Legend of Grimrock, by Finnish developer Almost Human, puts you in control of four criminals trying to escape a mountain prison. Though rendered in full 3D, the gameplay uses grid movement and owes a lot to classic dungeon crawlers like Eye of the Beholder. At a glance, it’s easy to see Just-Another-Dungeon-Crawl. Don’t be fooled. Grimrock is playful, self-aware, and earnest. It is a heartfelt triumph by a small, passionate team.
I played Grimrock in February and March of 2013. I’m only now managing to write about it because it’s been hard to capture how it made me feel. Now, with a sequel approaching, I think I’ve got it: Rarely have I felt so accompanied while playing a game. That company (both real and fictional) transformed my experience.
Warning: This post contains spoilers for Legend of Grimrock.
Continue reading “Companions in Grimrock”
My wife dominated Valentine’s day this year. On top of buying me a pizza peel, she tracked down a new two-player card game. She surprised me with Morels, a light strategy game about gathering mushrooms in the woods. Ten rounds later, I think this game has our couples-game stamp of approval. Great work honey!
The first thing I noticed about Morels is that the game is saturated with theme. The rules, though verbose, were easy to pick up. All the game elements interact in simple, sensible ways. You pass mushrooms on your walk through the woods, picking choice fungi. Gather pans to cook mushrooms, baskets to carry more, and foraging sticks to reach deeper into the woods. It all works, and the game feels much like a woodland stroll.
On a mechanical, playable level there’s also a lot to love. Players only take action per turn and there are only two players, so that game moves at a nice clip for its relaxed feel. Analysis paralysis stays low as well – on their first turn a player usually has two or three possible moves. Later the possibility space can include more than ten moves, but two or three usually stand out. Since the game only ends when the draw deck is empty, play time is consistently 20-30 minutes. The only awkwardness is that you’ll often hold a hand of 12 or more cards in the latter half of the game, which can be hard to manage.
Player interaction consists of getting to resources first. Every move affects your opponent’s options in a predictable way, so choices are complex on every turn. Still, it’s not an aggressive game. It’s rare to find a game my wife likes this much. I suspect it will last a while in our house.