Wot I Think: Grim Dawn

Grim Dawn [official site] is a hacky-slashy action RPG set in a fantasy world ravaged by monstrous invasion, in which you play a wandering hero seeking to stem the chaos with blade, bullets, sorcery or all of the above. It’s been in Steam Early Access for a while, following a successful Kickstarter, but is now designated ‘content complete’ and will see full release next month – though you’ll get essentially everything if you buy it right now. Here’s whether you should or shouldn’t.

I hesitate to make quite so blanket a statement as “this is the Diablo III that many Diablo II fans wanted”, both because there are key ways in which it’s not and because I can’t speak for people who’ve spent years memorising loot tables and now expect very specific things. However…

Fantasy/horror action RPG Grim Dawn is a huge and slick affair which clings tight to a doomy tone, eschews online funny business and is careful to keep lore overload at arm’s length. A lack of overblown cutscenes aside, you’d never guess that it was made comparatively under the radar and on surely a fraction of Diablo III’s budget. Grim Dawn will leave early access in fine, fine health.

The Titan Quest (with which it shares several developers) influence is as strong as that of Diablo, though sadly the Harryhausen monster aesthetic wasn’t retained. We don’t get many tottering skeletons or screeching harpies, but both loot and powers ramp up dramatically quickly. It’s rarely a question of if a murdered monster will drop anything, and more how the hell you’re going to fit it all in your bags. The same excess extends to the many and often wildly over the top powers. Grim Dawn, despite the downbeat title, is determined to make you feel good.

By the later stages of the campaign, I was being aided in battle by a ghost raven (who could also heal me), three different kinds of hellhound plus the reanimated corpses of defeated enemies, and also I could transform into a giant. Who summoned lighting and threw big, exploding, poisonous eyeballs at people. And randomly exuded a wall of fire on a regular basis. I can’t even remember the rest of the skills – I was merrily cycling through the 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 and 8 keys in addition to hammering both mouse buttons, and basically everything was exploding all the time. And the monsters kept on getting bigger, long past the point where I’d thought they surely couldn’t get any bigger.

Almost nothing in Grim Dawn isn’t familiar, but almost everything is amped up enormously – yet its mood and its aesthetic is so buttoned down that it never actually becomes absurd. Well, no more so than several dozen hours of mouse-abuse in order to slaughter the entire population of a continent inherently is.

I’m in two minds about the look, and the tone. I understand that if you call your game ‘Grim Dawn’ then rainbows and unicorns are not to be expected – especially if Diablo II’s many fans are indeed your audience. On the other hand, there is a ton of inventive and even playful stuff in the world and creatures of Grim Dawn, but the gloom and also the relentlessness of the fighting often obscures it.

There is, for example, a sizeable section that’s trying to be a Western, capitalising on the fact that guns play a major role in combat if you want them to. I’d love to play a Western-themed ARPG, or at least a zone. Unfortunately this doesn’t really make it more meaningful than hats and boss names. It’s really just more spiky men attacking you in the dark. Similarly, the heavily Cthulhu-influenced stuff which shows up later on mostly (there are some noticeably large exceptions) just ends up thrown into the blender with all the other swarming monsters. There’s a broader Dark Victorian theme to the whole game, but I’m just not convinced that it manages to sell it, even if the weird hats are there if you zoom in close enough.

Partly it’s an art/lighting issue – though rarely overwhelmingly dark as such, it comes off as muted most of the time – and partly it’s hamstrung by the very nature of a game like this, but I did have this persistent sense that something joyful was being kept down by the overarching decision to be Grim. To be Diablo II and not Torchlight. And that decision winds up limiting Grim Dawn to A Fantasy ARPG as opposed to The Pistols and Cthulhu ARPG. If I were to pick the most representative monster in Grim Dawn, it would be a zombie. And we all know how we feel about those guys these days.

It’s not that it’s always that dark, but somehow the contents come off as indistinct much of the time. Look close and this isn’t the case: wonderfully detailed environments and intricate monsters put the lie to any lingering belief that 2D ARPG art is necessarily superior, although as you can see in the screenshots the screen is often too cluttered to take much in. This, and the need to play with the camera pulled out as far as it’ll go is perhaps more of a problem than the murk is – it becomes a seething mass of spikes and lighting effects. There’s no doubt that the artists have gone to town though, and on the occasional stretches where they do turn the lights up, it comes alive with colour and all the concerns of the last few paragraphs fade away for a short time.

It quickly reverts to form every time, though. An over-reliance on tradition, both visually and mechanically, is the chief black mark against Grim Dawn as far as I’m concerned, but clearly it’s also its biggest selling point. ARPGs may be one of the most well-worn grooves in the PC gaming LP, but at the same time we don’t get too many straight ones these days, and especially not as slick and sprawling as this is. Sometimes you just want to click the button and enjoy the twin rewards of a monster bursting into a fountain of giblets and the dopamine-triggering metallic chink of a new toy dropping to the floor.

