Along with our group-selected 2014 Game of the Year Awards, each member of the PC Gamer staff has independently chosen another game to commend as one of 2014's best.
Grimrock 2 tapped into my imagination the most this year. It’s pleasantly quiet, great for little, hour-long excursions of exploring, fighting, and learning with my silent party of four; me a kid again, playing pencil-drawn mazes with traps and monsters. It’s an action RPG in the old-style (think Ultima Underworld), but though the grid-based movement might seem to cancel out exploration, I’m astounded by the amount of stuff I miss. I like playing it in brief sessions, enjoying its island’s mystery and serenity for as long as I can before it cripples a party member, kills another, and I need a break from its resistance. Other times, though, I just get lost in getting lost, spending hours poking through dungeons, backtracking, and forgetting whatever it was I was doing when I started.
The puzzles range from simple (put item on switch) to “Hey, remember that story about a guy traveling to the tundra and watching the sun set? Move a boulder like that.” It can be frustrating, and I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve consulted a guide, but I’ve done it as sparingly as possible. Part of the fun is in figuring out the little stuff, like what to do if a party member breaks their leg, and jotting down notes for the complex stuff, like the spellcasting cheatsheet I made myself.
Though silent, every character I make grows a personality along the way: my ratling farmer who only gains experience when he eats (is that how farming works?); my wizard who accidentally roasted the party with a fire spell; my alchemist whose gun is always jamming. And while combat may seem clunky and outdated, the quick clicking is almost soothing. As I tap on my melee characters every time they’re ready to attack, swipe out rune patterns for my spellcaster, and deftly shuttle potions around between my characters, I get into a sort of groove; it feels like a rhythm game.
But “soothing” only really describes the moments when I’m succeeding. It’s also really stressful, and really difficult. Grimrock 2 requires a lot of patience and learning, but I’ve never felt like my mistakes were unfixable. Sure, I should’ve chosen a slightly different party makeup, and slightly-different skills, but so far I’ve always been able to progress while telling the story I want to tell. I mean, the farmer class is really dumb, but he’s starting to pull his weight just fine, the gluttonous weirdo.
And then there are all the things that make Grimrock 2 a great PC game. It loads up fast, something I really appreciate when I want to hop in quickly before bed, and includes a dungeon editor for community-made adventures. Modders are all over it—mm, longevity.
Grimrock's campaign can feel a little bare compared to the modern world-spanning narratives of games like Dragon Age: Inquisition, but I like the simple quiet (not including the terrifying moment a chest is revealed to be a toothy mimic). It's just me and my party, slowly figuring it out as we go, with no one yapping at us to save the world. It's an old style of game, but updated with so much care that it doesn't feel old—just really, really good.