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Grim Dawn Early Access Review

Truth until dawn.

GameSpot's early access reviews evaluate unfinished games that are nonetheless available for purchase by the public. While the games in question are not considered finished by their creators, you may still devote money, time, and bandwidth for the privilege of playing them before they are complete. The review below critiques a work in progress, and represents a snapshot of the game at the time of the review's publication.

There’s something so soothing, so familiar about clicking on monsters until they fall over dead. Of course, isometric role-playing games are more sophisticated than such a simple description communicates, but when your onscreen avatar wields a giant cudgel, cutting through legions of the undead with repeated presses of a single button is hypnotic. Given the amount of blood spraying about the dungeon corridors and the bushels of treasure erupting from corpses, the typical action RPG piles on the rewards with relatively little risk.

For the reward-hungry role-player, Grim Dawn is a familiar temptation, even as an early access purchase on Steam for $29.99. Its development studio is helmed by Arthur Bruno, the lead systems designer of the well-regarded clickfest Titan Quest, further making an early purchase difficult to resist. And so I capitulated to temptation by forking over the dollars and checking out this work in progress. And it clearly is a work in progress, as betrayed by an abrupt conclusion after eight hours or so and a number of yet-to-be-implemented features, such as additional difficulty levels and cooperative multiplayer, though both options are on their way.

As it stands, Grim Dawn has the basics clearly down. Its dark, demonic world mixes guns, swords, and magic into a “greatest hits” compilation of role-playing tropes, letting you choose the kind of role that best suits your playing style and sends you across the land in search of fame and fortune. As is so often the case with these kinds of games, the purpose of your adventure isn’t all that vital: the shrugworthy story is just an excuse to get you moving. But where Grim Dawn might have made a mark by depicting a unique world, it’s perfectly content to be just another fantasy kingdom. In a genre where Path of Exile, Diablo III, Torchlight II, and even Akaneiro are recognizable on sight, Grim Dawn sticks with the slithering creatures and snarling wolves we’re used to, and a generically attractive land that doesn’t evoke any mood in particular.

For the reward-hungry role-player, Grim Dawn is a familiar temptation.

But make no mistake: Grim Dawn is attractive, and it executes its tried-and-true formula with just enough panache to keep you clicking. The open-ended class system has you venturing down the talent trees of two different professions, so if you’ve wanted to be a pistol-wielding creature summoner, here’s your chance. Further skills are afforded by rare equipment that grants you even more abilities, and I found myself mixing and matching skills in ways I didn’t initially intend, leveling my strength more than a spellcasting pistoleer probably should, if only to fit into the most durable armor. Mix-and-match character builds aren’t always effective in games like this, but I never felt particularly challenged, at least not until I made my way to Grim Dawn’s final extensive dungeon, which had me and my summoned minions battling legions of undead attackers in the cramped darkness.

And so the future looks bright for this glum adventure. Developer Crate Entertainment states that the current content represents about one-third of the campaign, with Act II rolling out in the early months of 2014. The first act plays around a bit with a faction system that has you aligning with various sects, but the choices were so inconsequential as to seem unnecessary. I'm looking forward to seeing that system deepened, however, in the hopes that it might darken Grim Dawn with the tonal shadows the game demands if it is to live up to its title. Luckily, this system should see more play in the second act, perhaps around the same time that you will be able to bring friends along on your fantasy trek.

In a world where you can download the great Path of Exile for free, it’s difficult for the developer of a Diablo-esque role-playing game to grab your attention. With $29.99, you aren’t just buying an early access game, but also making a statement of trust in its maker. Grim Dawn has earned my trust in a viable future; its foundation--the refined action and rock-solid character progression--is so sturdy that from moment to moment, there’s little to remind you that you’re playing an unfinished game. My greatest worry, however, is that the full game built on this foundation is just another fantasy adventure in desperate need of a strong identity.

What's There?

Several hours of slick but formulaic single-player dungeon crawling in a pretty but formulaic world.

What's to Come?

Cooperative multiplayer, additional difficulty levels, additional acts, a crafting system, a new character class, and more.