Grim Dawn does try to offer a little bit more than this. There are conversation options with the handful of questgivers in the handful of towns, though they’re rarely more than Yes/No/Lore Please. More substantially, there are a few key factional choices to be made, which have a big effect on who or what you’re fighting at certain points, as well as eventual access to bonus trinkets (although expect some grind if you do want that).

If you’re of a mind to play ARPGs through repeatedly, then you’re guaranteed to be facing a few different bosses and clearing out or accessing alternative areas should you choose the opposite decisions second time around. I haven’t been able to play this twice – c’mon, just once took me almost an entire working week – so can’t speak to how the ultimate outcome is affected, but it’s definitely going above and beyond the ARPG norm in that respect.

But there are respects where it’s not, and I wish it did. For instance, there is so much loot but so little of it is useful, either for equipping to your character or for selling at a worthwhile profit, that I have to question why it’s there, other than for the hormonal hit of that aforementioned ‘chink!’ noise. I wish it had a more interesting alternative use than collect and sell.

As a consequence, this is also a game which is heavy on return trips to town to sell off all your junk once your bags fill, and sadly it’s declined to investigate the merciful Torchlight system. My Occultist/Soldier character might have had a dutiful menagerie of fighting pets, but not a one of them could return to town with my unwanted spoils to save myself the effort of going back and forth through a portal again. At least the portalling is ever-on hand and relatively quick, but it’s still a drag.

Clearly the sensible thing to do is to not pick up anything which isn’t yellow, green or blue, in ye olde ARPG/MMO rarity-flagging system, but it’s very hard to bat away the hunger for coin. By the mid-way point in the game I had given up on collecting standard loot, but again – why is so much of it there if that’s what we’re going to end up doing? I appreciate this stuff is part and parcel of why we play ARPGs, but given it’s specifically chosen to have a tidal wave of pointy metal objects, it’s a damned shame Grim Dawn didn’t even attempt a more interesting way of managing it.

Also coming up short is characterisation. Clearly Diablo III’s success demonstrated that the market is happy with posturing at the expense of personality, but bar an appropriately big finish Grim Dawn doesn’t really manage either. I’m not going to mourn that there are no cutscenes, but it’s a shame the vast majority of NPCs function only as talking signposts, sometimes with an option for a few written screens of lore. Very occasionally it dares to become playful – there’s a well-judged damsel in distress inversion at one point, for instance – but in the main it’s extremely dry, and neither the NPCs or your character have personal stakes in what’s going on beyond “please stop the end of the world.”

Granted, this is often par for the course for this genre, but it’s an area where Grim Dawn could have traded additional blows with Blizzard without necessarily requiring vast expense. Really it’s that it doesn’t want to be much more than hit monsters/collect gear, and it seems happy to drape a (very) loose Lovecraftian structure around that.

The one world-building thing it does pull off is that this is a land which has already suffered a monstrous invasion rather than is only on the verge of it – settlements are few and far between, and the roads, mountains and valleys which connect them are absolutely overwhelmed by beasts, bandits and beyonders. The whole place is a nightmare. Though, of course, what that really means is “kill everything all the time”, and the late-middle stretch of the campaign felt a little fatiguing as a result. (Usual reviewer’s proviso though: I cram-played this across a few days, whereas you’ll likely chip away at it over several weeks’ worth of evenings.)

Fortunately, the excess of loot aside, Grim Dawn is an extremely good hit monsters/collect gear game. It’s solid, the character classes are both very distinct from each other and impressively flexible (you even get to dual-class a few hours in), it goes big quickly and even bigger later, and it mixes up environments and enemies regularly. Like the best ARPGs, it feels like a hard-fought journey across the world, not simply a series of linked corridors which change colour every half an hour.

If backgrounds and props are repeating as often as one might expect would be necessary for something of this scale that doesn’t have a big publisher attached, it pretty much doesn’t show: it’s high-gloss all the way. The size of the fights and the range of both creatures and attacks on show in the final third or so of a campaign is riotously large; never mind Diablo II, this is definitely a Titan Quest follow-up. It might be muted, but it’s certainly not sterile.

This is solid, solid stuff, without a shadow of a doubt. Particularly, the character classes offer a ton of different and flexible powers, and then there are multiple ways of adding entirely new powers – weapon augments, an extra skill tree built by finding and reactivating shrines – on top of that. You’re just not going to have the same build twice.

If you have an ARPG itch to scratch, I can’t recommend you look anywhere else right now. And while it’s still in Early Access for a few more weeks, it absolutely feels complete, and the only sign of any technical rough edges were a couple of crashes that I can’t 100% guarantee were its fault rather than my PC’s. Don’t fear buying it now just because it says ‘early access on the tin’ – you’d never guess it’s not quite finished.

It’ll keep you busy for a long damn time too, even if you only play it once – though, of course, for many there’ll be later playthroughs in co-op or at unlockable higher difficulties. I think it’s the (admittedly presumed) desire to be the spiritual sequel to Diablo II which holds me back from heaping breathless praise on Grim Dawn, though. The need to be grim first and foremost forbids a clear personality from shining through, and the result is that I’m not sure how to finish a sentence which begins “Grim Dawn is that game where…”

Well, other than “…I had a better time than I did in Diablo III at launch”, anyway.

