The Bestest Best Something In 2014: Legend Of Grimrock 2

Legend of Grimrock 2 sure was very good, everyone can agree. It took the style and mechanics of the original and expanded them in every direction, and the result is something that is definitely the best… something or other.

John: Ooh, this was a tough game. A lovely, tough game. Not just because it starts you off far too weak and dumps you in the middle of a vast labyrinth of levels with no sensible way to know which bits are going to be too difficult, but also because the puzzles require an extension be built on your brain.

I feel like I wrote my lungs out when reviewing the sequel back in October, but here I want to celebrate the way it scales. The original Grimrock used the classic Dungeon Master dungeon descent, and while there was some cause for backtracking, it was a predominantly and necessarily linear affair. This time out, it’s a sprawling outdoor mass, overwhelmingly huge, but really rather cleverly curated.

There’s no question that it can, at times, feel directionless. While it drops hints that if you’re really struggling with a section, you might want to come back to it later, it’s not clearly signposted which those are, and that can be frustrating. However, as you progress things begin to make more sense. You start to learn its ambiguous vocabulary, recognise your limitations, and drop notes on the map of places to come back to in a bit. And as you do, you realise the game is quietly evolving itself as you go along.

My favourite moment is a massive spoiler, so I can’t use it as an example. Curses. But instead I’ll talk about the rocket-launcher-weilding giant rat. When you encounter him as an end-of-dungeon boss, surrounded by a really quite worrying number of smaller rats, it feels nightmarishly tough. Working out how to cope with so many baddies moving in real-time, in the tile-based world, is a real education for the rest of the game, while wondering how you’ll ever actually kill this rocking-toting arsehole. So much, much later, when you encounter three of the bastards at once, along with literally dozens of other rats, you realise just how far you’ve come.

I love how the whole game, including older areas, scale up around you in such interesting ways. It pushes you, demands more of you, and expects you to be able to meet it. Which is so strikingly different to the norm in mainstream gaming now, which so commonly scales itself down to meet you where you started. Grimrock 2 is a really excellent thing, deeply unusual for its mix of classic late 80s mechanics and an extremely modern way of thinking. A real contender for my game of 2014.

Alec: I’ve only played about two hours of this due to babies/time, so please feel free to ignore almost everything I say about Grimrock 2. However, of everything in 2014 it’s the game I most hope to have time to return to. My time with it was like a lovely puzzley cuddle – the warmth of throwback familiarity paired with a certain awe at the size, scale and prettiness of the thing.

A Grimrock sequel didn’t have to leave the dungeon to earn fondness, but that it did, and that it did it so immediately and so impressively, made me love it from the first minutes. This is the very best thing that a game whose foundations are built from nostalgia can do – to escalate far beyond nostalgia and into a personality and a scope of its own.

Back to the complete bestest best PC games of 2014.

25 Comments

  1. Phinor says:

    My game of the year is between this and two other games. I’m perhaps ever so slightly leaning towards Grimrock 2 because it was truly excellent from start to finish. And to the second finish.

    Excellent category naming too.

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      basilisk says:

      The same for me; my GOTY is split between this and The Talos Principle. This was a good year for first-person puzzling.

      LoG2 is truly a fantastic game. I love how interconnected it is and how everything forms a cohesive whole in it; the premise, going for an entire island to explore instead of just one big dungeon, sounded like it could become one of those sprawling and shallow sequels to a smaller but focused original, but it survived the transformation without sacrificing any of its charm or depth and added this almost Dark Soulsian sense of place to it. Loved it.

    • B.rake says:

      Me three. Of the 6 or 7 games released in ’14 I’ve played, Grimrock 2 is arguably my favorite, and I’ve only made it through a few areas . The two Endless games would be my other contenders, and I’ve spent more time with them, but Grimrock is like a hearty slab of Game compared with what I found to be their more nebulous delights. Though, I do find the wandering around/forgetting what I should be doing a bit annoying for something otherwise honed (if there’s another iteration I wouldn’t mind a ‘noob mode’ that automagically marks up the map with points of significance).

      Totally agree that the mazelike interconnectedness and sense of place is very evocative of Dark Souls- or maybe it’s the other way around, always felt a bit like DS took a lot of its cues from dungeon crawlers, similar tingly vibes I hadn’t really felt since I was a kid trying Eye of the Beholder or Shadowgate.

  2. robiwag75 says:

    Interesting game

  3. J. Cosmo Cohen says:

    I said before that I’d only buy MGS Ground Zeroes during the Steam sale. That’s because I forgot about this. I hope it goes up for a daily sale tomorrow, I can hardly wait.

  4. MrThingy says:

    Still making my way through this. I love the coastal bits, the water is just <3 (for an old fart like me, it's like the scenery in Ishar… but animated). However, taking it out of the dungeon has left me a little bewildered at times, wandering through forests and what have you.

