For those of you who read the list of my favorite games of all time, you might remember that Legend of Grimrock 2 came at the bottom of that list. This is no easy feat honestly, as I have played more games than I can even count. Not to mention, this is not an old game as of this review, and yet it has provided me with so many fantastic elements, I find myself replaying it many times and praising it to no end. This is not without good reasons, of course, so if you are ready for me gushing over why you should play this game in the most in-depth and critical way I can be: let’s go! This is my favorite W-RPG ever.
Polishing a classic
Your party of four warriors is cast on the shores of an unknown island after a storm wrecks the ship you were imprisoned on. Within their first couple of steps, they find a letter revealing that this storm was no mere coincidence, but not much more. Being gifted some provisions nearby and wondering if this person is taunting you or being helpful, the party has no other choice but to venture further. This setup is a great way to build up suspense and is used enough to create a subtle uncertainty, but also to show that you are not the first one to have come to this island. The game does not focus on providing a narrative, but rather wants to build up tension and make this a dangerous world where you have a simple goal: get out alive. It is very similar to the last game and because of this, I don’t feel this is much worth rating: It sets to do exactly what it should do, making the setting both inviting and threatening.
However, this eerie atmosphere is fantastically presented through the gameplay itself. Before you get this introduction, you are asked if you want to make your own characters, go old-school and make your own map if save-crystals can only be used once for healing, and if you want to neglect saving manually and only at these crystals. Already I feel the game welcomes both those who are nostalgic to traditional dungeon crawlers and those who still are looking for a good challenge, but appreciate the modern mechanics. I would recommend making your own characters as it is entertaining to make a team of your own with a vast amount of options.
Firstly, you can choose between human, minotaur, lizardman and insectoid. Each has their strength and weaknesses, such as minotaur getting 5+ in strength and +4 in vitality, however also gets -4 in dexterity and -3 in willpower. All have something like this, except for humans who are more adaptable and can excel in all professions, but are no master at any class. Though the 10% faster XP makes them balanced. Each race except for human has also has a special trait they can choose, such as lizardmen having thick scales which makes them very protected against elemental damage (additional +25% bonus to resistances).
There are plenty of traits to choose from to make your characters diverse or for a clear playstyle, with all being able to have two traits each. Before you take on the traits for your characters, it would be advisable to give them a class after choosing a race. They range in alchemists, barbarian, battlemage, fighter, farmer, knight, rogue, and wizard. All have strengths to them showcased by moving the cursor over them, such as battlemages being moderate in both fighting upfront and in the back, while farmers gain XP by eating food and has “basically everything a successful adventurer would never need”. Besides the obvious joke-class, all others have strengths and weaknesses, giving them a clear role, though when you put on skill-points, there is nothing against making a barbarian good at potion-brewing for example.
In fact, you will only gain one skillpoint each time you level up. Stat-points for strength, dexterity, vitality, and willpower will only be provided at the beginning of the game and you will be stuck with them. Skills will support what kind of adventurer you will have and each skill can be leveled up to 5. You have alchemy, athletics, concentration, light weapons, heavy weapons, missile weapons, throwing, firearms, accuracy, critical, armor, dodge, fire Magic, air Magic, earth magic and water magic. All have effects on your gameplay and will do more when they are leveled up as well. Concentration, for example, will increase energy (or MP) by 20 for each point, but at level 3 it will make it so regeneration rate is up 25% when resting, and, heavy weapons increases damage of such tools by 20% for each skill point and at 5th level, you can wield a two-handed weapon in one hand.
I know I have been talking a lot about the vast amount of options for simply making your party, but this is an important and enjoyable part of the game because of how deep, yet inviting the character-building is. However, the adventure itself is also wonderful. You will be set in a first-person, tile-based dungeon-crawler, where puzzles and real-time combat will be present, just like the first game. Instead of moving downwards through a mountain, you will be exploring a huge island with dungeons, caves, cellars, ruins and more. This in itself is a nice change to provide more open areas to explore, though the tile-based setup makes it so you are never lost or feel overwhelmed with options.
Let’s start with the puzzles, as they are my favorite part of the game. While the last game had many fantastic puzzles, the second game goes even further with them and every single one is creative. For example, one door had a tile that closed it each time I stepped on it. It was the only way forward, so I tried to open the door by the lever and run on the tile and through the door, but with no luck. Then I put a rock on the tile to close the door and left it there while I used the lever to open it. I prayed that it would make the gate stand open and fool the mechanism, and it did. Each puzzle will make you feel like a genius, be they small or big. If you go even further and find subtle clues through old letters or have a keen eye to look for hidden switches, you will be rewarded with treasures that can help you on your journey. This is always a highlight, varied, challenging and rewarding.