Grim Dawn is available now and content complete for Windows via Steam Early Access.

80 Comments

  1. golem09 says:

    I’ve backed it way back in 2012, and after all this time I can wait one more month for the polish. (Also university exams)
    This article fuels my excitement for it real good though, looks like it’s gonna be the treat I backed it to be.

    • Yoofaloof says:

      I’m holding back too. Played the starting area countless times and I can’t wait to get stuck in further come official launch.

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      Carra says:

      Backed it too and waited for the full release. Great to finally have another good ARPG to play.

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      Andy_Panthro says:

      I backed it ages ago too (pre-kickstarter), and was very keen on it at the time.

      I’ve got far more of a backlog of games now though, so I’ll probably wait for a bit before jumping in.

    • Moraven says:

      Pre-KS backer also. Wife and I looking forward to playing.

      At least there is a few weeks between this and Diablo III Season 5 that is starting in a few days.

    • iivo says:

      I also backed it in Kickstarter. While i did not get to finish the available content in Nov 2015, when i played it, even in that state it was an excellent ARPG. Never for a minute, in all the ~30h i played did i feel that this was an early access game. Nice story, mechanics, music, character development, everything. The reason i did not finish it was i have little time o play in a given week, so the 30h where about a month of gaming for me. Exclusively. It was worth it, but after a month, i felt the need to try something else. Will get back to it soon :)

  2. Jockie says:

    My take on Grim Dawn is that is basically Titan Quest 2 without the charm of the Ancient Greek setting and mythological creatures. That’d be fine if it was doing something inventive, but it’s mostly just zombies and dudes with pistols.

    Where it really suffers for me is that when you’re min-maxxing (and it’s an ARPG so you’re always min-maxxing) you’re nearly always best off just empowering your left click skill, adding proc effects etc. for the first 15 hours of the game. However that’s pretty true to Titan Quest as well. This changes in the late late game, but it can lead to many many hours of left clicking on enemies and hoovering up loot of the right colour.

    I liked Titan Quest and spent many hours playing it with friends, but Diablo 3, Torchlight 2 and Path of Exile all evolved the genre in some way and Grim Dawn seems pretty single-minded about being almost exactly like its predecessor.

    • Krazen says:

      Well that’s true of most ARPG’s. It’s not until mid-game onwards that you can play with different builds. One big plus from what I’ve played so far in Grim Dawn is the fact you can pretty much pick any character and any build you want and make it work. No character or powers seem OP compared to the rest.

      • Jockie says:

        I think it certainly was true, but games like Diablo and PoE moved beyond that (Torchlight 2 less so).

        As much hate as Diablo gets for its less desirable evolutions (i.e. always online) it throws stuff at you every 10 minutes as you level and as your work through the end-game to the point where you never ever end up just left-clicking but have the most important 6 abilites fighting for space on your hotbar.

      • LexW1 says:

        It’s not true of D3, PoE or T2, though, that’s the thing. All of them are big advancements on earlier ARPGs (T2 the smallest). D3 dramatically re-works skills and leveling (and now has good loot and a number of fun endgames). PoE is an amazing thing which feels like D2 in the best sense, but has very different mechanics and a unique game structure, and T2, well, it was more of a linear advancement, but it did at a lot of little stuff.

        Whereas GD, which I do like, feels like “more of the same”. Most of the stuff that was good about TQ is good here (the movement of the monsters and players, the sense of verticality, the fact that few skills are “just bad”, etc.), but the bad stuff is also unchanged (no random maps, more repetition of enemies than usual even in Diablo clones, old-fashioned and boring stat reqs on items – PoE handles that far better, fr’ex), and it has a big flaw TQ did not – unexciting/uninspiring visual design. It’s not bad or incoherent but it’s not awesome/inspiring like TQ was. It’s almost like some mashed up Doom, Heretic/Hexen and the late 1800s, and not in a good way. Feels dated already. Cooler visual design would have really helped, I think.

        • Moraven says:

          There is some randomization in the maps. Its like Diablo III, with a mix of the same maps and some randomization

    • aliksy says:

      This was my main complaint. I went in excited to call down meteors and shoot lasers, but it turned out that maxing out my left click ‘magic missile’ was far more effective.

      Also I never really did a lot of multiclassing because magic missile was so effective, and it takes a bunch of levels to get to the good stuff in any class. You can’t refund points spent in class mastery, or change your second class, so that always felt like a big gamble. “I could try adding some nightblade, but if it sucks I’m out 5 hours of play…”

      • jrodman says:

        There are mods and editors to change this, but that doesn’t really change the feel that you should lock in and then you feel locked in, and a lot of those interesting other powers on the chart don’t get exercised.

  3. KFee says:

    A Wot I think of an early access game… Aren’t there enough released games where it’d be wiser to make one?

    • Nick says:

      “…now designated ‘content complete’…”

    • jrodman says:

      While I agree in spirit, this is one of those cases where it’s 0.99.9b.99.9 GOLDEN MASTER.

