Our beaten, bloodied and bruise party stood before the gold-trimmed door, attempting to unravel the secret means of accessing the treasures beyond it. Decimated after a fierce battle with skeletal knights, we should be making haste to the nearest healing stone, but we'd caught the whiff of treasure, and there was no turning back.
The battle had taken its toll. Our Minotaur fallen, our Magic-User utterly exhausted, and our sole remaining Warrior on the precipice of death; rest and recuperation was desperately needed, but that door-that glorious door. Surely there would be no harm in taking a peek.
Finally we discerned the secret means of unlocking the portal, and as the heavy doors swung wide our minds reeled with possibilities. Was it treasure? Food? Magical scrolls? The stone slid aside to reveal…
…four more skeletal warriors. And that's how the energy drink got all over my desk.
When I was a much younger man I reveled in the anxious fear that washed over me every time I played a first-person 3D dungeon crawler like Dungeon Master, Wizardry, or Eye of the Beholder. Though primitive, that immediate view and the hint of danger lurking around every corner terrified me in a wonderful way. The thought that—at any moment—my carefully cultivated party of four could be laid waste at the hands of some hideous beast caused more than a few panicked blind runs through dark and musty catacombs.
I thought I was immune to this sort of succulent terror. That delicious tension replaced by the cheap scares of today's more "advanced" titles.
Almost Human's Legend of Grimrock proved me wrong.
As advertised, Legend of Grimrock is an old-school dungeon crawler with updated graphics. You either create or accept a pre-made group of four adventures and delve into the depths of a multi-floored dungeon, putting your party at risk on square at a time.
You put the warriors in the front, the caster and rogue in the back. When monsters appear you hightail it to the nearest dead end to make sure nothing sneaks up behind you. You scan the walls for hitting buttons to solve intricate puzzles. You mix potions to cure poison and heal wounds using items scraped from the dungeon floor. You distribute skill points when your characters level up, unlocking skills and enhancing stats. You feed your party chunks of monster meat to survive.
You save often.
Legend of Grimrock launches on April 11, with good-packed preorders now available at GOG.com, Steam, and the game's official website. $14.99 ($11.99 if you preorder) pays for the just the one dungeon, but the promise of expansions and player-created content should add up to a massive return on a modest investment.
The most valuable aspect of Legend of Grimrock, however, is the way it carries me back to the early 90's, reverting to the awkward teenage sitting in the attic of his parents' house in the middle of the night, trying desperately not to scream when the spiders show up. I thought that part of me had died.
If I don't escape these skeletons it still might.