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Grim Dawn (PC) artwork

Grim Dawn (PC) review

"I never imagined to throw faeces at enemies as a method of obliteration"

It is almost a miracle. After about 6 years of development, Crate Entertainment's Grim Dawn has finally been released. A game that had been in early access on Steam for so long due to the developer's experiencing some personal difficulties. Not only that, they also greatly expanded on the game's original content due to fantastic support by fans along the way. The result is a superb aRPG that is currently among the very best. Having owned and closely followed the game for about 2 years, looking at the (finally) complete game is a pure joy. Hold on tight aRPG lovers, because you're in for a most wonderful ride with this one.

Enter Cairn, a dark and mysterious world that was once a great empire, but now on the brink of extinction. At fault are the overly curious arcanists who brought Aetherials into their world. These spiritual beings seek to use humans as hosts and consequently turn them into powerful, yet abhorrent creatures. If that wasn't already enough, survivors also have to battle the Chthonians: they have the malicious intent of offering as much blood as they can to their almighty god. You, the player, awaken at the worst time possible: a grim dawn. For a little while, you yourself were possessed by an aetherial and thus have no memory of your former life. This possession almost cost you your life. However, those aetherial remains dwelling inside your body seem to grant you odd, yet useful powers ...

Grim Dawn is an aRPG like there are quite a few others in the genre: Torchlight, Diablo, Van Helsing, Path of Exile, Victor Vran, Titan Quest ... While each game differs and has its uniqueness, they all have the same core gameplay: run around, kill monsters, find loot. And all of that in an isometric perspective. Even though a bit repetitive in gameplay (which is no problem if you're a fan of the genre), they have great replay value, mostly due to their theorycrafting: how to create and fine-tune the 'perfect' build(s). In trying to do so comes a lot of experimentation and farming, which can take quite long.

Grim Dawn (PC) image

Unlike certain other aRPG's, Grim Dawn does not force you into a specific class. Mages don't necessarily have to wield wands and warriors don't have to wear heavy armour and shields. Every character has access to all gear. However, you are required to invest in specific attributes in order to wear different equipment. Another feature that is quite welcome, which was present in Titan Quest also, is how the game lets you combine any of the 6 available masteries to create your personalized class (= 2 masteries combined). A first mastery can be chosen at level 2 and the second at level 10. There are so many skills that one can choose to build around, that even within the same mastery, there is a lot of room for variety. This allows for an insane amount of experimentation and theorycrafting, which is sometimes even more fun than actually playing the game!

One day, Crate decided that character customization wasn't deep enough already, so they released the devotion system. What is this system exactly? It is basically another (yet smaller) layer of customization where players have a total of 50 points to invest in certain passives (e.g. +10% piercing dmg, +20% elemental resistances etc) or actives that enhance your main skills. Those actives can be bound to certain skills and will proc under various circumstances (e.g. 100% to occur when critically hitting). Devotion points can be acquired by restoring old shrines that are spread throughout the whole world and between the 3 difficulties (normal -> elite -> ultimate).

Seeing the amount of customization, being able to (partially) respec is a relief. Reallocating is done by visiting the spirit guide in one of the major cities and can be done at any given time, granted you have the currency for it. It starts out pretty cheap, but can get extremely expensive for those who experiment endlessly. Both skill and devotion points can be reallocated; mastery and attribute points can not. This allows for decent experimentation, but also reminds you to choose carefully when needed.

Grim Dawn (PC) image

Cairn is a place full of mystery and secrets and is not afraid to reward players who feel like exploring everything. Exploration is rewarded by various things: one-time chests containing extra rare loot, hidden devotion shrines and notes. More loot is always good to have (this is an aRPG after all), devotion shrines keep your character's customization up to date and lore notes inform you of the story - which was better than expected - of Cairn.

Besides the deep character customization and satisfying exploration, Grim Dawn offers other features that may interest you. The first thing that comes to mind is the 'fast travel' system. Your character can use rift portals anywhere, anytime (except in certain challenging rogue-like dungeons), which sets the game at a good pace. Don't worry about picking everything up, as you can sell it right away by teleporting back and forth. Another feature that is a nice 'extra' is the faction system: by killing certain enemies and completing certain quests, you gain reputation. This reputation allows you to buy certain goods and complete certain objectives. A last feature that is definitely more than welcome is the ability to play with up to 3 other people. There are no dedicated servers though, since the game is more single player focused. But the fact that it is there, is what counts.

Like many other aRPG's, actions are mostly executed via the mouse: killing enemies, opening doors, speaking to npc's ... everything's done with the mouse, with the exception of using your skills. They are activated by pressing the corresponding keys. All keys are rebindable if desired.

Grim Dawn (PC) image

Graphically, the game seemed a little outdated in certain places, however, it is not too bothersome. Aesthetically on the other hand, the game is very well made and really brings that atmosphere of eeriness and desperation to life. Most animations are ok.

The soundtrack was enjoyable to listen to for the first x amount of hours and certainly added to the atmosphere. However, certain tracks get replayed over and over again in way too many areas. A little bit more variation certainly wouldn't harm the game. Tracks that are most excellent are the boss tracks. They sound exciting and make the fights more epic.

Grim Dawn is one of the finest aRPG's I have played in the last couple of years - if not my favourite of all time. Victor Vran seems a little too simplistic, whereas Path of Exile can be overly complex. This game brings the best of two worlds together: being indepth enough without being overly complex. Therefore it is recommended to all aRPG lovers for 100%, but even regular rpg/hack & slash fans might enjoy this one, if just for 1 playthrough.

:::Pros and cons:::

+ Indepth (but not overly complex) character building
+ Ability to (partially) respec
+ Exploration is greatly rewarded
+ 3 difficulties to play through
+ Faction system
+ Appropriate atmosphere
+ Multiplayer available
+ Multiple little features to make life easier
+ Insanely replayable
+ Aesthetically, the game is gorgeous, but
- Graphics seem a little outdated in certain places
- The soundtrack is good, however repetitive at times


LadyZana's avatar
Community review by LadyZana (February 15, 2017)

Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ Indie Games Enthusiast | Sporadic Reviewer Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ

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Downfall (PC) artwork
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If you are the voices in your head, then who is listening to them?


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Nightfire posted February 22, 2017:

Really? You used that line as your teaser but didn't expand on it? C'maaahn... I think we all wanted to know how throwing feces actually comes into play here.

Anyway, this is a good, balanced review that doesn't spoil anything important. It has a nice flow to it with good paragraphing and nicely-spaced screenshots. My main criticisms revolve around some minor formatting/punctuation errors that I found here and there. I'm also not a fan of the pro/con list. While this tends to be fine for a Steam review (as it can be helpful to buyers who want a quick run-down of features), I feel that they are not appropriate for formal reviews.

Still, this was a nice read overall. Early access titles can be tricky to review, especially if they have a long development cycle, and they are best written by those who have followed the title throughout its entire development, as you obviously have. Thanks for the coverage!

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