Grim Dawn is an Action Role Playing Game (ARPG) similar to Diablo, Torchlight, and Path of Exile. Crate Entertainment, the game’s developer and publisher, announced Grim Dawn’s development at the beginning of 2010. The Early Access version was released as an Alpha on May 15th 2013. The game only recently came out of Early Access, on February 25th 2016, but without knowing that, you wouldn’t notice that much of a difference. Even though it was an Early Access game for most of its current life, it played like a fully complete game. The game is smooth and beautiful to look at, and has a solid connection for multi-player, via LAN or over the internet.
A war between strange, other dimensional beings has decimated the human race, leaving only pockets of survivors to adapt to their new way of life. The “Aetherials” want to use humans as a resource, and are attempting to terraform the world to suit their own needs. While the “Chthonians” simply want to eradicate all human life. Having vastly different goals, the two sides battle each other, with mankind being caught in the middle.
The game gives you some pretty basic weapons and immediately throws you into the action, beating up zombies, beasts and other creatures alike. Once you reach your first level, you are able to choose from one of six classes; The Soldier, who equips the heaviest armour and weapons and doesn’t stop smacking; The Demolitionist, who uses guns, traps and grenades; The Occultist, who uses curses and dark magic; The Nightblade who uses daggers and stealth; The Arcanist who uses raw magical energy and the elements and finally; The Shaman, who calls forth beasts and nature. Every single one of these classes has had a thorough upkeep, and they all feel equally powerful. What’s more, when you reach level 10, you gain the ability to cross-class, allowing you to choose a second class to sink your skill points into. There is no wrong choice. If you wanted to you could even decide not to choose a second class and focus solely on your first choice.
The skill point system is easy to use and all skills are useful in one way or another, nothing feels pointless or seems as if it only has a minimal gain. Add in mutators and further upgrades to those skills and you are left with a finely-tuned skill system which will suit all different types of gamers’ play styles. There is also a second type of tree, in which you use Devotion points. You gain Devotion points by finding Devotion Shrines scattered all over the map, in which you either need to sacrifice some components or fend off a few waves of enemies to cleanse the Shrine, in doing so you gain a Devotion point. These points can then be used to acquire some awesome bonuses in the shape of Star Signs, such as resistances or extra elemental damage. You can re-spec both of these trees throughout the game, so if you mess something up you can easily change it back, although to re-spec the devotion points you will need Aether shards, which aren’t too common, so use them wisely.
The items available are quite varied, from weapons, off-hands, armour, jewellery, runes and medals, and within those categories are even more types, such as wands, melee weapons and guns for weapons. Some of the items that drop along the way are called components, all of which have varying bonuses, which you can imbue into your gear to give them additional effects. You can also use these components to craft better gear at the Blacksmith. Some gear even has abilities already, both passive and activated, such as a Lightning Nova which you can slot to your ability, or a 25% chance for a temporary 33% bonus to all resistances when you get hit. All of the gear, components, abilities and skill points allow you to modify your play style exactly the way you want it.
The co-operative play is where this game truly shines. The developers have really thought everything through for a good co-op experience, from instanced loot, difficulty modifiers and skills that assist your allies. Not to say that the game isn’t fun in single player mode, but if you can get a few friends together to play this game, it is well worth it. Once you have finished the game, you can choose to re-play it, with all your gained gear and points, on a higher tier of difficulty, giving this game a huge amount of re-playability.
The combat is truly spectacular, you can feel the impact of every hit and see the effect that each spell leaves. Each enemy has their own unique abilities and resistances which you will need to adapt to in order to survive. There are two defence bars, health and constitution, the more damage you take, the more your health drops, but after not taking damage for a short while, your health will quickly re-fill while draining your constitution bar, and if you do not re-fill your constitution bar before it empties, you will no longer quickly re-generate your health. Damage numbers have never looked so good, the more damage you do, the larger in size the numbers become, and you can easily tell when you make a critical hit, as the damage numbers are huge and yellow. With lots of enemies on screen, it can start to look a bit encumbered, with all these abilities and enemies it sometimes gets a little hard to see exactly what’s going on. Thankfully, though, there are many options you can change to suit your style, from rotating and zooming the camera, and even changing the click options for when you are attacking enemies. The only bugs that were found were occasionally a player would not see the enemies that another player was fighting, but simply teleporting out and back in would fix that. That was an Early Access bug which seems to have been fixed now that the full game is out. Also, a spell that one player had equipped through a component on a weapon was dealing damage to an ally, the fix was again simple, taking out the component and putting it back in seemed to fix that issue.
This game, which started off with only a small team behind it, has obviously had a huge amount of care taken throughout its production. The developers listened to what gamers had to say and incorporated the changes to improve it. This is the true mark of what can be created by a dedicated team, and many other games, AAA games included, could learn from their example. At USD 25 (AUD 34) this game is well worth the money. 77 hours in and this game is still drawing us back in. This game receives a 9.5/10, one of the best ARPG’s created, which will have you constantly coming back for more.
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