Legend of Grimrock 2 - The sequel to an incredible Dungeon Crawler [Review]

Legend of Grimrock 2 is an old-school grid-based first-person dungeon crawler all wrapped up in state of the art visuals and high quality audio. The first game was a huge success story and it resurrected the grid-based first-person dungeon crawler genre and brought it up into the light. It gave fans of the genre a much appreciated blast from the past, and introduced it to a new generation of crawlerheads. In my world only one type of dungeon crawler exist; the grid-based first-person one. I have played virtually every dungeon crawler since the early 80’s, so when I was asked to review Grimrock 2, I was all over it like white on rice!

Not since the third instalment of the critically acclaimed Eye of the Beholder series have I felt such a surreal mix of excitement and apprehension prior to a new release. Eye of the Beholder III turned out to be a huge disappointment (understatement of the year), and I prayed that this would not be the case with Grimrock 2!

After I installed it through the Steam client I must've sat ~10 minutes just staring at the play button. Part of me felt like a child with only one piece of candy left, afraid to eat it, because it meant that it was all over, while the other part feared that the game would not live up to my high expectations.

Eventually I did click the button, which is good, or else this would be a really short game review.

After literally only a few seconds of loading you arrive at the main menu, which is not only the fastest loading main menu I can remember, but also the most beautiful one! It shows you floating above a misty ocean with the Isle of Nex and (what looks like could be) Mount Grimrock towering in the horizon. I sat mesmerized for a while just admiring the visuals and listening to the great orchestral theme song.

When I finally managed to snap out of it, I had a look at the options screen. It has most of the same choices as the precursor, except they removed the autosave option. The game still autosaves, you just don’t have a choice in the matter. They have also added the option to enable one-click spell casting, which means that you no longer have to click the Cast spell button after selecting a sequence of runes -- the spell is cast immediately. I really missed this setting in the first game, because in the heat of combat it felt cumbersome with that extra mouse click.

Grimrock 2 comes with a dungeon editor and an option to load and play custom dungeons, but I have not had a chance to try that yet, so it will not be covered in this review.

When starting a new game there are a couple of options to consider. You can select a preset game difficulty which scales monster damage, speed and aggressiveness in combat. For added difficulty you can choose Ironman mode, which means that you will only be able to save your game at healing crystals (they are pretty scarce by the way). If you feel extra daring you can set it so that healing crystals may only be used once. For me, the game is hard enough without the added difficulty, but it might suit some of you hardcore diehards :).

As in the first game you may choose to play in old-school mode, which means that you won’t be able to use automatic mapping. I prefer to do my own mapping, so I am very pleased that they left that option in.

I was happy to see that you can import characters from the first game. If you’d rather start new, or if you never played the first game you can of course create a brand new party. For the impatient ones, Almost Human added the option to use a predetermined party.

The character creation screen has received a slight face-lift and restructuring. They added more traits, skills and character classes to choose from. They have also added a new race, Ratling, which seems like a good fit for rogues.

There's one new character class worth mentioning and that is the farmer. This is one hilarious class and it changes the whole dynamics of the game. As a farmer you don't gain much experience by killing monsters but instead from eating food. It says in the class description that you will be able to dig ditches for irrigation and grow pitplants to eat, but I never played as a farmer long enough to find out if that is indeed true. Early on you will find a shovel, which can be used for digging up treasures, and perhaps ditches? Other than that you need to gather food off monsters you kill or whatever you can find lying around. One of these days I'll be creating four farmers and go on a crazy farming spree!

You can now roll the dice and randomize your character, which is a nice touch.

As for the story, well… It’s slightly better and a little more involving than in the first game. Everything takes place on a secluded island, the Isle of Nex, where a party of four prisoners (you) has ended up after a shipwreck. As you journey through the island the rest of the story unfold via written notes from someone called The Island Master.

The movement is of the classic grid-based variety that we know and love but with smooth transition between squares. You move using mapped keys (it defaults to WSAD but it can be remapped) or by clicking the on-screen arrow icons, if you enabled that in options.