What Does it Cost?

$29.99, available via Steam.

When Will it be Finished?

Developer Crate Entertainment has yet to announce a target date for when they may consider the game to be "released."

What's the Verdict?

Cautiously recommended. It may not be feature complete, but from moment to moment, Grim Dawn plays like a finished product.

Written By

GameSpot senior editor Kevin VanOrd has a cat named Ollie who refuses to play Rock Band because he always gets stuck pla

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Discussion

90 comments
KSSuperhero
KSSuperhero

Already one of the best hack and slash arpg's around and its not even done yet. If you are a Path or Diablo fan you are doing yourself a disservice if your are not playing this gem.

Droverson
Droverson

This review might need a small update. I believe they've added quite a bit of stuff since January. ^^

NiteX
NiteX

Well it definitely doesn't look nearly as fun as D3, it doesn't look all that bad.  I may try it when it's finished.

mbchudno
mbchudno

if anything, this game better then D3.  I have no clue why people keep bringing it up.  If you want a break from PoE, its definitely worth a try, guys who made GD made Titan Quest which is an amazing game.  They are sticking to similar design and dropping you into darker and more mature environment.  What's not to like?

slowram
slowram

Just want to say Thank You to GameSpot with the frequent and current Game Reviews (and pc ones too).  Delighted in my current visit in hopes you had a couple games reviewed I was wondering about, that you indeed had them and more, which surprised me as they just came out.  Reviews like this one (for early access game, I haven't played newer builds and cool to see your opinion and others below), Might and Magic's X new old school turn based game, BlackGuard, and Broken Age (and older review of Banner Saga).  Wanted to let you know the extra emphasis on timely reviews (and pc reviews) is noticed and appreciated.

nicecall
nicecall

path of exile is free but i still can't stand it... i got bored after the first 30 minutes. click click durk.

placksheep
placksheep

Path of Exile>Diablo III> Grim Dawn. I own two of these... why pay $30 for another?

famekiller
famekiller

I think this looks awesome, and considering it was developed by a really small indie team, i'm more than happy to support them.

nurnberg
nurnberg

Huge ripoff of Diablo 3.  Is it actually Diablo 3?  Maybe there was a mistake and a video of Diablo 3 was added?  I can't tell.

Hurvl
Hurvl

I've heard that Path of Exile is handling the microtransaction bit very well, not using tedious limitations to force you to pay, but I would still prefer an offline singleplayer game where you get access to everything with a one-time-payment. I've looking at Grim Dawn a bit, but I won't buy it until it's complete/officially released. I don't care if it's cheaper now as an Early Access game, with my backlog and limited economy I won't have time for it until it drops to like 10-5 dollars in a sale.

uglypinkmoose
uglypinkmoose

the price is kind of steep.....  This genre hasn't impressed me in a while.


Though at the same time I love the genre so I do want to play this game. 

greek5
greek5

I've been playing this game for a few months, and I can already tell its going to be amazing, especially when multiplayer gets added. As they have stated on their site, you pay the $29.99 and not have to worry about being connected online, any DLC crap or pay to win items, Its just old school hack and slash, and in my opinion a very good one in the making, lots of fun to be had with this one.

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

The idea of early access annoys me a little, but on reflection, people really should be clever enough not to pay money for something that hasn't been reviewed or even properly tested yet.

If someone is just asking for money, and people are giving it to them, then more power to them, I probably shouldn't care.

This extends to reviewing it.  It's totally fine as long as it's not given a score IMHO.

asifah30
asifah30

Now a days more devs putting their games on Steam early access, guys this is very great way to promote PC gaming and earning some trustfull bucks from gamer.....this can't be happeed fro Xbox1 nd PS4..

DrKill09
DrKill09

...and Gamespot loses the last shred of credibility they had.


You do not review a demo, alpha, beta, or early access... whatever you want to call it.

Slyster1181
Slyster1181

I have played Grim Dawn for a long time now and the main problem with it way back then and now is that the combat is excruciating boring / painful / dull..etc. The Arcanist class ( Mage / Wizard type ) is the last thing I am waiting on and if it is as boring as it has been I am going to move on. And the Arcanist is suppose to be released very soon. 

gamerno66666
gamerno66666

Neat feature GS. thanks for reviewing early access games.

