Shadow of Grim Moon Review,1.2 from Steam (the latest as of 2012-12-12)
This is the most difficult review I had written. Shadows of Grim Moon is a mod full of extremes.
It's by far the most frustrating dungeon I've been playing so far. It had the most difficult and complex
puzzles I've encountered. It felt just unfair on so many occasions. Some puzzles are
ridiculously difficult, with hints being scarce and often vague. The facts that the levels
are highly non-linear and there are many places with respawning enemies just adds bitterness
to this mix. This is definitely not for someone that gives up easily. Having said that, there were quite
a few moments that rewarded me for enduring all those my difficulties.
Let me give you an example.
I've encountered several ogres very, very early. The only weapon I had was a simple knife.
I was preparing for a session of extremal grinding, but soon realized that my pathetic
attacks did 0 damage every single time. Ok, when using brute force doesn't solve your problems,
it's time to use a brain. I've soon found a way how to solve my problem creatively. Hitting a
portcullis with my knife with an angry, trapped ogre behind it staring at me with hate was really
terrific. I've enjoyed the moment of triumph a lot while it lasted.
Soon afterwards I've encountered a level where hordes of enemies were attacking me. There was
plenty of place to dodge, but I had almost no weapons. To make things worse, I've decided to
try something else than the usual party. My insectoid air mage had only 3 skill points. Not a smart
thing to do when 4 are needed for simplest offensive air spell. So my soon to be mage was trying
to slap hordes of skeletons with his bare hands. After first victorious duel my party became a small
platoon of spearmen and things improved, but just a little bit. I was desperately trying to survive
fighting with neverending hordes of new skeletons. After a long and boring grind, I've leveled up
enough to be able to reasonably fight my way through and continued with exploration.
There are quite a few twists that I liked. Trapdoors are typical ways to find hidden goodies and
sometimes quick death. But have you ever fallen into long forgotten, spider infested storeroom before?
Many times you'll be confused in this dungeon. Sometimes traps are placed there for no apparent
reason, perhaps just to annoy the player. On one large, mostly empty dungeon with lots of respawning
monsters there are teleporters that move and rotate you just a couple grids. The closer you get to the
exit, it is more likely to encounter such traps. I had no other choice, but to painfully mark all
hidden teleporters. It was even more annoying with hordes of monsters respawning after your back.
After a very long time, I've leveled up to a stage where monsters are more of annoyance than a
challenge. But still they kept coming on many occasions.
The real value (or its biggest flaw) of this mod is in its puzzles. Majority of them are very
difficult with little confusing and vague hints. Let me give you another example.
Mild spoilers ahead:
In one place you are supposed to press more than 4 buttons in a specific order. You do have number
of scrolls that describe an old story and you are supposed to correlate that to specific rooms and buttons
in the dungeon. You guess the order of the scrolls, then you go pressing the buttons (some of them are
in almost opposite ends of the level, so expect a lot of running with a bit of fighting as monsters keep
spawning) and then nothing happens. So you reshuffle the order, trying to interpret them differently
and try again. You do need to remember in which room you killed specific monsters as they are
part of the hint (those happen to not respawn, probably because that would make the puzzle just a
little bit easier). If you press anything out of sequence, you need to start over, but there is no
indication that specific action is correct or not. Sometimes there's a slight difference in clicking
sounds, but that's about it. So far it sounds difficult, but somewhat reasonable, but...
There are five buttons and five scrolls, however one of the buttons is not used and you
must step on a pressure plate instead. Moreover, one of the other 4 buttons has to be pressed
twice. Good luck with discovering that without any hints (at least I've found none).
This is just an example, but there are other puzzles of often of this scale of complexity.
There are couple extra new items. There is one slide intro with a nice background story and
a rather short ending cinematic. The story is consistent and somewhat compelling.
My recorded time is almost 8 hours, but I've spent much more in this dungeon. Significant part
of that time was spent on killing 350 monsters. There are 17 secrets, but some of them are
strange. Opening a door with a golden lock is one of them. You'll not notice huge iron doors with
a golden lock only if you are legally blind. Some secrets are really well hidden, though. They are
so well hidden, that one guy decided to map them all for others, who will look for missing secrets.
Needless to say, I've found many of them on my own, but xhantos' secrets list
was very helpful
to find remaining ones.
There are quite a few graphical issues (many stairs and gates), but they are not too
troublesome. There are 8 levels in total, with many non-linear paths. Some levels feel like
they were added in a rush - they consist of huge, almost hollow halls with almost nothing
I must admit that I also exploited something this mod printed on a console. This is not a bug,
but rather leftover debugging messages. They were quite helpful when trying to figure out
a proper combination for a hundredth time.
Finally, I wholeheartedly agree with the thank you notes at the end of this mod.
Speaking as someone who finished base grimrock on hard, old-school mode with all secrets
found, I consider this mod just too hard and too unbalanced. If you finished other mods on
hard with a "meh!", this mod may be just for you. Prepare for over the top puzzles, lots of
repeating fights and running back and forth trying to figure out what to do next. Don't even
think about getting into Grim Moon monastery if you don't have at least 8-10 hours to spare.