Grim Dawn Review

A Slightly Grimmer Dawn

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A village burning with a bright red moon in the background. Image from the introduction of the game Grim Dawn

 For the lovers of ARPGs: an amazing choice between Diablo 3 and Path of Exile 

*This is an old review; much of what you will read here no longer fully represents my view, skills, and knowledge.*

If you found Grim Dawn because of its similarity to other famous names such as Blizzard’s Diablo, and GGG Path of Exile, you’ll be happy to know that this game is not only worth a shot but can also be a better alternative depending on the person playing it.

Grim Dawn is an action-rpg created by Crate Entertainment that takes place in an apocalyptic dark fantasy world where humanity is on the verge extinction. Iron is valued above gold, and who survives this apocalyptic world has to endure the pain of seeing their loved ones being used in an ever-increasing army of undead. The game features complex character building, many unique items, crafting and quests with choices and consequences.

The game starts with your character close to execution for you were possessed by one of the many beings known as Aetherials, ancient entities that broke into the human world through a breach in the veil. Their arrival brought a nightmare to our character's world. As world descends into chaos and humanity is used as cattle by these ethereal beings as they regain their forces for unknown ends, hope is quickly lost, and salvation becomes a fading possibility.

The aetherial leaves you, as it is not worth staying in your body anymore, leaving only a human vessel behind. Seeing this, the men around you spare you from execution as the resistance can benefit from every man. After you survive the event, you try to repay the favor by assisting the other survivors, and you do it by dealing with some immediate threats to regain vital resources for the outpost and its people, striking back the enemy forces. As you prove to be capable of dealing with the Aetherial threat, you are sent on riskier, but necessary missions, to aid humanity to regain its place.

The Game

Grim Dawn isn’t another headless monster-slaying game, it has a very grounded system, and unlike other similar games, it takes a step forward and creates an imaginative narrative and alive world, and also expands on pre-existing features.

Cover art of the game Grim Dawn with logo

Release Date: February 25, 2016

Platforms: PC


Grim Dawn has many unique features, and unlike other ARPGs, the game executes its core concepts perfectly. Everything from sound effects, to particles, all works really great when combined. 

In ARPGs, I've always been the ranged type. In Diablo 3, my go-to class was Demon Hunter. The reason I say this is because this game's animations are really flawed, they look stiff and unnatural, the movements are too quick and weird, so much it can probably turn many people off right at the start. Thankfully to me, animations don't hurt ranged as much as it does for melee combat. 

There really isn't much you can animate in a gun-wielding character unless you plan on creating an isometric version of Major Ocelot. Playing ranged in Grim Dawn was really great, you can feel the impact of every shot, the effects are amazing, and kiting monsters around adds another layer of complexity to combat.

In my opinion, the game's biggest flaws are mostly in the slightly outdated visuals, and a few other design choices made by the developers. But don’t be fooled, the game has a very rich and detailed world, that is surprising at times. The buildings often have backstories, the bars have names, the dungeon's designs make sense and are most of the time not giant mazes with the sole purpose of increasing the amount of enemies you encounter just to increase your kill counter.


Key Features

Grim Dawn's key features are in a dual-class system and a huge devotion tree that has hundreds of little perks you can choose from to enhance your character damage, defenses, and survivability. To obtain the points used in this skill tree, you must explore and find a few shrines that are scattered across the world, most commonly in dungeons and caves, but you’ll also find a few of them on more obvious places, like at the end of a road in the surface.

About the dual-class system, it is a really, really interesting element. It basically allows you to pick another class after you pick your main one. For example, say you picked a demolitionist as your main class. It works great for you, but while exploring other classes you saw one very interesting skill that could work really well for what you plan on creating. Later on in the game, you can choose the other class that will allow you to choose this skill, and complement your build, opening the possibility to create many powerful combinations. I myself am guilty of wasting time with my characters because of a skill that stuck to my mind, forcing me to restart the game just to try out a new different combination.

