As I mentioned in my discussion of Basilisk Game's Eschalon: Book I, I've been on a classic gaming kick this year. I think that the title that got me back into the retro mood was yet another indie RPG, Legend of Grimrock (2012), made by Finnish developer Almost Human Games.
Grimrock is an amazing throwback to the classic first-person dungeon crawlers that began with Akalabeth (1980), on through Ultima and Wizardry, and whose legacy lives on in the modern Elder Scrolls titles. If one had to pick a specific game that could most summarize the inspiration for Grimrock, it's definitely Eye of the Beholder (1990), with a little Dungeon Master (1987) thrown in.
You take control of a party of four convicted criminals who are cast into the dungeon of Grimrock Mountain to find whatever fate awaits them. Party options appear relatively limited at first (only Fighters, Rogues, or Mages and a handful of races), but there are a decent variety of skills to choose that can really make characters of identical classes play quite differently. As was the tradition in these titles, your party is arranged into a 2x2 'box' formation, with only those two characters closest to each cardinal direction able to deal or receive damage from melee attacks. The various skills available to each class can mix this up quite a bit: everyone can use long range weapons or cast spells from the rear, but certain weapon skills can eventually allow characters to slip through ranks for the purposes of attacks.
It's really like playing a gorgeously high-res version of the Beholder games. Despite the tiny team size (I think there are four or five main guys on the dev team), the game looks like a professional production when in motion. I've read that some people felt that there wasn't enough diversity in wall art and enemies, but given the title's length, I was satisfied.
While everything moves on a square grid, the game plays in 'real time', which had become fairly common in this genre in the mid 90s (e.g., Stonekeep, Menzoberranzan, etc). Some people prefer the tactical aspect to turn-based, first-person Roguelikes, but I'd take real time any day. Having to think on your toes and plan attack routines based on the various character/ability cool downs keeps combat fresh and fast-paced. Dungeon crawlers in particular are ever susceptible to the danger of becoming boring slogs.
Much as was the case in the Eye of the Beholder titles, Grimrock really pivots around three aspects: 1) the aforementioned combat, 2) limited resources, and 3) devious puzzles. Limited resources come from your need to eat coupled to all items and equipment being scavenged from what you find. You have to keep moving forward and finding efficient ways to overcome challenges as attempting to win by attrition will either exhaust your healing supplies or cause you to run out of food. Oh, you've also got encumbrance, which means that you have to make choices about what items are most important to lug around.
Compared to what I remember, the puzzles are much better than old-school titles. With only one exception that I won't spoil, I was able to solve all of the required conundrums in a way that was personally satisfying. There are no unreasonable map-breaking teleporter mazes, though there are many pits and pressure plates to 'enjoy'.
It's clear that Almost Human really thought this one through - they've provided a variety of settings that allow you to play the type of game you want. You can have the game produce an excellent annotatable automap or force you to pull out the graph paper; and/or, if you really hate yourself, you can try to play in classic dungeon crawler 'iron-man' or 'hardcore' mode. I wouldn't call the game 'easy' - some enemy types such as the one shown above can be tricky and frustrating - but I was able to see it through to the end in ~16 hours.
The devs say that in addition to working on a Mac port (which would make it portable for me!), they're also going to be releasing a dungeon creation tool. I've also read that they're planning on releasing official expansion packs now that the work of building the engine is done. All of this is great, because I'd really like some more Grimrock.