Grim Dawn Review

Bloody. Depressing. Brutal. And just about perfect.

Grim Dawn is a fast-paced, gory, and loot-filled action RPG that deserves a spot among the greats of the genre. The developers at Crate Entertainment have ticked off all the boxes that hack-and-slash fans want, and as one of those fans, I was reminded of countless experiences from the past, but there's more to Grim Dawn than old tricks.

Much of its appeal lies in the forbidding realm of Cairn; a world H.P. Lovecraft would see fit to call "home," which blends horror and fantasy in nearly equal measure. Maps are all spectacularly bleak--corpses, guts, and gore are everywhere. Bodies can be found piled into wagons as if the Black Death had just swept the land. Wander into a half-destroyed house and you’ll find evidence of lives interrupted, represented in fantastic detail.

Guts and gore are the hallmarks of Grim Dawn, which more than lives up to its name. And all the blood is backed by a bleak Lovecraftian plot, making for a compelling blend of horror and fantasy.
Guts and gore are the hallmarks of Grim Dawn, which more than lives up to its name. And all the blood is backed by a bleak Lovecraftian plot, making for a compelling blend of horror and fantasy.

A phenomenal musical score provides superb accompaniment to all of these scenes. Aspects of it are really offbeat, too. Some pieces bring to mind traditional fantasy, while others are much more avante garde. One particular tune features jangling western-style steel guitar and plaintive horns that recall the old west. Tunes are spooky and subtle; they never broadcast their presence with loud martial bleats or riffs, allowing the action to speak for itself.

Grim Dawn's combat is every bit as compelling as the story and setting, even though those two elements are arguably more original than the very good, if very traditional, action RPG mechanics. Character creation and evolution are suitably deep. There are six classes to choose from when creating your hero, and the range of options--Arcanist, Demolitionist, Nightblade, Occultist, Shaman, and Soldier--cover all the D&D-inspired bases. You can even dual-class a little way into the game if you’re not entirely happy with your initial choice or want to add different skills to the mix.

As expected with a hack-and-slasher like this, you level up frequently--expect to hit level 10 within a couple hours, for example, and to be well into the high double digits long before wrapping the campaign. There is also a fair bit to do when assigning skill points. Every character class comes with an extensive skill tree, allowing for various buffs, arcane abilities, and so forth, all of which improve your killing abilities. And there’s also something called the Devotion system, which lets you take points earned from the restoration of shrines found around Cairn and use them to pick astrological symbols that provide additional special skills and boosts.

It's possible for enemy mobs to get so big that you end up getting lost in the shuffle.
It's possible for enemy mobs to get so big that you end up getting lost in the shuffle.

There’s a great rhythm to every scrap, and monsters give you a good run most of the time, but almost always bite the dust well before your hand grows numb from incessant clicking. With that said, the game does feel somewhat padded. Some maps are a little too crammed with enemies. There were times when I just wanted to get to the end of a quest, and the “why settle on a thousand foes when two thousand would be even better?” approach became too much to take. Still, I continually got sucked into marathon play sessions that ran for hours. I’d get into a game and eventually look up at the clock to realize that five hours had vanished. Alien abductees have had less trouble with missing time.

Grim Dawn strangest enemies encompass everything from dinosaurs that look like they’ve been put through a blender to the worm-like refugees from Dune.

The enemy lineup is broad and appealing, boasting deeply weird Ch’thonic demons, stereotypical fantasy creeps, and a wide range of human opponents that run the gamut from priests to cowboys. Grim Dawn strangest enemies encompass everything from dinosaurs that look like they’ve been put through a blender to the worm-like refugees from Dune.

Character progression is marked by the ability to dual-class and explore extensive skill trees, allowing for a lot of customization.
Character progression is marked by the ability to dual-class and explore extensive skill trees, allowing for a lot of customization.

Loot drops from these beasties are fantastic, giving a proper reward--usually a cool new piece of gear--to every battle. Whether it be a new weapon, piece of armor, magic ring, or some sort of weird accoutrement that you can use to buff one of the above, Grim Dawn grants you a steady supply of new toys The flow of useful gear is so consistent that I must have upgraded some aspect of my character’s equipment every 10 or 15 minutes. The only drawback was that this influx of goods overwhelmed my inventory and forced me to make frequent trips to town. The ability to spawn riftgates for instantaneous travel made this a little less onerous than it might have been otherwise, although it was still a hassle when combined with the inscrutable checkpoint system.

