Grim Dawn is an action RPG (ARPG) fromCrate Entertainment that has been kicking around on the PC scene for a while now. In fact, it was way back in February 2016 when it first released, and since then the game has been through a lot of further development, no more so than via the form of three DLC packs. These packs – The Forgotten Gods, The Crucible and Ashes of Malmouth – along with the base game have now rocked up at the door of the Xbox community in the shape of Grim Dawn: Definitive Edition. Has time been kind to Grim Dawn, or should it have stayed on the PC? Let us strap on a sword and find out…
The story of Grim Dawn is pretty good, to be fair. The events of the game take place in a world called Cairn, where an empire has been destroyed and the human race has been brought to the edge of extinction after the events of the Grim Dawn. Cairn has become a battleground between two other worldly races – the Aetherials and the Chthonians. The Aetherials view humanity as a resource to be used, and can possess us in an attempt to take over the world, while the Chthonians have decided the best way to stop this from happening is to wipe humanity out. Our character starts out as possessed by an Aetherial, and as we are about to be hung by the neck, the spirit flees and we are spared. It appears that once someone has been possessed and freed, they retain other worldly powers, and thus it proves with us. From there, we are pretty much charged with saving the world single handed. The game then opens out from this point, with various survivors asking us to undertake missions, if only to help the enclaves of survivors out.
What this translates into is a game that is very much like the daddy of the ARPG genre on the Xbox – Diablo 3. The viewpoint is the same, although the camera is a lot more adjustable here, with the ability to not only pan the camera around your character but to also zoom in to get the best view of the action. The graphics themselves are pretty good, while nothing like as detailed as the PC visuals, which is a little disappointing when you consider the power of the X|S series of consoles. I feel duty bound to point out that this is not an X|S optimised title currently, so there’s a chance that graphical improvements could be made later.
However, while the visuals are serviceable, I have to say that the in-game text is absolutely tiny, and in order to see what new things have unlocked, I practically have to sit with my nose touching the screen. As you can imagine, this does get a bit old after a while, and as you need to read to see what your new gear can do for you, an option to increase the size of the font would be welcome. Other than these issues, the design of the monsters and the combat found with them is very good indeed. The sound is another area where the design work done is solid, with good music throughout and some decent voice acting, both for the survivors and the monsters.
Now, the big hook for these types of games is the loot, and luckily in this regard Grim Dawn has got you covered. As you kill monsters and open chests, you are showered with more loot than you can shake a broadsword at; with limited inventory space, you will soon have to make decisions as to what to equip and what to discard. Obviously, gear you lug back to town can either be sold to earn iron bits – the in-game currency – or stored in the stash to be used later. That stash is shared between characters, so sticking items for other character classes in the vault makes a lot of sense. Some gear has different required stats too, either Physique, Spirit or Cunning having to be at a certain level in order for the items to be equipped, so levelling your character in the correct way to follow the path you choose is vital. Should it all get a bit much, there is the possibility of multiplayer online and this works very well indeed. Luckily, the loot can be instanced, so there is no falling out over who gets what. There is the option to make the loot common should you wish to lose friends, however!
Levelling your character, while an essential part of Grim Dawn: Definitive Edition, is very poorly explained in game. Basically, as you level up, you gain skill points that can be spent in a single skill tree or in a mixture of different styles. For instance, a level 35 character could well be a mix of soldier class and the demolitionist class, with skills from both trees equipped. The way the skill points work is you have to first pump some points into your chosen skill tree to unlock the tiers of skills, then use the remainder of those points to unlock the skills themselves and make them stronger. Once you have unlocked an active skill, you then have to map it to a button, in order to use it.
As an example again, I have unlocked a skill called Cadence from the soldier tree, that makes every third attack stronger. This is now mapped to the X button on my controller, while regular attack is A. It is a fairly simple system once you get your head round it, but as I said, tutorials are not plentiful in Grim Dawn. Thankfully, as you explore and find shrines around the place, you can unlock a different type of skill point, one that can be spent in the devotion tree. These enable you to unlock constellations, adding in various passive buffs that can make your life easier.
The levelling and character building system is so deep I could fill this review with just that, but all you need to know is that it is very deep, very tweakable, and with the right points spent in the right way, and the right gear equipped, you will soon be an enemy mincing machine. Whether you go toe-to-toe with the enemies as a soldier, summon skeletons to do your bidding as a necromancer, or decide you want to be a magic wielder or an assassin, there is a skill tree for you.
One of the nice things about Grim Dawn – what with it having been out for so long on PC – is that there are a lot of online guides which focus on character builds and the right way to do it. It’s well worth checking those out. With a crafting system that can also be used to buff your chosen playstyle, there are plenty of options available to you, and while legendary loot doesn’t start to drop until you’re pretty deep, you can still build a damaging character using rare gear.
So, in conclusion then and it’s safe to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with Grim Dawn: Definitive Edition. The scope of the game is huge, especially with all the DLC built in, and there is a lot to see and do, ranging from traversing zombie filled swamps right up to insect infested farmlands. The gameplay is the real hook here and it’ll definitely have you coming back again and again. In fact (and we should whisper this), the gameplay found in Grim Dawn: Definitive Edition is more preferable than that of the recent remake of Diablo II: Resurrected. If there was a dodge button it would give Diablo 3 a run for its money, but settling for second place in a competitive field should be enough for anyone.
Grim Dawn: Definitive Edition is available to purchase from the Xbox Store