STAFF REVIEW of Grim Legends 3: The Dark City (Xbox One)

Tuesday, June 12, 2018.
by Adam Dileva

Grim Legends 3: The Dark City Box art Artifex Mundi has carved out quite the niche genre for themselves on console in the past year or so. They specialize in hidden object games (HOGs) with a heavy emphasis on puzzles. Most of their catalogue utilize a fantasy backdrop, have decent stories, and some beautiful artwork. The original Grim Legends was actually my first foray into the HOG genre by Artifex Mundi, and I’ve been hooked since. I used to think games like this were a waste of time, but as I’ve gotten older, I tend to really enjoy these types of games more now, as everyone needs a break from the typical shooters and racers now and then.

I really enjoyed the first Grim Legends, whereas the second was not quite as polished, especially with its atrocious voice acting, so I wasn’t sure what to expect with this third installment. Truth be told, it’s as if Artifex Mundi has a cookie cutter template for their games, although they do vary now and then, but they all follow the same suit with some minor tweaks. I fully expected to go through another typical HOG adventure, and while the setting and mood always changes, the artwork, animation and voice acting are usually always very similar regardless of which title you’re playing from their library. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they’ve been working on improving their ‘template’ in a big way.

You’re thrust into the role of a monster huntress, a member of The Order, a special and high ranking group of people whose sole purpose is to protect the world from evil forces. There’s a powerful artifact that keeps a horrifying monster in another dimension safely away from others. Of course, evil forces want to steal the artifact and unleash the Koshmaar monster upon the world, so it’s up to you and your mentor to track down the person responsible, and of course, save the world. I only wish that there was an effort to give some backstory to the two previous games, as this is the third chapter in the series.

You are taken away to the mysterious land of Lichtenheim, with a tale that will keep your interest for as long as it lasts, and even though I was able to complete the game in a single sitting, I still enjoyed myself throughout. When you do complete the main narrative, there’s a short-but-sweet bonus epilogue that rounds out the abrupt ending, giving a little more playtime and a handful of puzzles.

As per any title in Artifex Mundi's catalog, you progress from scene to scene, looking for items to gather and use to move further along, unlock items and find more puzzles to solve. You’ll be solving a variety of puzzles, completing mini-games, and of course the HOG’s as well. While not new to their games, there was certainly a lot more focus on combinable items from your inventory. Certain items will have a “+” located in the top left corner of the item, indicating you have another item that can merge with it, creating a completely new item for you to use that you’ll need. While I didn’t mind this, Grim Legends 3 seems to rely on it much more than any of their other titles I’ve played to date.

While I was able to complete Casual mode in a single sitting, there is an Expert mode available as well for those looking for more of a challenge. Those wanting to really get their money’s worth can also search each scene for a ton of hidden collectable items, something that is great for the completionists. Given that this is a puzzle game at its heart though, the majority of your time will be searching for items and engaging in puzzle solving.

There’s a handful of puzzles you’ll solve throughout your adventure, though I didn’t find very many of them very challenging. If you aren’t proficient at puzzles though, there is a hint system in place that can also automatically solve said puzzle for you should you become completely stuck. There’s a variety of puzzles to keep things interesting, such as its own take on Sudoku, some alchemy mixing, tile swapping, HOG’s and more.

New to the series is the entertaining Rune Battles. These act almost like a boss battle of sorts where you and your enemy have an energy shield braced on one another for combat. You’re tasked with choosing a symbol on your playfield that doesn’t match any of theirs. Choose correctly and you win that round, win 3 rounds and you defeat them. These are quite easy early on, but eventually you’ll have multiple symbols on both sides as they rotate and move, making things more challenging.

This new addition to the game didn’t go unnoticed and I quite enjoyed them. After completing the Rune Battle you can then remove your opponents mask and dine into their Memory Mirror, almost like saving their soul in a sense. This mini game has you moving panes of stained glass to correctly match the story being told. Again, I really enjoyed this new addition.

As I mentioned above, nearly all of Artifex Mundi games have a very similar visual art style to them, slightly varying based on its setting and backdrop. One thing that always bugged me was the paper doll-like animation they utilized, as it was quite basic, albeit pretty. What took me by complete surprise in this latest entry though was the new animation added to Grim Legends 3: The Dark City, as it seems they’ve upped their game by adding actual cutscenes in certain plot points. To be quite honest, it actually looks quite good, so kudos for trying to improve their experiences.

As well, the voice acting was never great, and sometimes, like in the case of Grim Legends 2, downright terrible. It seems they’ve taken this ongoing criticism to heart and have vastly improved their voice acting quality. While not perfect by any means, it wasn’t as laughable as in previous titles, so again, I’m glad they are trying to improve the quality of their games.

With all of the drastic improvements made to their formula, this was the most enjoyment I had from an Artifex Mundi title yet. They relish in having their own style, puzzles and pretty much go unchallenged in the genre. If more improvements, like the ones included here, continue to advance, I’ll be even more excited for all of their releases. While still a short affair and not too challenging, I had a great relaxing few hours solving puzzles, Rune Battling and saving the world.

Overall: 8.3 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.3 / 10
Sound: 7.5 / 10


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