Grim Dawn has enough tricks up its sleeve to charm even the most grizzled veteran.

Grim Dawn can be like pulling the lever on a slot machine, the only difference being that the reward here isn’t cash but the gory explosion of beasts and the clink of loot-drops. I know from personal experience that this game has that certain something, and even if you think that you've grown tired of games of its ilk, Grim Dawn has enough tricks up its sleeve to charm even the most grizzled veteran.

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The Good
Nails the action RPG formula just about perfectly
Great rhythm and balance between speedy combat, loot drops, and plot points
Impressive range of character classes and skill development
Beautifully realized visuals loaded with eerie details
Expansive solo campaign
The Bad
Combat grows monotonous over time
Small inventory space is at odds with the heavy flow of loot
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Brett waded through the blood of Grim Dawn for over 40 hours before writing this review, and he’s still going back for more.
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Avatar image for sadoman

This game deserves 9 and this review is so lame. This guy should not have written this review for Grim Dawn. Such a shame, that this good game was reviewed by this guy, really. It did some damage to the developers, who created the game with love and deep understanding of the genre with a low budget. And you give them 8 for that?

Lovecraft has nothing to do with this setting - very bad analogy. I stopped reading this after a couple of paragraphs, scanned the rest - you should not have written this review, man. What are the cons? inventory too small for you? Are you kidding? Combat grows monotonous in an ARPG with non stop action, where people spent hundreds of hours doing it over and over? Check steam for user reviews and their play times. Very disappointing and lame review.

Avatar image for Airpirate_basic

@sadoman: I honestly can't tell if you're trolling or actually that stupid. It absolutely has many Lovecraftian elements - hell, the name Cthonian is straight out of his works (not that he invented the word but used it many times). Do a simple google search for the word - a Lovecraft reference was second on the list. When I first played it for a little while I thought it was very Lovecraftian in some ways, long before I read this review. I strongly suspect you have never read Lovecraft, as I think the big words would be too scary for such a mental midget as you appear to be. Furthermore, are you seriously complaining that the game got an 8 rather than a 9? An 8 means "Great". He said it's a great game. Very few get a 9. Fanboy intensifies.

Avatar image for aaronelwhite

@sadoman: Gotta love the old "didn't read your whole review but you suck" comment. :)

Avatar image for elessarGObonzo

very nice to see a new game based around Titan Quest. love Immortal Throne & Grim Dawn. very impatiently waiting for the end to be finished or the endgame DLC to come available.

the last battle and the subsequent end of the game with one of the main NPCs just disappearing into the void was very disappointing.

Avatar image for FatBird-11

I'm glad Gamespot gave this game a well-deserved eight. With DLC I could see this game moving up to a nine.

If they had Diablo III's budget, it would be ten.

Avatar image for mintfit83

Woah Gamespot. Whose the guy whose supposed to be regulating the scores? The review was fine, but the score doesn't match up. The Walking Dead "Michone" game got a 9??? Ok fine, but just not seeing how Grim Dawn is a lesser a game.

Avatar image for punksterdaddy


I see this remark often on Reviews, it is judged solely on it's own merits. Comparing two wildly different games and their review scores is meaningless.

I'm not having a go, just trying to explain why it happens so often.

Avatar image for elessarGObonzo

@punksterdaddy: i would never call it "meaningless". if you're judging what games to buy by Gamespot's(or anyone's) scores than this way of reviewing is no help at all and totally negates the idea of media reviews. end up buying some crap like a Walking Dead episode over a game like this?

the amount of fun, the amount of originality, the complexity, the storyline, the art design, graphics, audio, how well the gameplay works, replayability, etc. these are very easy guidelines to judge all games based on their own merit and have a working scoring system that determines a games overall deserved place in the lineup.

Avatar image for punksterdaddy


I meant comparing two wildly different games and their review scores (also comparing) is meaningless because it is.

Avatar image for F0U666

Grim Dawn uses the same mechanics as Titan Quest. My girlfriend and me both love it. We play Grim Dawn, Path Of Exile & Diablo 3. Diablo is our favorite for its end-game content (best part of the game starts once you reach level 70...) I hope Grim Dawn's end game replayability is half as good as Diablo's

Avatar image for Antarte

@F0U666: are different leagues, Diablo 3 is basically an action hack'n slash without RPG stuff. Path of Exile is ARPG, both are online and PoE has more end-game content (not mention all real crafting, real trade, real customization, etc).