DoogyDonDoogy
DoogyDonDoogy

Looks pretty awesome to me, never heard of Titan Quest before today, so I might check that out. Not sure that I'm too crazy about paying for an unfinished game. 

wanderjahr
wanderjahr

Honestly, I think Van Helsing looks better.

bruta
bruta

we already have the day 1 DLC plague thanks to EA and adopted by other asses

now this new trend Early Access ??

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

YES. This is a policy change that I like.

(Now, I have to admit here that I am biased against paying money for unfinished products or paying money to play-test games.)

WTA2k5
WTA2k5

I think this is a good way of handling early access reviews. I think the practice of allowing people to buy an unfinished product with no final version in sight is pretty manipulative, so I think discussing/reviewing that type of release in a more reserved way is definitely appropriate. I wish this type of release strategy wasn't used in the first place, but I think it's good to let people who are interested in checking out early access games know what they're getting into.

1wikkid1
1wikkid1

This is basically Titan Quest 2 I take it. Although the art style is more similar to Path of Exile the UI (to an extent) and the skill system seems to be straight out of TQ. As such, personally, I don't see the reason to a. invest into the VERY raw product prior to completion and b. invest into this product at all until it's significantly expanded. TQ can easily provide hundreds of hours of playtime, this 8hour outing isn't anything special, at least not at this point.

I will keep an eye out for the finished product though, always liked this type of loot-fest dungeon crawlers and TQ is among my favs, along with Torchlight (the first one, I don't like T2 as much because of the "open" areas).

The "early access" thing is becoming a bit excessive at this point though and that I have a problem with, especially when it's so unfinished that a lot (probably most) of the content isn't even created yet... testing the game at this point is a bit pointless because the future additions will likely bring more bugs. At the very least it should be a finished product that just needs to have the kinks ironed out. Just IMO obviously.

I try to bring this up as much as I can in hopes that maybe some dev will see this and agree... why is nobody making these games and using a tactics system similar to that of Dragon Age: Origins? The flexibility offered by that system was so nice to have for a change... not having to constantly worry about party mates and what they're doing was not only refreshing but also very interesting from a gameplay perspective... a quasi-multiplayer of sorts.

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@slowram 

I doubt that you would say that again when March comes around. GameSpot just happens to have time to focus on games with lesser profiles because the ones with greater profiles are months away from launching.

jiraiya78
jiraiya78

@nurnberg  great example how different people see things. i'm not shocked but still quite funny

WolfgarTheQuiet
WolfgarTheQuiet

@naryanrobinson  Not clever enough?? 


You go trough the development of the game, with your input and everyone else you can shape the game, probably safer way to make a game, this is safer then paying for a Kickstarter and awaiting till its finished with chance of being junk.


I just got The Next Car Game by Bugbear who made Flatout series, and im glad i did, the game in Pre- Alpha is real mad, just imagine in few months, its great feeling to part of development in a way, i encourage you to participate in Early Access, its great.


The review is for sole purposes to show gamers what to expect if they decide to hop in and help developers out and i think thats great.


Here my gameplay of it watch?v=Q8p_9BTAC2E

WolfgarTheQuiet
WolfgarTheQuiet

@asifah30 Again bashing the consoles, yes it can happen on consoles, they are PC way built, just as i recive updates for my Pre-Alpha of Next Car Game by Bugbear the Flatout dev so could users of Xbone and PS4 ( PS4 is awesome :D ).


