decker12's Legend of Grimrock (PC) review

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Classic Old School Dungeon Crawler

Much has been said already about the "classic" Dungeon Master style gameplay of LoG, and as a veteran of those games many years ago I can say that Almost Human has replicated the formula very well.

The game itself is delightfully difficult and makes no qualms about it's sometimes infuriatingly labor-intensive gameplay. There's no hotkeys to swing a weapon or macros to cast spells, it's all about moving your mouse and right clicking, just like in the old Amiga days. I'm surprised there are even keyboard shortcuts to move around the dungeon or open up the character panels!

Starting the game naked and weaponless means every dagger or tattered piece of clothing is important. No spellbook means you have to learn how to cast spells yourself by experimentation. There's no auto reloading or swapping specs or redoing your skill selection when you level up. Dwindling torch supplies and finite food resources mean you have to take a certain level of urgency to your quest.

There's no conversation options, no vendor to buy and sell with, and very little back story.

Combat is difficult and relentless. You only have a handful of attacks available at any time, and it's important to use them properly while navigating around the tight corridors. This game does not hold your hand and some may find the relatively simplistic combat a bit restrictive. There's no crazy combo attacks or massive spell chains. You equip a weapon and swing (or throw) it - that's basically it. Delightfully old school but not exactly "deep" by the standards of modern day action RPGs. The level up system provides tangible, immediate benefits, which is important because your characters die frequently.

Graphics and sound are great and again, very reminiscent of Dungeon Master (especially the blood curdling scream when your party falls into a pit). Items are easily missed when they lay on the floor as there's no beginner-level "glow" that guides your mouse to important bits or items. Many of the puzzles involve pixel hunting around the duplicated wall textures, looking for an out of place stone or extra little lever to pull.

Since the game is such a spiritual sequel to Dungeon Master, I found myself missing some aspects of that old game while playing LoG. You can't smash gates down on the monsters, there's no limb injury system, and you're rewarded EXP and levels for defeating monsters, not by practicing your abilities.

The dungeon is not randomly generated, so if you decide to try out a new party and replay the game, you'll be doing much of the same stuff over again. It therefore takes a few hours (and a few dungeon levels) to truly test any new party configuration.

If you were a fan of Dungeon Master and remember spending hours wandering around same-looking corridors trying to find the Staff of Chaos, you'll definitely enjoy Legend of Grimrock.

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