Legend of Grimrock

Ever missed the old school days of dungeon games? Have you wanted to relive those moments of gaming greatness where you conquered a tough puzzle, killed a particularly tough monster, or just generally took great satisfaction in the simple task of exploring your surroundings? If the answer to any of this is yes, then perhaps Legend of Grimrock is for you.

The premise behind the game is a tried and true, simple formula. Stick a party of adventurers into a dungeon, and turn them loose to the player's whims. If you've played any of the old classics, especially Bards' Tale or Eye of the Beholder, you're likely already familiar with the type of game. You can expect pretty much everything that made those games great - and sometimes incredibly frustrating too - to be a part of the experience.

The basic plot line: You are a group of prisoners condemned for your crimes. Your punishment is exile to the dungeon of Grimrock, a mountain citadel from which nobody has been known to escape. You are thrown in with nothing and must quickly supply yourselves or perish.

Character creation is relatively straight forward. You can choose between fighter, rogue, and mage, with 4 different races: Minotaur, Human, Lizardman, and Insectoid. Attributes such as strength and vitality follow closely to the standard, plus two traits for each character. The combinations are therefore a lot more detailed than you may think, allowing you to come up with just the right mix for the type of game you want. You don't even need to fill all 4 member slots either if you want even more of a challenge. Or, if you're feeling lazy, there is a pretty good default party already assembled for you.

Weapons come in several basic types - knives, swords, axes, bows, and staves. Throwing weapons (knives, axes, shurikens) and missile weapons (bows, crossbows) round things out for your rear guard. Armor falls into the basic classifications of light (leather, cloth, etc) and heavy (iron, steel, plate). You can't simply throw armor on though - you have to develop proficiency in them in order to avoid being penalized in combat evasion. Combat is fairly basic - right click on your weapon to fight. You can even go bare knuckle if that's your thing, complete with a functional unarmed combat skill.

Magic is a unique system where each spell requires a series of one to four runic symbols in order to cast them. In a departure from most normal games, you do not know any spells ahead of time and must find them written down on various scrolls you'll find throughout the dungeon. This can lead to some frustration though as there is no automated way to cast certain spells. You'll need to have a decent memory, and casting in the thick of battle can be quite challenging. Spells come in elemental classifications of air, fire ice, and earth. Mages also have a general spellcraft skill which enhances most other things as well as providing for more basic things like light spells.

Movement is handled in a straightforward tile based system in the 4 basic directions. You can use the mouse to look around at an angle, but will end up turning to face a new direction if it is dragged far enough. Mastering the movement system is critical as it will help with combat tactics - never stand in one place too long because many creatures will kill you quickly if you do. Instead, "dance" around them by taking a swing or two, then moving to the side.

You will need to eat, unfortunately for your stomachs the only food sources are not very appetizing. What you kill is what you eat. Snail and fungal pods being the most common meals. Failure to eat will not kill you, at least not directly. Your regeneration of health and mana will cease if you allow yourself to starve. Fortunately this aspect of gameplay isn't as horribly irritating as it seems. No Eye of the Beholder 2 scenarios here where you starve to death in the forest before ever seeing the real dungeon. Still, I'd have preferred not to deal with this at all since it's wasteful of inventory space.

Graphics and sound are surprisingly good for a game of this type. Lighting is dynamic, casts full shadows, and responds properly to the removal of torches from the walls. There are plenty of creepy background noises to listen to along with the background music. Unfortunately for those who prefer to play with the music off, turning it off will also kill the ambient background noise as well. So it's probably best to leave that all turned on since you won't be able to hear monsters nearby with it off.

Where the game really shines, and sometimes also infuriates, is the puzzles. There are numerous ones from the simple hidden switch on a wall to truly devious alternating pits and spell zappers to overcome. Some of which require an incredible amount of dexterity (for you, not your characters) in order to get past them. Other puzzles require careful forethought and planning before taking the plunge. This sometimes includes taking a literal plunge down a pit or two in order to solve split level puzzles spanning one or more floors. Be prepared to consult a hint site on occasion though as there are a few puzzles in the game that offer up absolutely no clues whatsoever on how to approach them.

No game of this variety would be complete without super secret loot and other hidden goodies. Grimrock has plenty of that, and only the most keen eyed and super dedicated players will find it all. Some of the treasure is useless, only intended for collectors to hoard as status symbols, while others are unique weapons or armor that can make all the difference.

There is one pretty big nagging bit of utter frustration and stupidity that very nearly spoiled everything though and that was the final boss battle. No game has ever driven me to the brink of rage quitting at the ending more than this - save perhaps Avadon and the final battle with Redbeard. The developers threw in way too many spurious creatures that serve no purpose other than to jam you up and prevent you from moving around. It took damn near a full hour of dodging and weaving my way through shit that was on par with the irritation factor of Cazadors in Fallout New Vegas, or Cliffracers in Morrowind. At the same time though, it was perhaps the most unique end boss in the history of end bosses, and that's saying a lot.

Ordinarily the story of such a game would end, and that would be that. Perhaps you might play through again with a different party setup, but most likely you'd just end up shelving the game like the old classics it pays homage to. Legend of Grimrock is different. It comes with a dungeon editor, one fully featured and ready for you to create your own challenges and adventures to share with others. Some really cool looking stuff has been made despite the editor still being officially a beta product - apparently only available through Steam for now. Yes, I have a couple of plans of my own in mind even, some of which will make use of modder created tilesets to accomplish them. The modding community isn't anywhere close to the size of an Elder Scrolls game, but it has the support of Steam Workshop as well as the Grimrock Nexus.

