Grim Dawn


Review by · May 8, 2016

Grim Dawn is yet another hack-and-slash Diablo clone. Of course, like any other respectable Diablo clone looking to cash in on gamers’ compulsion to click on things until stuff comes out, some qualities set it apart from its ilk, but make no mistake: this is business as usual. If that’s your bag, saddle up; but if the novel furnishings don’t appeal to you, then feel free to move along, little doggy.

Crate Entertainment’s newest title takes place during an event known as the Grim Dawn. Shocking, I know. This event primarily involves an era in which demonic ghosts have started to possess the human populace of meager villages and modest cities surrounding a huge lake. These beings are called Aetherials, and those they take, are, of course, Taken. The protagonist enters amidst the onset of possession, though he somehow staves off Aetherial control. Some of the folks at Devil’s Crossing — one of the last vestiges of the local denizens — don’t trust the hero, who must then prove himself, but this is soon forgotten as fetch quests and bounties absorb the consciousness of the player. You know, Diablo stuff.

Like a typical hack-and-slash, Grim Dawn offers various classes with skill trees that grant abilities. With right- and left-click doing much of the talking, the occasional number row on the keyboard chimes in with fireballs, boulders, summons, and cleaves. I know this sounds jaded, but at its core — this is the essence of Grim Dawn. In actuality, the game is tremendously fun and the classes kind of, sort of surpass the classic mage-knight-rogue meta. The developers seemed to put in much effort to make unique classes, but the fact is that the genre has yet to break the mold in this respect. To offer more customization and a unique experience in terms of classes and abilities, players eventually adopt a second class. The only problem my wife and I experienced here is that we were already invested in one class with all of our skill points and found it more useful to tunnel into that class and benefit from the higher level abilities. Achieving future abilities in each class requires committing skill points to class levels; achieving a prerequisite ability is often not necessary — it’s all about class skill points. Granted, leveling up occurs frequently, each level offers three skill points, and respecing a tree is cheap, so perhaps our rigidity is to blame.

In addition to the tried-and-true ability trees, Grim Dawn has shrines littered about the map which require certain items or a combat trial to pass. These uninspired “challenges” result in a devotion skill point, which can be used in a constellation grid. This grid primarily offers stats in various areas, such as physique, elemental resistances, and buffed damage for summons. In order to access different parts of the grid, some combination of types of points needs to be fulfilled, such as the arbitrarily named Ascendent, Eldritch, etc. While each of the five areas seems to have a theme to them, some variability exists within each that taints the identity.

Another relatively unique approach to progression is faction allegiances, which while not unique to Grim Dawn, haven’t been explored to this degree within the hack-and-slash genre. By killing certain enemies, completing certain quests, and collecting bounties, players are granted allegiances or hostilities toward townsfolk and enemies. This allows access to higher level equipment and recipes, while enemies spawn champions in greater numbers. Honestly, these accumulated points are passive rewards that warrant little more than a raised eyebrow upon completing a quest. The incentives are idle curiosities that serve more as a check box to Grim Dawn’s novelty within the genre, but lack any real substance.

Combat flows fluidly with nary a mishap. The only hiccup lies in the environment as errant tree branches or roofing can occlude one’s vision. Overall, the graphics satisfyingly fade at the right times, but this is somewhat inconsistent and more a nuisance than cause for concern. Some weapons and abilities present with grand colors and thunderous sounds that encourage grins. The only gripe here would be that sometimes an ally’s spells can’t be distinguished from an enemy’s, which can result in needless damage or unnecessary dodging.

The voice acting needs some direction, but no one should expect hilarious “Jill sandwich” moments. The voices took me out of the experience a bit, and the script doesn’t warrant accolades either, which is odd because the various scribblings discovered throughout the landscape have noticeably better writing. Regardless, the story is merely a skeleton housing a gilded MacGuffin.

Controls obstruct the experience here and there, as players may get caught on textures sticking out in odd ways and item drops can prevent fluid movement out of a dangerous situation. Conversely, the graphics accentuate the world developed, as they are, in a word, grim. Details of dilapidated housing and horrendous murders litter forests of a visually believable world. Barren, Grim Dawn presents what could be if cults and green ghosts took over the world.

Grim Dawn, while fun as a passing fancy, will be forgotten in the sands of gaming lore. Although the entire experience is passively fun and addicting, when one reflects on the journey, it feels like mindless clicking and number comparing. Truly, Grim Dawn represents the modern gamer’s slot machine, where three cherries are a set item drop and three 7’s are a jackpot of a story that never comes to fruition.


Graphics, expansive, notes are well-written.


More of the same, confusing spells, repetitive.

Bottom Line

It's a cartographer simulator.

Overall Score 79
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Jerry Williams

Jerry Williams

Jerry has been reviewing games at RPGFan since 2009. Over that period, he has grown in his understanding that games, their stories and characters, and the people we meet through them can enrich our lives and make us better people. He enjoys keeping up with budding scholarly research surrounding games and their benefits.