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Legend of Grimrock Review Round-Up Part 2

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Legend of Grimrock Review Round-Up Part 2

Review - posted by Crooked Bee on Tue 10 April 2012, 19:45:01

Tags: Almost Human Games; Legend of Grimrock

Almost Human Games' real-time dungeon crawler Legend of Grimrock has seen some more reviews surface. Are they just as positive about the game as the earlier ones were? You bet they are.

IndieGameMagazine - 89/100:

To say that this game makes a good first impression is an understatement. Beyond the immediately charming theme tune heard in the trailer below, and playing on the main menu, Grimrock is a beautiful game, with the simple, tile-based environments (each tile being roughly 10ft²) lushly textured and lit atmospherically by flickering torches, or your own party’s light-sources and illumination spells. While there’s not a great range in tilesets to be seen, it seems like a deliberate decision that keen eyes will find to their advantage, as slightly mis-arranged brick formations usually hint at secret passages. Anyone who has ever played an FPS will slip comfortably into the controls, with six buttons on the keyboard handling all your tile-based movement, and the mouse letting you interact with the environment, and right-click on your party’s panel of weapons to take swings at whatever is standing in front of you. So far, so simple, right?

Well, that’s the thing – it is simple, but it’s not easy. Grimrock harks back to a time when games had no concept of mercy, and the only way to overcome an obstacle was through practice, lateral thinking and even a little bit of sheer bloody-minded determination. Right from the start, enemies – fought entirely in real-time – are potentially deadly to your entire party if you stay there and hack away at them. Everything seems to have a statistical advantage over you, even if you do outnumber them four-to-one. The trick isn’t immediately intuitive, given the block-based nature of movement, but you have to keep dodging. Strafing out of the way of attacks and getting in a quick swing at an enemy’s flank before it turns to face you again lets you deal damage while avoiding it yourself. It requires a fair amount of dexterity and positional awareness too, as it’s all too easy to back into a corner, or try to strafe down a corridor only to barge straight into a wall. And woe be to anyone who gets caught between two or more enemies – death comes quickly if you’re unlucky enough to end up like that.​

IGN - 8.5/10:

As a kid, I grew up rolling d20s, charting out hand-scrawled labyrinths on graph paper swiped from math class, and concocting elaborate fantasy worlds to explore. And when I wasn't sitting around a table with my pals debating the finer points of casting Magic Missiles instead of Delayed Blast Fireballs, I spent my free time affixed to a clunky old PC playing games like Eye of the Beholder and Dungeon Master. Digging into Almost Human's shiny new take on hardcore old-school dungeon crawlers is a warm fuzzy trip down memory lane, but one of the most impressive things about Legend of Grimrock is the way it showcases how well the classic formula holds up after so many years.

As much as punchy combat keeps the pace flowing, Legend of Grimrock's elaborate puzzles offer an excellent reason to take a breather and stir up the old brain juice for a bit. Each level of the dungeon is brimming with hidden switches, locked doors, pressure plates, pitfalls, teleporters, scrawled messages, and magical statues that come together in clever ways to challenge your problem solving skills. Figuring out these obstacles can be a frustrating process at times when they're obstructing the only path forward, but the vast majority of the puzzles strike the right balance between difficulty and creativity.

Beyond the beautiful visual detail etched into each underground setting and the addictive pull of exploring and battling your way through uncharted territory, it's the little touches that really make Grimrock's dark world a special place for me. There's nothing quite like having to consume the flesh of fallen beasts to keep your party from starving or suddenly finding yourself poking around in pitch blackness because your last torch burnt out to drive home the feeling that you're trapped and alone in this godforsaken place. While seemingly insignificant at first, the many unique but minor details that increasingly stand out as you delve deeper add tremendous personality to this scrappy indie homage to classic dungeon crawlers.​

Beefjack - 8.5/10:

Combat in Grimrock is a two-and-a-half-decade-old free verse translation of pen-and-paper roleplaying mechanics, and frankly introduced today would be the stuff of a Fallout fan’s nightmares. Cooldown-led, real-time and with no option to pause, it’s a clunky compromise that’s old and unusual enough to have become nostalgic for a subset of RPG fans. My first experience with it was in the DnD-licensed Eye of the Beholder, but many more will remember the game it cloned, Dungeon Master. It’s fleetingly tactical and certainly feels desperate, in the manner that hacking your way through a dungeon prison might.

The game’s spell system forces even more frantic mid-battle fumbling than the melee, seemingly by design. Incantations are completed by attempting combinations of runes on the UI. Found scrolls teach you to use the runes sensibly, but the system still allows room for experimentation and the chance of stumbling across a powerful enchantment by accident.

Later on, combat becomes an awkward tango of sidesteps and backstabs, through the addition of evasive enemy types like archers, and through sheer difficulty. It’s made all the more tricky by poisons which necessitate a crash course in the art of antidote-brewing on the fly. These are also the game’s most satisfying fights. The more extreme Grimrock’s sense of clunky compromise, the more exciting it seems to become.

The melee does become less desperate, however, as you learn to stall enemy thrusts and slashes by rotating through the cooldown-controlled attacks of your party. When all goes well, battle can be like an atonal rhythm game, an ugly samba of steel on leather.

