Grim Legends 3: The Dark City Review

By Rebecca Smith,
Artifex Mundi has introduced several of their series to the Xbox One. Some have been standalone stories, while others have been parts of a trilogy. Lately, though, they've taken to finishing some of those trilogies they'd started previously. Having finished Nightmares from the Deep and Enigmatis, their attention moves onto the finale of Grim Legends, a trilogy that began almost two years ago. Grim Legends 3: The Dark City takes a different direction to the two tales that came before it, making it a bit of a strange conclusion to the series.

Logo

The Order is a group of characters that wouldn't seem out of place in the Assassin's Creed franchise. They hunt and dispatch monsters that are terrorising the city. Sylvia is one of their acolytes, and together with her master Solomon, they are sent to rid an abandoned theatre of a monster. However, it was all a ruse. While they are distracted, a powerful artifact known as the Incarceri Stone is stolen. The wielder can use its power to unleash demonic Koshmaar creatures into the world, and the pair travels to the city of Lichtenheim to retrieve the stone and stop that from happening.

The game's story is completely independent and bears no relation to the last two Grim Legends titles, meaning that players can just jump into the title without having played the others. In fact, it has a completely different vibe altogether. Whereas the others revelled in their colourful high fantasy settings, this one is darker, both thematically and literally, making it the setting that's the most appropriate of the three for a series with a Grim Legends moniker. As an aside, Sylvia is also one of the few Artifex Mundi protagonists to ever receive a name, something the publisher rarely does so that players have more of an opportunity to identify with the character. While I'm not sure that's true, or at least it's never seemed to make much of a difference, it's nice to be able to refer to a character as something other than the anonymous protagonist.

ScreenshotsThe city of Lichtenheim really is grim

Sixteen titles later, it seems like stating the obvious to say that the hidden object gameplay returns, but then it would also seem odd not to mention it. The majority of the puzzles take on the form of picture lists or fragmented object games, with the very occasional word list thrown in for good measure. The spelling mistakes that abound in the story subtitles fortunately don't affect those word lists, although there was some confusion in one puzzle where a metal hoop is placed sideways in the scene, so it appears as a metal rod instead. This is an issue about which players complained when the game was first released on Steam and a fix was promised; two years later, the problem is still here. Aside from that, while the hitboxes can sometimes be too precise, causing frustrated clicking while trying to find the exact position needed for the object to register, this doesn't affect the game too much.

There are also a variety of other puzzles to be solved. As well as the general mini-games, the title has a particular focus on two other types of puzzle. The first of these is the rune battle minigames. Throughout the story, players will have to battle Koshmaar monsters, but in fitting with the game's genre, this doesn't take the form of direct combat. Instead, players face three rounds of rune matching puzzles. The monster will attack with one or more runes, and players have to counter the attack by choosing the rune from their selection that consists of symbols not found in the monster's selection. These could be tense encounters, but they're instead made rather simple by giving players as much time as they need to pick the correct rune.

ScreenshotsRecreate the memories of cursed characters

Once the monsters are defeated, players encounter the second type of puzzles on which the game focuses: memory mirrors. These stained-glass style puzzles are not all of the same type, but they all involve moving parts of the picture around in some fashion until a coherent image is formed. They're more complicated than the rune battles, although they still gift players all the time in the world to complete them. Their purpose is to fill in the backstory to each of the relevant characters and they feel more immersive than a simple cutscene, although there's the chance of some of the context being lost if you're trying to complete them within the achievements' three minute time limit when the story takes a back seat to getting them done quickly.

As players progress through the game, more locations become active. While the story is linear, the majority of these scenes remain open for the rest of the game and you can travel between them at will, even if they do become redundant as the story moves on without them. A fast travel map is available and can make travelling marginally quicker, but it seems pointless when only a couple of scenes stand between you and your destination. This is good for those wanting to collect the puppet-like collectibles, whose sole purpose is to unlock the relevant achievements. With the exception of those in the scenes in the game's prologue and first chapter, which become blocked off as the chapters end, the majority of the collectibles can be found at any point in the story once the scene is open.

ScreenshotsWill you choose fight or flight?

Once the story has ended, the bonus chapter plays out the events that occur immediately after the main campaign's conclusion. While it features a different protagonist and different environments, the gameplay is much the same as before. The only difference is that players get a choice in how the end of the story plays out. Throughout the main campaign, players get an illusion of choice through character conversation options, but in reality the game won't move on until all of the options have been exhausted, the only real choice being the order of conversation. To have an actual choice to make is a refreshing change for an Artifex Mundi title.

Unlike some of the other Artifex Mundi titles, there is no alternative to the hidden object games to offer any replay value, but then the achievements are likely to do this one their own anyway. There are several unmissable story related achievements. You'll also need to make sure that you play on Expert difficulty, find all of the game's collectibles, and not use any hints or skips. However, some of the time-based achievements can seem challenging. Both completing a hidden object game in less than 20 seconds, as well as completing the latter memory mirror puzzles in less than 3 minutes, are unlikely to happen first time unless you're using a guide from the outset. Theoretically, all of the achievements can be earned in a single playthrough, but if you miss any of the collectibles or the time limit for a memory mirror, you'll need to start a new playthrough. Also, be aware of the choice in the bonus episode that can also prevent you from earning a couple of achievements.

Summary

Grim Legends 3: The Dark City is a concluding episode of a trilogy that really bears little resemblance between the three episodes, although the darker story found in this episode is perhaps the most befitting of the trilogy's moniker. The game's basic hidden object and puzzle solving gameplay will be familiar, although the memory mirrors and rune battles add a twist to proceedings that stops the gameplay from becoming stale and too overfamiliar. The bonus chapter also manages to give players a choice in how the story pans out, something that will hopefully be carried on to other Artifex Mundi titles. There are still a few minor issues with the hidden object games that need stamping out and stop the episode from being a must-play, but for fans of the publisher or the casual point and click genre, the episode is well worth spending an evening playing through it.
7 / 10
Grim Legends 3: The Dark City
Positives
  • Storyline befitting of the trilogy's moniker
  • Rune battle and memory mirror games add variety
  • Player choice offered in the bonus chapter
Negatives
  • Hidden object games can be a bit too precise
  • Spelling mistakes in the subtitles
Ethics
The reviewer spent 6 hours playing through the main campaign and the bonus chapter, only to have to play it again because she wasn't quick enough. She earned all of the game's 29 achievements. An Xbox One copy of the game was provided by the ID@Xbox team for the purpose of this review.
Rebecca Smith
Written by Rebecca Smith
Rebecca is the Newshound Manager at TrueGaming Network. She has been contributing articles since 2010, especially those that involve intimidatingly long lists. When not writing news, she works in an independent game shop so that she can spend all day talking about games too. She'll occasionally go outside.