Opening Turn: Legend of Grimrock

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With the seventh Humble Bundle being released upon the masses and being filled to the brim with quite a bit of content in a pay-what-you-want charity bundle, we at Attack Initiative feel that we should do you all a service and try out some of these games and tell you what we think. While it is my opinion that giving money to charity is A Really Good Thing, whether you’re getting some games for doing it or not, I still feel like I should tell you whether they are Worth Your Time.

The game on the list that appealed to me the most was Legend of Grimrock. I’ll be honest, I’ve actually had this game on Steam for awhile, and played around with it a little with the intention of writing an Opening Turn over it a few months ago. I just never got around to it. All the better, because NOW I can reach a larger audience for a better cause. So here we are.

What is it?: Legend of Grimrock is a game made by indie developers Almost Human, and is intended to be a throwback to the olden days of dungeon exploration RPGs.

Oh? Like what?: Primarily, Dungeon Master, or Eye of the Beholder, or possibly Wizardry. It’s not a roguelike; the dungeons are /not/ randomly-generated.

So let’s say I’ve never really played any of those old games. Tell me what this is like?: Well, it’s a first person dungeon-crawl. Basically, this means there isn’t all that much in the way of plot. You play as a group of prisoners shoved into a labyrinth with not even the clothes on your back, and your goal is to make it through. Any equipment must be found in the dungeon, and you must conserve food and light sources. This game includes a shocking nod to modern design and comes with an automap feature, but even this is optional, so if you want to play in ‘old-school mode’ be prepared to get yourself a pencil and graph paper.

Are there any pre-generated characters?: You can elect to go with a stock group of four, or create your own. There isn’t a vast array of heroes to choose from, though you /can/import characters that others have created.

What’s the combat like?: Simple, semi-real-time. The frequency you can attack is determined by stats, but once your attack is ready you can attack at any time. You must manually right-click on each character’s attacking weapon in order to use it so it becomes an exercise in clicking fast. Magic users are what makes this the most difficult, though. Magic users have a set of runes that you must click to combine into spells each time you want to cast. This means that you must first remember what you want to cast, then click the right runes, then hope the spell doesn’t fizzle. You also don’t start out knowing what any of the rune combinations /do/, so if you want your mages to be effective at the beginning, it takes a lot of potentially dangerous trial and error.

Anything else?: Death is permanent. Save game often. It is completely possible to die on the first floor being overrun by vile  mushroom monsters.

So what impressed you?: The old-school feel. It even impressed people who absolutely love the original Dungeon Master game.

And what didn’t you like?: The system of casting magic is fairly obtuse and prone to error. But at least you can queue up a spell if you know you’re getting into combat. Also, if you’re playing on a laptop or low-end desktop, do yourself a favor and enable vsync. Otherwise the framerate will be completely unbounded and will probably make your GPU catch fire or something.

Would you recommend this game?: Yes, to fans of dungeon crawls, puzzles, exploration, and old-school RPGs in general. If you don’t fall into this category, it’s still a good introduction to these games because of the modern conveniences added in, and if you like it, it’s a good gateway to things like Eye of the Beholder.

[This review originally appeared on the gaming website Attack Initiative.]

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