Almost as beautiful is the combat and it has been even improved upon from the last game as well! Your party of 4 will be set in a formation of 2*2 with each member being able to carry one item in each hand, except for two-handed items. Enemies are relentless and will attack according to what kind of creatures they are. For example, enormous turtles will charge at you and attack, while rat-creatures will try to take you by surprise from afar and hide from you. For attacking, you click on the weapon you want your character to use and must wait for a cooldown before you can attack again. Party members that cast spells will be a bit more complicated, as they have a 3*3 grid of runes and must combine them to create spells. Spells can be experimented with or found in scrolls, and while they can create devastating attacks, it costs a bunch of mana and a provides a longer cooldown, making them not overpowered.
What makes the combat so much better than before are plenty of things. First, the enemies move a lot more and are smarter at being defensive and trying to take you off guard, which will demand you being aware of your surroundings and encourages you to use contraptions to take care of them, such as traps. One of the criticisms I had with the previous entry, was how easy it could be to hide behind doors. It could make your rations go low, which is important to keep your members full so they can rest and regain health and mp, but with so many rooms in the last game, it was a safety despite a decent risk to it.
It is still a possible option, but rarer as enemies will try to trick you into hunting after them and since you are in more open areas as well, you are never truly safe. These brief rooms become sanctuaries this time instead of something to cheese the game with, which is a nice touch. You also heal as you walk in this game and while it will eat of your stamina-bar, it is a good way to keep your party on the move and make hunger a constant factor. Should you need immediate help though, you can create potions to help against poison and injuries, which is a valid though also a limited resource. There are no shops in this game, so you will have to be careful and scavenge.
Another part of the combat that is great, is that every party member levels up and does not have to hit the enemy to gain XP. This is not necessarily a new element to an RPG, but it is a good change from the last game and makes it so all characters will have an easier time to shine and be a part of the team. All can also carry two sets of weapons, which makes party-swapping easy should a forefront fighter be low on HP, or you need to switch up tactics. Lastly, we have more boss battles this time which are creative and demand you be aware of your surroundings. The first boss, for example, is a huge plant that jumps up from the ground everywhere and tries to take you off guard. However, it will only be facing one direction when they pop up, making it so you must be ready to move when it appears, not get cornered, and attack them instead from the side or behind them. All fights are varied and interesting, making them just as entertaining as the puzzles themselves.
Legend of Grimrock 2 takes every fantastic aspect of the first game and improves upon them.
More additions that are balanced, fun customization, a vast world to explore filled with smart enemies and brilliant puzzles, secrets to be uncovered, and playstyles to be experimented with. Combined with the small additions for modernizing such as automatically creating a map and manually saving, or turning both off for an old school approach, you are set for a glorious adventure that is dangerous, mysterious and intriguing.
Gameplay Score: 10/10
Claustrophobia and Agoraphobia
Yeah, I was pretty much always on edge playing this game. I want to start out with the sound-design, as it is brilliantly used to provoke fear. You can hear each monster’s scream and movement from wherever you go, so you will be always on guard until you have killed it or know there is absolutely no way it can get to you. All sounds are varied and iconic, so a good set of earphones is recommended. The ambient sounds are also great at creating a mood, such as the water splashing alongside the shore or the torches sparkling with fire in the middle of the night. The few music pieces the game provides are only used in the grander battles, as chimes for positive events such as leveling up, and at the intro and the end credits, which makes these segments more important and feel more epic.
Then there are the visuals and we have gone from mystical caves giving you a sense of claustrophobia, to also provide outdoor areas that are just as dangerous. These are vast and varied, such as the dark swamp fogged by what looks like poisonous clouds, the lake by the castle, or smaller areas with ancient ruins. All places are distinct and memorable, with them being inhabited by monsters appropriate to them, such as insects in the swamp-area or winged creatures by the castle. There are also plenty of dungeons that vary from caves, basements, ruins, and more, making them memorable and varied. The use of light is fantastic at creating an atmosphere to make you want to carry a torch, despite that it might limit you in your defense. From traditional mummies to sea-folk Zarchton, you will be in for a magical journey where the atmosphere is so effective, you will be sucked in.
Presentation Score: 10/10
Besides the different ways to play the game thanks to making a character and the difficulties being more interesting, the wonderful dungeon editor is back and this time with even more options thanks to how much more the game includes. Making a map of your own is easy and provides more options to make each segment engaging and create interesting stories. Not to mention, the bunch of adventures others have made that you can easily download, makes it so you won’t be done with this game any time soon. You can even import characters from other adventures should you wish to, adding to the aesthetics of a wonderful RP-experience.
Extra Score: 10/10
I simply could not ask for more. Legend of Grimrock 2 fixes every small issue I had with the last game and adds tons of more to make this the definitive experience. A fantastic atmosphere, entertaining combat, thought-provoking puzzles, a sense of danger at all time, as well as a glimmer of hope that you will be triumphant, all giving you a wonderful experience! All of these are the reasons why Legend of Grimrock 2, is my favorite W-RPG ever.