Legend Of Grimrock: A Bit Of D&D, Without All The Work.

I’ve never been more excited to find a loin clothe or a pair of sandals in a game before. When I found a cloak for my rogue styled lizard man, Lando Calizardian, I actually yelled out, “Holy sh*t, a cloak!”. That is the kind of atmosphere Legend of Grimrock creates; items are not littered throughout its narrow dungeon hallways like they are in Skyrim, dead monsters don’t regularly drop magical items as they do in Diablo 3. In Legend of Grimlock, scarcity is in abundance, as is tension.

What's around the corner or down the next flight of steps? Legend of Grimrock keeps you scared and guessing.


Legend of Grimrock pays homage to the grid based movement games of the DOS era, and it does it very well. Almost Human Ltd., who run their offices out of the bottom floor of an apartment building, are the small Finnish based developers behind Legend of Grimrock. Almost Human have perfectly captured the fun of games like Eye of the Beholder and Dungeon Master, and sprinkled in the perfect amount of modern to make it appeal to today’s gamer.

Save often, not just at save crystal locations, because you will die often.

The grid based movement reminds me of another game that dictates movement via squares, Dungeons & Dragons. Many elements of the book based RPG game can be seen within Legend of Grimrock. The roles the four individuals, positioned in a 2×2 formation, are almost identical to the roles of my party members from past D&D encounters. The two individuals leading the way are boneheads with bats (swords, axes, or maces) who dish out punishment while acting as a shield for the more fragile individuals positioned behind them – they essentially act as tanks do in many MMO games or like warriors in D&D. Behind the meat shields is the aforementioned rogue Lando Calizardian, who is good with a bow and other projectile weapons (but can also be designed to be an effective assassin who is handy with a dagger). The final character type can almost be guessed is you have any experience with D&D. My green bipedal bug mage, Gandolf the Green, has the most potential for damage output, and the most potential to perish.

Gandolf the Green is my mage and potion master.

With these four individuals (preset or completely customizable), who are pardon of their crimes once they are dropped off at the top of Mount Grimrock, you must make your way through a maze of monsters and traps on your way to freedom. If you are in need of a dungeon crawler cure then Legend of Grimrock is the perfect potion, just watch your step.

Trap doors; get used to seeing them, and falling down them.

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The Engagement Is Off: Breaking Up With The Old Republic

Obok hasn't aged well under the pressure of monthly payments.

I’ve been hesitant to commit, then I rashly got engaged. I sunk hours of play into my relationship with The Old Republic [TOR], now I’m calling it off. I purchased the game, paid the monthly subscription fees, then I realized I was not happy. I was no longer satisfied being in this costly relationship. The newness of our accord quickly wore off, and all that remained was the constant grind that constantly cost me $15 a month.

The first month passed. The newness of BioWare’s, well done, story arcs dried up like a Tusken Raider corpse sitting under Tatooine’s twin suns. Each time I launched Origin, I would hover my mouse over the TOR launch icon, just to move it away. Obok Stillsky’s bounty hunter blood no longer boiled for dangerous contracts, and my thirst for the Dark Side had been satiated . The only contract I was concerned about now, was the one I had with Electronic Arts.

Blizz, I knew you the least but I will miss you the most.

I never was a Massively Multiplayer Online [MMO] fanboy but I couldn’t resist  the lure of a well funded and developed Star Wars iteration. I realize now, that I will probably never be a MMO regular. TOR had all the makings of an MMO I could enjoy, and honestly it is a well made game but its biggest problem, for me, it’s an MMO. Some of the fault lies with me and the types of games I enjoy playing, which are anything but a MMO. One issue that I take no blame for is the soon to be archaic subscription model, that less and less MMOs are using.

The pain of me leaving is too much for her to bear; she can't stand to look me in the face.

Paying for a game, then continually paying for it on a monthly basis, is and will forever be foreign to me. With great games selling for $15 to $60 (not excluding superbly priced indie games that go for cheaper) that provide 100s of hours of game play, I have trouble justifying a $60 down payment in addition to monthly fees. The subscription model for MMOs are going the way of print and my experience with TOR was my first and last venture into this dying business model.

Not even a free TOR Tauntaun pet will bring me back.

Syrian Style Shogun

Total War: Shogun 2 has been a fun gallop. I’ve managed to spread my empire over half of Japan and just recently, I’ve drawn the attention of the Emperor himself. Attention is putting it lightly, I’ve drawn his scorn. The remaining clans have allied with him and in one turn, they’ve all declared war against me. This has not taken me by total surprise; I’ve crushed one clan after another under my daimyo’s (and his heirs’) samurai shoes, turned once free peasants into rice producing slaves and taxed the populous almost to the breaking point. Just like Bashar al-Assad, I’ve had it coming, and I most definitely deserve it.

My acclaim among the Japanese clans and the Emperor himself has gradually grown, demonstrated by the expansion of my lands and the in-game notoriety measure. My populous has made regular, feeble, attempts to overthrow my rule but my “peaceful” occupation of each newly conquered province has been resolute. My my daimyo’s rule is one dictated by sword and seed. A sword to keep the people inline and the seed to keep them fed and docile. I give them enough of the sword to fear me, and enough rice to appreciate me. This method has worked from one heir to the next but over time the cold winter of revolution will eventually grow into a spring. Even in a virtual Feudal Japan people rise up against a tyrant and allies align behind them, so should the same be done in the real world.

