Grimrock is a brilliant throwback to Eye of the Beholder, and yet despite its retro appeal, it’s a modern and refined dungeon crawler with a lot of charm and wit. A superb and highly polished indie offering with visuals to rival the best FPS games.
Some may not be old enough – or nerdy enough – to remember Shining In The Darkness or Eye of the Beholder. These were first-person RPGs, a little of the directional control of Wolfenstein 3D but with more RPG combat and puzzles. They were good. They were even popular amongst some.
That genre seemingly died when we got to the 32-bit era, where new techniques and better controllers meant that the genre could grow. So consider it nice that an indie project from Almost Human has done a spanking-good job of updating that old dungeon-exploring genre for a new generation.
It’s pretty, it’s fun and most importantly of all, throughout its dungeons the game is deceptively and interestingly complex. The three-class, four-man party system expands more when you look at what you can sink points into – rogues can be front-line brawlers or back-line archers and assassins. Warriors can be fleet of foot dodging fist-fighters or heavily armoured tanks. Mages can sink their points into ice magic, fire magic, earth magic and so on.
At no point did I feel complacent – there is only so much food, and no healing spells, so resting consumes time and therefore hunger, which if the characters are they won’t heal when resting. This means that you have to be careful exploring every nook and cranny for hidden walls and switches, taking on every single fight head-on, because your always limited to what you have, can carry and can heal.
It’s an extraordinary accomplishment that a simple, £12 indie game on Steam already ranks as one of my favourite games of the year. It isn’t that it is retro in style, but that it isn’t – it feels timeless, ageless and something that I am hopeful Almost Human will build on in the future, allowing new maps, new dungeons and new adventures within its framework.
It shouldn’t be expanded too much though – part of the joy of Legend of Grimrock is the limits to what the player can skill into. The only thing I’d like to see in future is more dungeons, more levels, more challenges and more puzzles. There is no fun in this breed of game if you are superhuman and can spec into every school and talent.
That this game gets it so right, so perfectly, so often tells me that Almost Human absolutely know this – and that gives me hope that Legend of Grimrock, whilst a niche title, will still stand up as one of this years brightest gems. Shining In The Darkness indeed…