I have always loved role playing games ever since I was a young kid sitting in front of my old PC reading the walls of text that comprised my favorite MUD. There’s been an evolution of sorts in the RPG genre, as developers blend role playing with other types of game play, and, dare I say, RPGs are getting increasingly easier to complete. Enter Legend of Grimrock. This is an RPG that takes all the evolution and hybrid RPGs and throws them out the window. With this title, I can actually say that they do make them like they used to.
You play as a party of detainees that have been cast into a mountain prison. They have almost no chance of survival, but if they do make it out alive, they gain their freedom.
Legend of Grimrock (LoG) is a first person dungeon crawler that features four party members with two in the front and two in the back. The entire party moves along a grid in the dungeon. There are three classes (Fighter, Rogue, and Mage) and four races (Human, Minotaur, Lizardman, and Insectoids) to choose from when making your party. You will create starting skills, assign points to proficiencies and set up your formation. Putting your weaker characters in the back, while having your powerful melee attackers in the front, will help you out as the two members in the front will always be the one to get hit when facing an enemy. Granted, the rear guard will not be able to reach with conventional weapons like swords and maces, but having your mage in the back protects him and allows for spell casting. The same goes for Rogues. They can throw weapons from the back.
Having to manage health, stamina/mana, hunger, formation and stats can be a difficult balance, but once you get into that old school mindset, it will become second nature. The game is an homage to older titles that used resources outside the game itself, encouraging you to create your own map on paper when you start a game without the automap. Grimrock is basically a big maze with multiple floors. You can get lost pretty easily, especially in the lower levels of the dungeon.
Throughout your adventure, you will find new armor, weapons, food and other resources. Everything is somewhat scarce, so knowing when to conserve and when to use each piece of precious loot is critical. Each character gain experience points for defeating enemies, which is then used to fuel skills and proficiencies when they level up. Certain skills require a minimum number of proficiency points to select. It’s a nice balance that will drive you to fight more enemies just to get more skill points. However, fighting that whole room full of skeletons isn’t a walk in the park.
The game also features puzzles that really test your wits. Some of the earlier ones are pretty simple, but going deeper into the dungeon will offer challenges that will make you scratch your head. The game is all about observation and critical thinking. You will have to look at your surroundings and break down cryptic hints and messages written on the walls. Think of it like a pen and paper RPG of the old times, but in video game form.
During combat, there are multiple ways of handling things. Your equipment will determine how your attacks will work. Everything can be done by simple mouse clicks. If you want to attack with your sword, simply right click on the sword in your hand. Moving and positioning are very important to combat, as well. If you get cornered, you’re basically stuck there until you either kill the enemy blocking you or you die. Mages use magic in a very unique way. Pulling up the magic grid brings up symbols that you can activate. Combining them will yield different magic spells, with scrolls littered about that will clue you in on new combinations. Just remember, you have to have points in the right skills before you can use some spells.
Now, there is a slight problem with the combat. If you play it smart, you can easily beat practically any enemy just by moving around them more quickly than they can react. The whole time, you’re just beating the life out of them while they’re still trying to turn and face you. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of times you can’t do that, but even some “powerful” enemies were no match for my cheese.
If your party is running low on mana and health, you can always hit the R key to rest at anytime. This will use up some time, and make your party hungry for food, but it will replenish your health and mana. Resting can save your skin. If one of your characters dies in combat, they can always be brought back to life at a resurrection stone. These stones completely heal your party as well. Be careful, though; they have a limited number of uses.
For a grid-based movement game, the visuals are pretty amazing. Everything from the environments to the enemy models, to the real-time lighting looks fantastic. It may be a simple game to play, but it’s still a very nice looking one.
LoG is a game that does not hold your hand. You will have to think outside the box in order to both survive and obtain better items. This game was meant to be played multiple times. You won’t find every secret in your first play though plus, and there is enjoyment in rolling four different characters to journey back to the dungeon. With the character customization as robust as it is, you can do this many times over. The game is a wonderful blend of mindbending puzzles, old school RPG combat and dungeon survival. If you’re a fan of RPGs in any way, shape or form, you owe it to yourself to give this game a shot, even if it’s just to see where RPGs got their start.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.