I finished Legend of Grimrock last night. Took about a week but I’d push the number of hours near 20. It has been a long while since I’ve been so engrossed in a single player, closed-end RPG. Like Icewind Dale/Baldur’s Gate era. Skyrim/Fallout don’t count since they are open-ended and are, in my opinion, a form of PC crack.
Regardless! Grimrock has its faults as some have pointed out. Combat is more of a dance than the typical stand-and-smash affair that some are used to. It can get boring for some when the combat is 1v1 but anyone in combat past floor 9 cannot call combat boring. The last boss is the most insane boss fight since Ninja Gaiden. You know how Deus Ex had absolutely stupid boss fights that broke face from the rest of the game? Grimrock has a unique boss, with a unique mechanic that is thematically relevant and not out of place. Plus, it’s damn cool.
If I did have a gripe to give it would be that you don’t level up enough. I mean, it’s comparable to the power you gain while in a typical D&D campaign if not a bit more – I finished near level 12 – but when you get 4 points per level, have access to 6 skills and each reaches a max of 50, you’re barely scratching the surface of customization. I don’t want to walk around like a god but my 2 warriors were practically identical in terms of stats even though I tried to split them up.
There are additional balance issues that work into this leveling paradigm. Weapon skills aren’t different enough other than speed. Magic is cumbersome until you really invest into a given skill. Weight Management is more akin to food management. There are only 9 types of monsters (excluding the last boss), though they are all quite different. It’s impossible to backstab as you can’t sneak, invalidating one complete skill tree (except for the points that let you attack from range with melee). Ranged attacks are much too weak – even with skill points. Yet the game isn’t about optimization – it’s about trial and error. You never reach a point where any of these factors impedes you from progress. Compared to the MMO world, that’s saying something.
The best part – and for this I think everyone who plays will agree – is the puzzles. Each floor has 7-10 different puzzles and rarely do they repeat. Some need you to be in the dark, others you need to move in certain patterns, others you need to carefully navigate teleports. Everyone feels novel and when you complete one, you feel a sense of accomplishment. This “sectioning” of the floors provides the same “encounter” feeling from the D&D campaign. Bite size pieces that don’t completely overwhelm you with a dozen options. The designers on this facet deserve a huge pat on the back.
All said and done if you haven’t played this game you’re doing yourself a great disservice. It’s one of the best RPGs I have played in many years.