Over the past several years, it seems there has been a resurgence of action RPGs both good and bad. Torchlight reignited the interest in 2009 and since then we have seen various smaller scoped titles like The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing. Free to play titles have tried to capture the market with the most popular being Path of Exile. The biggest release during this resurgence was of course the next installment of the grand daddy of action RPGs, Diablo 3, which disappointed many but redeemed itself with the excellent Reaper of Souls expansion and game changing “Loot 2.0” patch. All of these games are still compared to 2 classic titles though, Diablo 2 and Titan Quest, which makes Grim Dawn all the more fascinating for its connections to the latter.
Grim Dawn is developed by an extremely small dev group called Crate Entertainment. Crate is notable because it is composed of the veterans from the Titan Quest developer Iron Lore. Crate also bought the engine and toolset that was used to create Titan Quest which promises the possibility of the hottest spiritual successor since BioShock… Well if you don’t mind the spiritual successor being built completely on old tech albeit enhanced old tech. At the time of this preview the game is currently available as an Alpha on Steam via Early Access with acts 1 and 2 currently available each with about 8 hours of gametime each.
The first impression when entering the world of Grim Dawn is a deep atmosphere not built around what is considered high fantasy. There are no Elves, Dwarves, or rings of power found in the war-torn world of Cairn in which Grim Dawn takes place. The time period is a bit all over the place but the obvious medieval and Arthurian influences are found mixed with a bit of the 18th and 19th centuries. Humanity is near extinction and finds itself much like a piece of meat being fought over by two dogs. The two dogs in Grim Dawn’s case are two alien races. One wants to use humans as some kind of resource and the other wants to kill humans so the first can’t use them.
Players get to choose a male or female during character creation. Currently there is no customization during creation with a strong possibility this won’t change because Titan Quest had the same limitation without doing some funkiness with mods but at least there is a choice between male and female. Classes aren’t selected until players level up currently 4 out of the 5 classes are available for play with the Soldier, Occultist, Demolitionist, and Nightblade. These classes of course cover all the major archetypes melee, mage, range, and rogue.
Everything else about the game outside of the plot is a bit typical of the genre. There is a lot of loot that drops and an abundance of clicking. Quests are given out by NPC via the old exclamation point above the head method. The game does take a bit of a hardcore approach where health management requires good skill use and positioning to survive. Unlike other games, the head first swords swinging approach is likely to get the player killed outside of the beginning of the game.
Graphically the game looks good during gameplay and is extremely impressive considering the age of the engine it is built on. The UI though has a very dated feel to it and lack the polish of more modern games. Since the game is still in alpha, this could be something that will get that polish especially if feedback directs the devs that way. Core features of the game are missing currently and are planned to be added before the game is finished like cooperative multiplayer and item crafting.
Grim Dawn ends up feeling very familiar. There will be fans that absolutely love the familiarity and that is the target audience for Grim Dawn. The use of the Titan Quest engine and tools might be limiting the game from getting into newer territory but the bottom line is that this game is an impressive feat for such a small studio and without those tools Grim Dawn might not exist.