Legend of Grimrock 2 delivers that old school gaming experience plenty of people who played in the ’90s miss. Immersive puzzles pull you through the mysterious island you’ve found yourself trapped on, forcing you to find a way out.
It’s a trip into the nostalgic, with cinematics that keep it just modern enough. You aren’t going to see any amazing character designs or action sequences here. That’s not what this game is about. But, you will get to enjoy a puzzle adventure game with fighting and exploration unlike anything else on the market these days.
You and a handful of prisoners have been kept locked in a cage on the lower deck of a ship. While at sea, a powerful storm strikes. What happens to the rest of the crew is unknown, but by the time the storm breaks your cage has washed up on the beach.
As you and your three companions break out of your prison, you begin to explore the island. You discover that this is more than just a deserted place in the middle of nowhere. Someone has been here before, someone who set up a maze of secrets. And if you want to survive here, you have to solve them.
The goal of the game is simple. Find your way off the island and survive what it throws at you. It’s easier said than done, and there are two primary tasks you have to complete on your way forward.
There are some basic battle features in the game. You and two of your teammates are capable of fighting with wielded weapons. The weapons are basic and restricted to sticks and swords. You can also give one of them a ranged weapon so they can attack from behind.
Your formation is limited to a two-by-two grid, so it’s best to have two ranged attackers in back. Your fourth party member is skilled in magic, so best to keep him at that.
You fight giant turtles, zombies, and all manner of other creatures as you weave your way through this place. But the real focus is on finding hidden keys. These allow you to discover what objects will unlock sections of the island when placed in specific spots. Sparkling blue tiles teleport you to new areas; keys unlock walls. Carefully placed rocks weigh down tiles that raise iron bars blocking your path.
In addition to locked doors and mysterious statues, you’ll find the occasional note placed around the island. These may give you clues as to where a treasure is buried, or contain the only hint you’ll get at what you need to do in order to pass a seemingly impassible area.
A modern retro experience
One of the primary differences between any modern game and games that came out decades ago is ease of play. Now, when you start a game you’re given instructions. There’s a small walkthrough that teaches you which button performs which action, how to interact with the world around you, and what kind of in-game features you have access to.
Legend of Grimrock 2 provides you with none of that. There is no narration, no dialogue, and no introspection. As a player, you simply wake up in a cage on a beach with no idea what buttons on your keyboard perform which function. You aren’t given a quest list or a task you have to complete. You have no direction, no instructions. You’re simply let loose on this island to explore and do your best to unlock its secrets.
The second standout retro feature in Legend of Grimrock 2 is the method by which you fight. There are no assigned hot keys. You manually click on the individual attack tiles and hope you can coordinate all four in time to take your enemy down.
Some players may find this unnecessarily difficult and frustrating, but those who spent years building up these rusty skills will be excited at the opportunity to work them out again.
In a world where games straddle multiple genres to keep the interest of a large player base, Legend of Grimrock 2 keeps it simple. The down side is it has a smaller audience of potential players. Games like Mass Effect or Kingdom Hearts cater to RPG and sci-fi fans as well as people who are into shooters, strong character development, and franchises. Legend of Grimrock 2 will only really pull in those who want to play an old-fashioned Myst-type game where you’re left to fend for yourself to work through the mysteries of this isle.
But, the upside to this focus is that it has honed these features to a razor-sharp level of detail and accuracy. The funding for this game was completely dedicated to designing an intricate system of tricks and traps to keep your brain on the edge of its seat while you play.
This makes Legend of Grimrock 2 a must-buy for those afternoons when you want to work your brain through a system of survival-based puzzles. If nothing else, this is one game to put on your Steam wishlist to pick up during the next sale.