      There’s nothing really “early access” about it left.

    • Boozebeard says:

      Well it sound like it is as close to finished as any pre release press build they would normally write a review with and you would normally want to get a review out as soon after you got the review build as possible so don’t really see the difference.

  4. shadow9d9 says:

    My friend and I found POE to be a letdown actually.. and to soem degree, the same with Torchlight 2. Didn’t try D3 yet.

    Backed this for 2 copies, so we shall see.

    • LexW1 says:

      What did you feel was weak about PoE/T2? As a long-time D2 fan I loved both (PoE more). PoE has improved a lot from the early days though so that may be biasing me (had I only played it years ago I’d be less positive).

      GD is decent. Better than T2, worse than PoE or D3 for my money. It’s the best true single player/offline one though, for sure (barring console D3 – that may be better).

    • airknots says:

      Love PoE, but I really wish I can zoom out more, though I know it’s impossible cause they don’t wanna mess up the game balance. Kickstarted Grim Dawn, hope it’s good enough to scratch my ARPG itch.

  5. kool says:

    With Diablo 3 starting a new season on friday with a new major patch and Path Of Exile bringing a new game mode that seems quite interesting to the game “early 2016”, i won’t have a lack of ARPGs to play in the near future.

    I hope I’ll enjoy Grim Dawn too, but that might have to be some other time.

  6. anHorse says:

    I think it’s much better than titan quest but man do I miss Titan Quest’s bright setting.

    The grimness gets to me after about 45 minutes of play, same reason I don’t like poe

    • Urthman says:

      Titan Quest had some of the most beautiful sunrise and sunset lighting if any game I’ve ever played.

  7. shagen454 says:

    I agree, I feel the same towards GD as I do about PoE. The basic gist of that is – if I want arpg, I’ll go play some D3. They both shot for a generic D2 vibe and then guess what, Blizz somehow fixed the huge failure that was D3 and now it’s a really good game. There’s not enough time in the day to play clones of this sort in my opinion.

    • DarkFenix says:

      Ehh, Diablo 3 is mediocre. It has a horribly punishing RNG, balance varies between worthless and overpowered with almost no middle ground and it’s always online. Grim Dawn isn’t a clone at all, it takes Titan Quest, modernises it, adds in a hefty splash of Diablo 2 and avoids all the bullshit in Diablo 3.

      • Unclepauly says:

        In D3 if you want an item you can get it without too much trouble. Also with the new patch and the Legacy of Nightmare ring set the whole game has become middle ground. What you said used to be true a couple years ago but most definitely isn’t now.

    • LexW1 says:

      PoE is superior to D3 in a lot of ways. It’s certainly not even arguably a lazy clone or the like as you seem to imply. It’s a much more D2 like experience in the best sense, and has a lot of cool stuff going on.

      D3 is excellent too, but it’s not superior, just different. It’s more action, less thinking (which is often good), more changing builds, less coming up with the perfect one, more steady upgrades, less finding the perfect item, etc.

      GD has one thing on both – you can play it offline and without lag. No DCs, no lost loot, no rollbacks and the SP mode in general is better designed than either D3 or PoE for pure SP.

      • kalzekdor says:

        Any ARPG recommendations for someone who liked the original Diablo more than D2? I liked the gothic horror setting of Diablo, the dim, flickering lighting, the ambient drips and skitters and moans hinting at horrors just around the corner, the feeling that every door you open might be your last.

        It was a realtime roguelike, which is what I liked about it. D3 isn’t bad, but it’s all a bunch of whizzbang effects and clicking frantically on brightly colored monsters. It doesn’t have the weight of the original. Sounds like Grim Dawn is more of the same.

        I’d like something with Diablo’s style, with some improved tactical options (have build choices actually be meaningful, for example), but still having a sense of danger, of consequence more than waiting 10 seconds to respawn if you die. Some resource management/scarcity wouldn’t go amiss, either.

  8. Nasarius says:

    My favorite thing by far about Diablo 2 was playing a necromancer with a huge army of pets, sitting back and letting them do the work, raining down curses and the making corpses explode. D2 came up recently in a discussion with a friend, and she enjoyed the exact same thing. Dungeon Siege 1 provided a similar experience, with a party of characters who would mostly act on their own.

    This is my eternal hope for every ARPG that comes up. Is there a pet-based class that provides a slightly more tactical experience? Can I be anything like a skelemancer in Grim Dawn?

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      • Nasarius says:

        Yeah trust me, I’ve tried to make a pet-based Witch Doctor in every major patch of D3. It’s always getting a little better, but still far inferior to other builds.

    • DarkFenix says:

      You can’t get the kind of pet legion D2 provided (in fact there are only 4 in the base skill trees, more available through other means), but the Conjurer class (blend of the cursing, demon-summoning Occultist and the nature-summoning Shaman) has a wide range of non-summon attacks. Not the range of curses D2 had, but you’ll be far from a passive observer to your pets’ actions.

