The Great Outdoors: Legend Of Grimrock 2

By Adam Smith on March 26th, 2013 at 3:00 pm.

Look at that! It’s the first screenshot from Legend of Grimrock 2 and it’s one of the worst pictures of a dungeon I’ve ever seen, right up there with the Mona Lisa and Magritte’s not-a-pipe-nor-a-dungeon. After creating some top notch dank dungeons for their first RPG, Almost Human appear to have slipped up and the dungeons in Grimrock 2 will apparently contain some trees and blue skies, and crenellated turrets peering from on high, just around the next bend in the path. Of course, it’s entirely possible that the picture isn’t a dungeon at all and that the game is undergoing a design overhaul. Let’s consult the development blog.

I raised more than a brow (a glass, you rascal) when I saw the word Grimrogue in a recent Almost Human blog entry discussing two abandoned prototypes.

Everybody loves a good roguelike, right? Antti and I are big fans of roguelike games here at the office, so it was only natural that this idea, the amalgamation of a roguelike game with Grimrock, has popped up every now and then in our discussions. After all, the tile-based nature of Grimrock seems to be a perfect match with roguelike game design.

With this design levels would be procedurally generated, with some custom made levels here and there. Turn-based combat would probably work better than pure realtime. We even made a quick prototype entitled Grimrogue with turn-based combat and a minimap in one corner of the screen.

The problems were twofold – turn-based combat reduced the number and impact of tactical decisions in the first-person perspective, and the mini-map became the most important visual in the game, reducing the 3d world to a gimmick. Also, even if the game worked well, “it wouldn’t have been Grimrock”.

Back to the drawing board then.

Another concept which we tried to make work really hard was travelling in many locations around the Northern Realms, the world of Grimrock. We were initially really excited about this idea, and we made a prototype of the world map, with towns, villages and adventuring locations. There would have been a storyline that ties the main locations together much like the main quest in many RPGs.

In the prototype, the party could travel between the map nodes and choose where to go next. Towns and other encounters were menu based “resource management nodes” and adventuring locations were dungeons with puzzles and monsters. We were so happy about this design that we were about to write a lengthy blog post about it, when doubts began to haunt our heads.

For the rest, the entire post is here, including the details about that second concept. The good news, Almost Human say, is that they’ve settled on a design now and that first screenshot above is part of the plan. Outdoor areas then, which I seem to remember Dungeon Master and Eye of the Beholder also explored in their first sequels. As for the rest, we’ll have to wait and see.

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56 Comments »

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  1. Sigvatr says:

    It’s not going to be a real roguelike unless you can pick up a cockatrice corpse while wearing gloves and swing it around to turn your enemies into stone.

    • wcq says:

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that means there’s precisely one real roguelike in the world.

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      Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      Surely that would leave you wearing stone gloves? I fail to see how that would be in any way a good idea.

      • Bhazor says:

        Pah, gloves? Real men just stare a cockatrice down and tell them what to do.

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          Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

          YOU! Just who do you think you are, going around turning others into stone? You should be ashamed of yourself! I have half a mind to find your mother and tell her what you’ve been up to, young man!

      • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

        The Thing says ‘Give me my hands back and pass me that back scratcher’

      • Exkaiser says:

        Only if you’re wearing gloves made of living flesh. Which may or may not be in fashion this season.

    • noom says:

      Doing this, and then falling into a hidden pit, smacking myself in the face with said cockatrice, then shattering upon hitting the floor remains to be my favourite death in Nethack.

      • Bweahns says:

        It normally takes a couple of turns to turn to stone no? I fell down some stairs the first time I wielded a cockatrice corpse and learnt my lesson.

    • Bweahns says:

      I just want to be able to choke on a newt corpse after becoming satiated.

  2. BobbyDylan says:

    Puurrdy

    • bfandreas says:

      In may ways this doesn’t remind me of Eye of the Beholder 3 outdoor areas at all.

  3. mouton says:

    Very nice. Please make the combat system less stupid, though.

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      slerbal says:

      No offence, but personally I hope they keep the combat system identical. I think it was very much core to my enjoyment of the game. That said if they found some way to please us both, so much the better :)

      • mouton says:

        Legend of Grimrock combat system algorithm:

        If you have an enemy in a 2×2 space, you win.
        If, for any reason, you cannot move away from the enemy, you lose.

        In Eye of the Beholder games, for example, such situations were extremely rare.

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          JamesTheNumberless says:

          People have become obsessed with grinding, and stats, and character builds. What most RPG fans really want these days is a good accountancy package with some graphics thrown in. The worst thing I think they did with the combat system in Grimrock was making concessions to these people by including skill trees and a generic class/experience system. Because of this Grimrock is, I think, stuck on wanting to provide lots of enemies to fight to justify the class/skill system. So there are lots of large rooms where this is made easy. What I would like to see them do better in the sequel is utilize dungeon design more cleverly, as in DM and EotB so that when the monsters do appear, big rooms in which it’s easy to do the “square dance” tactic are more sparsely available. Both games were full of scenarios where you could run away from powerful foes but usually in a situation where it wasn’t advantageous to let your enemy gain ground on you – so you had to stand your ground more often. Examples include the drow levels in the first EotB and the death knights in DM. Of course, there are exceptions. The square dance was the only way to deal with beholders in EotB II and the only effective way to fight purple worms at a low levels in DM – besides of course dropping a door on them! :) The most memorable bits of all three games are where you encounter powerful enemies in long tight corridors, or situations where your escape route is cut off by more enemies.

