Grim Dawn (PC) Review

By Athanasios 22.02.2023

Review for Grim Dawn on PC

Most of the hack 'n' slashy, loot-based ARPG fandom agrees that Diablo II is a relic of the past; a dated game that was once great, but has since been surpassed by every title, including its sequel Diablo III. This couldn't be further from the truth. It's a common misconception that new - or more - is better, whereas the classics of the past have proven time and time again that this isn't the case. Take Titan Quest for example. This 'ancient mythology Diablo' was quite large and had classes which could be combined together to create double-class mixes, but the Lord of Terror wasn't exactly defeated. Then came Grim Dawn by Crate Entertainment (actually created by past Titan Quest developers), which managed to be quite successful, with many even claiming that it was one of the best of its kind. Seven years after its release, here's a retrospective look at it to test that claim.

Grim Dawn was made using Titan Quest's engine, by developers which once worked on the latter, so it comes as no surprise that this feels pretty much the same, bar some improvements here and there. The biggest difference is the shift in tone… or to be more precise, the attempt to shift the tone. It's somewhat unfair to call Crate Entertainment's creation "Titan Quest but grim," but it's a very close description. This almost feels like it's a mod for Titan Quest; one that makes the colours a lot less vibrant, and the environment itself a lot less… well, alive - but that's not really enough to create the right mood.

This takes place in a post-apocalyptic world were humanity tries to survive in the destruction that a clash between two opposing, supernatural forces left behind. It tries to be a mesh of Victorian era horror, weird west, and Lovecraft. The description is awesome. The end result not so much. Grim Dawn severely lacks character. It doesn't have that oppressing, gothic feel of Diablo (and who does to be honest?), it never gets post-apocalyptic enough, and the world doesn't get as grimdark it is supposed to. It's washed-out grimdark. Semi-bleak. It uses the correct colours but doesn't use them that well.

Screenshot for Grim Dawn on PC

Generally, Grim Dawn's worst flaw seems to be the fact that it's as if everything has been thrown in a blender, creating a homogenous soup that has a very flat taste. This applies to all things, from the art style to the actual gameplay. Skeletons, ghosts, and human soldiers, and wild beasts, demons, eldritch horrors, and so on - they all behave pretty much the same. The player character gets close, and a large group of foes run towards him/her in similar fashion. Now compare that to Diablo II where each type would behave a lot differently. The Fallen could be scared away, the tiny and fragile Fetish would overwhelm you with their big numbers and sharp knives, the Ghosts would pass through walls, and Greater Mummies would resurrect the undead. Even the less "specialised" units had big differences in speed, toughness, and so on, besides having their own striking design.

The constant comparisons with Diablo II might feel like the ramblings of a nostalgic nerd. Oh, sure that's definitely a reason, but it's more than that. The comparisons are made simply to show why Blizzard's classic is regarded as… well, a classic, and this isn't. Take the Titan Quest-like class system for instance, which is undoubtedly this title's biggest strength, as it lets one combine two different types to create something much more diverse. Cool? Yes, however, like with Titan Quest the classes can actually feel somewhat similar. The one writing this is mainly experienced with three builds: a Witchblade (a battlemage/semi-summoner), a Saboteur (a rogue that uses fire-based ranged weaponry and explosives), and a Warlock (mage that has some summons). Are the skillsets different? Yes… but not as much as they should be.

Screenshot for Grim Dawn on PC

Despite all aforementioned issues this is actually an enjoyable ride, but as mentioned before, mostly because of the class system, which lets one play with all kinds of tools. Apart from the various class mixes, there's ton of loot to further craft a build, as well as an additional skill tree where one gets to add small increases to stats, plus more specialized abilities. The possibilities are endless… but it all soon meshes together. Whether in the first town, or the hellish realm of the Chthonic monsters, and whether you are using a fighter or a sorcerer, it all feels the same from start to finish. Even the soundtrack is extremely limited with no area having its own theme. Instead, all regions recycle the same three/four tunes.

Most of the problems stem from how similar to Titan Quest this is. First of all, it is a bit repetitive, even when compared to other games of its kind, with locations that are usually larger than they should be, which kinds of kills the incentive to try out different builds - but thankfully the world isn't mind-numbingly linear and is somewhat enjoyable to explore. This also repeats the mistake of its "progenitor" by having lots of spongy foes (mainly mini and main bosses), although to a lesser degree. If anything, Grim Dawn is better than the latter, and truth be told, much better than Diablo III. In fact, those who liked Blizzard's threequel will absolutely love this.

Screenshot for Grim Dawn on PC

One thing that should definitely be noted is that Grim Dawn is one of those titles were it's hard to care about what's going on. It's less of an experience like the first two Diablo instalments, and more a simplistic hack 'n' slash game where you can shut off your brain and enjoy killing stuff, and experimenting with upgrades, skills, and equipment. Sure, pretty much all ARPGs have a simple "defeat evil" storyline, but through some great writing, they become something more. This doesn't. The writing here isn't bad, but few will resist skipping most of the dialogue. "Go speak to Ulgrim" says the quest, but if there wasn't a star in the map, you wouldn't remember where he is, because no one is worth remembering. Even the evil big cheese gets forgotten the moment it is defeated.

This is filled with minor tasks that are far from memorable. Go to X and kill what's-his-name; run to Y and grab four pieces of this or that; go and find NPC #3475 and talk to him. Generally, in terms of content this can easily last 100 hours if you want to try everything there is to do here - but it rarely feels rewarding. Of course, one should not expect the production values of Diablo III. Grim Dawn has done the best it could with the available budget. Everything works as intended, there are many gameplay settings for players, and a ton of quality-of-life options pretty much everywhere you look. This is a fine piece of software, just one that isn't that entertaining, and which lacks that feeling of progression that ARPGs need in order to be immersive. You'll find better gear, unlock new skills, and become more powerful, but it doesn't matter because enemies always catch up with you by leveling-up accordingly. At least it is still much better than Diablo III

Screenshot for Grim Dawn on PC

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Grim Dawn is sadly an ARPG that can be described as "hack-and-slash monsters/collect loot." This applies to pretty much all games of its kind, but this has a severe lack of personality, to the point that you can spend 50 hours and still not feel immersed into the world on offer, and while the progression system is the best thing on offer, it's also where the main flaw can be found, which is how, although there are a bazillion ways to craft your build, it all ends up feeling pretty much the same when on the battlefield.

Developer

Crate

Publisher

Crate

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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