Games have come a long way. Regardless of games being a young medium, their 40 year journey is still obscure to many. Modern games take for granted and sometimes outright disgrace their grandfathers that laid the foundations for them to be constructed. However, some remember their roots and show due respect to early genres that have almost faded into non-existence. Almost Human’s Legend of Grimrock not only honors but makes apparent the vast potential in one of these genres: the long-forgotten dungeon crawl.
It’s kind of tight in here.
Dungeon crawls scare me. There is something about tight corridors and a limited view range that get my heart racing. Legend of Grimrock is no exception. Almost Human sets up an interesting and terrifying situation by literally throwing your mix match of characters into an unscripted deep, dark pit. Quickly establishing a world with only a few lines of intro text, the player knows several things: you’re a group of possibly wrongly-accused criminals; you’re pardoned of your crimes by being thrown into Grimrock; and you’re survival is almost certainly not possible. Not much of a just world if you ask me. To further explore the history and story of Grimrock, the player discovers scrolls as well as pamphlets from previous detainees detailing their own adventures within the confines of the dungeon.
My name is Grimrock. You killed my father. Prepare to die!
If I didn’t make it clear before, Legend of Grimrock is a throwback to the dungeon crawl genre. Amazingly, Almost Human takes the genre and uses current technology to enhance it. Using standard WASD controls and mouse functions never felt so smooth. Each button press coincides with a single step in one direction ensuring precise movement. This proves vital as later puzzles require the player to make deliberate but quick steps.
Generated in 3D, Grimrock’s tile to tile transitions do not have the abrasive jump that is characteristic of other dungeon crawls. This jumping severely limited other games by not allowing the player to visually comprehend their situation. So illustrating realtime transitions and enemy positioning makes it easier for the player to maneuver around targets as well as obstacles to give them a fair chance of survival against a threat or of fully orchestrating their own mistakes. And trust me, you WILL make mistakes. A lot of the puzzles not only require a keen mind but also a quick set of fingers. Though not all of the distinctly unique puzzles give you a lot of hints on how to solve them, Almost Human requires you to think a little harder than quick presses of various switches. Needless to say, because of Legend of Grimrock’s pinpoint controls and ease on one’s eyes, it is easily accessible to all players, new or old.
The diverse cast of enemies impede your progress as you proceed deeper into Grimrock. Although a couple of them have similar qualities, their visual appearance and capabilities are very different. Their initial appearances are spaced out well enough to ensure that each level of Grimrock feels new. Many classic role-playing game fans, be it tabletop or computer gaming, will appreciate references to old monsters such as the harmless-looking cave blob and terrifying mind flayers along with other classic yet questionably threatening creatures we nerds have familiarized ourselves with over the years. The monsters oddly fit into the storyline as well; once you complete the game, you will understand their function and purpose within the dungeon. Visually, these monsters are beautiful. Each model seems painstakingly crafted to keep the player’s eyes refreshed. Considering there are three or so different locales, it is important that the player be shown new content on a semi-regular basis to prevent stagnation.
Considering dungeon crawls are usually role-playing game as well, character development plays an integral part in the gameplay. The three standard classes are fighter, mage, and rogue with each possessing all the attributes and skills you would expect them to. As you level up from slaying enemies, you are given four skill points to allocate as you see fit. After allocating a certain number of points in an skill, a new ability will unlock or an attribute will increase . If you choose to create your own characters instead of using the default party which consists of three humans and a minotaur, you choose from four races: human, minotaur, lizardman, and insectoid. Like classes, races comes with their own unique abilities. Though I was satisfied with the balanced default group, these choices piqued my interest to possibly replay through the game. Though creating your own party seems simple, selecting how to raise your attributes can be downright intimidating.
As you venture through Grimrock, you will discover numerous equipment pieces and items. The group suffers from a limited carrying capacity, though, quickly turning the player crazy. It proves slightly distressing and problematic because some puzzles as well as secrets require items acquired earlier in the game. Luckily, you can always backtrack to various sections of Grimrock to find that items you dropped or left behind will have remained where they were left. Having to travel back only once, I didn’t feel Almost Human made this excruciatingly punishing for the very purpose of preserving the entertainment value.
On that topic, Almost Human knows when to implement new features and when to utilize the old. The interface does not bog down the immersion; you have your four character portraits next to mana and health bars with whatever weapon or item occupies each hand underneath. You can easily pull up a map by pressing tab or open up an equipment screen by clicking on the desired character’s portrait. These toggles reduce screen clutter and allow for the player to be sucked further into the world of Grimrock. There are also menu options that disable damage texts, enable directional input arrows for those who want to use only mouse control, and hide item properties. Though having an intentionally restricted FOV, there is still widescreen support.
Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?
I very much appreciate Legend of Grimrock for all that it does. It honors its forefathers while making a name for itself. Even at the final reveal, I felt Almost Human knew how to create an awesome dungeon crawl while making it readily available to a new generation. It also serves as a lesson: some genres which appear outdated have huge potential in the modern era. For $14.99 on Steam, this game pays for itself. Because the game offers more content for a cheaper value than a lot of other indie games, Legend of Grimrock is well worth the experience especially if you have never played a dungeon crawl. Conquer the towering beast that is Grimrock, warrior!
Legend of Grimrock Tech Summary:
- Time Played – 18 hours
- Widescreen Support – Yes (Detailed Report via WSGF)
- 5.1 Audio Support – Yes
- Bugs/Crashes Encountered – None
- Demo – No
- Control Scheme – Keyboard and Mouse
- DRM – Steamworks (None if bought via GOG)
- System Specs – Core 2 Duo, GeForce 9800, 4GB RAM
- Game Acquisition Method – Review Copy
- Availability – Official Site, GOG, Steam