Grim Dawn is an ARPG made by the indie studio Crate Entertainment that contains veterans of the genre. Through the classic isometric view, you embark on a series of quests after being saved from execution. The general flow of the quests is to cleanse the world of the various evil factions, but there are several side quests that offer multiple ways to solve them, not all of them “good” solutions. The main quest was actually really interesting to me, but almost all of the quests, even side quests, have multiple single space paragraphs of back story to frame the quest that it becomes a pain after a while. Not that story is a bad thing, but it really interrupted the flow of the game for me if I stopped to read everything.
As for the game itself, there are various difficulties that really change the pace of combat, including a perma-death option. From there give your hero a name, choose their sex, and jump straight into the story. There are six different classes in the games with various abilities to make them unique, but what’s awesome and gives the game a lot of depth is that you choose any two classes to play as at the same time. On top of that, there’s another skill tree called devotion that can branch in several directions depending on how you allocate points in the tree. There’s also varied types of weapons in the game, but since they require so much of a certain stat to equip, you are forced into using certain types.
After deciding on how you want to play, the action can finally start. The core of the combat is your typical ARPG with a focus on ability use, health/spirit management (spirit is mana), and fighting varying enemy types. You and enemies have various stats like critical hit chance, armor, and resistances to take into account as well. Bosses, denoted with a star above their heads, have the most robust set of abilities of all the enemies. All of the story bosses are unique and even random bosses are unique but have a random modifier like able to quickly regenerate health or slow you. You’ll see a lot of the same cannon fodder enemies over and over again too, but it didn’t bother me. Two last but important features are that if you die, your character loses experience but no money or items, and all skill investments can be refunded for a small amount of in-game currency.
As you progress through the story you will quickly gain loot from bosses, chests, or random drops from cannon fodder, and I mean a lot of loot. Enemies drop a ton of lower quality gear that you can ignore or pick-up and sell. I dislike constantly traveling back to merchants so I used the game’s handy loot filter option to only display loot of magical rarity and up. For those that choose to pick up every last piece of loot you’re in luck though, because in almost every location you can instantly drop a portal to teleport back to town.
As I mentioned, there are different types of loot rarity ranking from lowest to highest: common, magical, rare, epic, and legendary. Magical and up have random stats which are better the higher the quality. Some items even give you new abilities when equipped or can buff ones you may already have. In addition, there are item sets that require so many pieces of the set to be equipped to receive even more stats.
Other loot you can find is gear augments. Each augment has its own stats and can be attached to various pieces of gear. If you collect enough of the same type of augment, you can combine them so the buff they give gear is even higher. Higher level augments also can give new player abilities and extremely helpful in combat.
Crafting also makes an appearance in Grim Dawn and although I’m not particularly fond of it, it is a pretty well thought out system. Recipes can be found as random drops or bought from factions. Crafting reagents are a semi-common drop and many of the recipes make use of augments as well. What makes me dislike the crafting is that many of the stats on the gear you craft is random so you can make dozens of pieces of gear but get none of stats you need. Granted that loot drops are exactly the same, but I find killing enemies for the gear a hell of a lot more enjoyable than praying to RNGesus that my crafted gear comes out perfect.
As I mentioned, there are factions and they come in two varieties, good or evil. Both have reputation that you must earn to unlock various rewards and benefits. Good factions are the survivors in the world that you can help in your travels and usually earn reputation for doing so. Their rewards are new quests, dungeons, and access to shops unique to each faction and can sell powerful set gear. Evil factions are comprised of all the bosses and cannon fodder you will destroy out in the world. Reputation gains are simply gained by killing more of that particular faction. The rewards for their hate of you is increased spawns of cannon fodder and bosses and finally nemesis spawns which are extremely tough and rare bosses.
Everything I’ve already talked about is from a single-player aspect of the game. If you get tired of venturing alone, you can jump into multi-player with up to three other players. In terms of settings, everything is based on the host, from difficulty to whether loot is shared or individual. Games can be public or private, and sadly most of the games are private so the multiplayer population is a bit low. Don’t let that ruin the experience for you though. There’s a lot of fun to be had just seeing what playstyle others use and seeing how much damage your group can do.
My Two Cents
At this point I think its self-explanatory that there is a good amount of replay in the game. With all the different class combinations and skills there’s a ton of ways to play the game. At the end of the day though you are still playing through the same zones, enemies, and quests. That honestly can’t be avoided and if you enjoy playing your character, then what does it matter. With my time put into the game I didn’t even reach the end-game but that says something for itself too. Grim Dawn straight out says it’s an ARPG and it fulfills everything you would expect of it. Not only that but it does the job damn well. There’s so many different ways to play the game and has a built-in skill point refund system that it makes me wonder why this isn’t in every RPG. There’s nothing worse than a misclick or picking a skill you don’t like, and since there’s no skill refund, you’re just stuck with something you don’t like. The graphics aren’t the greatest in the world and the voice acting can be laughable at times, but those aren’t a huge deal to me and are really the only negatives to the game. There’s a lot of lore and story you can get sucked into or you can skip reading it all and get back to the action. Summing all of that up into one game makes it well worth your time and money if you’re an ARPG fan or even new to the genre.