Grim Dawn is ARPG focused in offline, as Titan Quest, Diablo 1-2, Sacred 1-2, Dungeon Siege 1-2, Path of Exile, Torchlight, etc. Don't need "mmo mechanics" and I celebrate that.

Avatar image for Pseehaw

Any ARPG lover should buy this game - its amazing!

Avatar image for graze

I have almost 60hrs into this game and have really enjoyed it (started in Early Access).

Some of ya'll that got bored, a little curious how long you played before you got bored? I ask because it almost happened to me. To me it felt pretty "slow" starting out, played about 5 hours or so and then I went a couple months without playing because I wasn't getting into it. Then I realized part of it was that I was really spoiled by D3's totally easymode questing system...always pointing you exactly where to go. OK, not like it's really tough to figure out what to do in Grim Dawn but you do actually have to READ a little bit of the quest text sometimes to figure out where to go lol.

Anyways, once I got over it and took a few min to read and start making good progress the game really drew me in. The more I've played the more I've enjoyed...have a mid 40's melee and mid 30's caster. Really good "Diablo syle" game. There is a lot of depth to the character customization and very interesting loot... and on veteran mode it's a pretty good challenge from the start, which I like too.

Not going to say that I'll never play D3 again (hundreds of hours in that game..) but this is definitely a very welcome break from facerolling through T10 rifts :p

Avatar image for Sonic4545

I'm glad people are enjoying this but for me it was very dated and boring. I got my money back after a few hours since by then I lost complete interest in it.

For this genre I prefer PoE over GD.

Avatar image for Napalm_354

So I played Grim Dawn, D3 and Path of Exile. The way I see it, D3 got the action part of the arpg right, as far as combat and fun goes it is king and the game I go back to when I want to just cause havoc and mayhem. The PoE got the rpg part down to an art, almost infinite replayability. Grim Dawn.... dunno, got bored with it very quick, It's neither here nor there.

Avatar image for Mabrry

Would people who have played it say that it's better than Dark Alliance? I would love to play a RPG that gives me that feeling again. (I've also played Champions of Norrath and that other sequel I think they made.)

Avatar image for Yams1980

i just finished playing every single baulders gate/dark alliance games on the ps2 (basically Dark Alliance 1 & 2, Champions of Norrath and Champions - Return to Arms). Those games had great graphics for their time but were boring as hell and i would never replay them. Problem I had with those games was the leveling was far too slow and you got too few rewards from leveling and the inventory system was basically crap with how little you could carry yet how much junk loot always dropped making yourself always getting overloaded with garbage instead of quality items.

I haven't played this game but i could easily gamble that this would be better than those old ps2 hack and slash games. But graphically im still impressed with what they had done on those old games but they just were not very fun to play. Just the fact when you killed enemies and their corpses remained on the ground instead of magically disappearing was very nice to see in any game, let alone an old game like that.

By the time i finish a game, i want to feel god sized, and i never felt very powerful even after i completed those old games. A real disappointment.

Avatar image for Boddicker

Console release?

Avatar image for titobxny

Not sure while all the hate for D3, while I agree that it had growing pains. It actually turned out to be pretty decent and continues to be supported with updates. Grim Dawn is a great game and deserves to be played. I am currently playing Path of Exile which has really sucked me in again.

Avatar image for silv3rst0rm

@titobxny: Imo it's all about comparison of games and our own personnal situation.

Taking all things in perspective, Diablo 2 "SEEMED" better cause it had less similar titles to compete against back then.

There's so many Diablo-Likes nowadays that of course any Diablo titles seem to shine less than it used to back then.

That and the fact we grew picky and became very critic to a point where we care more to pinpoint every tiny bugs games may have instead of enjoying what it does right.

I did play Diablo2 MUCH MUCH more than I played Diablo3, but then again, I was like 15yo back then and since I couldn't afford as many titles as I'm buying today, I didn't have many other games to play with.

There's so many games nowadays and most players I know do grab waaaaay more games that they "could/should" handle... ( I include myself in this group...There's COUNTLESS of games I bought I ended up not playing much, some not at all it kinda spoils the fun a bit to hop form one title to another all the time)

Avatar image for Mabrry

@silv3rst0rm: I agree. I buy quite a few games and get lost with work and the amount of different games that have been released. Dark Souls 3, DOOM, Overwatch, its a lot to take in!

Avatar image for greek5

I've tried to like the game, but it just doesn't hold my interest, Its a good game, but I wouldnt say its better than D2.