          However, once you got to the end of EotB II and fought the final boss, the big surprise was that he could thwart the square dance tactic… Quite how he did it I’m not sure, I think he just sped up at random points in the final battle. Really came as a shock though and was something I really thought A-H would pick up on when designing the AI for their tougher monsters in Grimrock.

          So I think the combat system is not broken, making it turn based would suck all of the suspense and atmosphere out of the game, getting it right is a matter of better AI and tighter dungeons – and less of a reliance on encounters with large groups of monsters.

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            Shaid says:

            Spoilers for a twenty year old game below; beware!

            Once Dran transforms into his red dragon form, he can sidestep, just like you. You could still purple worm two-step him, but it was much harder.

          • Bhazor says:

            “you could still purple worm two-step him,”

            Well there’s no need for that type of language young man.

          • b0rsuk says:

            I’m not “most RPG fans”. Here, I rendered the rest of your post irrelevant.

    • Grey Poupon says:

      This is exactly the reason I hoped they would make a turn-based version of it. Saying it wouldn’t work doesn’t make much sense since it’s worked in the past. Saying the 3d view would be more of a gimmick with it doesn’t make much sense to me either. You’d need the view as much as you do now. Mostly to spot the enemies and secrets and stuff.

      I’ve preferred turn-based dungeon crawlers since I was a kid and it’s too late to change that now. That said, everything else about Grimrock was great.

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        JamesTheNumberless says:

        There are two turn based 1st person Dungeon crawlers I absolutely loved – Shining in the Darkness and Might and Magic IV. (never really got into Wizardry) Yet I think they suffered in a lot of ways in comparison with DM and Eye of the Beholder for not being realtime. The atmosphere being the main thing that was missing. The puzzles were of a different sort, and not really up to par, there were always maps (less so in Shining, which is where it had the edge over M&M) and the dungeons in themselves were less at the fore of gameplay. In the vast majority of RPGs made after 1995, dungeons are either frustrating mazes, or backdrops, and are just there to be navigated through, rarely something enjoyable in themselves – and turn based games always focus on tactical combat. Maybe my definition of dungeon crawler is different from yours. Dungeon crawlers to me are games like DM and EotB, and no other style cuts it. Roguelikes like Angband and Nethack aren’t dungeon crawlers. There’s a definite branching between realtime (DM, EotB, Ishar, Knightmare, LoL) and turn-based (M&M, Wizardry, Shining). With the realtime games feeling more authentic. Anything not on a grid, is not a dungeon crawler – and nothing in gaming will ever be as good as playing Dungeon Master on the Atari ST when you’re 8 years old ;)

  4. Niko says:

    So it might be something like one of those SSI’s games, Menzoberranzan, Ravenloft: Strahd’s Possession, or Stone Prophet? I’m up for it!

  5. Lemming says:

    Know this:

    The camera-angle in that screenshot will never been seen in-game! BULLSHOT! :)

  6. guygodbois00 says:

    More character classes and weapons and skills and …

  7. rockman29 says:

    I like Grimrock. I’m not a fan of fully turn-based games, just too tedious for me. Most of the RPGs I like are active-time-battle based. And I also like real-time RTS games. Grimrock has always fit really well with me by being a realtime strategy dungeon crawler :)

  8. ScubaMonster says:

    I totally disagree about turn based somehow taking away from the game. I hate the skating around mechanic to avoid getting killed. For dungeon crawlers I just prefer turn based.

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    ChainsawHands says:

    Going down the rogue route would have really been stabbing their fans in the back.

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      slerbal says:

      I see what you did there, or at lease I would have if you hadn’t criticalled your sneak test…

  10. bitbot says:

    Nice. I hope they keep the combat system exactly as it was because I liked it.

  11. Snids says:

    You! Stab!
    You! Stab!
    You! Stab!
    You! Wave torch at the back.

    • Bhazor says:

      Reminds me of an old school RPG where one character class was basically a cheerleader and would start different cheers or chants each turn. Like a bard but far dumber.

  12. Mario Figueiredo says:

    Seems an ideal development to me. Outdoor areas intersected with dungeons is as old as the SSI Gold Box games. Also ideal stuff for modders, since this does seem to imply the engine will be fine tuned and the current assets limitations in the engine will be loosened.

    In fact, it’s very hard for Almost Human to go wrong with it if they stick to the first game formula. They may even produce a sufferable quest for Legend of Grimrock 2. But they have built something even more precious; a veritable game creator for old school RPGs. LoG is so moddable I can’t think of calling it any other thing. A truly brilliant game engine for anyone out there.

