Grim Dawn Preview

Eschalon: Book II

Developer:Crate Entertainment
Release Date:2016-02-25
  • Action,Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
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Prepping for Battle

Grim Dawn is, in the vein of other similar action-RPGs, a hack-and-slash focused RPG with an extremely heavy emphasis on fast, challenging combat, character development, and finding loot. If you've played any previous game like this, you'll know exactly what to expect, but as always with these games, it's the subtleties and nuances in the gameplay mechanics that make them stand out from one another.

Grim Dawn features a much more open character development system than most games of its ilk. Like Titan Quest before it, you start as a simple "nobody" who's able to specialize in one of five (three available in the alpha) character classes instead of picking your class on character creation. The ones I got to try out were the Soldier, Demolitionist, and Occultist, which fit into very obvious archetypes of melee fighter, ranged fighter and wizard. However, these character classes aren't necessarily fundamentally different - there's a lot of overlap in the skills available, and you can just as easily make a ranged Soldier as you can a melee Demolitionist, if you so choose. With the ability to multi-class as you gain in level, there are a lot of build options available to you compared to the more rigid character systems in similar games, though there's the inevitable downside that the classes don't feel as unique as they could otherwise.

There are three primary attributes in Grim Dawn - Cunning, Physique and Spirit. Cunning boosts your damage and accuracy, Physique lets you wear heavier equipment and absorb more damage, and Spirit gives you more energy to spend on skills and abilities. Though you will want to focus on one of these attributes depending on your character build, all of the attributes are important to all of the character classes, to the point where it's very possible to over-specialize.  You'll only get one attribute point per level up, but spending it will raise your attribute score significantly; it's a bit unconventional, but there's nothing wrong with it either.

The skill tree in Grim Dawn takes on a format very similar to Titan Quest. You gain three skill points with each level-up, and these can be spent either on upgrading your base class, or on abilities. Upgrading your class level opens up new abilities and upgrades for those abilities, and raises your base attributes; abilities, of course, are active or passive enhancements you can unleash in combat. While playing, I found it was very important to balance my desire for new abilities with my desire to make my existing ones stronger - those three points sound like a lot until you realize that it's a pretty big investment to reach the top of your class' skill tree, or to completely max out a given ability.

The other half of Grim Dawn's character building is in its equipment. Like Diablo and Titan Quest, it follows the now-standard normal/magical/rare/unique item distribution, with items of greater power being harder to come across. The game uses a prefix and suffix system to assign qualities to its items; these are generally a good deal more varied than the ones in Titan Quest, which is nice to see. Items can further be upgraded using crafting materials. Similar to gems in Diablo II, these upgrades can be combined together to achieve more powerful effects, and can be applied (and later removed) from your equipment. The upgrades range from relatively basic effects, such as fire damage or extra health, to more exotic ones, such as damage reflection.  The Victorian theme to the game means you'll be wearing leather coats and wielding rapiers, cleavers and flintlock pistols instead of the usual medieval fantasy gear, which is a nice touch.

The loot distribution in Grim Dawn, as it stands now, is a lot better than Titan Quest. In Titan Quest, I always found that enemies were veritable pinatas, practically bleeding treasure as you tore them apart, but in Grim Dawn drop rates from enemies are a bit more reasonable. While playing, I found maybe two or three unique items across several characters, and rares were generally hard to come by. Unfortunately, Grim Dawn has the same problem many of these games do, which is that there's tons of loot to find, but you'll never use 99% of it, apparently solely existing so you can go back to town and sell it - it's my preference to have less loot but have the stuff you do find be more valuable. Considering the "grim" nature of the game world I also think it's probably more appropriate for usable equipment to not be so easy to come by.

Fighting for Survival

The actual combat is where you'll be spending the bulk of your time with Grim Dawn, and I'm pleased to say that it's executed extremely well. On the surface, it's not that much different from most games of its type, but there are a lot of little unique tweaks about it that mean it requires a different approach from other games.  There's a skill ceiling to it that doesn't exist in the likes of Diablo III or Torchlight.