Oldschool is Newschool

It’s no secret I love RPGs.  There’s just something about the numbers and the randomness that’s attractive.  Plus, the instant save/reload to try that damn enemy once more and beat that RNG!

I think the oldschool aspect – not seeing your character, the 4 directions of movement, pure numbers, hard difficulty – really simplifies the RPG down to it’s basics.  Dark Spire scratched my itch a few years back on the DS and that was truly a D&D RPG with all the limits you’d expect.  Nice and portable, brutally hard, complicated mechanics.  I loved every minute of the pain.

Legend of Grimrock  is a PC game that came out today and though it isn’t as hardcore in terms of lack of detail it makes up in oodles of atmosphere.  You can hear that spider crawling around you but you can’t see it.  Checking every wall for a secret nook.  Avoiding the rampaging troll at the last second.   There’s no town and no vendor.  Just you and the never ending floors.  A neat take on magic is that you need to select glyphs to cast a spell but you need to learn the spell first from a scroll.  It slows down magic casting a bit but since magic ALWAYS hits, its a pretty powerful thing to manage.

There are only fighters, mages and rogues and you’re set in a 2×2 formation, with the front 2 taking all attacks until one dies.  You have 4 races, with humans the jack of all trades, minotaurs the tanks/beefs, lizardmen as the rogues and insectoids as mages.  You get 4 skill points per level and get to invest into one of 6 linear skill trees (with a cap of 50 per).  Spend enough points, unlock new stats, benefits, resists or abilities.  There’s a certain amount of planning needed for each role, which is a blast.

Traps, hidden switches, teleports – fun stuff to make the levels different.  Even though the levels look familiar, there’s always something to push you forward.  A minor goal of unlocking a door or solving a puzzle splits the zone into smaller pockets, making it a series of adventures rather than a slosh through endless enemies.

It’s too bad more companies don’t do something as simple and effective as Grimrock.  I’m getting tired of the action adventure/rpg mishmash, with just a drop of RPG.  The basics can be hardcore, oldschool but still a lot of fun.  More please!

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