by Marko Susimetsä
previewed on PC
Dungeon crawlers crawls back into gaming
No old-timer gamer could forget classics such as Dungeon Master, Eye of the Beholder or Ultima Underworld. These are RPG-like titles that took the gamer into underground dungeons to solve puzzles, combat monsters and collect treasures. Sometimes you had an overarching mission to complete, sometimes you merely explored for exploration’s sake. The thing that separated these titles from earlier RPGs and dungeon crawlers like the even earlier Roguelikes, was the fact that these new games were based on simple 3D graphics and you crawled the dungeons in first-person view (even when leading a party of characters). For a long time now, this genre has appeared buried under an avalanche of modern day open-world RPGs that took the players out of the dungeons into the open air and expanded the world tremendously. But although these new types of RPGs have their attraction, the closed confines of dungeons and the simple charm of the early titles were often lost.
Almost Human is a Finnish indie team that is determined not to let the dungeon crawler genre die. The team was formed in the beginning of 2011 and their soon-to-be-released Legend of Grimrock is their first game. Now, this might sound amateurish and awfully fast to some, but consider the fact that the four members who form Almost Human have long experience in game development and their history includes games such as Alan Wake, Max Payne 2 and Shattered Horizon, and you will see that their shared experience is nothing to sneer at.
The plot of the story is very simple. Basically, you have four characters who have been imprisoned in a prison on top of Mt. Grimrock and, as they escape, they will have to crawl through various dungeons before they get out. It could not get any simpler than that, really. You can either design all four characters to your own liking, making warriors, rogues and mages as you see fit, or you can take some pre-designed characters if you want to get to the meat as quickly as possible. Like you might expect from prison inmates, the team will start with next to nothing as they start their escape attempt. In fact, finding some rocks to throw at the dungeon’s lethal inhabitants is one of your first priorities. Later on, you will be able to find more and better equipment as you explore the dungeons and loot the caverns and monsters – or find hidden caches behind sliding walls.
Spell-casting is based on runes that you can put in proper order to cast various sorts of spells – but only if your mage has a staff. The play with the runes takes place in real-time, so you will have to compromise between complex spells and quick actions if you want to take down an attacking enemy. But the spell-casters are not the only character class with tricks up their sleeves, as the other classes will also have special talents that they can use. And they all gather experience as they progress through the dungeons, solving puzzles and killing enemies, which allows them to develop their skills.