If you yearn for the days of Divine Divinity, Sacred, or Diablo II, then Grim Dawn will offer everything you ever wanted in an old school action RPG.

Grim Dawn offers a bright future for the ARPG genre

If you yearn for the days of Divine Divinity, Sacred, or Diablo II, then Grim Dawn will offer everything you ever wanted in an old school action RPG.
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Finally an RPG arrives to pull me away from my Darkest Dungeon obsession! A mere three years after the original estimated delivery date on Kickstarter, Grim Dawn is out of early access now and arrives in its feature complete version.

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Classic Action RPG Goodness

Grim Dawn follows the very specific old school ARPG format, so you know exactly what you are going to get here before even starting the installation process.

You’ll be frantically clicking, grabbing an absurd amount of loot that explodes all over the screen after every few kills, and then using a town portal to go back and sell off 90% of it every few minutes.

Why mess with a classic presentation?

Unquestionably the biggest ARPG in recent memory is Diablo III, but this is less like Blizzard’s latest action click fest and more like everything else that came before. There’s a strong resemblance to the classic Divine Divinity, but with an updated interface, and a times you’ll definitely get a vibe along the lines of the original Sacred.

Some of the graphical backgrounds bring to mind the amazingly retro Pillars Of Eternity, so there’s a strong nostalgia factor fueling this game that works hard to grab old school fans.

A Darker Offering

Although this title utilizes a very different graphical presentation, there’s even some of Hellgate: London in here, both in the reputation system (the more quests you do, the more the denizens of an outpost will trust you) and even in how the bipedal enemies go flying when you kill them at range.

If the name didn’t tip you off, Grim Dawn is much darker than most other games in the genre, both metaphorically in the tone of the story and literally in the color palette – this isn’t Torchlight at all.

To give you an idea of the tone, the first building you come across while exploring an abandoned town… is a coffinmaker’s shop.

Bet he had a whole lot of business before the town was overrun!

Double The Classes For Double The Fun

Continuing the comparisons to other action RPGs, the dual class setup on display brings to mind Legend: Hand Of God, and there’s added replay value in trying to figure out different synergies between class skills combinations.

I’m having a good time with a balance between melee and ranged spell casting with an arcanist / soldier combo, but that’s just scratching the surface.

You can play a debuffer who then drops huge elemental damage, a blazing fast melee combatant who moves all around the screen, an up-front two handed weapon tank, and more.

Decisions, decisions…

Working to combine the best of all worlds, Grim Dawn has a whole lot of mashing up occurring on all fronts, and not just the gameplay. The main enemy factions are the Aetherials (undead) and Chthonians (unspeakable Lovecraftian horrors), and while this is a grim fantasy world, there’s also gunpowder.

It’s less Arckanum-style steampunk though and maybe a little more of The Dark Tower, especially considering the world is verging on post-apocalyptic. Every single town you come across is destroyed and has only a handful of huddled survivors, if anyone is still alive there at all. Turns out messing with infernal powers beyond human comprehension isn’t such a great idea, as this shattered world learned the hard way.

Exploration And Character Growth

Shaking things up a bit and offering choices beyond the skill trees for two classes, there’s also constellation affinities. These allow further options for which path along the stars to develop a character, shoring up weak points or specializing on your main abilities.

Unlike skills chosen when leveling up, devotion points for affinities are only gained by finding and re-consecrating shrines, offering a reason to head off the main path and explore.

Cleansing a shrine requires specific items, but the rewards are worth it.

Speaking of exploring, this game world is huge for an ARPG, loaded with varied environments and an endless horde of enemies ready to be shot, bludgeoned, severed, frozen, and blown up with arcane bolts.

Although there are loads of interesting enemies, I haven’t come across a truly memorable villain or boss yet, with most of the bosses just larger versions of regular enemies. But then again, there’s still tons of the game ahead of me, so maybe that does show up at some point.

You can tell he’s the boss of the snake men because he’s a bigger snake man.

The Bottom Line

Genre fans should probably select a higher starting difficulty than the norm to find a challenge while facing off with horde after horde of monstrous foes. Playing the basic difficulty, I’ve yet to actually run out of mana or truly get mobbed by opponents, with only a few boss fights actually requiring me to pull out the health potions.

That issue aside, there are a few instances where you can tell this is an indie project and not AAA – some of the animations and targeting aren’t quite perfect – but overall Grim Dawn has a satisfyingly high level of polish.

Simply put, this is a game that scratches the ARPG itch very well, and will be especially rewarding for fans of older games in the genre.

Full disclosure: GameSkinny was provided a copy of this game by the developer.

Grim Dawn offers a bright future for the ARPG genre
If you yearn for the days of Divine Divinity, Sacred, or Diablo II, then Grim Dawn will offer everything you ever wanted in an old school action RPG.

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Ty Arthur
Ty splits his time between writing horror fiction and writing about video games. After 25 years of gaming, Ty can firmly say that gaming peaked with Planescape Torment, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have a soft spot for games like Baldur's Gate, Fallout: New Vegas, Bioshock Infinite, and Horizon: Zero Dawn. He has previously written for GamerU and MetalUnderground. He also writes for PortalMonkey covering gaming laptops and peripherals.