Grim Dawn: Gems of the Steam Summer Sale

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By Kevin Casper

Just a few more days are left for the Steam Summer Sale which means only a few more games in my spotlight series. Today’s game is Grim Dawn, a fantasy-action RPG full of fear, but developed with love.

Grim Dawn is a crowdfunded game by Crate Entertainment, a group of veteran developers who were previously behind the Titan Quest ARPG series. This team took its experiences in Titan Quest, alongside an incredible amount of feedback about the genre during the development period, and built the Grim Dawn that is here and now. Crate Entertainment had some advantages in seeing a rebirth in the ARPG genre through very popular releases of Path of Exile and Diablo 3, including all of their ups and downs. If you’re familiar with ARPGs, you’ll quickly see that the Grim Dawn development team really paid attention to what was happening to the genre. In my opinion, they channeled that attention and experience exquisitely.

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The setting of Grim Dawn is a fairly dark one with high and dark fantasy elements. The world of Cairn is a battlefield for various supernatural forces and humanity is doing what it can to survive and get by. The game begins with your character being exorcised of some kind of spirit and the local village tasking you to go take care of some things in order to gain their trust. You’re almost immediately doing battle with walking corpses, interdimensional beasts, and crazed vagabonds as you venture into the world, learning your own story, and fighting to survive. The world really makes you fight for it.

Grim Dawn is a fairly challenging game on multiple fronts. First off, it’s a fairly resource-heavy game, meaning you’ll need a decent system to run it smoothly. While flying across the world for work, I had some experience playing it on a Microsoft Surface Pro 4, which meant minimal graphics settings and lowering the resolution to roughly 720p to get a consistent 30+ FPS. My desktop at home is more than enough for max everything, though. The in-game challenge comes through typical combat difficulty, the typical ARPG inventory management, and a rather diverse, complex character advancement system.

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There are a ton of enemies in Grim Dawn. In a world full of sentient lizard tribes, otherworldly necromancers, and giant clouds of flesh-eating locusts, one really wonders how anyone gets around. Commonly seen in this genre, the different kinds of enemies will fight you using different tactics. The lizard tribes may have a small horde of armed warriors with a couple of shamans shooting spells from the back. The otherworldly necromancers, while reinforced by magical barriers or teleportation abilities, are resurrecting the corpses that are absolutely everywhere in this savage world. The locust swarms are backed up by overgrown blooduckers to tank your damage and drain your health as well as spiders who do not hold back with their slowing webs and poison attacks. Combat can get fairly tense, especially as more powerful elite enemies are randomly littered in the packs you’re dealing with.

Luckily, you’re playing the main character in an ARPG, meaning you’ll be building up your strength through combat and quest experience. Your character’s personal progression happens in multiple methods. Upon level up, you are given points for your primary attributes and skills. Primary attributes are Physique, Cunning, and Spirit and, while they have effects to the amount of health, crit chance, or mana regen you gave, the primary stat points are usually best saved unspent until you really need the stat for a specific piece of gear you have.

Skills are a little more complex. There are six different masteries: Soldier, Demolitionist, Occultist, Nightblade, Arcanist, and Shaman. Each mastery has a skill tree that you can put your skill points into for various abilities around a particular theme of that mastery. You can only pick one mastery to progress until level 10, which opens up the ability to choose a second mastery to work on, but then that’s it. You can only select two masteries, but it turns out most combinations have enough synergies to work well together. If you prefer to have someone else do the complex build-making math for you, check out this thread on the Grim Dawn forums for a big list of powerful end-game builds, many with very comprehensive guides on how to level and gear up to maximize them.

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Character stats and skills are great, but what’s an ARPG without sweet, sweet loot? Grim Dawn offers that lovely random generation feature, huge varieties of loot, and even more unique abilities and synergies based on what you’re equipped with alongside your stats and skills. Grim Dawn has a general structure to its world, but many locations and enemies are randomly generated, so you’ll always be engaged while grinding out that one sword you really, really need. Oh, and there is a crafting system as well.

If, for some reason, that isn’t enough power growth for you, there is one more progression system called Devotions. Devotion points are obtained by finding them in the game world and clearing out some devotion altars. This system has some fairly strong permanent stat gains, such as percentage health gains, and really is a great reward for exploring the game’s open, semi-random world.

Character progression tends to be a core aspect to enjoying and replaying action RPGs, and Grim Dawn understands that. Most of the point spends you make are permanent, but Grim Dawn offers both enough points for some flexibility as well as a way of respecializing points for a cost of some in-game currency, with the cost increasing the more you respec. For the veterans of the genre, this lands your Grim Dawn playthrough somewhere between the restrictions of the earlier days of Diablo 2, but few of the freedoms provided by Diablo 3.

Of course, you could just play Hardcore Mode and lose all of your progress over and over again. I hate dying so much that I’m building this supposedly invulnerable build in my non-hardcore game.

In short, Grim Dawn is a very high-quality, modern take at the oldschool ARPG genre. With dark tones, a ton of character progression variety, and multiple difficulty tiers, the game is a no-brainer purchase for only $18.74 USD during the Steam Summer Sale. Thanks for reading!

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