So I will admit, my quest for the year to complete fifty games I’d never played before is not exactly going well. I seem to be stuck playing the same games repeatedly, because they either have no end or I’m comfortable with them and know how to play them. However, that usually just involves single player games, and in this state of near-total lockdown, it’s become increasingly necessary to play online with people, so one of my friends suggested we give Grim Dawn a go. I’d not heard of it, but apparently I owned it, so it definitely slotted in nicely to my New Years Resolution.
Grim Dawn is big. In almost every sense of the word in gaming terms. The world is enormous, and if not for the handy rifts – Grim Dawn’s term for a portal – you’d spend hours just wandering from place to place in order to complete objectives. The overworld is one thing, but there are hundreds of caves, underworlds and dungeons to explore added on to that which you will be plundering through for hours to find all sorts of tough monsters and what all players crave – loot, but more on that later. It wouldn’t be right for me to write and say how large the world is without also mentioning how incredibly populated it is. Far from being a large world bereft of anything of note, Grim Dawn manages to make everything seem unique. All the towns are populated with characters to talk to, and all the dungeons have incredible, sprawling and unique layouts that will have you twisting and turning down every pathway on your hunt for monsters and loot.
I did say we’d come onto the loot, and it does deserve a whole mention of its own. Loot in Grim Dawn is both good and very, very slightly bad. At first, it’s amazing because bosses drop hefty amounts of it, there are lots of hidden chests and corpses to loot and you’ll be geared up and ready to rock in no time. As you progress in the game though, you’ll get bored of seeing so many common items and you’ll begin to wonder where all the good stuff is. However, when a rare item does drop and it can boost your stats, that does get a little more exciting. Getting the final piece to a set so you can really turn into a killing machine, is a phenomenal feeling and gives you a sense of true power. I also liked that everyone’s loot was unique. I wasn’t pinching items that my teammates wanted or anything like that, and because of this any time we had an item we felt someone might want, we shared it out. The other benefit to this is essentially, you do get twice, thrice or four times the amount of loot per boss, and who could complain about that?
One thing I wish I’d read up about a bit more first, but definitely found the most interesting part of the game, was the character customisation. On each level up, you’re given attribute points and skill points. Attribute points are used to boost your physique, spirit and cunning, which generally match up with the more standard strength, intelligence and dexterity attributes in other D&D based games. Equipment tends to require you be at certain levels for certain items, which is again, fairly standard, but I did find that I’d generally ignore when I had attribute points to spend. With the skill points, you get to pick two classes – one at the start and then again at level ten. Then, using the skill points you can get spells and abilities – as well as boosting your core attributes – and turn into a one man wrecking ball. There are six different classes to choose from, so you really can customise yourself to however you want to play. If you fancy being a spellsword, you could combine the Soldier class with the Arcanist class and wield heavy weapons to go with your destructive magic. Or, if you just like hitting things, the Soldier class can also be combined with Nightblade to really do some melee damage. You really do have a number of choices to go with, and none of them are ever bad.
I don’t know if it was because I was playing with a couple of friends, but I never really got the story in Grim Dawn. I’m sure it’s there – but without the option of listening in to your teammates conversations, you’re left unaware of what’s going on most of the time. There are plenty of lore books dotted around the map, and if you’re playing it single player then I’m sure the story is terrific. But in my playthrough, I was basically just killing things for the fun of it, not for some grander reason. I also feel that due to this, I did miss out on various tutorials, like blacksmithing, enhancing equipment or doling out skill points.
Another slight quibble I had with Grim Dawn was the music. The soundtrack itself is actually really good, I did enjoy listening to it, but it never seems to play at the right time. There would be crescendos when I’m just walking to town, or slow, pleasant music while I’m trying to hack a gang of thugs to pieces. Not awful music by any means, but it did definitely feel out of place, to a distracting degree.
The Final Word
I don’t think I’d like to play Grim Dawn solo. I’m sure it’s perfectly fine, but it does feel like a game that is immeasurably enhanced by playing it with other people. There’s a humongous world to explore and tonnes of loot to find, with characters that you can play exactly how you want, so it’s definitely worth it in my opinion. It does look slightly dated – and I think this was probably the case when it came out too – but there’s still so much to love in Grim Dawn.