Legend of Grimrock 2 Review

Played on Windows.
Also Available on macOS.

Legend of Grimrock is a little game from Almost Human Games that came out in 2012. It was a rather solid dungeon crawler that had the player dive down through 13 levels of a dungeon that included combat and puzzles the entire way. It was a solid return to what used to be a major part of the computer industry. The party based Dungeon CRPGs. 2 years later Almost Human Games returned with Legend of Grimrock 2. And boy, what a sequel.

Legend of Grimrock 2 definitely feels like a continuation of the first game, at least in style. You again build a party of four adventurers and have to dive into another adventure to find your way around. The battle system and engine here is clearly the same, but at the same time, you have an all-new “dungeon” to explore.

The graphics on Legend of Grimrock 2 are far better than the first one, part of the reason is the new location. Rather than being in a dank, dark dungeon, the game is played with the player on an island, and a little more than half the game is played outdoors. You get a good day-night cycle and a lot of variety in the level design as well as the terrain. Even when you go underground, you have a number of different environments rather than just plain “dungeon”. There is a mine, a pyramid and a castle to go through as well.

The graphics though aren’t top of the line. They are about four years old now and the team who created this game was quite small, still, it was built for simplicity rather than as a testament to realism. The diversity and the number of interesting locations are great and I constantly wanted to see what was next.

One trick the game does is having secrets that hide in plain sight. There are a number of hidden switches and traps, and the game does well at hiding them from those who don’t have eagle eyes. Once you know what a switch looks like it’s easy to find it, but most switches had to be pointed out to me, usually from a guide because I would just miss them even walking by them a few times unless it’s obvious there was a switch there.

In addition, you can check my first look, there’s a tree by the crystal that I walk by a few times, I didn’t realize that the knives that are sticking out of the tree branch were actually items I could grab because they look like their part of the game. There are a few situations like that where objects and pieces of puzzles are well hidden in the game. The game will give you a hint to go find something but until it does, you might miss something rather obvious.

Or see it right there on the left.

So how’s the gameplay? Well like I mentioned, Legend of Grimrock 2 is a dungeon crawler. Dungeon crawlers are a special genre where the player moves usually on a grid-based system and can attack and be attacked by enemies.

There’s the ability for the player to dodge attacks as well. If the enemy starts to swing and the player sidesteps the attack, it will miss them. This allows players who want to play more tactically to use their movement to move next to an enemy and attack and then step back out of range for the enemy attacks.

I believe this is intentional because without it, a number of enemies are quite difficult and I can’t imagine beating normal difficulty or even hard difficulty without that tactic. Still, it might put some gamers off due to the timing of the attacks not always being obvious.

There is no randomness to the island’s layout or general loot. While the enemies are pseudorandom (you’ll find turtles on the first beach which can respawn in different areas) and move as they want, the items you find like the throwing knives in a tree are not. You always find the same loot in the same areas, which can mean that without scouring the entire island you might miss an item you really want or a piece of armor that will help you.

At the beginning of these games, they feel like a rogue-lite or roguelike, but they’re not, and that’s intentional. It allowed the developers to script the game so players always will find certain items and can assist each other on forums as to where the best loot can be found, usually requiring a secret or two to find them.

Now I’ve said island a few times, that’s a major change for this series. The first game was 13 levels in a dungeon with not much else, but now you have an island where you can explore it. It’s a bit more open world than the original game, and allows you to explore more of it as you desire. There are certain areas that probably are best left for the end game and three dungeons that require other prerequisites, but for the most part the game is set up to allow you to go in any direction you want at your leisure, as long as you can handle the combat in the areas.

Legend of Grimrock 2 really has two styles of gameplay. First there are puzzles, and they’re rather solid, however, they’re a big caveat. Many of the puzzles in Legend of Grimrock require you to have a specific object. This seems minor, but there are certain places where you can leave an item behind and it becomes either very difficult or possibly impossible to recover.