  13. Finjy says:

    Dancing back and forth as an abstracted nebulous multi-being to avoid enemy attacks as a party was less strategic than it was obnoxious and reaching. I’d prefer a fancy turn based system to it easily. But, at the same time. I would probably also prefer a top-down perspective; it feels like it would work better for controlling a party that didn’t all occupy the same square.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Yeah, I dunno what the fascination is with incredibly awkward action games. Grimrock was very pretty, but the combat was an awful clickfest. Though it would’ve been significantly better if they’d just balanced the game so that movement during combat was impossible or severely penalized.

      • Hoaxfish says:

        I can handle a lot of clicking, but it was the constant respositioning (to avoid mostly lethal attacks) and time-pressured spellcasting (without any sort of “last used” or spellbook to shortcut it) that made it a real bore.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Attacking sideways (ogre), monsters that strafe (Uggard and crabs), some manner of evading monsters (archers) were pretty much the extent of what Legend of Grimrock offered in terms of strategic combat. I’ll agree there. Mods that upped the game difficult invariably also did it simply by buffing monsters or making them faster. Also too true.

      But I do think there’s many elements to Legend of Grimrock combat mechanics still to be explored. The environment alone has a great deal to say on how a battle can evolve. But a better monster AI that behaves closer to how a player would can introduce more exciting combat than a monster that just accepts punishment and doesn’t move if we don’t.

      But a lot more too. Teleporting mobs, invisible mobs, mobs that can attack diagonally, mobs that can reach the back rank, mobs that can disarm, multiple attack mobs (front, back, side facing), mobs that slow, environment that slows, all are just a tiny portion of examples of the back of my head that can add to the tactical complexity and depth of Legend of Grimrock combat system.

      It needs to be said that all those things are already possible right now. It’s just that the one thing modders didn’t explore yet is the existing ability to create new monsters and script more intelligent behavior. Likewise, Almost Human didn’t fully showcase the combat mechanics. I think LoG combat mechanics have all that is required for exciting possibilities. The game doesn’t need to turn into a turn-based system in order for combat to be more satisfying. It just needs to explore more what is already there.

  14. kalirion says:

    Doesn’t need to be a pure rogue-like. Dungeon Hack was just fine at melding Eye of the Beholder with the rogue-like formula.

  15. abandonhope says:

    The first prototype sounds something like Malevolence, which seemed nice on paper but wasn’t particularly compelling when last I played the beta. I’m glad they abandoned it

  16. omicron1 says:

    I think roguelike could’ve worked if they forewent the turn-based aspect and kept the map as a separate screen/item. No need to take the archaic portions of the model when the real joy lies in the identification game, the adaptive survival/combat, and the constant threat of severe setback.

    Seriously, Nethack could work just as well in Grimrock tile-move first person. No need for minimaps.

  17. RProxyOnly says:

    Proceedural generation. I can’t say those word inspire me with faith.

  18. Moraven says:

    Makes me think of Etrian Odyssey from 1-4.

    1 – Down into the Labyrinth!
    2 – Up the Tree into the Sky!
    3 – A boat and the high seas!
    4 – Airship and the Skys the limit!

    5 – ???????? Calling it now… Spaceeeeee.

    • squareking says:

      But Strange Journey went there first! Well technically that was an alternate universe, but still.

  19. zaarin_2003 says:

    Hmmm. Me no like.

    For me, Eye of the Beholder 2 is the top of the pile of this particular genre. There is a brief ‘outdoor’ area for the first five mins of the game, but its nothing more than a corridor with trees for walls and leaves for ceiling. It’s a novel little opening to the game and then you get stuck into the lovely dungeons.

    EOTB3 stuffed up with its dodgy wide open outdoor bits (still really just trees for walls, but for much much wider corridors). It was rubbish because tile based movement makes sense in the confines of graph paper mapped corridors. But in a much wider area its just frustrating that you have to walk in straight lines with only 90 degree turns. Because you can only look 4 ways its easy to get lost too. You feel like you’re a particularly dodgy shopping trolley, stuck in a large warehouse with a sky painted on the ceiling. Duff.

    • bfandreas says:

      There were a lot of spots in EoB3 where you couldn’t see the walls(well, hedge) at all. They simply weren’t rendered.
      Judging by the screenshot above they pretty much nailed vegetation in a grid-based game.
      I like that notion.

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      JamesTheNumberless says:

      The dodgy wide indoor bits in EOB3 were a mistake too… Come to think of it, everything was bad in EOB3 except for the slightly updated graphics and massively updated sound. Was the beginning of the end for Grid based RPGs, but still not as disappointing as DM2 managed to be. My favourite of the lot is the original Dungeon Master but maybe a lot of that is because it was my first. EotB II came just at the right time for me to be really interested in D&D and is definitely one of my favourite games of all time too. One of the coolest things about the EotB games was that they came with substantial manuals that contained all the reference material you really needed to play 2nd edition pen&paper AD&D :)

    • MellowKrogoth says:

      Lands of Lore is in my book miles ahead of EoB2, and it has a great variety of environments including outdoors. It’s the golden standard in term of plot, voice acting and graphics that I hope Grimrock and sequels might eventually reach.