During my daimyo’s expansion I’ve made temporary packs and promises with other clans, only to break them when it benefited me and strengthen my grip on my provinces. I’ve sent messages of poetic pleasure to other rulers, putting their fears at ease, just so I can encircle them with my cavalry. I’ve opened trade and channels of diplomacy with western worlds with the promise of change at home, only to give my superior military time to entrench itself, and attack those who even peacefully oppose me. In this virtual game, the European traders are quick to sever their ties and their financial support when my legitimacy as a leader is obviously a fraud.

Shogun 2’s Japan has jointly risen to resist me but they will most likely end up at the end of my sword or knee deep in my rice fields. Other in-game countries will not get that involved outside of slap-on-the-hand trade embargoes. The game is not designed to be that encompassing, to include game changing actions from foreign powers, but our real world is. Thankfully my daimyo’s source of trade does directly benefit “his” people, in that they do get fed, but in our real world oil doesn’t go down well with with a cup of saki. I will eventually squash all those who oppose me and conquer all of Japan. I wont feel bad about it because it’s a game, and not real. What does trouble me however, is people’s lack of ability to distinguish between virtual tyranny and reality.

Skyrim: Books And Wolf-Copters.

*** SPOILERS BELOW***

After hearing, “You know, if you have the aptitude, you should join the Mage’s Guild in Winterhold.” about 100+ times during my first play-through/character of Skyrim, I finally did so. My second character, Kegels Grip, made the journey to the Mage’s College as an aspiring young destruction mage, with delusions of grandeur and plenty of aptitude. Upon his arrival to Winterhold, the importance of books became abundantly clear. In the world of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, books are almost as important as gold.

In Skyrim, books are a source of lore that dates back to previous Elder Scroll games and provide a historical perspective of key individuals, guilds and locations. They also have the potential to provide details to a location that could contain untold riches and most importantly, the ability to increase your talent in one of the 18 skills that are tied to leveling up. Books are a pretty big deal, they are also fairly well written and interesting. Those familiar with the series will enjoy a bit of nostalgia while browsing the, at most, 10 page books. Books in Skyrim can also provide you with clues on how to unlock a tomb and provide the player with a bit more immersion to his virtual surroundings.

No other guild puts as much focus and care to their books like the Mage’s Guild. It was during the Mage’s Guild main quest line that I was introduced to new areas (Fellglow Keep) and encounters. Even after 160+ hours with Randy Stardust, my first Skyrim character, I was still being awed by the vastness of Skyrim through Kegels Grip’s eyes. What better reason to be tasked with a quest in Skyrim, a world of dragons and literature, then by the Mage Guild’s librarian and his need to have some books “returned”.

Fellglow Keep, not much to look at from the outside.

Fellglow Keep was a fortress that I had never visited, despite its close proximity to Whiterun and other key locations in Skyrim. Fellglow Keep’s exterior is by no means as architecturally amazing as many of Skyrim’s other fortresses and ancient tombs, but its contents were. There were obviously wolfs lurking within the keep’s rooms for howling could be heard bouncing off the stone walls.Also within this fortress were a magnitude of rooms, jail cells and villains. Who would be interested in books from the Mage’s College? Mages of course! Fellglow was like an alternative school for mages. It housed conjurers, raising skeletal dead, and each kind of elemental mage you can think of. Interspersed within the alternative learning center that is Fellglow Keep, were imprisoned vampires used for experimentation and most entertainingly, target practice. One thing Skyrim gets right, that everyone can agree with, is how it properly mistreats the Twilight kind improperly. In Skyrim, everyone hates vampires.

How all those who "sparkle" are treated in Skyrim.

So after killing mages in vast numbers and freeing, then killing vampires, I ran into a memorable occurrence. After 170 hours of playing through Skyrim I still have moments that cause me to laugh out loud and Fellglow Keep was not a disappointment. Upon entering a dungeon, with levers controlling the jail cell doors setting dead center, I caught a mage off guard and unleashed a unrelenting spurt of electricity his way. As he fell just short of the levers I realized his intentions. The howling I heard for the last five minutes were originating behind the cell doors the unfortunate mage was attempting to open. Behind those bars were two wolves, who would of gladly ran distraction as their master shredded me with magic.

With the opportunity to toy with my would be killers, I placed a lightning rune in front of their cell door, prepped my most powerful fire spell and then, “Open sesame.” Almost at the exact moment that the first wolf tripped the lightning rune I unleashed my dual wielded fireball, hilarity ensued. The lightning rune lifted both the wolves off their feet and my fireball  propelled them even further, causing them both to spin like howling helicopters, right at me. I had the best seat in the house and just as the flaming wolves careened towards Kegels’ face the flame killed them and they slid across the floor, still rotating.

The wolf-copters alone made the journey worth it but after defeating a conjuration mage in a hard fought magic battle, were I cheated by ending it with a sword (that’s the punishment for overdue books), I was rewarded back at the mage college with… more books. These books however, all increased magic skills after reading them. In Skyrim, books are a pretty big deal and it pays to be well read.