For instance, there is a serpent staff, which is a very weak weapon and I thought I was over leveled when I found it. I’m glad I looked it up because that staff is critical for a game progression puzzle. There are a number of these types of puzzles, many with very easy to lose objects even in your inventory especially if you drop a bag or a crate with a critical item in it. Worse if you need to solve the puzzle and know you need X, if you dropped it somewhere there’s not a better way to find it rather than retracing EVERY step you ever made. You can’t even tell what map a quest item might be on, even ones you’ve already touched.

The fact is everything you pick up has some value, and if you can’t see what it is, such as the staff that’s underleveled for your characters, it might be for a specific puzzle or not.

Some of the puzzles in the game are quite hard, and a few puzzles confused me. The good news is that there are excellent guides and maps for anyone who can’t figure out a puzzle. But the joy of the puzzle system really comes from you solving a puzzle. Anyone can look up the solution but it’s better when you find it on your own. Still, some of these puzzles are a bit too hard or annoying or require a lot of trial and error, especially the late puzzles.

There are also a number of puzzles not required for progression but with great rewards, almost every puzzle in Legend of Grimrock 2 is worth solving because there’s a reason for them, though there is the caveat that if you don’t have a fully formed team you might not need some of the special loot you can find.

In addition to puzzles, there are also the hidden switches that hide valuables.

Speaking of teams, let’s talk about the other major gameplay piece of Legend of Grimrock 2, combat.

You’re able to develop a unique team for yourself, and your team is arranged in a grid of 2×2, with two players in the front of the formation and two on the back. There is a consideration about attacks from the left or the right, but the important part of the formation is who is in the front row and who’s in the back.

The front row characters are able to melee attack at will using any weapon they want. The back row characters are not, though two ranks of accuracy will allow them to attack with light weapons. A standard party tends to be two melee fighters in the front row, and then a ranged fighter and a caster in the back row. Legend of Grimrock 2, though, doesn’t require this and allows the player to make any arrangement that they desire. At the same time, you have limited options from the back row.

The combat in Legend of Grimrock 2 sticks to the grid-based movement. You can attack the square in front of you, or in the case of a ranged attack, you can shoot arrows or firebolts forward until something is hit. At the same time, the enemy can attack you if you’re next to them even if he’s not in front of you. With some practice, you can move out of the way of incoming attacks by sidestepping the attack and avoiding damage. This appears intentional as the game clearly allows this and enemies are able to sometimes do the same thing.

From there it’s pretty much standard Dungeons and Dragons rules, your attack does X damage, their attack can do Y damage, random values are assigned. The entire system is played out in real time but with the grid-based movement system, there is a strategic element to it. Legend of Grimrock 2 allows the enemies to attack as they are ready, and the player can use his attacks as is necessary, with minor cooldowns

Here’s an early enemy, an amphibian that attacks with a trident.

At the same time, I am not a huge fan of the dodge mechanics as it feels like you’re breaking the system. It’s still intentionally in the game but with the warrior mentality, I like to beat down my opponent instead of finesse it. And the game allows that, for the most part.

I actually chose to play the game on easy difficulty, due to the fact the developer said Easy is comparable to Normal on the original game, and I found the original game difficult, so I stuck with Easy and I did well, though I did have issues when fighting the alternate ending of the game. Without spoilers, the final (bonus) fights are brutally hard and I just couldn’t handle them even with trying to sidestep the enemy.

I did mention it’s a Dungeons and Dragons style combat and of course, that means we have to level up our characters. In Legend of Grimrock 2 your stats are set at the beginning of the game but every time you level, you get a skill point and can use that to level up certain skills. Every character gets the same list of skills but it’s clear some are more suited to some classes.

