The perfect sequel
The first Legend of Grimrock was damn near perfect. Coming seemingly out of nowhere, it put a fresh new face on the dungeon-crawling genre. It was a game that didn’t forget its roots yet also didn’t forget that we live in a different time.
It’s no surprise, then, that the sequel is absolutely stunning.
Legend of Grimrock 2 (PC)
Developer: Almost Human Games
Publisher: Almost Human Games
Released: October 15, 2014
Legend of Grimrock 2 takes the players to an outside location for much of the game. The player’s characters get shipwrecked on an island and soon begin to find mysterious notes from someone who has clearly been preparing for his moment. There are still plenty of dungeon moments, as many times players will travel underground for hours at a time. These segments are reminiscent of the first Grimrock, and also have the side effect of making the player really appreciate the outdoor areas even more when they’re juxtaposed back to back. There is something special about leaving an underground dungeon and taking in the sights.
Speaking of sights, Grimrock 2 looks great. The underground environment does give a lot of déjà vu, with the walls and floors being a little too familiar. Certain enemy types also return, but there are enough new ones, even early on, to prevent the game from feeling exactly like the previous one. Other areas are perhaps too big, because the frame rate takes a noticeable dip at times. The music is likewise amazing, and one of the hardest parts of the game is loading up a save, because it means that the main menu music ends.
Part of the beauty of Grimrock 2 is that it is focused entirely on the core gameplay, which is as strong as ever. Battles play out largely in the same way as in the first game; the party has two members up front who can melee attack and two in the back who have to rely on ranged attacks. Incoming damage will hurt any member facing that direction, so getting hit in the back will hurt the player’s back two party members, for example. Melee attacks can now be held in order to perform a special move, and plenty of new spells have been added.
The player will create their ship-wrecked party of four, now with more options for character classes and race. The only meaningful addition is the Farmer class, who levels up by eating food and not from fighting enemies. Seriously, that’s how the class works. My advice? Create a Farmer. All throughout, my Farmer was easily my highest-level character, and was pretty much unfair at times. Chomp chomp!
The enemies as a whole are smarter — to a point. The strategy of “circle-strafing” remains necessary, but now enemies catch on and are better are dealing with the tactic. Don’t misunderstand though, circle-strafing is still imperative to surviving many of the game’s encounters. Standing in front of an enemy and trying to win through brute force will often end in defeat, even if three more enemies don’t surprise you and come at your sides and AUGH WHERE DID THOSE ARCHERS COME FROM?!
Boss fights are varied, but can also vary in quality. Something truly impressive is the in-game presence of certain characters. There will be times when the player turns a corner only to see…something at the end of it. And then, it moves! And disappears! The fact that the game doesn’t have to remove the player’s control for a cutscene to present these moments is key.
Combat often gets into a beautiful rhythm of clicks and swiping gestures that truly feels fluid and dynamic. Stab, swing, fire, stab, shoot, swing, ice, shoot stab, swing! All while at the same time moving around the party with the other hand to weave in and out of attacks. It’s like conducting a beautiful symphony. Until the aforementioned three more enemies show up and it turns into a hysteria of blind panic. But those moments are enjoyable in their own right.
The other huge aspect of Grimrock 2 is the puzzles. Developer Almost Human nails the difficulty of puzzle design flawlessly. This is the kind of game you can play away from the PC; I’ve solved certain puzzles while commuting to work, because they do nothing but occupy my mind constantly. Certain puzzles are almost impossibly difficult, however most of them are optional with incredible rewards for all the hard work. Some will have small text “hints” on nearby signs, but many times they are in riddles or a straight-up decipherable code.
Players also acquire a shovel early on in the game to dig for goodies in the dirt. However I completely forgot this existed for most of the game outside of the first area, unless a sign reminded me in some way. Chances are, I missed out on a lot of hidden treasure chests!
Steam Workshop support is also included, allowing players to make and share their own adventures and dungeons with others. The first game had a wonderful community, and so far the second installment seems to have taken up that torch just fine. As if the game wasn’t already packed with brilliant content, having Workshop support ensures that, given the right ideas, people will continue to play and love Grimrock 2 for a very long time.
Legend of Grimrock 2 will consume your mind in many ways. The puzzles will slowly tear away at your brain until they are solved, and the amount of focus needed for just about every combat encounter is through the roof. Grimrock 2 can forever be referenced as a “perfect sequel.” It doesn’t go nuts adding idea after idea to make things more convoluted, but instead refines what already made the experience amazing while expanding those ideas noticeably enough.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]