The Legend Of Grimrock review: old-school action for RPG fans

Old-school role-playing games seem to be making a bit of a comeback at the moment. Just last month we saw an ‘enhanced’ – but still determinedly 2D – update of Baldur’s Gate, and now Almost Human has unexpectedly released a Mac version of Legend Of Grimrock, which originally came out on the PC about a year ago.

Legend Of Grimrock aspires to be nothing more than a good old-fashioned dungeon crawl, with minimal plot and character interaction, and graphics that are closer to 2.5D than true 3D. It even allows you to turn off the game’s on-screen map so that you can grab yourself a stack of graph paper and sketch out the twists and turns of the dungeon by hand.

The plot is barely worth mentioning. Grimrock is a vast prison, a towering great spire that reaches up into the clouds. You and three other prisoners are thrown in right at the top, and have to fight your way down to freedom the base of the tower. It doesn’t even require you to create a character, as you can jump straight into the game using a ready-made group of escaping prisoners.

If you prefer to create your own party then you can choose from four different races – human, minotaur, lizardman or insectoid – and then play as a warrior, wizard or rogue. And, of course, you gain experience points for killing monsters, which you can then use to learn new skills and abilities.

The graphics are in 3D, but the game uses a fixed first-person point of view, so from the moment you first set out all you ever really see is the stretch of dungeon immediately ahead of you and the hordes of monsters advancing towards you.  That might make Legend Of Grimrock sound rather crude and unappealing – and if you’re addicted to the 3D graphics of Dragon Age, or the click-click-kill action of the Diablo games then it probably won’t be your cup of tea. But if you enjoy old-school fantasy games then you’ll find Grimrock enjoyable and challenging.

Many of the battles are extremely tough, but it’s very satisfying when you finally battle your way through on the twenty-third attempt and discover a nice fat pile of gold and magical weapons that you can add to your armoury (fortunately one of the few modern touches included in the game is a handy auto-save option – which, of course, can be turned off if you really want to play it hard-core).

There are also plenty of puzzles to solve and traps to avoid, and there’s even an editor program that allows you to design your own dungeons and adventures to share with friends – although it’s a shame that there’s no multiplayer option that would allow you to play online with your friends.

OUR VERDICT

The Legend Of Grimrock may be a little old-fashioned, and the lack of a really engaging storyline is a bit disappointing. However, it’s a well-made game that really offers a tough and satisfying challenge for people – like me – who can remember playing dungeons and dragons on graph paper on rainy Sunday afternoons.

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