Earlier this summer, I hoped Diablo III would hook me enough that I could ignore the lack of games coming out from May to early August. Well, it didn't. The wealth of technical issues I experienced from the start never really went away on my end, and that can definitely squash anyone's interest in a video game.
But a surprising contender appeared, one that both horrified and intrigued me. The Legend of Grimrock is a 3D grid-based action role-playing game that is so fiendishly difficult, even the harmless-looking mushroom men pack a devastating punch.
Since a kindly soul purchased a copy of Grimrock for me during the current Steam summer sale, I've been completely obsessed with relearning how to play games. Grimrock, even on its easiest settings, demands you step back in time and master very disjointed and archaic mechanics before you can even hope to succeed.
Grimrock will destroy you and rebuild you as a much more resourceful and strategy-oriented player, and I love that.
When I say archaic mechanics I'm referring to the way you lead your ragtag party through the treacherous Grimrock prison. Many first-person PC games these days allow players to look around by holding a mouse button and moving the cursor (if simply shifting the mouse isn't enough). Grimrock places both moving and turning onto the keyboard. The WASD keys control how you step while Q and E turn you left or right. If these controls seem too stiff, you can remap them, but part of Grimrock's appeal is playing it as the developers intended.
Relearning how to turn on a 3D grid map shouldn't be this difficult, but mix old PC game mechanics with a dark, foreboding atmostphere full of odd creaks, screams, and scrapes and you'll likely find youself fumbling at the keys. Grimrock oozes intimidation by throwing you into the depths of a hellish prison that no one has ever emerged from.
This challenge makes the smallest accomplishments in Grimrock seem phenomenal. Early on, I stumbled into a trap room full of skeletal knights with long spears. Even one knight is difficult to fight, and as I tried to avoid the first one, more kept pouring into the room until I was trapped in a corner. Through determination and careful resource management, I survived the attack and got a pretty nice sword. Being able to survive such an obvious trap was incredibly rewarding, more so than finding a decent weapon.
Grimrock isn't a particularly expensive game (the highest you'll find it is $15), but it provides an astounding amount of challenge for such a modest price. Its appeal comes from challening yourself while trying to survive in such a dangerous virtual world.
The current Steam sale ends July 22. Before it does, maybe you should test yourself with Grimrock. I guarantee you'll gain a whole new appreciation for doors and traps.