Speaking of Steam, those of you reading this in the next 30 hours can land the game for a literal steal at $3.74. Wish I'd known that was going to happen - I sprung when it was on sale for $7.50 just 4 days ago! Yes, Dwip, I finally broke and bought something from Steam myself.

PS: The screenshot can be viewed at full size here: http://www.iguanadons.net/gallery/Legend-of-Grimrock-712.html
RIP United States of America

July 1776 - November 2012.

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Posted on Nov 27, 2012 3:35 am by Samson in: | 20 comment(s) [Closed]
Steam sales FTW, I keep saying.

Saw you playing this, was wondering what you thought about it.

So you'll be running right over to buy your copy today, right? :P

Dunno yet. May wait and hit it up when the Christmas sale hits. Between the Skyrim DLCs, BG1:EE, Dragon Age 2, and some Shogun 2 DLC, I'm already well beyond my gaming budget for the year. And I'm not sure if "Plays like Stonekeep" is enough of a draw for me.

So I'll think on it.

A $3.74 price tag always makes things look fairly attractive to buy.

And amongst other things, I've bought the three original Crash Bandicoot games for my PS3 (probably the first time in several years I've actually used the console). Nostalgia ftw.

Anonymous [Anon] said:
Comment #5 Nov 27, 2012 10:03 pm
I love this game! I bought it from GOG shortly after release. I have played several party configurations and have spent many hours in the dungeon editor just building things to see if they even work. At some point I will put all those random ideas into some sort of themed dungeon to put up on the Grimrock Nexus.

You are right that the modding community is much smaller than the The Elder Scrolls/Bethesda Fallout one. But in a lot of ways they seem to be a bit friendlier. I suspect that is mostly because the game is relatively new so everyone is learning and asking stupid questions. Also there is only one Almost Human game so there is no legacy of issues and bad blood between groups of modders. The downside is that the Dungeon Editor only lets you make dungeons. So those who just want to retexture existing armors or add a few more weapons will not be able to add them to the vanilla game. They can add these things but only to a brand new dungeon. Also there is no good way of adding new races, classes or skills. Though some modders are working on it. I'ts kind of exciting for me to watch as I missed out on a lot of the earlier Bethsoft modding days.

Speaking of Steam, those of you reading this in the next 30 hours can land the game for a literal steal at $3.74. Wish I'd known that was going to happen - I sprung when it was on sale for $7.50 just 4 days ago! Yes, Dwip, I finally broke and bought something from Steam myself.

Samson bought something off steam. I think it is time to build a fallout shelter and stock it full of beans. The end of the world is nigh.

Well, Fury, December 21st is less than three weeks away ;)

Sounds like a pretty good game, especially for that price, Samson, but I'm not sure I'm ready for yet another game that tests the player's dexterity that way, they usually don't end well for me. :(

LOL Conner i thought you were going to say 12/12/12. Anyways on the subject of games, i bought Far Cry 3 from steam also, put about 15 hours into it so far and am very impressed with it. Worth the money if you like shooters.

Well, while 12/12/12 is a pretty cool date of significance, you'd said "The end of the world is nigh." so I responded by pointing out that the Mayan end of the world date, 12/21/12 is close. :shrug:

Suppose our calendar isn't properly synched with the old Mayan system? 12/12/12 might be our doom upon us :) We might only have 2 days instead of 11.

I bet if one were into numerology there'd be something to all this considering all the 1s and 2s involved.

How would time zones fit in to all this then? Could the destruction take one hour for each time zone and sweep across the world?

Not that I actually believe any of this shit, but...

@Samson: numerologists add the numbers together, so 1+2+1+2+1+2=9 which doesn't mean all that much to me, but maybe it does to you: (note that 12/21/12 is the same 9)
Astrology-Numerology.com said:

The number 9
9 Positive Traits
Heartily friendly and congenial, a hail-fellow, humanitarian instincts, a giving nature, selflessness, obligations, creative expression, readily influenced to do good works, artistic and writing talents.
9 Negative Traits
Self-adulation, scattered interests, possessiveness, moodiness, careless with finances, wanting peer attention.

@prettyfly: Who knows, but considering the date in question is drawn from mathematics about the movements of constellations which would only be seen in a given time zone as the earth shifts so that it becomes viewable, why not?

Suppose our calendar isn't properly synched with the old Mayan system?

Or maybe they hit a prime number in their calculations which threw off their math, or they are just fail with exponentials and it was meant to be 12^12.

I don't know Fury, they seem to have been the first to some up with a lot of the math we now consider higher mathematics, so I sort of doubt that they were "fail with exponentials"; however, the folks who interpreted their calendars and decided that the end of the world was to be December 21 this year could easily have misinterpreted. :shrug:

(Incidentally, our calendar is not synced with the Mayan calendar at all, this was a date determined by archaeologists that supposedly coincides with out 12/21/12.)

They picked 12/21/12 because that's the solstice and it's assumed that's when their calendar cycle ends.

It's a pretty logical assumption, but they still had to guess or calculate/convert to determine if they were talking about winter or summer solstice and which year since our calendar is very different than theirs was.

They're quite certain it's a winter solstice. The only real question is what year they meant. Though I can't imagine it being off by more than 1 or 2. The Myans weren't dopes when it came to keeping track of time.

Nope, they were very precise with their calendars, on a much grander scale than ours is. The possibility of imprecision really comes into the equation only when the archaeologists start trying to interpret their calendars to coordinate with ours.

That's what I was getting at. Conversion to Gregorian time.

So, was Gregorian time just a hoax on the masses by the Pope, do you suppose?

Sorry, guess I've been reading too much of the posts over at DC lately... the strangeness is difficult to contain.. ;)

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