    I liked being inside… I don't like change… .____.

  5. huldu says:

    I think the game was okay. A bit too simple for my taste but still not bad. You might look at this post and think that I’m crazy, and no, it’s just that I actually experienced these games back in the days. While it may be a very long time ago but even back then they delivered some crazy(good) things with worse(obviously) graphics than today. But the gameplay just can’t be matched, even today. If you really enjoy this type of game I recommend you go look back at some old games if you don’t mind the “bad” graphics. They kinda make this game look quite “simple”.

    • MirzaGhalib says:

      I understand your point. Even so, I still loved Grimrock 2. It didn’t have the depth of the old first-person dungeon crawlers, but I wouldn’t call it simple. That said, I never once struggled with the map in Grimrock 2 and could easily do the no automap mode, unlike many of the older RPGs. Wizardry 7 comes to mind. Everybody should at least play Wizardry 7! Probably my favorite RPG ever made.

  6. kwyjibo says:

    “Best something or other” should have featured on the 23rd to give more mystery to the final two.

  7. almostDead says:

    Too hard.

  8. piedpiper says:

    I enjoyed it much less thah the original. Reasons:
    1. Puzzles. I loved them in the first game, but in the sequel they become really tediious by the end. Even to the point of being idiotic.
    2. Enemies. Too little types of them. Cemetery and pyramid are the most obvious examples of lack of diversity.
    3. The difficulty of battles is only about how fast you can dodge and strafe. Annoying and stupid.
    4. A little bit too long. When i got out of that pyramid to the big desert with hordes of mummies the game already overstayed it’s welcome.
    5. Too much time i felt lost. Without clear understanding where to go first and what to do it’s becoming an annoying theing really fast. I like big open worlds, but here with a ton of unclear puzzles I often did not realise am I done with area or am i missed something really important. And it’s huge so going back for some gems become a real pain in the ass.
    Overall I loved the first LoG. The second is great too but very often it felt tedious and repetitive. Such big open worlds with such unclear puzzles and so little diversity in enemies is not a great idea. Linearity and compactness of the first game wins over directionless and gigantic world of the second. And battles on the hard are not hardcore – they are plainly irritating exercise in dodging hits witchout real using of brain which is bad for RPG.
    PS. Balance of the role system is far from perfect too. Guns are useless.

    • Jalan says:

      Your third point was present in the first as well. Maybe you were hoping they’d managed to “fix” it with this one?

  9. B.rake says:

    For Bestest Best Something or Other, think I might’ve chosen Transistor, it sort of demands an award but there aren’t any categories I can imagine it really deserves one in, other than being Something or Other. (too light for tactics, bit too plodding/repetitive for action/combat, too cloying for worldbuilding and there being no category for Bestest Best Pretty).

    • Thurgret says:

      They only came up with the categories after picking the games.

  10. daphne says:

    A very interesting choice. Mostly because I was expecting Dungeon of the Endless for this spot, but seeing this, it may well be GOTY.

    • B.rake says:

      I’d figured there isn’t enough room to contain two entire endlessnesses in one list, but that would be a nice surprise.

  11. Caiman says:

    Yay! Best fantastic sequel to an already great game, is what I would have called it.

  12. Myrdinn says:

    I’d love to play this but keep remembering that the combat is not turn based. The first one seemed my cup of tea but I couldn’t get myself to enjoy the combat. Is this one any better?

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      basilisk says:

      The combat is more or less the same. The enemies are more varied and have a few new tricks up their collective sleeves, but it’s roughly the same thing as it was, still the same kiting square dance. But there’s an easy difficulty option (which I think the first game didn’t have?), which may help if you don’t like this kind of thing.

  13. Shardz says:

    I still haven’t finished the first one yet…

  14. Faxanadu says:

    Someone make a mod with 360 movement and I’m all over this.

    • B.rake says:

      You can move in any direction without having to be looking in that direction… I guess you mean getting rid of the tile based movement? It’s really not bad, I hadn’t played one of these games in years and adjusted quickly. The most annoying things for me are being unable to move while looking around, and having to use RMB to swivel the camera rather than a key (fortunately most of the environmental queues are fairly noticable without having to inspect every crevice). An FPS style mouse controlled camera would be tough while controlling four characters, though maybe workable using a bunch of key assignments (you’d basically need 16 keys to utilize the full range of attacks, plus completely change the spellcasting mechanic) or some kind of switchable mode that returns the traditional view for combat.

      It really is a fun game, though- worth the minor annoyances if you find it enticing imo.

  15. Voqar says:

    I never finished the first one as I just don’t like the combat system in the game, too twitchy and spammy for me. So, not even considering the second until I can get it for $-3 on sale, if even then. But I’m glad a lot of people like it as I’d rather see interesting RPGs made than more corporate console crap.