For instance, unless you are already able to cast magic with your bare hands it’s rarely a good idea to take Concentration or any of the four types of magic for your character. Your back row characters should be looking more towards the magic skills and ranged skills (ranged weapon, throwing, or firearms) whereas your front characters will need to specialize in Light or Heavy Weapons, and Armor. There are a lot of interesting builds you can make with your characters, however, skill points are very rare, and leveling up doesn’t happen that often. By the end of the game, you start making your final choices realizing you may never get another skill point, and ultimately that eventually happens.

Still, the characters I developed were interesting. I had a heavy armor, light weapon human fighter, and a Minotaur Barbarian who used Heavy weapons, though had trouble hitting things so he got more stats in Accuracy. The Ranged Weapon Human Rogue was in the third slot, and of course, the Insect Wizard was in my last slot, casting mostly fire magic (Firebolt, Fireball, and Meteor Storm by the end of the game).

Each of these characters felt like they were mine. I had named them, developed them and designed their skills and inventory. While the game isn’t random and there’s not a lot of story in the game, there’s definitely a bond between you and your characters. You’ve seen them grow, it’s up to you to keep them alive.

The inventory is also important. For about half the game, Inventory space was plentiful. I always had room for more loot, whatever I found. But somewhere around the halfway mark, my first character became encumbered, and from there the rest of the game became decision after decision of what I should keep. At first, it was simply to jettison old armor that had no purpose, but before long I was choosing which weapons to hang on to, to leave a heavy iron cannon that I found behind (Yeah I shouldn’t have carried that) or even dumping a crate full of supplies I’ll never use.

Thank god for crystals.

By the end, the inventory management became THE game, and I have to admit, I like that it wasn’t a constant problem but an evolving problem that kept happening to me. It was frustrating but overall an interesting twist. Of course, having that Minotaur Barbarian probably saved me a lot of frustration as his extra strength (along with my fighter) meant I did have a lot more weight I could carry.

Food too became a problem. Again not one in the early game, and even the mid-game I seemed to have enough but by the end game, I was running out of food. This is mostly due to the locations I was going into not having enemies that drop food. That was a little more annoying than the weight, but again, a good system, though I would have liked to farm food a little easier.

In addition, both issues probably could have been done better with a shop in the game. Instead, I had no purpose to collect a second hat or an extra pair of boots. So I dropped them quickly and moved on.

Now there are a lot of dangers, both from failing puzzles (usually movement puzzles) and combat. Death is, of course, bad, however, the game allows you to heal yourself at crystals. There are giant glowing blue crystals all over the game, and when you heal yourself, it fixes your problems for free, repairing broken limbs, and returning you from the grave. It is a rather good system, though the crystals take time to recharge so you can’t abuse them without waiting. Overall though this is a solid part of the game that was in the original game as well and definitely helped me out (And I abused them a bit in the late game).

Crystals autosave as well, which is good, however, that’s the only part of the game that autosaves. I once played an hour or two of the second area and forgot I hadn’t saved in that time. Something bad happened and I died. I went back to the first area. That’s painful. I really like the game itself, but the loss when failing to manually save is a bit harsh. It’s something you just need to remember, but at least there is AN autosave even if only fires semi rarely.

I played a lot of Legend of Grimrock 2, putting in around 30 hours to get to the end of the game. I did leave the true ending off as mentioned above. But honestly, the amount of time that I put into this game is quite a bit. The thing is I enjoyed almost all my time. The “true final boss” was too annoying to be fun. Losing an hour of progress sucked, but I really enjoyed exploring the island and checking out all the places, and I used a guide for some of it. If I hadn’t tried to solve the puzzles would have taken me far more time, and I would have missed a bunch of stuff which meant I could replay it.

Overall I have to admit I like this game a lot. It’s great, but it’s not amazing. It’s more of what I expected when I played Legend of Grimrock, and it’s a huge improvement to the game, but it’s still a classic Dungeon Crawler. Ultimately it earns a …


Final Thoughts: A great sequel with some solid improvements over the first game. It’s new location really shines, and I really love the puzzles in this game. Though it’s a bit hard, it’s still very enjoyable.

Stats: 30 hours 40/60 achievements

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