Review: Grim Dawn On Xbox

Copy provided to us for review purposes.

Grim Dawn is an ARPG from Crate Entertainment, the folks who brought us Grim Dawn. It uses the Titan Quest engine and takes place in a grim, dismal world full of plague and misery and death and sadness. It’s set in New Jersey. Humanity has been nearly wiped out by a cataclysmic force and your character just barely survived being hanged because you were found to be possessed by a demon. What fun. What follows is a series of tasks being given to your character involving collecting things and killing things, as you assist the survivors of the land in taking it back.

Thankfully Grim Dawn dials up the ass-beatings to eleven as you drive your way through thousands of creatures and bandits and mobs. While the game is rather open, every area is essentially a series of winding corridors taking you to your destination with several things to do on the side. Shrines to cleanse, bosses to kill, bounties to bount, and just a bunch of experience and crap to collect. It almost feels like a torture challenge for completionists. A really good looking torture challenge.

This actually works out because while most missions in Grim Dawn are forward-thinking, there’s a good few you’ll finish just by doing everything as it presents itself. You might come across a bridge that needs repair using scrap you picked up because you’ve overturned every stone. Or a character might task you with killing a boss mob that you already took care of ten paces back because you’ve been entering every single cave on the way. Once you hit the left side of the main map, the zones get to be kind of massive.

And this brings me to my first big gripe of Grim Dawn on the Xbox; I had to spend a lot of time rifling through Wikia maps to find my way through the game because Grim Dawn doesn’t seem interested in making things clear. Specifically speaking the in-game map removes icons unless you’re really close, meaning you won’t know where the entrances to the map you’ve already discovered are unless you’ve memorized them, get really close, or do what I did and have maps pulled up on the computer. I’m not sure why this is a thing.

Character building in Grim Dawn feels like an open invitation to altaholics to revel in their addiction to altahol. For starters there are nine classes to choose from based on whether you want your character to be more melee, ranged, or magic focused. To top that system off, Grim Dawn allows you to dual-class any of those nine classes. You could theoretically be a paladin necromancer if you want. Each class has its own progression and stats to focus on, as well as abilities that intermingle with other classes and rely on stats that determine which armor you can wear.

Also as you progress through the game you’ll find various recipes for stuff you can make back in town. I didn’t dabble much with this although in hindsight I probably should have. You’ll also collect augments by the crate-full, which of course are little tchotchkes you can add to your gear in order to grant more stats and passive bonuses. The stat bonus screen on your character page is massive.

As you progress through the game you start getting devotion points that are something of an alternate advancement system. Those points get fed into a web of constellations that provide extra secondary powers if filled, and are tied to your normal powers. What I’m trying to say here is that Grim Dawn has some complicated leveling paths and stat systems. Not as daunting as the leveling system in Path of Exile, but it can be overwhelming if you try to take it all in at once.

There’s also factions and reputations, which surprised me when I got the notification that the undead now hated me. I thought they already did. Certain factions can be turned hostile if you piss them off, but for the most part it’s a progression gate to you getting access to that faction’s bounty system. Ranking up with how much enemy factions hate you just causes more of them to spawn in the world.

I had the same complaint with Grim Dawn that I have with other ARPG titles, and it’s the same reason I don’t like rolling hardcore characters on these games. Because I don’t want to put my controller through the wall. And the only times I really got frustrated with the game were when I died, because given my character’s natural healing attributes and item bonuses, and guzzling potions, the only times I died were points that felt completely unfair. Like a trio of elite enemies would spawn from an altar and just steamroll me with area of effect and damage over time spells while either freezing or trapping me in place so I couldn’t move. Nothing says unearned death quite like activating a shrine, getting surrounded by enemies, and immediately dying.

It really saps the fun out of the game once you get into later zones where area bosses are just behemoths of health and DPS, that spawn endless amounts of adds that don’t give any experience to just overwhelm and swarm the player and don’t let you move around. Since bosses don’t regenerate health when you die and natural regeneration is ridiculously slow, the simplest option seems to be to drop a portal nearby and keep rushing the boss until it’s dead.

Playing on the Xbox Series S, Grim Dawn crashed to the dashboard three times during my play sessions this week.

Despite my problems with some aspects, Grim Dawn is still a pretty solid ARPG. It’s a game that is occasionally confusing and frustrating, but one that offers a huge amount of choice in building and customizing your character. There’s also a wealth of content considering this package comes with not just the base game but all of the updates over the last eight years from the PC version. You’re going to want to dedicate a good couple of weeks to digging through the content, even more if you’re looking at leveling some alts.

But that’s just my opinion. Review was played on a Series S console, but the game is available for Xbox One and Series systems. Also available on PC.

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