Early Look @ Grim Dawn

Let’s start this preview as I mean to go on; the only reason I bought Grim Dawn was because I was considering Diablo 3 Reaper of Souls. I played the original Diablo games and I really liked them, I remember that much. However, I can’t really put my finger on why I liked them; perhaps some misty eyed “golden age” sort of thing was going on. Anyway, I read through a bunch of reviews of D3 RoS and most of them complained about the price. I pretty much stopped buying apple iPhones when I felt like I was being taken for a ride (never looked backed since) and so I decided to apply the same approach and look for an alternative to Reaper Of Souls. So this kinda brings me to Grim Dawn. It’s still in Early Access, but looks promising and has a good following already.

First impressions are that this is a very accomplished title; it’s been in Early Access since November last year, so I’m probably hitting it at around the right time. Graphics, presentation and approach remind me a little bit of Sacred 2, but also are very much “in line” with how I imagined this game would be. It’s very nice, not rough around the edges at all, and I found the user interface to be like a pair of old slippers – in other words, comfortably familiar. No hunting around for keys or options.

The tutorial aspect presents itself as pop-up tip boxes. It didn’t take an age to get into the action, like some games, and I was soon mulching zombies and looting barrels. Everything will seem pretty familiar if you have played Diablo 3: the quick access keys for attacking, the inventory selling; it’s pretty much the same.

Plenty of bang for your buck.

Plenty of bang for your buck.

Anyway, before I go any further I think I ought to do a rewind and explain to you a little bit about the premise for Grim Dawn. Right at the start you learn that you’d been possessed by some form of magic and were right on the brink of being turned into a zombie or worse / better, depending on your point of view, and were about to be put out of your mystery by the soldiers in the town. It turns out that you fought off being possessed (not sure how, but let’s not worry about that, details, details) and have been recruited the join the ranks of the hardy soldiers defending the town. It’s not at all coffee and biscuits whilst peering over the castle wall though. To begin with, you’re going to need to prove yourself. And here comes your first mission to clear out the caves and investigate the magic down to the south of town.

What follows is essentially a hack and slash tour of a burning town infested with unfriendly zombies looking to take a chunk or two out of you. Once you’re through the other side of town, it’s down the dark hole and into the dungeon. Things are pretty much as you’d expect here, with your view being constricted to the sphere of your torch light. This first dungeon holds the key to your quest, a re-animator who’s been causing a lot of problems. I took a real beating and ended up back at the main castle having popped my clogs. I dutifully made my way back and was pleasantly surprised to see that the inflicted damage I’d done was still there, so I didn’t need to start from scratch or rather start from a lack of scratches. I found this feature refreshing; there’s nothing more annoying than consistently banging your head against a boss level. It’s a bit of a bind to get across the map but you’re assisted by “jump gates” which allow you to jump between areas and save yourself some legwork.

Sunshine on a rainy day. It's not always dark and rainy in the world of Grim Dawn

Sunshine on a rainy day. It’s not always dark and rainy in the world of Grim Dawn

Having played a bit more, what I also like is that the environment isn’t static. Sure there’s rain and thunder, but also there’s the time of day. It works really well – the mid-afternoon through to evening. I was pleasantly surprised.

Loot drops happen fairly frequently and there seems to be right balance of stuff to be sold and things you’d probably like to hold onto. You’re ability-bound with some items, so you need to level up your character to take advantage of the more advanced maces, swords, cross bows, blunder busters and so on. You can also pick up “jewels” and other such items which you can bind to your items to give them additional abilities. This is all fairly standard stuff to be honest and, thinking about it, there’s nothing so far which sets this apart from other (good) games of the genre. It’s definitely a very reasonable romp, but I didn’t feel like I was discovering anything new here.

Making your way through the wilds.

There’s always someone getting in the way of a good time.

So let’s round up this preview and see where we’re at. It’s a good game. Especially since it’s still in Alpha (early access), so there’s likely to be a whole sack full of new stuff to enjoy as it progresses to full release. There’s everything you’d expect from a game of this type, but sadly not a lot more. I’m not sure what I was hoping for in this respect, but I do like some form of progression in game play as the years roll on. I don’t want to end this review negatively, because really I’m not disappointed. It’s well worth your time and it’s priced, even at Early Access, at a level which isn’t insulting. I’m looking forward to the onward journey as the game develops.

Crumbs, I almost forgot to answer the question I started this review with; is this a suitable replacement for Diablo Reaper Of Souls ? Yes, in short. It’s not as polished (yet), and there’s no multiplayer, although this is promised. There’s truckloads of exactly what you want in a game like this and it’s a good price for a lot more than 5 hours of questing that RoS delivers. Mission accomplished.

the author

I've been playing games since the dawn of time itself (which to me was when you needed to type your games in from a magazine...). I love lots of different genre's, but really favor strategy, management / sim, RPG. I do like a good FPS, but I've been taking a bit of beating online and am realizing my own short comings. I'm reporting to you from the misty marshes of West London.