mikelemmer's Legend of Grimrock (PC) review

Fantasy Survival Horror

I curled up in the corner of the room and tried to get some sleep. A charging ogre had surprised me while I was refilling my antivenom stores after a spider ambush. The gate I entered through had slammed shut, so I ran for the nearest open gate I saw. I turned the corner just as he smashed into the wall behind me; I promptly whipped around and pulled a chain, shutting the gate. He paced back and forth outside, waiting for me to pop out. I heard slithering behind me. Was it some new enemy? Oozes, perhaps? I downed a few potions, just in case they were crawling down the hall towards me, and searched my room. All of the other exits were closed; it was safe to rest here. (Why did I waste those potions...) As I drifted off, I wondered whether it'd be harder to take down the ogre I knew of, or the unknown threat waiting behind the other doors...

Another quake awoke me from my slumber. I wondered how long I had before the dungeon collapsed around my head. My torch was burning out, and 2 party members were getting hungry. I lit a new torch and tossed the old one away; I had plenty of them from looting every sconce I found, even the booby-trapped ones that released a pack of spiders behind you. I was more nervous about my food supplies. I still had plenty, but that number was slowly dwindling as I made my way further into the dungeon. Would there be a point where the food supply dried up, forcing us to rely solely on our stores?

I wouldn't be surprised; the dungeon pulled no punches. Its only mercy was the occasional blue crystal that restored our health and mana and (more importantly) resurrected my dead teammates. Most of the equipment was stashed away in secret passages, forcing us to hunt for hidden switches or twist a puzzle solution in an unusual way. We needed all of it: not just the chitin armor and the occasional magical item, but the empty flasks, the arrows, spare food, even loose rocks. We plucked our throwing knives off dead enemies, cleaned out our used flasks to refill later, and used rocks instead of (better) ammunition to weigh down floor plates. Supplies were scarce, and an extra healing potion or shuriken could mean the difference between life or death against these monsters.

I can't believe I started out wary of the snails and the fungi people; they were the warmup act, easy diversions to throw you off-guard. These later monsters (like the ogre) would rip us to shreds in seconds if we lost focus. Toe-to-toe combat wasn't working anymore; the minotaur's numerous deaths attested to that. We had to dart in & out of battle, unleashing everything on a monster and backing up before it could attack. We had to back up several steps while our attacks recharged, trying to remember the layout of the room we just passed through so we wouldn't back up into a pit or a dead-end. It was a macabre dance of life & death.

They were tricky to boot. The enemies that assaulted you directly were just diversions for the ones popping out from sliding walls behind you. We would get shut into a room with a half-dozen skeletons, frantically darting around to keep them from cornering us or attacking the fragile rogue & mage in back. Or we would pick up a torch that released a pack of spiders behind us, with only the faint grinding of rock against rock to alert us. (This dungeon is not for the hard-of-hearing.) Or we would fall down its pits (an alarmingly frequent occurance now) into the midst of a skeleton hoard. At least there was always a way out of them (so far); I suppose that's a 2nd mercy. It's not much of one, though.

At least we're getting better at surviving. This dungeon toughens you up fast, and you either improve your skills or die. Each of us has several different fields to improve in, like armor or fire magic or swords. We're slowly learning to wear heavier armor without reducing our evasion, cast new spells, and strike enemies in their vitals. Too slowly, in my opinion, but right now I'll take any edge we can get.

Perhaps, once we escape, we'll look back on this with a mocking laugh. "Oh, those monsters were too simple! We could've survived a much longer dungeon! Are levers, floor switches, and teleporters the best they could do? How dull! How mundane!" Right now, though, we're approaching the next door. We hear something oozing behind it; can't tell how many of them there are. Sounds like at least 2-3. I shudder a bit, quaking in my boots.

Surviving this floor might take a miracle, and daylight seems so far away...

Hours Played: 6.7

Floors Completed: 5/10?

What I'd Pay: $15

Steam Price (4/16/12): $15

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