Grim Legends: The Forsaken Bride - Review
Reviewing hidden object games (henceforth referred to as HOGs for convenience’s sake), especially those by prolific developer Artifex Mundi, has become a bigger and bigger challenge for me the more I play through. It’s a genre that doesn’t really need to differ dramatically from game to game (most people come to HOGs for a very specific sort of game, after all), but due to this similarity it’s hard to know what is really worth talking about as one review can typically serve as a blanket recommendation for a particular developer. And yet I continue to review Artifex Mundi’s games because time and again I’ve been surprised at how they’ve managed to diversify their portfolio with HOGs which feel distinct from one another. Each of their games has also managed to incrementally build upon the previous one, creating a sense of continual improvement without being required to introduce any radical changes to a formula that is clearly working (if my count is correct this makes my fifth review of an Artifex Mundi game).
With this in mind, Grim Legends: The Forsaken Bride is a bit of an odd one out. It’s perhaps the most forgettable Artifex Mundi game I’ve yet played (being barely edged out by the first Nightmares of the Deep), but also one of the most ambitious. The narrative for instance is the most layered and complex of any of Artifex Mundi’s games, taking place over a large timeline and even managing to catch me off guard with a few of its twists. That doesn’t make the plot any good, in fact it has largely fallen apart by the end in through a last-ditch effort to justify some of the symbolism seen throughout the game, but I can still appreciate Artifex Mundi attempting to provide a greater substance to their cliché ridden narratives and perhaps with a few more attempts will get closer to something legitimately compelling.
Grim Legends other notable contribution is your kitten companion you meet early on. Aside from being absolutely adorable she acts as a helper for certain puzzles in the game, which is a nice change from having to jury-rig random items together all the time. I was disappointed however with how rarely my feline friend actually got to do anything, typically being required to sit and be cute in the corner of the screen even when it would make sense for her to help out. I legitimately forgot numerous times she was even usable for puzzle solving because it was so infrequent a solution utilizing her actually worked. Hopefully animal companions (or whatever fits for a specific game) is a returning feature for Artifex Mundi games going forward and will be given a larger part that actually justifies their inclusion.
One of the weirdest things about Grim Legends is how it can look incredible during normal gameplay, but every cutscene is a horrendously compressed mess of muddy textures. Perhaps the difference was just closer before, but I can't recall any of Artifex Mundi's previous games having such jarring transitions and they became a continual blight on an otherwise extremely pretty game. On the plus side character models have almost made it out of the uncanny valley, though voice acting is still all over the place, unaided by a few grammatical errors which made it into both the spoken and written script.
I say it every time it seems as if I’m heavily criticizing an Artifex Mundi game, but it’s worth noting again that whatever my disappointment with a specific game may be, I’ve still yet to actually dislike anything they’ve put out. I can certainly point to my favorites, but unless you’re predisposed to dislike HOGs you really can’t go wrong with any of their games, Grim Legends included. I suppose then my reviews or their work is less general buying advice and more a quick rundown of where a particular game fits on the arbitrary leaderboard inside my head. In that sense this isn’t very high on the list, but what it tries and fails to do is encouraging enough to make it a worthwhile stepping stone to better things to come.