Like classic dungeon crawlers before it, fighting in Grimrock 2 is done by clicking your character’s two action buttons, one for each hand, or by casting spells. You cast spells by swiping a sequence of runes, which is same as in the first game, except now you have the choice to enable one-click spell casting like I mentioned before. This means at the end of a swipe, the spell is cast.

The combat takes place in real-time, which means that if you stand around picking your nose, you will die, and you will die with your finger up your nose -- which is not a very dignified way to go.

The first game got quite a bit of criticism for the monster behavior in combat. You could easily defeat even the toughest monsters by attacking, sidestepping (going in a circle), waiting until monster follows you and attack again -- rinse and repeat.

The monster AI has been rewritten entirely for this game and monsters appear to be smarter now in some situations, and they are showing quite the repertoire of tricks. However, it is still far too easy to kill many of them using the same technique as in the first game. I noticed that sometimes a monster hesitates to follow you, breaking the attack-and-sidestepping cycle, but eventually it will move and you are back to rinsing and repeating. Still, there is a level of intensity to the combat, and some of the encounters are so tough that you need to give it your best shots, run away, patch your wounds and then go back for more.

Sometimes it feels like more of a modern first-person shooter game when you strafe around, dodging missiles or spells and landing the odd blow.

Where the events in the first game only took place inside a dungeon, Grimrock 2 features a perfect blend of above-ground areas and dungeons -- each stylistically different. The journey takes you crawling below and above ground, under water, in a graveyard, swamp, ruins, pyramid, forest and many other unique areas.

If you didn't choose to play in old-school mode you will have access to an automatically generated map. The map is very nicely detailed and it lets you put markers on locations worth remembering.

One thing worth noting is that the game is not paused while viewing the map, which I found out the hard way!

Like the first game, Grimrock 2 focuses heavily around puzzles, hidden switches and secrets. Some puzzles are really ingenious (and difficult) and you get a strong sense of accomplishment when you figure them out. Sometimes I was really stuck, and almost gave up hope. Because I played a reviewer’s copy of a yet to be released game there were no point looking for help in Google :).

The graphics, oh the graphics! It almost brings a tear to an old crawlerhead’s eye that someone invested so much time and resources making such a visually stunning dungeon crawler. Every new area or dungeon that I entered left me gawking at the spectacular visuals. Rather than using Unity, the game engine that seems to be the common denominator among indie developers nowadays, Almost Human has cooked up their own engine -- and what a great job they did! The attention to detail is mind-boggling. The first game looked great but Grimrock 2 looks downright fantastic!

Apart from the opening and ending score (which is of epic proportions!) there are no background music. Where similar games play a number of more or less annoying tunes on repeat, you will now hear atmospheric and eerie ambient soundscapes. This works very well to reinforce the intensity and suspense. In fact, on some occasions I had to lower the volume because it was too scary!

Grimrock 2 offers hours upon hours of intense crawler fun the first time around, and with the special farmer class it's definitely worth giving it a second play through. It changes how you play the game quite a bit and makes it a lot more difficult. Beyond that, I don’t see that there is much more replay value in there for me, after completing the game. It’s like watching a really great movie, perhaps the greatest movie ever, I still would not want to view it again immediately -- but maybe in a few years when the game is considered retro.

If the above-ground areas and dungeons were random generated then it would add a much greater replay value. Playing it a second time you’ll know about the puzzles, secrets and which enemies lurk behind which corner. Community created dungeons will certainly add to the replay value, and I hope there will be many custom dungeons available before long.

Whether you are completely new to this genre of games, or a seasoned crawlerhead like me, this is a game you need to pick up and play! Sure, there are still some minor issues such as combat being a little too easy at times, but I am willing to overlook that and embrace the dungeon (and surface) crawling masterpiece that is Legend of Grimrock 2.

To crawl or not to crawl is certainly not the question. You should crawl, and crawl hard, in the most intense, visually advanced and perfectly polished old-school dungeon crawler to date!

Available to pre-order from the main Website , GOG.com , Steam or the Humble Store : Release date: October 15th 2014

Reviewed by:
@zooperdan of dungeoncrawlers.org - "Online database for classic and modern first-person grid-based dungeon crawler games"


  1. Awesome, the first on was a great game

  2. Great review, are there any special deals?

  3. -15% off so far :)


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