Thursday, April 19, 2012

Grimrocking The Lanes

For the last couple of weeks, I've only been playing two games: Dota 2 and Legend of Grimrock.

I've got over 50 hours in Dota 2 at this point, and I'm still having a blast. I think this is the first multiplayer game to really click with me to this degree, save something like FFXI or WoW, I guess. It's looking so far like this will be a year of Dota and Diablo. I've played 20 matches each with Windrunner and Bounty Hunter, and I'm trying a few other heroes for the time being. Omniknight may be the next I focus on for a while.

The design of Dota is genius. It's symmetrical in some ways (map layout), and less so in others (team makeup), and is in many ways a zero-sum game, meaning that whatever advantages you take the other team are deprived of, and vice versa.  The game is as much about denying your opposition the resources of experience and gold, and through them, morale, as it is accruing those things for yourself. It's simple on the surface, but with a great and unseen depth of strategies and mechanics below. All these things make it less than beginner-friendly, but if you are interested enough to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and learn the game, the reward is an amazingly fun and interesting game, even after the hundredth or thousandth match on the same map. I think of it as more like a board game in that respect. Chess, Checkers, Igo, Shogi; none of these games suffer from lack of variety in settings. Besides, Dota has somewhere around a hundred characters to choose from. That alone is likely more variety than I'll ever need.

Legend of Grimrock is something I've been looking forward to since first reading about it last year sometime (if memory serves). It's a very old-school first-person dungeon crawl, much like Eye of the Beholder or Etrian Odyssey, both of which I enjoyed, and Dungeon Master, which I only heard about recently in articles relating to Grimrock. I couldn't really tell you why I was so excited for the game, except that I like role-playing game mechanics, simple, straight-forward designs, and exploratory environmental puzzles often found in large temples or dungeons. Also, the game looks gorgeous, if the amount of art is limited.

I never got far at all into Eye of the Beholder, and though I finished Etrian Odyssey, that game featured an entirely different battle system to what seems to be the norm in this genre, so I can't really point to nostalgia, exactly, for my interest in Grimrock, but perhaps rather an appreciation for it's aforementioned old-school sensibilities is what attracted me. Regardless, I am having a ball making my way through the dungeon of Mount Grimrock. Hidden switches, floor panel switches, trapdoors, and teleports are just a few of the elements used in the puzzles in this game, and many of them are optional, hiding a secret piece of equipment or cache of consumables rather than something critical to advancement through the dungeon. That only makes them all the more devious and alluring in their design.

It's a real pleasure to play Legend of Grimrock, but I'm afraid it is probably an acquired taste, and one unpalatable to many of today's gamers. But then, it's a DD-exclusive game for the PC, so someone merely being aware of its existence is already halfway to the point of being receptive to it's charms, I reckon. I was up entirely too late last night playing this game.

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