Upon finishing the very first outing in the hidden object point and click Grim Legends adventure series, The Forsaken Bride, I was impressed by the variety of the mini-games and way the developers, Artifex Mundi captured the look and feel of a fairytale world. Then things took as slight dip with a fairly bland setting, accompanied by god awful voice acting, in Song of the Dark Swan. Now, the Grim Legends trilogy reaches its climax with The Dark City arriving on Xbox One, but does it deliver a delightfully dark story to remember, or should Artifex have put an end to the series already?
Grim Legends 3: The Dark City places you in the role of Sylvia, a member of The Order – a group of individuals sworn to protect the world from monsters. Someone’s planning an elaborate ploy to unleash a hellish creature known as the Koshmaar by stealing the powerful artifact that binds it, the Incarceri Stone. With the stone successfully taken, the race is on to track it down and retrieve it with the help of mentor, Solomon. The person responsible for the theft seems familiar, but Sylvia’s memory is still rather fuzzy after an accident that occurred a year before so she’s not sure why. All is not as it seems, as she’ll discover.
The story itself is perhaps one of the most interesting found across the many Artifex Mundi titles, featuring characters who possess a bit of an Assassin’s Creed vibe; glorious hooded attires, rooftop antics, and a devotion to keeping artifacts safe. The Koshmaar isn’t the only monstrous beast present either as there are others that take over the bodies of humans, the Maskwraiths, which are very cool in terms of their design. It’s a really intriguing and fascinating, albeit creepy, world to be in.
As usual, the majority of progression through each chapter comes from obtaining useful items dotted around the place – earnt by solving mini-games, completing hidden object scenes etc. A lot of emphasis has been put on merging items in the inventory this time too, occasionally having to combine a few things picked up in order to construct what’s needed to advance.
Mini-games are the bread and butter of this genre, with Grim Legends 3 throwing up mathematical based problems, a bit of chemical mixing and puzzles akin to Sudoku; for example there’s one involving placing eyeballs into a grid without any of the same colour being on the same row or column. My personal favourite is a story box that you interact with and rotate to further the little tale that’s being told. Variety is essential to the enjoyment and the developers have got that in abundance here.
Then there are the Rune Battles, seeing you face off against a curse or a Maskwraith, tasked with choosing a rune from your magical arsenal that doesn’t have any of the same symbols as those found in the enemy’s arsenal. It’s like the opposite of the matching pairs type scenario, which really isn’t easy when rune symbols are very similar, but the ‘boss’ battle feel to these parts make for a nice change. Upon defeating a Maskwraith, you must remove the mask from the poor human being possessed and this leads to an additional Memory Mirror mini-game involving pieces of stained glass. Some of these are quite tricky, with you having to place pieces into the correct slots in one and rotating stained tiles to line them up correctly in another, basically ensuring that no puzzle type repeats itself in the Memory Mirror.
Unlike many of these hidden object games, Grim Legends 3 has multiple aspects to its puzzling ways, lessening the traditional list based searching of scenes to allow for fresher ideas to take their place as outlined above. Of course, scouring static areas for a selection of items occurs, and the tetchy cursor problems still exist – where clicking on the correct item isn’t recognised – but this time there are more of those hidden object scenarios that require you to locate many of the same plant or such, all of which are blended well within the environment.
When the main adventure is complete, which could take a veteran in this field about three to four hours, the story is extended a tad via the Bonus Adventure. I can’t give away much, but it offers some closure to the ending. It doesn’t last long at all though, adding less than an hour to the experience, which leaves longevity hanging on the thread of the collectibles.
Whilst there are a lot of positives, it isn’t a game free of criticism with a couple of performance issues affecting the visuals. The graphics literally shake and the background becomes jagged for a short while – I’m talking seconds and only a handful of times, but it’s unnerving when it happens. In the sound department, the voice acting is very much improved compared to previous Artifex offerings, however some of the minor characters are still really unconvincing.
All in all, Grim Legends 3: The Dark City stands out from the Artifex Mundi pack thanks to its exciting story of creatures and secret orders, whilst the voice acting has come a long way from the games that precede it. The new ideas keep things ticking along wonderfully, bringing a decent challenge without ever becoming a chore or too tough, and despite taking place in a gothic world, the hand drawn environments are as lovely as ever, even with less vibrancy. Aside from a few visual issues, a super short bonus chapter and the dreaded cursor hindrance, it’s a great end to the trilogy.
Come and hunt monsters in the most relaxing way possible!