So I've spent the last week or so using my free time to play a lot of Grimrock, which is pretty much everything I had hoped for. This indie gaming studio really created something fantastic here, and I am hoping the success of this game leads to many more creative endeavors for them.
While I will admit that I do get tired of the "find the loose rock" secrets scattered everywhere, the puzzles in the game that are actually puzzles are simply fantastic, causing the player to think in new, creative ways. I really enjoyed just progressing through the game and figuring all the shit out.
And the combat, oh man. I've read some reviews complaining it was a bit reductive, but I couldn't disagree more. Much like the square-by-square movement, if you think about it too much, then, yeah, it's not really realistic, but the mechanics still make it highly enjoyable, and that's really all you need. What I really enjoyed is that it didn't feel like just fighting the same boring monster over and over. Most of the monster encounters in the game were unique experiences - true "encounters" in the D&D sense of the word, where battles were a combination of the monsters and the dungeon layout you were stuck in. Typically, the first time you meet a monster, it's in a relatively benign dungeon layout and you're free to back up and figure out the best way to handle the thing. And then you are continuously thrown into battles against the creature in more complex, hindering dungeon layouts, often forced to fight multiple creatures at the same time, further impeding your ability to simply strafe around the monster continuously, taking pot shots and exploiting their AI.
My only real complaint (apart from all those hidden switches) is that the ending and last boss fight were a little lame, where they resorted to an annoying amount of respawning trash mobs in conjunction with an easy boss mechanic, as opposed to an actual difficult boss that took more thought and planning. Also, the story kind of fell apart into lame cliches at the end, too.
But the ending isn't really what you sign up for with this sort of thing. You're there for the experience: the constant claustrophobia, the monsters jumping out of the dark, the insidious puzzles. And Grimrock delivers all these things in spades. More than I could have ever hoped for. I would highly recommend it.
I'm playing it through for a second time now with a team of all rogues and it's still a blast, even though I know how to solve all the puzzles and know where those monsters will be coming from. One other thing worth mentioning is that I was initially a little skeptical of there only being 3 classes to chose from, but the skill system is really well thought out and provides for a lot of customization. As I said, I'm working with a party of all rogues, and each individual character feels very different from the others. There's nothing like a big, headhunting minotaur rogue lumbering through the corridors hurling axes at all the poor skeletons.
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