      One thing you may appreciate in GD is the ability to actually issue your pets simple orders, no more watching helplessly as they attack the wrong target or stand in a great big fire.

    • scannerbarkly says:

      You can run what is called “The Lazy Pokemon Master”, it’s a basic summon mage. You call in assorted familiars and creatures to do you bidding. Its kind of item reliant after a point but it’s a lot of fun.

    • MaXimillion says:

      You can make several kinds of strong summoner builds in Path of Exile

    • Ragnar says:

      I remember trying that in D2. It was fun when skeletons weren’t getting stuck on walls due to poor pathfinding.

      Though the first boss was a nightmare. She killed my whole skeleton army in the first two seconds of the fight. I spent the rest of the fight running around in circles, throwing teeth at her. When she finally died, I mistook her death animation for a special attack and portaled out. That fight convinced me that a skeleton army necromancer wasn’t a practical choice, and I re-rolled an Assassin to much rejoicing and enjoyment.

  9. Krazen says:

    there is so much loot but so little of it is useful

    Firstly as you progress you should definitely turn on the loot filter to never see the crap you’ll just waste time farming. By the end of act one you should be only seeing yellow and above, and by the last act probably only greens or better.

    I also think the game is designed for multi character play-throughs as the shared stash is huge. So all those items that may be useless for one characters is ideal for another.

    • Uglycat says:

      The problem with turning off Yellows is that you won’t make enough money to expand the transfer stash tabs.

  10. Spacewalk says:

    It sounds awfully close to what I was expecting.

  11. TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

    I think it’s time to give Diablo 3 another chance as it’s just another game now, and in a good way.

    A free content patch is happening somewhere in these days, everything was rebalanced, loot was fixed, new modes were added and in general it’s a blast.

    January the 15th marks the start of Season 5 in which you can start fresh and earn seasonal rewards and stuff, it’s a good moment to get back.

    • jrodman says:

      I’d totally buy it if they’d remove the online restriction.

      This is a practical problem for me.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        Well, i have some practical problems with it aswell, as my connection isn’t exactly rock solid and i’m not allowed to go with anything better where i live.

        Sometimes it definitely sucks, i tolerate it just because the assumption that everyone plays online is exactly the reason why interesting things like seasons and so on were introduced, while the console version doesn’t have this kind of stuff.

        The devs have a clear understanding of what people are doing with the game at any given moment and they throw stuff around accordingly, everyone plays under the same terms and that’s a comfortable position for them to optimize their work, and i think it shows.

        It’s inconvenient at times, but i think it’s a fair trade off.

  12. Phantasma says:

    Sounds interesting but i see one problem.
    Maybe Diablo 3 has spoiled me, and even if it did a million things wrong, but the ability to respec whenever i want did wonders for my motivation to experiment and try out new things.

    Maybe it’s an age thing, some may even see it as a sign of laziness but rerolling a char and losing dozens (or even hundreds) of hours only because my skeleton-ratlings turned out to be a weak skill, were nerfed in a patch or just wouldn’t suit my build at endgame anymore, does not excite me but rather makes me feel like the game doesn’t respect my time. At all.

    I would have liked to give it a try but my backlog already is more frightening than every dungeon boss will ever be and my gimped and neglected templar in Path Of Exile reminds me not to do this to any other ARPG character ever again.

    • DarkFenix says:

      You can respec most of your abilities easily in GD. Your assigned attribute points and mastery points can’t be removed, but any points put in skills can be removed quickly and cheaply.

      It basically makes you more or less patch-proof, unless that patch ruins either of your classes.

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      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      Re-rolling and/or changing class as many times as you want should just be standard in most RPGs these days. There is nothing worse than getting 20 hours into a game and realizing the character you made is ineffective or not any fun. Dragon’s Dogma lets you do this and it was one of my favourite aspects of the game because it lets you change up playstyles and find the class that best suits how you want to murder monsters.

      I can understand how some games might run into problems with re-rolls when NPCs react to you differently based on what you are, like a BioWare game for example.

  13. malkav11 says:

    I backed Grim Dawn, and I look forward to some extent to actually playing it (which I will not be doing until it’s out of EA even though it’s now feature complete). But I can certainly recommend looking at some other ARPGs out there right now. Diablo III is of course hugely improved since launch, with another big patch having just dropped today and season 5 starting in a couple more days. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing are now available in a Final Cut edition that cuts all three together with the most modern incarnation of the systems involved and I heartily recommend it – very strong tongue-in-cheek flavor of eastern European monster myths and the classic gothic horror tales that the name Van Helsing suggests, along with steampunky mad science. Quite funny. Loads of neat secrets to discover. Very solid and distinct classes, innovative quest design, lots of subsystems including a pretty robust (and cooperative) tower defense subgame. And of course there’s Marvel Heroes, which is one of my most played games of all time at this point and continues to evolve into higher and higher heights at an astoundingly rapid pace. The sheer variety of classes embodied by the 50-odd characters available (more coming on a regular basis), the wide range of game modes (likewise), the still for-my-tastes best in class loot, regularly rotating special events…I have 270 hours in and counting and expect many, many more to come. (Some people probably have dumped far more hours into other ARPGs, but I’ve never had one click to this degree before. Usually the variety of experiences runs thin for me after the second or third character, if not sooner.)

