Monday, 16 April 2012

Review: Legend of Grimrock

Legend of Grimrock is a new indie game created by Almost Human; a very small Finnish development team. An old school inspired dungeon crawl involving four prisoners, monsters and one direction - further into the dungeon. It is an ambitious project that mixes old and new gameplay and game design styles.

Grimrock places you in command of four prisoners whose only goal is to survive. Starvation, monsters, traps and puzzles stand between you and escaping the dungeon. You have a choice of races and classes to choose from and sometimes a game can be lost just by choosing the wrong mix. After character creation you are literally dropped, naked, into the torch lit dungeon.

Gameplay is grid based with monsters fighting in real time, planning for encounters ahead of time becomes your best chance of survival. The game will test how prepared you are by surrounding you with monsters or a trap leading to a pack of waiting enemies. If you keep on flanking or kiting around the enemies you will usually have no problem beating them down.

Puzzles and traps are unique and fun. Anyone who has played similar games like Eye of the Beholder or Dungeon Master will feel right at home. A few puzzles did hamper my progress, but a few internet hints were enough to get me going again. Most puzzle solving will lead you to better equipment so secret hunting is ultimately a requirement.

The atmosphere and presentation are first rate, it really feels like a dank, dangerous dungeon filled with monsters. Torches, lighting effects and shadows are all effectively used and keeping stacks of torches on hand becomes second nature. Grimrock can get very dark and light and torches are used in numerous puzzles.

Monster animation is beautiful and never gets boring to see. Monsters are varied enough and strong enough to keep you on your toes. Some enemies can move very fast and each have their own attack speed. You will need to counter enemies either with footwork or fireballs; some enemies are immune to fireballs.

Unfortunately the game has a few niggling problems. Magic isn't well setup for real time gameplay, this is debatable, but I found it to be a chore and not very fun. Monsters are also very dangerous, if you are surrounded, your party will mostly likely get wiped out quickly. Balancing of monsters seems to favor monsters in stand up fights and the party is reduced to flanking and backstabbing attacks. Always flanking the monsters does get tiresome after the first 5 hours.

In summary Legend of Grimrock is a fine dungeon crawler with great visuals,atmosphere and puzzling. If they managed to iron out magic use and monster balance it would probably be a 10/10 game. It is definitely worth the $14.99 and you will be helping to support a small development team.

Score: 8/10

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