Grimrock and Dungeon Crawlers

I’m thoroughly impressed with Legend of Grimrock. It is perfect throwback to first-person PC dungeon crawlers with enough innovation to keep it from feeling like a graphically superior tribute.

We’ve come a long way from Lands of Lore: Throne of Chaos.

As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up mostly with JRPGs on consoles so the amount of quality PC RPGs I missed out on is staggering. Every once in a while I get a bug to go back and find out what I missed but oftentimes the dated feel of the games usually interferes with the experience.

Don’t get me wrong, modest graphics are not a deal-breaking criteria for me. My love for the 8- and 16-bit eras of console gaming speaks to this. However, games have been innovating off their predecessors since their inception. There is a point where booting up Ultima 4 feels like you’re coercing dated software instead of playing a game. Naturally, this applies to console games as well.

Unless you played Ultima 4 when it was released. In which case, the above statement seems like blasphemy.

Compatibility issues between old games and newer version of windows were also a concern before Good Old Games launched in 2008. sells DRM-free digital copies of old PC games that are compatible with modern versions of windows (and Wine for Linux users) and are generally pretty cheap to boot. For those digital hoarders out there, each game bought off GoG also comes with digital versions of all the shit that originally came in the box: illustrated manuals, maps, clue books, that sort of thing.

Tangents aside, Grimrock is perfect simply because it encapsulates the spirit of what I missed in early dungeon crawlers: party management, heavy exploration, an impending sense of doom, Myst­-like puzzles, and grid-based movement. In fact, Grimrock boasts an “Old School Mode” that removes the in-game map so players have to bust out the grid paper and do their own cartography. I opted to avoid this because my sense of direction is bad enough without trying to make sense of endless corridors that all look the same. You know who sucks at corn mazes? This guy.

I went with the default party setup (human fighter, Minotaur fighter, human rogue and human mage) but you’ll be happy to know lizardman is a selectable race if you make your party from scratch. All games are made better with lizardmen.

The in-game description of lizardmen explains humans don’t trust them because they are viewed as being “capricious and deceitful.” I wouldn’t trust them because they are Goddamn huge bipedal lizards.

I’m currently on the 4th level of 10 and so far my party has been killed for a variety of reasons. Here are some of my favorite causes of death so far:

  • Undead spearmen
  • Poison
  • Giant spiders
  • Sentient piles of ooze
  • Gravity
  • My own hubris
  • Tentacle monster
  • A walking fungus-covered stump that snuck up on us while sleeping and literally slapped everyone to death

Pro tip: Being outsmarted by a stump does not feel good.


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