One of the oldest RPG sub-genres was the dungeon crawler, a game where you explored labyrinthine dungeons fighting enemies and solving puzzles. Reaching its peak in popularity during the 80’s, it has been a long time since we’ve seen a proper game in this genre for the PC. Finnish Indie-game studio, Almost Human Ltd., however, has been hard at work since the beginning of last year on Legend of Grimrock, an old school dungeon crawler built for the new generation.
In a day where Bethesda and Bioware are the RPG kings, Legend of Grimrock comes as a refreshing change of pace. The developers at Almost Human see it as a “nice balance between fighting, RPG elements and surviving the dungeons while solving mind bending puzzles and discovering secrets.” Being a hardcore enthusiast of the dungeon crawling genre, I got a hold of Almost Human to ask them a few questions about their upcoming game. I am happy to share with you their responses to my questions about a game built in a genre, that I had feared had all but died out. Keep in mind, I have yet to actually play the game, but I’ve built up quite an impression from the footage I’ve seen and my talk with the developers.
When I first glimpsed Legend of Grimrock, the first thing that came to mind was “this looks a lot like Dungeon Master, Ultima Underworld, and Lands of Lore,” which was a pleasant surprise given the brilliance of those titles. As it turns out, Dungeon Master was one of the key games that serves as inspiration for the design of Legend of Grimrock; the guys at Almost Human hold it as “one of the best games ever made.” I would certainly agree that it is one of the best specimens in the dungeon-crawling genre. But enough talk of the classics, let’s get into the gritty bits of LoG.
You begin the game by constructing your party of prisoners and attempting to escape the dungeon of Mount Grimrock. There are four races you may choose from, each race offering different benefits and handicaps. From three classes, Fighter, Mage and Rogue, you determine the base play style of your characters by choosing one and allocating skill points into a variety of abilities. To polish it all off, you get to choose two traits from a wide selection that will modify your character’s stats and abilities in ways that will allow you to custom tailor your experience.
Once you embark on your voyage, it is up to you to defend yourself from the hostile denizens and to avoid diabolical traps to escape Mount Grimrock. Using the standard grid base movement system, you navigate the dungeon by moving in the four cardinal directions. Positional tactics may be employed in order to get the jump on enemies or to even use the traps of Grimrock against them. While the combat system may look deceptively simple it is also appears to have a good bit of depth to it.
Each class has a range of abilities that, when improved, will modify the way they can attack or benefit the party. Position in the party, whether the member is at the front or back, has a great affect on the effectiveness of the character. Position of the party in relation to the monsters also allows you to flank and back-stab enemies. Perhaps the most dynamic system is the way spells are cast; the player must select a collection of runes in order to construct a specific spell. The combination of runes affects what spell is cast; these combinations can either be discovered through experimentation or found written on scrolls that can be found throughout the dungeon. Any spell may be cast at any point in the game as long as your characters meet the minimum skill requirement.
Along with the basic combat abilities, there is an alchemy system that will allow you to construct a wide variety of potions. Using a mortar and pestle, you can combine various ingredients found in the dungeon in order to construct potions that can heal, buff and create a wide range of affects. Much like the spell system, you may choose to use trial and error to discover new combinations or rely upon recipes that you find in the environment.
Almost Human is currently looking into publishing Legend of Grimrock over Steam though they are also exploring alternatives. As for when the game will actually release, that is still uncertain, however, they are hopeful for an early 2012 release date. Dependent upon the success of the game, Almost Human has plans to continue to add new content which would possibly include a level editor and modding support. “We've had more ideas of cool features, monsters and environments than we have time to implement, so we'd definitely like to do a some sort of expansion of the game.”
What really strikes me about Legend of Grimrock is the emphasis on exploration and discovery. It has been far too long since I’ve played an RPG that didn’t focus solely on combat and story. These elements look to be crafted into almost every aspect of the game, from building your party to casting spells and creating potions. It is up to you to discover what combinations of classes and abilities fits your play style the best. It is up to you to find recipes for potions and spells or to try your hand at experimenting with the various components to discover potent combinations. Legend of Grimrock looks to be a refreshing journey away from the pedestrian RPG experiences of this generation and I, for one, am eager to partake.
For more information and footage of Legend of Grimrock, pay them a visit at http://www.grimrock.net/.