  14. Freud says:

    The only game I’ve backed on Kickstarter. I loved Titan Quest and I’m sure I’ll enjoy this.

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    steves says:

    Can I get a “luminous jingling codpiece of the marmoset” to go with those “sheltering studded legwraps of the badger”, I think they would work well together.

  16. DarkFenix says:

    I feel I should point out what I think is the greatest masterstroke of Grim Dawn. It’s synergy.

    Titan Quest introduced the two-class mechanic, but there wasn’t much interaction between the classes, each tended to be the sole master of their role and finding synergy could be hard. Not so in Grim Dawn, pick basically any two classes and you’ll find some strong synergy in there, some way in which the two classes directly and greatly improve one another. Similarly, pick pretty much any piece of end-game gear, or any given skill, and you’ll find something that synergises with it to make it a perfectly viable build.

    I’ve lost tens of hours theorycrafting after finding a piece of shiny loot or seeing a cool skill, then wondering what kind of interesting new build I could create around it. Almost invariably I’ll find that the build in question is perfectly feasible, indeed there are often several possibilities I could take. Grim Dawn has all the depth I wished Diablo 3 had and more besides.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      As of the latest patch there are multiple builds for each champion in D3 that can push the last torment levels and go for greater rifts, plus there’s even a ring set that demands you don’t use any other set pieces but boosts your other legendaries by huge amount, and many more absurd builds can be found around it.

      Does Grim Dawn have the same kind of challenge modes and extreme difficulty that demand utmost perfection and build-exploiting in your items and so on?

      Because otherwise it’s not hard to feel you have good sinergy if you’re not speed clearing a dungeon that can kill you in any split second. Easier for builds to feel complete and well made when you don’t have any more means to push them.

      • DarkFenix says:

        In Diablo 3 there are a very small number of builds with decent synergy in any given patch, I’ve mucked around on Torment 10 and in greater rifts but ultimately always leave disappointed after each major patch.

        The balance is always all over the place, the RNG still feels punishing and builds are still teaspoon-deep.

        In Grim Dawn, pick a skill, any skill, there’s a viable build around it. Same goes for almost any piece of endgame gear. And not because the game is easy either, the middle difficulty is quite capable of kicking my arse if I’m not careful, but the levelling and gearing system is well designed enough, with enough interchangable parts, that just about any build can work with the right supporting pieces. I’ve had to start keeping written note of all the builds I’ve theorycrafted, each should be quite capable of beating the game.

        • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

          That makes thing more clear then. Good to know, it surely deserves a try.

  17. derbefrier says:

    titan quest with pants 10/10

  18. laggerific says:

    I really like the game and backed it soon as it was announced, based on my great enjoyment of Titan Quest. But, my biggest issue is with the monsters in the game. They just do not compare to the awesomeness of Titan Quests skeletons and Medusa’s and such.

    I would like to call out that Titan Quest is one of the most fun I’ve had with my 3D Vision 2 display. When I tweaked my convergence settings on that game for the first time, and it all came together, I thought I was looking down on a world through a little window. I’ll have to give this a shot with Grim Dawn on my passive 4k TV…if Tridef works well enough with it.

    Ugh…I just don’t like dealing with all the wonkiness of Tridef…I so wish it had native support for my LG display. It seems so silly that it doesn’t, as they are the best 3D TVs in existence (except perhaps some of those projectors).

  19. UncleLou says:

    There’s a reason why the two ARPGs, Diablo 3 and PoE, that have massive multiplayer communities, seasons etc. are always online. I really would have thought people have understood this by now.

    If you haven’t, take the console version of D3 online and play with randoms. Or try to find people to play Torchlight 2 online with.

    As for Grim Dawn, I still can’t get into it for some reason. Every time I try, I find myself playing Titan Quest (which I adore), D3 or PoE again. I find it mechanically not nearly as fun as D3, and not nearly as interesting as PoE when it comes to building characters.

    • ludde says:

      Didn’t Diablo 2 have a fairly large online community and ladders/seasons without being always online?

      • jrodman says:

        Shhh don’t bring logic into this.

      • UncleLou says:

        I doubt it was of comparable size for a variety of reasons, but that aside, it was ripe with cheating, duping, scamming, etc., much more so than the PC version of D3 is.

        Frankly, always online as an anti-cheat mechanism mostly works, and the argument against an offline, sealed-off single-player mode is that in D3, even if you play alone, the item generation is taking place entirely server-side, and the code never makes it to your PC and therefore it is much more difficult to mess with it. At least that’s how I understand it, and it mostly seems to work, and it’s the reasons there are sesons in the PC version, but not the console versions.

        If there’s one thing that does annoy me it’s that Blizzard don’t try to implement the gamepad controls. :-/

        • Moraven says:

          D2 did have online saved characters.

