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Legend of Grimrock (PC) artwork

Legend of Grimrock (PC) review

" What Almost Human tried and succeeded to capture was the feeling of isolation. There are no other friendly faces around, and the only trace of former occupants to be found are hastily-scribbled letters that you can find from time to time."

Those older among you certainly remember the classics like Ishtar, Realms of Arkania or Eye of the Beholder. In those titles we controlled a smaller group of heroes that went through various caves, dungeons, jungles and other hostile locations in search of fame, fortune and the occasional wench or two.

The story was usually put in the back seat and exchanged for atmosphere and the old school feeling of character growth that had to use their skills to defeat the evil wizard, a dangerous dragon or some other fantasy trope.

Legend of Grimrock is exactly that, a return to the roots. Made by the relatively obscure company Almost Human Ltd, this title gives tribute to the simpler times where all you needed was a piece of paper, a pen and a whole lot of imagination.

But did it succeed? Like similar titles with this theme, the plot is elementary. You take charge of four convicts that are sentenced to a life imprisonment within the Grimrock mountain which is filled with various creatures that want to kill the "heroes" and feast on their entrails, but also with various puzzles that need to be solved if progress is to be made.

Still, they are far from helpless, so with a sword, magic and bow in hand they will try to escape the mountain, one floor at a time.

At the very beginning you can choose a race and the class of your prisoner, all four of them. The races are not purely cosmetic since the mighty minotaur might be able to cleave everything before him in two and take a load of punishment, but he is not really known for his evasive or sneaking abilities. Humans are more skilled then the other races, but they are not as good at wizardry as the mysterious insectoids.

Classes are the usual fantasy fare and you can choose between a warrior, a rogue and the wizard. The warrior is understandably the best front line fighter, while the rogue might not be as powerful head on, but when he fights in his own element from the shadows, he can do tremendous amounts of damage or evade incoming blows. The wizard is understandably physically inferior to the both of them, but with his range of spells, both offensive and defensive he can turn every battle around.

What Almost Human tried and succeeded to capture was the feeling of isolation. There are no other friendly faces around, and the only trace of former occupants to be found are hastily-scribbled letters that you can find from time to time.

Since our heroes are not super human, and some are not human at all, they can die very easily in this place, be it via spider's poison or an ogre's club. Because of that, sometimes it is better to use discretion instead of valour, at least until you gain enough levels to bash those puny creatures into submission.

Over the course of their journey through Grimrock, the four adventurers will have to be very careful of their surroundings because there is more ways to die then just from some monster. A moment of carelessness is enough to activate a deadly trap that will send a fireball your way, or open a false tile in the floor which will, at best, let you fall in a room filled with monsters.

Since one of the worst problems about this sort of titles is the monotonous manner of killing monster after monster over and over again, a very important part of this title is the need to solve puzzles to progress. From the simple ones where you have to place a weight on two different tiles at the same time to open the way forward to the more imaginative ones that will test both your reflexes and grey matter. Oh, and sanity. Let's not forget about that one.

Leveling is a standard part of rpg-s, and this is not an exception. Through experience, you will level up your characters and get a set number of skill points that you can distribute through various abilities. For instance, you can specialise a warrior to be a sword or axe fighter, or some other stabby tool of death, while the rogue can get really good with thrown weapons, a dagger or just the ability to evade blows coming his way.

Where Legend of Grimrockfails the most is its technical department. It is not a high budget title and in more ways then one, it shows. The visual appearance is fairly minimalistic, clean and without too much attention to detail, which hurts especially when you know that you look at the world of Grimrock through a first person view. Especially hard on the eyes is the lack of weapon animations when you strike, that were changed for a much simpler "Swish" effect so you never really see your weapons on screen.

However, it is still acceptable, which is more then one can say for the audio department. I would like to speak about the tunes in this game, but I can't, because they are so rare that you can count them on the fingers of one hand, and even that is a stretch. There is an intro theme and then hours and hours of silence. The sound effects don't fare much better.

Except for the swish sound there is the most annoying dying sound effect in the existence that will really start to grate on your nerves when it happens for a millionth time.

Still, even though it fails in a lot of things that spoil us in this day and age, I can't say that this was a bad game. Quite the contrary. Legend of Grimrock is a proof that the dungeon exploring type of rpg's is anything but dead, even though it lacks in presentation and narrative.

Grimrock is only the first dungeon that you can explore with promises of more to come, with user made content being a realistic option in the very near future.

So, if you are in the mood, or just really, really old, return back to the past with this title. Hell, if you take the "Hardcore" option, you don't get the map in the game, but rather a piece of paper and a pen with your mind being in charge of drawing the dungeon layout.

Good luck with that.

darketernal's avatar
Community review by darketernal (April 19, 2012)

Occasional reviewer of random stuff.

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zippdementia posted April 20, 2012:

Good review and I'm glad you chose this game! I saw this featured on "WTF is...?" and thought it looked very good. I have to disagree about the graphical department, I actually think the game looks beautiful while adhering to the constraints that let it keep that old-school feel. Check it out and see what you think (you may want to skip around in the video, one problem with WTF is he takes way too long):
< width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></>
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darketernal posted April 20, 2012:

I don't know. Maybe I was too spoiled with the expectations of modern games, so I look at Legend of grimrock more as dreary surroundings that always look the same. I did say that they look good, but not fantastic, really.

Still, thanks for feedback. Never saw that particular channel of game reviewing, I will check it out.
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zippdementia posted April 21, 2012:

Well, and I liked the review, even at the parts I wasn't sure I agreed with. The writing was good.

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