Grim Dawn

Grim Dawn is a well-executed ARPG that adds a drop of old-school to the current landscape of the genre.

By Woozie, Posted 29 Feb 2016

Taking a glimpse at today’s ARPG landscape it is fairly obvious that two titles are dominating it. Firstly, we have Diablo 3, a game that departed quite a lot from its predecessor and had a pretty rocky launch. It did, eventually, manage to find a floating line, especially after its expansion, Reaper of Souls, came out. The second one would be Path of Exile, which is a Free-to-Play ARPG that has very different mechanics from the grandfather of the genre. And yet, people still crave an ARPG with a gameplay similar to Diablo 2 and in this respect, Crate Entertainment are coming to the table with Grim Dawn, a game that plans to do just that.

Grim Dawn, Screenshot, Review

Crate Entertainment is an independent company made from people that worked for Iron Lore, developers of Titan Quest and its expansion, Immortal Throne. Titan Quest’s setting was drenched in mythology, taking you through Ancient Greece, Egypt and China. Grim Dawn signals a departure, taking place in the world of Cairn, made up from a mixture of grimdark and lovecraftian elements that propagate a heavy, unwelcoming atmosphere. The world of Cairn is torn by a conflict that involves a number of separate factions who all follow their own agenda. And that’s where you come in.

Grim Dawn follows the Diablo 2 framework. It is a slow, methodical journey throughout the story content. Once you finish it, you unlock higher difficulties, primarily marked by a reduction in your resistances, which also give better loot. Rinse and repeat. As of now, the endgame stands on a number of dungeons with a roguelike element and farming the story content on Ultimate difficulty. This is, indeed, very similar to how Titan Quest did things. And the similarities do not stop here. While boasting a lower number of classes, Grim Dawn still allows you to combine them into hybrid classes. That automatically means higher replayability due to the variety of possible skills you can focus on.

Grim Dawn, Screenshot, Review

The way enchantments work is also similar to Titan Quest. While adventuring, you’ll find fragments of components which give bonuses. Completing the component will give a stronger variant which can be attached to your items. Should you want them removed, you will have to choose between keeping the item or the component. This means that on higher levels, you need to be careful which Epic or Legendary items you enchant with which enchantments as keeping both upon disenchanting is impossible. Items in Grim Dawn can sometimes come with a certain skill attached to them, making it so that you’ll need to find a balance between which items and skills you choose, in order to complement your already existing build. A crafting system is also present to aid you in customizing your characters.

I mentioned a handful of factions at the start of the review. Overtime you’ll befriend some and enrage others. Those you befriend will offer you a larger variety of their faction-specific items which can prove quite useful in your leveling experience. The factions you’ll gain notoriety with will send more powerful monsters after you. These monsters are called Nemeses and are stronger variants of already existing monsters. Usually, when you encounter one, you’d better be ready for a fight but also some good spoils. Should you want to obtain reputation with a certain faction quicker, you can do so through bounties which are missions that involve killing certain enemy mobs. Arguably, these systems do not allow for as much customization as Diablo 3 or Path of Exile, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t focus your effort towards getting those items you crave. It just means that, similar to Titan Quest and Diablo 2, it places more of them behind drops, making repeated runs of certain bosses and farming a necessity, while also sticking to the slower pace the aforementioned games had.

Grim Dawn, Screenshot, Review

The multiplayer mode in Grim Dawn is centered around the same things as the single player. It allows up to four people to join a server and adventure on. And yes, there is an actual server browser you can use. There, you can filter server based on your loot preference, whether you want it free or instanced, game mode, softcore or hardcore, difficulty, and a number of other features. It basically allows you to customize your experience so that it echoes the single player one, if you so desire. There are players to be found at all times, although, the best results come when working in a party that’s synchronized and whose characters complement each other. Over the course of Early Access there have been issues with this mode. I only played it in the past weeks and did encounter a couple of bugs. Apart from some connectivity issues, where I couldn’t connect to others or vice-versa I also encountered bosses that wouldn’t drop loot. As I was playing a Conjurer, a mixture of the game’s two classes that can summon pets, once my pet died the HUD icon would remain there up to where I had it showing 5 Briarthorns (the shaman pet) out of which 4 had no health whatsoever, all while in reality 1 Briarthorn was active. Despite all this, the multiplayer ran well, for the most part, with not a single disconnect taking place and framedrops being a particularly rare occurrence.

What about the story and the graphics, though? The story follows a pattern that shouldn’t be unfamiliar to people who’ve saved fantasy realms before. It has a cast of characters that sometimes shine and sometimes don’t. It has bosses that are imposing aesthetically but leave you wondering whether they couldn’t have been spiced up more mechanically. All in all, though, roaming Cairn and reading the lore excerpts you find is satisfying. Graphically, Grim Dawn is a Unity game. It looks good from a technical standpoint. The animations are smooth and movement is fluid. Some people may be put off by the overall aesthetic, though. In an attempt to, perhaps, amplify the dark atmosphere of the setting, things do look quite muddied and, spending a lot of time with the aesthetic can become tiresome on some players. Even the brighter areas, which look undoubtedly good, suffer from this, however there’s a chance of it boiling down to personal preference.

Grim Dawn, Screenshot, Review

Grim Dawn does not innovate in many areas. Apart from a couple of new damage types that may or may not influence the build, its elements aren’t particularly new. When leveling up your class you can choose to place a stat point in one of three stats (Physique, which gives resilience, Cunning, which increases offensive potential and Spirit, which increases mana and magical damage). Then, you need to distribute skill points in your class tree. Prior to gaining any skills, however, you’ll need to level up the class itself. Last, but not least, you’ll find the Devotion system which is made from Constellations that give bonuses as you’re completing them, larger bonuses once they’re completed and, sometimes, even skills to add to your arsenal. All these, coupled with the potential for class hybridization leave enough for those who want to experiment with their classes, but also make sure that once you’re bored of your hammer wielding shaman, you’ll come back to mix it up with another class, or, maybe try something entirely different.

Grim Dawn, Screenshot, Review

What Grim Dawn does is make us focus on how ARPGs once were. It is not the fast-paced click-fest leaning towards accessibility that Diablo 3 is and neither is it the complex behemoth that Path of Exile has evolved into. It is a reminder. It is a worthy successor of Titan Quest and a game that, despite using tried-and-tested methods, will scratch the itch of those who cried in disappointment when Diablo 3 came out and not only them. It is capable of appealing to any ARPG fan, because there are plenty of items and sets to discover, there are enough classes to find one suiting your playstyle as there is a world plunged into chaos and darkness that needs saving. For a price of 25 euros, you’ll get an ARPG in the old-school sense of the word that has the potential to keep you clicking for at least 40 to 50 hours and you can definitely do much worse than that.

MateÈ™ Bogdan Robert, NoobFeed
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General Information

Grim Dawn

81/100

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Crate Entertainment
Developer(s): Crate Entertainment
Genres: Action RPG
Themes: Hack 'n' Slash
Release Date: 2016-02-25

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