But that would be waste of money, like this they concentrate on building it on PC then on that code doing console versions. Now all indies will end up on PS4 as well so it wont be mainly PC thing anymore

Stebsis
Stebsis

@DrKill09Right from the beginning of the review it says "GameSpot's early access reviews evaluate unfinished games that are nonetheless available for purchase by the public. While the games in question are not considered finished by their creators, you may still devote money, time, and bandwidth for the privilege of playing them before they are complete. The review below critiques a work in progress, and represents a snapshot of the game at the time of the review's publication."    I'd say that makes it pretty clear what this review is about. You're still putting your money on something that you might not know a lot about but are interested, and these early access games have become quite a big thing recently and they need to be talked about more and not just everyone saying "it's unfinished so you can't critique it" etc. so it's nice to really know what kind of game even unfinished one is through review on a site a lot of people go to. Of course it should be made clear in the review that it's in fact an unfinished game, and Gamespot did that.

Dradeeus
Dradeeus

@DrKill09It's massively, glaringly clear that this was the review of a pre-release. They make no attempt to hide it. What's your problem, again? This is potentially taking up the spot of other news? Everyone's gonna see this game when they go to steam, so you might as well have SOMETHING to go by if you're looking for information on it. There's not even a score-based review. Even if you don't like the idea of the influx of "early access" games, you should agree that more information is better.

kalpesh_78
kalpesh_78

@DrKill09If its gonna cost me money (even 29.99) it better be a game worth spending. I'll definitely look at reviews.

Toysoldier34
Toysoldier34

@DrKill09 This isn't a final review it is for giving people some insight into these titles and the stage they are at. 


The market is ever changing and this is trend so Gamespot must follow it because people need this information from somewhere.

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@DrKill09 

Also, "credibility" is a highly subjective perception. If you haven't noticed already, some other people that are not you support reviews of such products.

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@DrKill09 

Maybe you should just move on to another site - one that gives unfinished games that already have price tags plenty of leeway.

Aletunda
Aletunda

@DrKill09 I disagree, I think it's great gamespot have started giving 'reviews' for early access games, they are playable today and they are providing the insight a lot of people want to think about before making a purchase, that's essentially the purpose of a review; Is this product worth my time and money? Early access is huge now and will continue to grow and will be an important part of making games. there is no better way to test a product before official launch than have that product grow with consumers, would Dayz be anything like it is today without the mod? its currently in early access and I can assure you that it will be helping the developers finish the game and deliver and even better product than if they had just made it and thrown it at us.

stan_hg
stan_hg

@DrKill09 Why not? These are the days of early access, which is payed. So, they can prepare their readers what to expect.

HadrianII
HadrianII

@DrKill09 It isn't a final review in that sense, it just gives an impression of the game in its current to help people decide if they want hop in. Its a good idea, its hard to tell if a lot of those game are or are going to be something you'll want

funkiepickle
funkiepickle

@Slyster1181 Did you play Titan Quest? If so, is Grim Dawn roughly the same level of clunky to you?

greek5
greek5

@Slyster1181 I disagree I think the combat is great, it actually feels like you're giving the monsters a good ass whiping the swings and spells all feel good on impact and give a satisfying feel. 

RadPro
RadPro

@DoogyDonDoogy Titan Quest is one of the best Diablo type games out there. If you get it, be sure to get Titan Quest Gold as it contains the Immortal Throne add-on at a reduced price, it adds a lot of cool stuff to the original game as well as the continuing act.

slowram
slowram

@wanderjahrI have both games and have played both.  For me Grim Dawn even in it's early stages is much more enjoyable than Van Helsing.  Grim Dawn feels more like a modern Diablo 2/Titan Quest, whereas Van Helsing feels like a sped up Diablo 3 with particular emphasis on packs of enemies.  Only real pro to Van Helsing is it is cheaper (and it should be), making it a decent value.

slowram
slowram

@1wikkid1While playing Grim Dawn I was surprised just how much it has of Titan Quest (level up tree, dual class, relics that assemble to improve stats), but amazingly the game play feel and combat don't feel anything like Titan Quest.  The game play and combat feel more similar to Diablo 2 or Path of Exile than Titan Quest, including the loot drops and weapons.  I always got bored with Titan Quest because of the map layouts and the way the enemies attacked/reacted, Grim Dawns maps and enemies don't look or feel anything like Titan Quest.  So looking at it, it looks like Titan Quest 2, but playing it it's more like a modern Diablo 2.

