Review Solstice: Legend of Grimrock

The first review in my ‘Review Solstice’ is of Legend of Grimrock. The game attempts to bring back the text-adventure genre from the times when Zork was king, some 15-20 years ago. It takes Zork’s adventuring and places it into a Dungeons and Dragons system with Skyrim graphics – a match made in heaven.

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I’ve already heard great things about this title from pen/paper RPG fans but I haven’t had a chance to try it out myself. Immediately I understand the appeal of it to the D&D (Dungeons and Dragons) and old school text adventure games when it gives you the option to turn off the auto-mapping and let you draw it all out on paper yourself. Being that this is honestly something I want to try out because I wasn’t around when text-adventure games were it’s the option I’m taking. I’m also going to be playing on easy because I’m not looking for much of a challenge here, just looking for the best way to truly understand the game; if it proves to be too easy then I’ll switch difficulties for the sake of the review and my honest experience.

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I’m also choosing to create all my characters. After recently putting time into XCOM I feel like creating your own characters, whether inspired by people in your own life or not, lends a lot more to the nature of adventure games like Legend of Grimrock. I will give them total credit in channeling a D&D system in the character creator, which I really hope follows through into the gameplay. As someone who’s put his own time into D&D campaigns I absolutely love what they’ve done here.

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The game gives you a great set up for the story – four prisoners (your characters) get tossed into a pit at the top of Mount Grimrock as punishment for treacherous deeds. Your goal as the one controlling them is to lead them out of Mount Grimrock to freedom which they’re given the second they fall into the depths of Mount Grimrock. All their deeds absolved, can you get them all to safety and freedom as no one has before?

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TWO HOURS LATER

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So I’ve been trekking through the dungeons for a little while now and I’ve got to say that I love this game. Maybe it’s just because I never played text adventure games in the past but I find it’s mechanics refreshingly bland and straight forward. There’s no “If you can do this then OH maybe you could be able to do THIS and then FLY ON A DRAGON.” It’s simply you with four characters trying to escape a massive, terribly confusing dungeon with a whole lot of giant snails and skeletal legionnaires. I will say that I like the way the group placement is set up – two in the front and two in the back. I haven’t tried giving the characters in the back (my rogue and mage) swords but I found out that they can still make contact from the back of the party with spears, and I’ve been abusing the hell out of that.

I also adore the system set in place for magic use. It’s incredibly strong when you get a hold of a few scrolls but finding them is required for magic use, and you require skills to use the magic. Luckily the game gives you enough skill points upon leveling up to unlock the ability to use any scroll you find, and you’re bound to find a scroll before you level up.

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The few downsides I’ve found have only really been based on my own ignorance and laziness – once you’re stuck on a puzzle YOU’RE STUCK THERE FOREVER. It’s pretty damn hard sometimes to break tunnel vision in a game that’s quite literally made out of tunnels. I’m sure the solution is going to slap me in the face with it’s genitalia when I find it, but until that time it can get pretty frustrating. The fact is that a game like this isn’t too hard to get back into after taking a day or a week off from it, but with the amount of games most users have these days it can be hard to convince yourself to play a game you need to go back to when there’s a crap load of other games out there that don’t require you to take a break to advance.

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With that single negative piece aside I’ll say that this game is wonderful. If you either never played dungeon adventure games like this twenty-some years ago, or haven’t played D&D or Shadowrun or any other pen and paper games I would suggest picking this one up. When I saw screenshots of the game I initially thought it would be a “You slay the Giant Slug, where do you go next?” and you click your direction or action you want to take. The game is fully three-dimensional and has real time movement and combat. It’s a text-adventure game for the Elder Scrolls crowd which is an absolute dream of a combination for any game.

The game also gives you a free update with a dungeon editor which I haven’t tried out yet but I’m sure carries a whole lot of gameplay time with it. I would go so far as to say that if the editor has enough to it you could even replace some D&D campaigns with such a program. If you’re looking for some intense and confusing dungeon questing this is the game for you.

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Also if you used to play text-adventure games I would still suggest picking this up. I can’t say I know what sort of emotional tolls a game like this will play on your brain but it at least wouldn’t hurt to check it out and see where your favorite genre went for the last twenty years.

For $15.00 on Steam I’d say it’s a pretty worthy investment to get a fix of this genre.

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