Another of Grim Dawn's unique features is a camera feature that allows you to rotate it, adding some more depth to areas, and makes exploring the world more interesting. It also adds another layer to positioning, for depending on where you stand, unless you rotate the camera you’ll have a hard time seeing what is going in between all chaos generated from enemy attacks/spells and terrain.

The devotion skill tree of the game Grim Dawn

The World of Cairn

As you explore the world of Grim Dawn, Cairn, as it is called, you’ll come across some struggling human enclaves where, as you assist them to reclaim vital resources, they will thrive, increasing their chances of surviving. For example, there’s one that is basically a small refuge surrounded by many farming-fields, with a 'small' problem that is these fields are overrun by giant insect-like creatures, leaving the farmers without land to work on, and without food to produce. As you help them on their cause, they start working on the fields again, producing food, and they thank you by sending their next batch of produced goods to the people in your first outpost, as by that time, they were running low on these vital resources.

As it was stated before, the world in this game is very detailed, with many small things that when combined add so much to the overall visuals and help create a stronger connection between the player, the world, its locations, and its people.

A destroyed house from a city called Malmouth from the game Grim Dawn

Throughout your adventure, you'll also encounter some struggling survivors in the world and often have to make tough decisions; strangers on the road, entire families with suicidal thoughts just wanting to end their misery. Depending on your choices, these people may or may not survive. If you're successful in convincing them that there's still hope, they accept your help and you can let them join you and the other survivors on the outposts and camps through the world

The story of Grim Dawn is told through conversations and notes scattered across the world. These notes that are often hidden on corpses, tell a little story of the dead and the events that led to its death — some are funny, some terrifying, some sad, but when reading through the person’s notes or diary, you’ll often read the hopes of the person writing it and the outcome in the end… You can read the story of cities where mysterious events started happening, people started acting strangely, indifferent to the suffering of others, governments getting corrupted at the core, the population desperate, and in the present, all you see is total chaos and rotting corpses of a once prosperous city. These are all a fine touch to the game that adds a lot of backstory to the world and its locations. All accompanied by the game's very atmospheric aura, soundtrack, and sound effects, it creates a truly immersive experience.

Final Thoughts

Between games like Diablo and Path of Exile, Grim Dawn shows what ARPGs can be if done correctly, and that is a solid, unique experience. These types of games tend to be total failures if the developers fail to realize its concept, or if it has a good concept, but is poorly executed like many other games of the same genre. While I think Grim Dawn isn’t perfect, it managed to do really well and there’s really very little to complain apart from some design choices and visual flaws the game has, but to compensate that, the game is still being updated to this day, with the developers frequently improving old content and adding new to match their newer higher standards years after its initial release.

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High replayability value thanks to the many different class combinations, as well as builds you can create.

Rich, well-structured, and very atmospheric world, full of details everywhere that compensate the somewhat outdated graphics.

Create new systems and further improves existing ones, making the game feel truly unique, standing out from competing titles.

​​Well-balanced overall, with neither too OP nor underpowered fluctuating numbers for both damage dealt and received.

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​Somewhat outdated visuals, mainly animations, models, and textures, but never awful enough to make the game unplayable.

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​Limited end-game content, but it is important to note the dev's continuous effort to add more to the final parts of the game.

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Some skills with a great concept that sound promising on text, but falls flat once in action, and feel very lackluster in reality.

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Legendary items are too difficult to come by (not necessarily a bad thing), which can be a bit frustrating to some people.

a man with a grim look standing still with corpses hanging in the background

Grim Dawn

A perfect choice for the ARPGs lovers that brings great original content to the table, and many hours of an incredible experience. The game is not comparable to a masterpiece but it stands as definitely one of the most enjoyable ARPGs that I played to this point in time.

06/20/2020 - Caius, The First Dead


Release Thoughts: Cyberpunk 2077 - "A long way to redemption"

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