The game’s levelling system is background and pleasingly simple, but favours the forward-planning of a specialist rather than the generalist dabbling encouraged by the likes of Elder Scrolls and Mass Effect. ‘Favours’ in this case means ‘allows the continued existence of’, because Legend of Grimrock pulls no punches when it comes to survival.​

Blistered Thumbs - 8/10:

The game also has a great emphasis on exploration and puzzles, which I really liked. Some of the puzzles were very simple, like finding hidden switches and figuring out a riddle or two. Others required a lot of time and effort to succeed in. Most of the puzzles involved hidden switches, levers, torches, and pressure plates, and some even required you to take a leap of faith and fall into a trap door. Now that is commitment….

That said, there is one type of puzzle that grated on me during Legend of Grimrock, and that would be the reflex puzzles. I fully admit to being a bit slow on a keyboard and mouse, but some puzzles involve you to be precise and perfect with things like aiming and running to continue going forward. Some of them were real easy, while others required you to do several things in sequence to continue the game. Maybe it’s just me, but I found that to be very annoying and kind of cheap at times, especially after sixteen tries at the same solution. Thankfully, these obtuse obstructions were few and far between though.

In truth, I’m just thankful that puzzles exist in the game. It is rare to see an RPG utilize your wits as much as your skills at party building while playing a game. In fact, solving the puzzles leads to greater rewards, new equipment, experience, and even buried treasure that you can find in the dark halls of Grimrock. Who knows where some of the few dozen missed secret rooms were during the whole adventure, and if anything it gives me incentive to play it again to find out!​

Eurogamer.de - 9/10:

Ihr wollt Old School? Bitteschön. Legend of Grimrock ist ein unfassbar wertvolles Geschenk an alle, die einfach mal wieder einen echten Dungeon Crawl hinter sich bringen wollen. Es ist so, als hätten FTL Games und Westwood Studios auf dem Höhepunkt ihres Schaffens ein gemeinsames Projekt in der Schublade vergessen und nun wurde es von Almost Human vollendet. Schrittweises Laufen mit 90-Grad-Drehungen, Pseudo-Echtzeitkämpfe, Magie und Alchemie, Mikromanagement und das Gefühl von null an die eigenen Charaktere von nackten Schwächlingen zu Helden zu entwickeln. All die Härten eines riesigen Dungeons sind auch vorhanden. Die Rätsel, die Fallen, die Monster. Spielt das hier nicht einfach nur. Genießt es.​

Game Debate - 9/10:

2.2 The Puzzles:

Ooooh. It gets tough here. I won’t reveal any details about the puzzles and spoil someone’s experience but mark my words: the puzzles are TOUGH. Very tough.

Uncountable were the times I found myself completely lost without the slightest idea of what I needed to do to move forward. I thought over and over: “What am I missing?” “Do I have to go back?” “Is this a bug that prevents me from going?”

Yeah, my whole neighborhood could hear me screaming every time I got stuck somewhere but the puzzles are cleverly made and are satisfying, once solved, obviously.

2.2.1 The Good about the Puzzles:

Unique and enrolling. I never came across puzzles like these.

2.2.2 The Bad about the Puzzles:

Even on easy mode, there are no clues, no hints and sometimes it gets quite frustrating. You are stuck somewhere and it seems like you’re going to be forever. On Easy mode, I think Legend of Grimrock could feature some sort of clues or hints to help the lower IQ players – like me – move on and enjoy the game.​

Holy shit, at least this kind of classic gameplay can be appreciated by modern reviewers. (But only if the graphics are good enough, of course.)

I have only been able to find one non-positive review (by today's game journalism standards). The Digital Fix - 7/10:

The gameplay is based around a first-person mechanic where your team can only move in four directions and one tile at a time. For anyone unfamiliar with this concept that became the dominant role-playing mechanic in the late-eighties it may feel bizarre and confusing, but once one gets to grip with the idea it begins to feel natural. Your foes move in a similar style, not as per some conventions in a turn-based manner, but in real time. This results in battles that seem rather flawed and almost laughable as you circle (squarcle?) around your opponents ensuring that you can hit without them ever having the chance to retaliate. It feels like this modern remake of a classic idea could have done something to overcome such a problem. If anything this is a sentiment that resonates throughout the entire experience. Events become more interesting as you battle greater numbers of foes, avoiding being cornered or tumbling down pits, and dodging missiles but it unfortunately still ends up being simply odd, rather than retro or nostalgic.

One feature that developers Almost Human have failed to grasp from the past is depth and balance. For a start there are only three classes (Fighter, Rogue and Mage) to choose from, effectively destroying replayability since your team of four will inevitably contain all character types, but also each class, with the possible exception of the Mage, feels like it is a weak shadow of the avatars we are used to seeing in role playing games. Fighters for example have no option than to simply pick a single weapon type from the start and level this up as they progress since splitting your points across other styles will inevitably result in a weaker character. Furthermore, the Fighters’ options are limited to just a basic attack, with random elements causing extra damage. There are no special moves, double handed fighting or clever tactics available. This results in rather uninspired character progression that remains unchanging throughout the game. The Rogue, which arguably is actually a bit of a misnomer, fares even worse since they have been stripped of their common roguish duties such as picking locks and disarming traps which are oddly omitted from the game. And, since their missile attacks seem neutered to the point of being virtually useless, the class seems completely irrelevant.​

Legend of Grimrock is scheduled to be released tomorrow, April 11, and you can buy it off the official website, DRM-free.

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