Legend of Grimrock 2 Review!

by on October 23, 2014

Dungeon crawl is
a type of scenario used in fantasy role playing games and is focused around a
party of heroes navigating labyrinth-like dungeons and battling various
monsters in order to find treasures. This concept was adopted by video games in
1980 and spawned many good games, like the Wizardry series, Might & Magic
series, Ultima series, The Bard’s Tale and many others.
Because they go hand in hand, most of the
time this genre is associated with rogue-like games.
Legend of
Grimrock is a 3D dungeon crawler RPG developed by the Finnish indie studio Almost
Human. Inspired by old school games and made into a modern version of those, Grimrock
managed to revive a genre of video games that was in a muribund state for several
years, awakening the interest in gamers for this kind of games and
familiarizing the younger gamers with dungeon crawler genre. Legend of Grimrock
was quite a success for this small studio and a sequel was bound to happen and
with hard work and little to no marketing the sequel is finally here.
There is not much
to say about the story of Legend of Grimrock 2. The action of the game takes
place on the island of Nox, where a group of four heroes are stranded on, not
by accident. The island is ruled by the Master, a mysterious being, who was
expecting the heroes’ arrival and follows from a distance their every step as
they try to escape this nightmarish place full with dangerous creatures and all
sorts of deadly traps.
The world of
Grimrock 2 is huge and more open compared to its predecessor (at first this
doesn’t look like such a feat) where the entire game took place in a descending
dungeon. The environment is not limited to dungeons and catacombs anymore, the
island of Nox has many different explorable areas like shores, forests, swamps
and even underwater areas. There is a terrifying freedom of movement in this
game, which gives a feeling of doubt at the first playthrough when going in a
new path. The immensity and freedom of the new world can be a disadvantage for
this game as it might scare off some of the players, but in all fairness
Grimrock 2 was not designed for the casual gamers. Even so, the developers
thought of everything and they made a hub area with unlockable portals to each
major area of the game.
An interesting thing is that many of the difficult
areas are accessible quite early in the game and it’s up to the players to
realize that when entering such an area they can’t handle it yet, but they sure
have the freedom to try
The main goal in
the game is to find all the power gems on the island in order to forge them into
four elemental orbs. These orbs are the keys required to open the gates to the
Master’s castle, where the ultimate encounter awaits (or maybe not?!). The
power gems are spread all over the island and in order to find them the game
encourages players to explore the island and see all its beauty and dangers.
The Master is a real joker!
Fishing…
The gameplay
follows the same recipe as in the previous title, focusing on solving puzzles,
finding secrets, avoiding traps and battling tough enemies. Each of these
aspects has been improved in Grimrock 2 adding up to a much better gameplay
experience. With the addition of a huge and more open world, the hunt for
secrets has become more complicated, pulling a hidden lever can open a hidden pathway
anywhere and finding what effect your action had can be a little tricky. On the
bright side the wall scanning for secret switches doesn’t take that much time
now, a huge portion of the game takes place outdoors where there are
considerably less walls to look at and the overall number of hidden switches on
walls has been reduced noticeably, but these improvements do not completely remove the wall scanning (so
if you suffer of OCD like me and want to find everything, good luck!).
Hmm…
The puzzles in
Grimrock 2 are frustratingly delicious, each unique in its own way and using
many different mechanics. Solving the puzzles doesn’t require only logic, but
many times attention to the surroundings and fast reactions as well.
Exploration also plays a key role in this matter, as clues can be found
anywhere on the island. The feeling of puzzle solving is thrilling, this game
made me feel both stupid and intelligent from one puzzle to another, there were
moments when I was pulling my hair off not realizing what the answer was (a few
times just because I didn’t have enough information about the riddle and was
not aware of it) and other times everything went so smooth I couldn’t believe
how fast I figured out the answers. The feeling of satisfaction for solving a
conundrum by myself was so great and was ruined only by the shame of searching
for some hints on the internet when I got stuck. The number of puzzles and
riddles is huge and while some of them are not mandatory in order to progress
further into the game, they are the core of this game and should not be
ignored.

Looks like one of the first Russian video games!
Such a friendly place!