Master_Bassist
Master_Bassist

@1wikkid1 I agree...to a point. While a lot more games are going that route, it's mostly games which aren't being published by large companies, i.e., lots of indie-esque games, so in that light it's a really good way for small developers to get some cash such that they don't have to rely on a publisher for money, which in turn allows them more creative freedoms, etc. That being said, yes, too many games are coming out like this, and I would say mostly because of the massive success of Minecraft.

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

@WolfgarTheQuiet It's not really safer though is it?

With Early Access, if you really know what you're doing, and you devote a lot of time and energy, then you may make a difference to the end product.  However, you're betting money on community interest, you're betting on there being a *large* number of people with the same skills, time, energy and interests as you. With KickStarter you're not, and I'm even cautious of KickStarter.

I'm not saying that it never works out as it clearly does, I'm saying that if your money is valued, then for the vast majority of users, the risk isn't worth it.  And that's not even mentioning the fact that if you're really interested in the game in the first place, then by the time the finished product *does* come along, you've already seen almost all there is to see, an in an inferior form, no less.  There's no second shot at first impressions.

Slyster1181
Slyster1181

@greek5 @Slyster1181 The entire thing is clunky and IMO definitely not satisfying. And clunky is the last thing an ARPG wants to be. To each their own. 

1wikkid1
1wikkid1

@Master_Bassist @1wikkid1 I really wouldn't blame Minecraft for this wave of "early access" games. Minecraft is a whole separate concept, it's a constant WIP, more like an MMO... it's been a fully playable, fully functional, product for a long time, the constant upgrades are additions to the product not features that should have been there from the start.

But I'm a bit wary of the whole "pay up front" kickstarter thing in general. It's a risky proposition paying up-front for something that only exists in somebody's mind and may in practice end up being totally different than what you signed up for. I could write up a description that would sounds like pure gamer heaven but the fact that I'm able to imagine and write about it doesn't mean that I could actually bring it to life.

As I commented in one of the previous "early access" articles, I'm all for community driven beta-testing, or even alpha testing. But I'm very much against charging the community for it... we're the ones that are providing a service in such a situation, being made to pay for it is backwards. If the devs want community input with testing then they should release a beta version. If they want a quick injection of funds then they should go to the bank... where they will be held accountable should they fail. This way they're getting the best of both worlds, they're getting worry-free injection of capital AND they're also having the community do their work for them.

As it stands right now not only do you pay for an unfinished product that you end up working on fixing but you also don't get any (!!) guarantees that the final product will be what you want to pay for. TBH this is an area where I'm expecting to see some government legistation soon, and for once I'll agree with the gov't... the companies are playing the gamers and it needs to either stop or at least change.

Master_Bassist
Master_Bassist

@1wikkid1 @Master_Bassist I was referring more to Minecraft's beginnings, when you could purchase the game, as it currently then existed, at a much reduced cost during both beta and alpha phases, right up until it was actually released, which then allowed you access to all future versions of the game. Exactly like an early access game should be. 

In response to your second point, again, I agree slightly. Kickstarter is both frightening and exhilarating. But in terms of early access stuff (I hate that name for it, too) and not knowing if you'll like the finished product, you don't necessarily know if you're going to like a brand new game that you just bought. Granted, you're buying a full retail game, but in recent times that's not necessarily saying you're buying a finished product anyway. And granted, you can read reviews, etc. to get a better idea of it before you buy it, but for a lot of early access stuff you get reviews like this one (though not always professional, you can most likely find a post about it somewhere on this vast internet) too. It's about knowing what you're buying and weighing whatever benefit you see in that against your willingness to part with the cash.

Open betas/alphas/omegas/whatever are great, if you're a larger company that doesn't need anymore money, but can you image going into a bank and attempting to get a loan to produce a game about (INSERT RANDOM, OBSCURE VIDEO GAME)? I can't see it going over super well.

Also, I wasn't "blaming" Minecraft for anything, just pointing out that I think it may have been a huge influence on the abundance of early access games recently, due it's success at such a type of release, and I don't necessarily view that as negative, as "blaming" sort of implies.