem unused prior to your visit, which is fairly impressive to say the least and helps to make the game even more immersive. This game is extremely immersive by the way, the atmosphere is basically perfect. It really is the glorious return of the dungeon crawler, new and improved, but still stressing the key factors that made the genre enjoyable for so many basement dwellers in the 1980′s. While Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls could represent a much more modernized equivalent, as they still hold many tropes of the typical dungeon crawler (and would arguably cater to the same audience); Legend of Grimrock stands as a title more loyal to it’s roots in terms of it’s format.

I would call this game a huge success, it has very little flaws to speak of aside from the rigid tile-based controls that take a little getting used to. Overall, the game provides a fulfilling experience that anybody who has harbored a love for rewarding RPGs should look into.

Pros

  • Amazing art direction
  • Immersive and rewarding experience
  • Challenging enemies and puzzles
  • True to it’s roots

Cons

  • Clunky control mechanics
  • Very linear, less replay value