Grimrock is a
grid based game with the entire party moving as one entity on a floor separated
by squares, a common feature for dungeon crawlers. This makes the combat look
like a fast paced chess game.
The party can be
composed of up to four heroes and while they all move at once they each take
turns in hitting the enemies. Each attack has a cooldown based on the weapon
used to perform this action and the order of attack is dictated by the player’s
commands, leaving room for tactical decisions. But the lack of a key that would
make the entire party to attack at once can be felt in some situations and this
feature would have been welcomed.
The combat
received many improvements, making it more challenging and less exploitable.
There is a wide variety of monsters on the island of Nox, some of them are
familiar to those who played the original game, but many are brand new. Each
monster has its own set of abilities that fits with their nature. In addition,
the reused monsters have been enhanced (steroids?!) to be more challenging than
they used to be. All creatures tend to run away when they are low on health and
position behind a corner waiting for you to come. The overall speed of action for
all monsters has been increased so their reactions to the player’s movement is
much quicker increasing the combat difficulty and putting a stop to the “waltz”
tactic abuse. There were many challenges in the original game, but almost none
of them were battles, this issue has been addressed by adding bosses to each
important area and lots of ambushes in key moments of the game (be careful
where you save) which keep the player on edge most of the time.
The sewers boss and his gang.
Out of arrows?

The classes
system has received an overhaul and from three standard classes we now have
eight to pick from, each with their own benefits fitting a certain playstyle
and set of skills. To help the characters variety even more, the Ratling race
was added to the game.
The skills system
has been modified to be more effective for melee users, the weapon type
specializations from the first game have been removed and replaced with two
skills for light and heavy weapons. The spell system is using the same rune system as in the previous game, which
allows casting spells by forming a combination of runes and new spells for all
schools of magic can be found throughout the game.
The itemization
hasn’t changed that much, with many old items being reused (including the
icons). Firearms are the new type of weapon and are designed to work with the
new alchemist class. While they look weak at start of the game especially
because of the malfunction mechanic, they sure can pack a punch later on.
Overall the combat is tactical, fun and
challenging, but it is nothing spectacular, mostly because of the lack of
production value. However Legend of Grimrock 2 is not so much a game about
slashing enemies left and right to get the better gear, but more a game of
perception and logic where combat comes as a secondary factor, a test of both
mental and fingers agility.
Me smash! You die!
There must be a hoarder around here.
While many models
for monsters, objects, walls or spell effects have been reused (if CoD and Bf
can do it, why not this game?!), Grimrock 2 has some graphical improvements
that make the game more attractive. The beauty of the day-night cycle and the
water reflections, which can be observed while exploring the thick forests and
the creepy bogs, are graphic effects that could be praised and really improve
the immersivity adding up to an already intense atmosphere. The animations have
room for improvements and they should not be overlooked if this series
continues. The UI could use an artistic and functionality upgrade as well, but
these problems are not major and they are common for budget indie titles.
The music is
great but lacks variety (at least I couldn’t hear many different songs), but
the ambient sounds are really spot on and fit every area perfectly, giving me
chills while I was running around lost in some of the darkest dungeons.
So peaceful…
                For
those familiar with the previous game, Grimorck 2 can offer an endless dungeon
crawling experience as it includes, from release this time, a map editor, which
some of the more creative fans will put to good use.
Almost Human
poured their heart and soul in this game and it shows, Legend of Grimrock 2 is
an improvement in any aspect to their previous title and it kept me hooked
until the very end. The freedom of movement, the challenging fights, the intelligent
puzzles and well hidden secrets, all wrapped up in the mysterious and creepy
atmosphere made this game one hell of a gaming pleasure.
I don’t think I’m
exaggerating by saying that if this game had the production value of an AAA
title it could be a contender to the Game of the Year award. Even so it was a
great old school like experience and I’m looking forward to more titles from
this small studio.

Oh noes!!!


Pros:
+ A huge island to explore
+ Lots of challenging puzzles
+ Great atmosphere
+ Day – night cycle
+ Lots of secrets
+ Bosses
+ Improved monsters AI
+ Map Editor

+ Completists paradise!
Cons:
– Reusage of many models from previous game
– Average production value
– UI could use some improvements



Nodrim