If you’re a fan of point and click adventure games, you’ll be no stranger to Artifex Mundi, a developer that undoubtedly takes the lead when it comes to releasing these games on Xbox One. Responsible for games such as Nightmares of the Deep, Enigmatis, and Lost Grimoires, Artifex have this time unleashed Grim Legends 2: Song of the Dark Swan. As you would expect, the game starts off with a short introduction to not just the story, but the functionality of play. Don’t worry if you missed out on the first game, because for the most part, the sequel has very few ties to it. In fact the only notable link to the first game outside of the title, is that the protagonist remains the same. This time around, the Healer has been summoned by a King to help the Queen of the Eagle Kingdom.
Much like Artifex’s Lost Grimoires, you’re almost immediately escorted to a guest room, which serves as your tutorial. Once you’ve compiled what you need to check over the Queen, you’re set and ready to start the adventure at hand. The game does well at giving you the chance to greet all of the main characters from the get-go, and succeeds in setting up the story as quickly as can be. I wont spoil too much for you, but I’ll give you what the game feeds to you from the onset. As aforementioned, you’re here to heal the Queen. Upon your first inspection, you find that the Queen (who is also a new mother) is tired, drained, and has a peculiar rash on her hands.
Recommending that the Queen gets some rest, you make your way back to your room to concoct a calming potion to help her relax. Before you get the chance to deliver said potion, a kick-up occurs that sees the Queen lying unconscious, and worse, the baby prince goes missing. An overly assertive mother-in-law accuses the Queen of practising dark magic, and convinces her son the King to execute his wife. He, against all heartache, agrees with his mother and confines his wife to the tower to await execution. This is where you come in. It’s your task as the Healer to work out exactly what the hell is going on, something you will do throughout the course of the eight hour story.
Again, if you’ve played any of the Artifex Mundi games prior to Grim Legends 2, you’ll know exactly what to expect, and that’s not a bad thing by any means. That’s not to say that this is their best serving yet, for me, that honour sits with Nightmares of the Deep, but Grim Legends 2 does indeed manage to captive and challenge you throughout the entirety of play. One of my biggest gripes about games from Artifex is sadly present here, and that’s the difficulty curve. There just doesn’t seem to be any consistency when it comes to difficulty, meaning that you’ll constantly be handed simplistic puzzles to solve, then some fairly tough ones, and then again some really easy ones. Puzzle games ideally should slowly climb in complexity as you venture further in, throwing in new mechanics and brain twisters at you to keep you on point. Grim Legends 2 fails to deliver on this front.
Artifex have somewhat taken a step away from the implementation of hidden object puzzles, and have instead injected more meaningful and structured puzzles into the experience, as well as item combining / potion crafting. The same can be said for the additional bonus chapter you’re rewarded with at the conclusion of the game. Unlike previous titles, you can no longer skip the few hidden object puzzles in favour of a mini-game, which to some degree, shaves a layer of replay value off. That being said, and despite my dig at the difficulty curve, most of the puzzles are well designed and are intriguing enough to hold your attention.
Surprisingly enough, the voice acting is actually pretty spot on. I wont go so far to say that the animations during the cut-scenes are just as commendable, because some segments are just laughable, but they do the trick either way. Grim Legends 2 offers up two modes to take to, being normal mode and expert mode. The only real difference between the two is that expert mode throws out the hint-glow, and makes the hint recharge take longer to replenish. Other than that, I dare say that just about anyone can start straight from expert and not be taxed too much in comparison to normal mode. All in all, this is just your average run-of-the-mill Artifex adventure, but as with their other works, it’s one that’s well worth the journey.
Grim Legends 2 isn’t a step forward for Artifex, it’s a game that remains on point with what we’ve seen from them before. Once again, the difficulty curve is all over the place, and doesn’t do much to gradually challenge you throughout the experience. Instead, you’re given a mixture of puzzles that vary in difficulty, and that’s something I really would have expected to have been addressed by now. The story is well set, and it’s held up by some surprisingly good voice acting. Sadly, the animations cant be praised as greatly as that, but again this is to be expected. What I do want to commend are the (difficult aside) well crafted puzzles and the intriguing story. When you take into account that this game offers up to north of eight hours worth of gameplay with an additional bonus chapter to boot, there’s very little to scoff at. It goes without saying that fans will enjoy this for what it is, but it hardly breaks any barriers, nor does it evolve the long running formula.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.