          I would have to assume being closed off from the start prevents hackers to really get a handle on the code to exploit?

          Console version is like D1/D2 all over again, dupes, hacks etc. First thing people tell newbies to the console version is to never join public games.

          Titan Quest had a decent online community, but some dupes and hacks, but being a more low key game, it was not so bad.

  20. Cyrus says:

    So, better or worse than Titan Quest?
    I really liked that one, the setting, the aesthetics of weapons and so on.. Only a real sequel could surpass it, no?

    • khamul says:

      Yes. And no.
      They’ve got the aesthetics beats a bit wrong: remember the bit where you come down from the Megara bluffs onto the beach, and go ‘God, that’s beautiful’? Well, there’s some pretty bits in GD, but you’re not given a chance to enjoy them. It’s monsters and misery all the way.
      It’s a great game, and they’ve done so much stuff right. I just wish there was more of a sense that there was still some world worth saving.
      That said, it isn’t finished yet, and little things can make a difference: in the last build, they’ve started to fill in caves with mushrooms and things – just decoration, but with the result that they’re becoming beautiful. It makes a difference, for me.
      I don’t know if I could go back to TQ from GD, but I do wish GD was a bit less grim.

  21. trn says:

    Grim Dawn was arguably the game I enjoyed playing most in 2015. Features not discussed above include a comprehensive questing system and factions which elevates the game above many of its competitors. The new devotion system gives leveling even greater depth and compares to the POE leveling matrix.

    The problem is, with a game of this sort you are very unlikely to simply ‘complete the game’. You don’t just play through the story and then put it to one side. You grind, you respec and you try different builds, then you tackle the high level content over and over again. As a result, you spend a lot of time in the game world looking at the same screens and performing the same actions.

    As a result, there are typically four criteria for which Diablo-clones are judged. 1. Visual appeal; 2. Satisfying combat; 3. Deep and diverse leveling system; 4. Loot. Diablo 3, for instance, nailed 1 and 2, but really messed up when it came to 3 and 4 (even after the seemingly endless patches they’ve given us). Path of Exile nailed 3 and 4, but dropped the ball in categories 1 and 2.

    Grim Dawn does ‘very well’ in all four categories. It doesn’t beat out its competitors in any of them, but the strength of its parts and the ways in which they complement one another come together to create a really compelling gameplay experience.

    So no, it isn’t as pretty as Titan Quest, no it isn’t as console-friendly as Diablo 3, no it isn’t as deep as Path of Exile, no it isn’t as loot-happy as Torchlight 2. But it is greater than the sum of its parts.

    • LexW1 says:

      I think you’re overstating PoE and D3’s failings for effect there. PoE’s combat is usually satisfying, and sometimes amazing, only failing to be on occasion or with certain skills or builds. Visually it’s both ahead of and behind GD (much better visual design in PoE, but GD’s perspective and animation seem significantly more fluid/natural but PoE has way more visual atmosphere and better spell FX – more modern, less Hexen-ish). D3 has improved how it does loot hugely. 3 is still a big issue, I admit.

      What GD has on either is that it’s much better designed, contrary to your seeming implication, to “simply complete”, and for SP play in general. This is down to two things:

      1) No always online. Thus no lag, rollbacks, dcs etc. That’s awesome. Even with a ping of 15 (15! I barely used to get that on a LAN!) in PoE I sometimes get spikes or packet loss.

      2) As you mention, lots of quests and the faction systems, which are surprisingly satisfying.

      It also has mechanics which are more accessible/immediate than PoE, and feel more meaningful than D3.

      GD has a bit less replay value long-term because of the lack of random maps, which became an issue with TQ quite quickly. Probably take longer with GD because the map is so much larger.

    • Moraven says:

      I will take D3 skill system any day vs destroying my character due to poor point allocation that D2, PoE have.

      • Dances to Podcasts says:

        Exactly. Once you’ve tried that, there’s no going back.

  22. ventricule says:

    Is there a RPS guild for those willing to try out some multiplayer action?

  23. EhexT says:

    Grim Dawn – if you liked Titan Quest you might like this. It’s just like it only ugly instead of stunningly pretty and clanky instead of slick. Grime instead of polish.

    Probably the most disappointed I’ve ever been in a developer going non-publisher and promising to make their last game only better. Crate Entertainment absolutely failed in their mission statement, because Grim Dawn is Titan Quest 0.8 instead of Titan Quest 2.0.

  24. Hunchback says:

    Nowadays ARGPS should really be seen as MMOs, in terms of how they should be analysed and noted – They need a FEW patches and balance changes before anything can be said with some certainty.
    Diablo 3 and PoE are still getting major patches, reworking many parts of the game over and over… I know journalists have to get out “Reviews” but IMO in these cases they should be called “Previews” even if the game is in “final” stage…

    On with the article : I am sincerely surprised of all the comparisons between Grim Dawn and Diablo 2 (or 3) and even Torchlight and yet never ever mentioning PoE. I can’t speak for the whole world, but as far as i am concerned PoE IS the D2 successor in every way possible and not Diablo 3 or anything else. That’s why i was much more interested to see how GD fares compared to PoE rather than the super bland D3. *ponder*
    Also, would have loved to see more info about the so called “end game”, since this is the real time killer in ARPGs – running rifts, maps or whatever it’s called in each game, grinding for gear, finishing a build (unless it’s D3 which has no builds really), crafting, farming achievements, skins or whatever there is to farm… How does all that work in GD?

