Legend of Grimrock Retrospective

If you’re feeling a bit nostalgic, you might want to check out this recent Rock Paper Shotgun article that looks back at Legend of Grimrock, a game that may just be the best way to introduce someone to the dungeon-crawling sub-genre of RPGs, and its, and Dungeon Master’s before it, spectacular ability to bring multiple gaming generations together.

Here’s an excerpt to get you started:

My dad, as you might imagine would be necessary, was a far more patient man than me. Before he had his study, he had nowhere to play his games but what we optimistically called the “breakfast bar” in the kitchen. I’d pull a chair up and sit next to him, endlessly nagging to have a go, where he’d watched me ruin all his progress and probably find some peculiar way to overwrite all his savegames. One of the games I most strongly remember watching, from when I was 9 or 10, was Dungeon Master. I wrote all about the experience of watching dad’s hand trembling as he fought level 13’s dragon way back in 2009, so I won’t repeat it yet again. I don’t remember his ever complaining about the fiddlyness of the movement, the slow loading, the way it took so long for a door to chunk-chunk-chunk its way down. All things that’d drive me potty today. Of course, he also lacked awareness of anything else being possible, FTL’s Dungeon Master was a seriously cutting edge game in 1988.

Legend Of Grimrock streamlines every single thing I’d be making a fuss about. It’s just so supremely well put together, its tile-based movement never feeling restrictive, instead wonderfully flowing. Dancing around a skittish spider, lobbing in sword lashes and fireballs before frantically skipping left, forward, around, chopping with an axe… it all works so smoothly, making a once archaic approach to movement completely and utterly make sense. The levels are laid out with extraordinary economy of space, square paper maps looping around themselves, always interesting, never filling with dead space. Then it’s all smothered in puzzles, DM-style teleport gates, trapdoors in the floor to secret chambers, and best best best of all, hidden switches set into the textures of the walls.

But actually that’s not what’s best best best of all this time. Because this time, to my heart-bursting delight, the gorgeous face of my five-year-old appeared at my study door and said, “Daddy! Can I watch?!” “Sure!” I said, not noticing the generational timeloop as it was happening, and plonked him into the stool he sits in when joining me at the PC. It only hit me as I was playing, when he properly jumped in his seat at the first appearance of a spider. “Oh my goodness!” I thought in my head, and then my mind was just pictures and feelings, not words.