Fans of old school pen ‘n’ paper RPGs can get a new title to add to their shelves with the new dungeon crawler/RPG, Legend of Grimrock.
The plot starts with the age old “you are a prisoner” story and thrusts you in to a dungeon crawling experience where you are left to either rot in your cell or explore the mountain of Grimrock. Instead of controlling a singular protagonist you control a party of adventurers that have all committed a treasonous act. The party is then cast into the innards of Mount Grimrock and “pardoned” for their actions by the king.
Upon starting the game you can either choose to create your own party or try the default one. If you choose to create your own party then you are given three classes to choose from for each of your four party members: Fighter, Rogue and Mage. From there you can choose to put points into a variety of different skills which seem to do very little from the start but become an essential part of the game later on.
Grimrock throws the puzzles straight at you from the start but unfortunately this also sets the tone for a lot of the later puzzles too. Some of the puzzles are ridiculously hard to figure out and I found myself completing some puzzles while I was still trying to work out what was going on. This highlights a problem that I found from early on in the game: with very little camera control it becomes harder to actually see what is going on around the party. To activate or pick up anything you have to let the camera center in a direction(North, East, South or West) so there are quite a few areas where you will have to activate a switch and then turn around to actually see what that switch has done.
There are a number of hidden areas where you will find many bonuses like gear, keys etc. but generally finding those areas isn’t all that hard. The game trains you to do something that you will be doing from very early; “Spot the cracked brick”. While this is easy to miss while in combat they’re not very hard to miss when out of combat. Upon entering most rooms it’s best just to look at everything and click on anything that looks suspicious.
Combat plays an unavoidable role in Legend of Grimrock which wouldn’t be so bad if the combat was a little harder. As long as you can find a 2×2 area to dance around in, fighting mobs becomes a simple case of queuing up Mage’s spells and then spamming everything before they turn around. The only time combat becomes any harder than that is when there are more than one group of enemies in which case as long as you don’t get stuck in a corner or you’re able to kite them down a corridor you should be okay.
Occasionally you will find yourself in the odd tough battle where one of your party members may die. Unlike older, more unforgiving titles, simply getting to a shiny blue rock will resurrect any dead party members and save the game. The game is fairly forgiving but with the ability to save it of your own accord Grimrock becomes a game of saving and sleeping, especially if you have Mages in your party as without mana they are practically useless. With the ability to save and sleep every 5 seconds or less the only difficulty comes from some of the harder encounters that you might face. A lot of these can be made easier however by thinking before leaping into each room.
As with a lot of games in this genre it’s often best to go everywhere apart from the way you’re meant to go before actually going where you’re meant to go. This doesn’t make the game feel less linear, if anything it enforces that feeling as more often than not you’ll have to go down all the secret passageways to find everything to get through the main door. Occasionally you’ll find something completely unrelated but generally speaking anything that you can pick up, you should pick up. Instead of feeling like adventuring gives you a nice advantage it just feels like you’re shooting yourself in the foot for not adventuring lest you put yourself at a disadvantage.
Overall Legend of Grimrock is a nice dungeon crawler that brings back the “good old days” of pen and paper games but unfortunately brings a bit too much of the old days without all of the good. It is definitely a fun addition to a genre that hasn’t been touched upon for a while and a must buy for fans of the genre but there are quite a lot of things that could have been done better.