Lately, a lot of indie developers have been mining the past for inspiration and using retro graphics. Almost Human Games have taken a different route with their first game Legend of Grimrock. They have taken inspiration from great retro dungeon crawlers and brought them into the modern era by using 3D graphics. The result is something that both new and veteran dungeon crawler fans can come together and enjoy. But is enough new mixed in with the old to please the masses?
Old School Gameplay With a New Coat of Paint - Legend of Grimrock plays like an old-school dungeon crawler. Though it plays like a game from the past, the graphics are current-gen. This has to be one of the nicest looking dungeons that I have seen. The walls and floors are finely detailed, with cracks, moss, weeds, and brick segments that all can be seen clearly. Enemies are very detailed and look great, especially when they start to attack. What really impressed me the most about Grimrock was the sound design. Every step and every screech can be heard echoing down the halls of the dungeon. Rotate to the right and you can hear sounds coming from that direction. However, move to the left and the sound will become faint. All of this combined makes the game a great bridge between the retro and modern.
Simple Yet Creative Magic System - The magic system for Legend of Grimrock has to be one of the most fun magic systems I have played in an RPG in while. Instead of knowing magic right off the bat, magic is learned by having scrolls in the mage’s inventory and using runes. Each rune represents a different spell ranging from poison cloud to fire burst. There is a catch, though. That catch is that the mage’s magic is divided by elements and if the player wants to cast higher level spells the level of the element must be raised. It is also possible to mix elements to cast stronger spells, like combining earth and ice to cast ice spikes. But the elements must be at a high level to do so. This makes for tactful thinking of how to mold your mage as you travel the dungeon.
Secrets Abound - The dungeon of Grimrock is full or secret areas. From sliding walls to rooms only accessible by portals, players have to be aware of their surroundings or they might miss out on a stronger weapon. Players have to be wary because not every secret passage has treasure. Sometimes they might house an enemy ready and waiting to attack.
Incoming Dungeon Editor - Even though this feature hasn’t been released yet, I want to mention it as almost everyone is talking about it. Almost Human Games announced that players will be able to design and create their own dungeons for the game and share them with other players.
Gameplay Mechanics are a Throwback to Tabletops - In the beginning I mentioned that Legend of Grimrock plays like a dungeon crawler of the past, but with a brand new coat of paint that really pushes the feel of being trapped in a dark dingy dungeon. Well that’s not the only throwback to the tabletops. The core mechanics of the gameplay, such as leveling and the character creation is a throwback as well. For instance, when leveling up each class has their own sets of skills, each with a different tier. As you invest in different skills, each level tier gives a bonus. For example, when you level up your fighter’s sword level to 4, you get +2 vitality only when you have him equipped with a sword.
As for the character creation, if you opt to create an original character, you are treated to a wide assortment of options presented as character sheets, just like in a tabletop game. Here, you can choose what your character looks like, their race (which comes with race-specific abilities) two perks and allocate skill points. Having the interface look like bits from a character sheet from a tabletop is a pretty cool detail.
Hardcore Mode for Old School Gamers - In another throwback to tabletop RPGs, Legend of Grimrock offers a mode called Hardcore. In this mode, the party goes into the dungeon blind. Auto-mapping is turned off and players will have to manually map out each level of the dungeon by hand on graph paper. Its up to them to remember where everything is and to plot the map as they traverse the dungeon. For younger players this might be a turn off. But for those of us who grew up on games such as Dungeon Master, Ultima Underworld or a variety of tabletop RPGs, it is an added and welcome challenge.
Fun is Cut Short - With all the fun and extras that Legend of Grimrock has, you would think that the game would take a while to complete, right? Well, not exactly. As of right now, there is only one dungeon in the game and that will be it until the dungeon editor is released.
I’ll get to the point. Legend of Grimrock is a really fun game. I enjoyed exploring and taking my time searching each wall for secrets. It a great mix of old-school gameplay with updated graphics, and the many nods to tabletop RPGs is a really great touch. The only shortcoming of the game is that there is only one dungeon with 10 levels. But once the dungeon editor gets released that will be fixed. Legend of Grimrock proves that you can take something old, add something new and create something great. And at $15 it’s a really great deal. So download it and have fun getting lost in a dungeon of old.
*This review was based on the PC version of the game with a review code provided by the publisher.*