Review – Grim Dawn – PC – Steam Review #2

Now with a fresh coat of grim.

In 2006, Iron Lore Entertainment released a fun little Diablo clone called Titan Quest.  Hitting at the right time, Titan Quest, and its expansion Immortal Throne, filled the gap left by Diablo 2 and the many developers unable to competently build in the action RPG space.  The game was entertaining and had a few interesting mechanics, but didn’t do anything earthshaking.  I mention Titan Quest, because now the reconstituted spirit of Iron Lore has put out a new effort in the form of Grim Dawn.  Unfortunately for them, this time, there’s competition.

If you’ve played Diablo or any of its clones, you know the basics of Grim Dawn.  Players control a single, powerful hero who destroys legions of monsters through clicking and loot. Titan Quest’s wrinkles return as well.  Monsters drop components that the player can combine to create more powerful versions which can then buff an item or serve as material for the game’s crafting mechanic.  In addition to components, the Grim Dawn carries over a dual class system that allows the player to invest in two class skill trees thereby allowing for potent combinations.  Sadly, poor loot drops also return with all but the rarest of loot feeling rather underwhelming.  All told, the solid, but unspectacular base game, returns with a feeling of been there, done that.

Of course, this is still early access so there are a number of systems still in development. The most interesting is the faction system which should allow for branching paths and quests.  Each faction in the game, including enemies, have a favorability meter that tells the player what their disposition is.  In theory, the player will get to choose which faction to align with including the horrors that are overwhelming the world.  At present, only the good faction of helpful villagers works so the others are really just measurements of how badly the Cthulu hate your guts (hint: lots).  Still, the villager quest does show some of the potential.  Unfortunately, much of that potential feels misused.  Rather than grant the player access to special new things, the faction system grants them access to the merchants they should have had from the start.  Hopefully the system won’t just act as a gateway to the crafting guy.  Even so, the finding of villagers out in the wilderness and the small touches that show general improvement on the town are compelling.  A quest to get cloth results in tarp roofing for some of the areas.  It’s nothing game changing, but it helps show how the player is having an effect on the world.

Another new addition is unwelcome. The game communicates the story by telling the player all the amazing things that happened while the player was selling nondescript loot.  Towns destroyed, empires fallen, and horrific experiments performed are just some of the interesting plot points that the player has absolutely no involvement in.  The player will pick up logs from time to time, but that only goes to show how much is happening outside of the player’s sight.  If Grim Dawn is to draw its players in with its story, it can’t just talk about the fun stuff.  It needs to show it.

I mentioned this game to my father, who enjoyed Titan Quest.  He responded that he wasn’t really interested because, with Diablo 3 and Path of Exile in the world, he didn’t really need another action RPG.  That is the argument Grim Dawn needs to overcome.  It needs to present something unique that its competitors don’t already have covered.  If it doesn’t, I can’t see Grim Dawn doing well.

Steam Review: Again, Steam recommended a game that was only okay.  What I’m coming to realize is that Steam’s recommendations are only as strong as the depth of the genre that the player is interested in.  If there aren’t a lot of good games in the genre, Steam will recommend what it has.  Good to know.

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