Legend of Grimrock was never built from the ground up as a roleplaying experience meant for tablet devices. Originally, when the game launched in early 2012, developer Almost Human prided themselves on reviving long-forgotten tenets and traditions of the genre. By looking to the past as a source of inspiration, they were able to craft a game that felt both refreshing and nostalgic, rallying a loyal cohort of PC gamers in the process.
With the tablet gaming market flooded with match-three puzzlers, card battlers, and online strategy games, it’s sometimes hard to forget that there is in fact room for larger, more substantial gaming experiences. Alongside memorable hits such as Infinity Blade and Oceanhorn, we’ve seen a string of ports from both PC and consoles. For many of these pre-existing titles, the jump to touchscreen devices has been a tough one, often marred by the need to completely alter their control schemes.
Luckily, Legend of Grimrock doesn’t suffer this same fate. Although hardcore in its nature, the game’s simple foundations allow it to transition to tablet almost perfectly. In fact, many of those unaware the game had already launched on PC three years ago would no doubt mistake it for a title exclusive to iPad.
Favouring gameplay over laboured scene-setting, Grimrock kicks off with a brief bit of exposition. You, the player, command a small band of convicts who are effectively sent to their deaths. Your adventure begins after being dropped from an airship and into the depths of the game’s titular mountain. It’s a foul place with strange and terrifying creatures lurking in every shadow. As prisoners, your only hope of salvation is to reach the peak. The thing is, no-one has ever made it to the top alive.
Legend of Grimrock is heavily evocative of retro dungeon crawlers mainly thanks to its first person perspective. You may think that it’s a strange design choice yet in Grimrock it works incredibly well. As you ascend the mountain, you’ll encounter numerous levels that are broken up using a square grid. Each time you move from space to space, your entire party will follow in tow, moving and viewing their surroundings as one cohesive unit.
Whenever an enemy stands in a player’s path, they can tap four icons, each one triggering an attack action that will recharge over time. What attacks these are depend solely on your characters’ equipment, ranging from spears and throwing knives, to mauls and spell staffs. Their prowess in combat is further defined by any abilities or stat bonuses purchased with experience points.
Aside from waves of enemies, Grimrock will also throw the occasional puzzle into the mix. Although most of these are fairly simple, they each bring an interactive element that helps to further ground the in-game world. Furthermore, finding the exit to each level becomes a puzzle within itself. Luckily, where backtracking is often a tedious experience, Grimrock remedies this issue with a handy map which players can scribble notes on.
It manages to keep things fresh thanks to a constant circulation of challenges to overcome and enemies to face. This, combined with players’ inevitable urges to find new loot and upgrade their characters creates a compelling reason for them to carry on.
All in all, Legend of Grimrock is a surprising treat for tablet gamers. Developer Almost Human has managed to flawlessly take the game from its PC roots and make it feel at home on touchscreen devices without losing a shred of fidelity in the process. For lovers of classic roleplaying games it’s an absolute must while also serving as a worthwhile timesink for more casual fans of the genre.