|Grim Dawn, a bad place for horses|
Grim Dawn's basic game play will be very familiar to ARPG vets. Run around third-person view maps killing things and taking their stuff. Characters are classed, Soldier, Demolitionist, Occultist, and Nightblade, but there's a twist. Once you get past level ten (current level cap is 35), you can choose a second class to spend your points in, effectively creating hybrid characters. Class advancement is based on attribute gains plus a class skill tree. The skill trees feature three main skill types. Active skills are things you bind to buttons and use, attacks and spells. Passive skills provide buffs and bonuses without player intervention. Finally, modifiers alter / enhance active and passive skills. A fourth category, transmuters is coming soon. These skills change the way active (and maybe passive) skills work.
|Snakes, why did it have to be snakes?|
And speaking of monsters, there are lots of them: swarming packs of undead, giant hog herds, weird cultists with summoned demons, and more. Sadly there's not a lot of variety in monster action. Most battles involve getting swarmed by a pack and beating them to death as they try to return the favor. There are some ranged variants that fire bows or guns or spells, but overall, there's not a ton of difference between a bandit spell-caster and a cultist spell-caster. You can also expect to fight your way across the same maps a couple times, because monsters respawn between game sessions; return trips mean clearing again.
|Burrwich used to be a nice place|
By now it probably sounds like I didn't much enjoy the game. That's not quite right. There's some gold in here. First the world really is quite interesting, both in lore and in appearance. The graphical style is what I'd call quasi-realistic, not my favorite, but it's done very very well. Zones are (too?) big, and have some really good complexity to their layout. Colors are muted, especially in some of the grimmer areas, but even the darkest dungeon is graphically appealing, with tons of small detail that brings things to life. It reminds me a bit of Path of Exile, but with a more polished and refined finish. Kudos to the devs for carrying this off so well.
Another nice feature is the treatment of secret rooms and areas. There are some destructible walls scattered across the world, and these allow access to hidden tunnels, caves and fields. There are also tons of breakable loot caches in the world, and some of these are very subtle, which I like quite a bit. It's a game where paying attention pays big, since these caches and secret areas often contain really good loot.
And speaking of loot.. this is an ARPG; loot is a big deal. There's a lot of it, in the usually multi-quality style (though for some reason the devs thought not using the standard color progression was a good idea -- it wasn't). In addition to the usual slot-based gear, there are add-on components that can be affixed to gear. These drop (in pieces) as treasure, and once you complete them, you can simply right-click them onto appropriate gear. There's also a blacksmith, who can craft new items for you, including high-quality gear from found recipes; and a stash (plus shared stash) for storing your loot.
|Just a cellar, but look at the nice details!|
OK, probably enough babbling there. I haven't touched on a couple of things, like the waypoint travel system; or the healing system, which is an interesting potion plus out of combat healing if you have enough constitution from food system; or the rotating camera POV; but I think I've hit the highlights and initial impressions from my eighteen hours of gaming.
So what's the final impression? Mixed. The game has a really great look and feel, but combat felt a bit boring because of the low active skill count. There are some quirky bits so far as inventory / item handling that are minor annoyances, but I'm hoping those get addressed in ongoing development. The game is still actively changing, with new content and skill changes, plus multi-player in the works. The developer forum is active, and the team seems open to feedback. I'm really hoping some of the clunky bits get sorted out, and some excitement gets injected into combat. If they do that, Grim Dawn might just be my next big ARPG time sink, especially with multi-player on the horizon.
|Beware the Harpies|
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