    • Skeletor68 says:

      Yeah I have to agree with wanting more detail. Difficult to get all of that into the WIT within that time frame mind you, but as someone who has played a lot of D3 and some PoE I would definitely like a bit more on the different classes and how they play, how many tiers of items we are looking at, whether the items are interesting enough etc.

      D3’s items are in a much better place than they were now (still not perfect) but lack that real feeling of rarity that they had in D2. D3 is more about targeting the same items over and over to get a good roll than actually finding an item most of the time. A difficult balance to get right so I’d like to hear how this game fares. PoE’s gorgeous passive skill tree and FFVII materia style items are also a lot of fun.

    • Buttless Boy says:

      RPS seems to have a blind spot to PoE, which is unfortunate.

    • EhexT says:

      And I don’t know why this is being compared to Diablo 2 at all, much less PoE. It shouldn’t be. It’s a straight Titan Quest sequel and THAT should be point of comparison, not a game Titan Quest massively improved upon in the first place (D2) and certainly not an unrelated MMO that has more in common with D2 than Titan Quest (PoE).

      • Sic says:

        Titan Quest improving on D2?

        Beyond laughable.

        • EhexT says:

          Respecs, Shared Stash, better loot progression, more interesting skill trees, meatier combat (ragdolls help a lot), much prettier, more varied environments and enemies.

          Yeah Titan Quest improved upon D2 a LOT.

  25. Buttless Boy says:

    My biggest issue with GD, which I’ve enjoyed quite a bit, is that the vast majority of skills I’ve tried just aren’t very fun.

    Which is obviously super subjective but c’mon, I can’t be the only person that enjoys a nice explosion or visceral feel to my attacks? I didn’t really get on with any skill except the lovely thundersplosion two-hander dealy I can’t remember the name of. Everything else felt weightless and boring, or worse, was just minions or DoT effects that don’t give any satisfying feedback when I cast. Even TSTHD got kinda boring after a while, and I I found myself missing the crackle of an Ice Shot or the absurd cascade of a properly-linked Molten Strike (yeah I’m a PoE player).

    I’ll go back to GD soon though. Still burnt out on PoE, and Diablo 3, Torchlight 2 etc never really piqued my interest as an obsessive theorycrafter.

    • Buttless Boy says:

      On second thought, rather than the “satisfyingness” I think it’s just that GD’s skills lack variety. If you wanna go for attacks rather than spells it’s mostly simple, single-target attacks that don’t do much else, which you can eventually modify to randomly cast other effects. Spells are mostly either minion summons or DoT AoEs. Incredibly boring compared to PoE’s ridiculous variety of weird skill types.

      Almost every skill feels the same, I guess.

      • UncleLou says:

        Yeah, I think that’s the problem I have as well. And just to make sure I am not going crazy, I reinstalled TQ a few months ago, and especially the melee felt a lot “crunchier” and more satisfying in TQ than in GD. I know it’s the same engine, but something must have changed, and not for the better.

  26. frightlever says:

    I was pretty disappointed with D-3 when it first cam eout, and that was after the 100+ hours point. RoS turned that right around and while I’m still not in the thousands of hours category, I generally level a character to 70 during a new season.

    I don’t envy anyone trying to compete with Blizzard, who’ve really come back hard with features to keep players entertained.

  27. Exxar says:

    What is the multiplayer model? Torchlight 2 – interchangeable lan/online with hackable characters, or Diablo 2 – as Torchlight 2 but also with a “closed online” option where characters are stored on servers?

  28. Foosnark says:

    I really don’t find Grim Dawn very compelling. It doesn’t feel flavorful enough to me. I played it for a while but went back to Path of Exile. And I’ll probably go back to D3 for a while once that new patch hits. And I’ve also reinstalled Sacred 2 just to remember why I didn’t keep playing Sacred 2 (it’s probably the camera).

  29. Gothnak says:

    One day an ARPG will come out without an item ‘of the bear’.

  30. PancakeWizard says:

    re: ‘inverted damsel in distress’

    I assume you mean the genders are reversed from the traditional. This is still ‘damsel in distress’, though. The name may refer to the most commonly used version, but as a trope it actually doesn’t matter what the gender, or even the species of the ‘damsel’ is. To be inverted it would mean the prisoner is rescuing the would-be rescuer. Same principle as ‘reverse sexism’ – no such thing; It’s just sexism.

    As to the review itself, I backed this on KS and have been waiting for v1.0 before I dive in. Hopefully, they take your points about loot and lighting to heart for at least a future patch. Perhaps pointing them towards Darksiders 2’s ‘possessed’ weaponry would be an appropriate solution to the collecting of useless loot?