Avatar image for bruta

yeah one great example of Early Access done right, got more than 400 hours into this fantastic game

Avatar image for Litchie

Personally, I think this game is the best of its kind since Diablo 2.

This game makes Diablo 3 look even more sucky than it already was.

Avatar image for Frozzik

Great game and a perfect example of how Early Access should be done.

Like many I totally agree this is a solid 9/10. You won't find many iso ARPG's as good as this.

8 is still a great score but I'm struggling to wrap my head around GS continually inconsistent reviewing criterea/scoring system.

Avatar image for pug987

There are a lot of things to like in Grim Dawn and several things to dislike but inventory space isn't one of them. Grim Dawn has more inventory space than any action RPG I can remember playing. You regurarly get extra inventory space from specific quests.

I would die or travel to town to get potions or some other reason with half full inventory and I wouldn't unload to merchants or storage just because there was no need to, half inventory of space was plenty.

The only way inventory space is a problem (appart from the early game before you get inventory expansions) is if you pick up the lowest rarity loot, which you have no reason to. They sell for next to nothing and you can filter them out so they don't even appear.

Avatar image for mark1202

@pug987: The biggest complaint on the forums is not the character inventory but the lack of shared stash space. I agree that the character inventory is nice once you do a few of the quests that offer additional bags. The shared stash is pretty small...more so if you try to save decent blue/greens/legendaries. I have needed to save off a few stashes just to keep items that I may want to use later.

Game could use more shared stash for sure but it's not a huge issue since people are starting to develop mods already to solve the problem.

Avatar image for pug987


I haven't played with alt characters yet so it hasn's been an issue for me but given that I've almost filled all 4 shared stash spaces with only blues and legendaries from one character I can definetely see what you're saying.

Avatar image for TenraiSenshi

This is definitely the best ARPG I've played in a long time. Not only does it have a lot of depth with build variety thanks to dual classes, skills granted by items and the devotion tree, but it also has fun combat and a great atmosphere.

The world itself is very detailed, expansive (for an ARPG) and fun to explore. I've found myself going through old areas a number of times, only to find secrets I never noticed on my first pass through. I also like that they have day/night cycles and how the lighting at night creates a beautifully dark and eerie atmosphere that I haven't seen in other, similar games.

Avatar image for kalarro

Played early access months ago and didn't like it. But the full game... just amazing. Got 300 hours in it and loving it.

Avatar image for smiddyman

Nice review. I'll be picking it up this evening.

Oh, and just so I fit in with everyone else here, Diablo 3!

Avatar image for Navardo95

The spiritual successor to Diablo 2 and Titan Quest. I remember playing Titan Quest way back in 2006 and it was my first ever foray into the realm of ARPGS and it was an absolutely brilliant and an extremely memorable experience,one that I still cherish to this day. I have played many RPGs till then and I have to say that Titan Quest had some of the most deepest and the most expansive skill trees I have ever seen.

Ill be keeping an eye out for this one.

Avatar image for ILSATS

@Navardo95: This one is even better than Titan Quest.

Avatar image for F0U666

@ILSATS: This IS Titan quest machanics

Avatar image for andfx8

Don't say it's almost perfect then give it an 8. lol what's that make a "9" then?

Avatar image for Frozzik

@andfx8: -1 for being a pc exclusive....didn't you know?

Games have to be 3rd/1st person with big explosions or giant bosses to get 9's these days. Or be pixel art indies that the hipsters love.

I'm joking of course but it often feels this way.

Avatar image for andfx8

@Frozzik: I can't even remember the last FPS to get a 9...

Avatar image for Frozzik

@andfx8: couldn't say, It's really not a genre that interests me. I did say I was joking.

Avatar image for ILSATS

Should have received a 9/10. Best ARPG since Diablo 2 and Dungeon Siege.

Avatar image for ltjohnnyrico

@ILSATS: Its a score get over it !! The review is spot on !!

Avatar image for ILSATS

@ltjohnnyrico: And it's a comment about the wrong score. Get over it !. My comment was spot on !!

Avatar image for ltjohnnyrico

@ILSATS: Wrong score ? .. the game is great .. the score even say Great underneath !! .. I agree with the review .. Great game !!

Avatar image for dmblum1799

I read the first paragraph and literally just bought this thing . Thanks Steam!

Avatar image for Cloud_imperium

Another good example of Early Access being used properly. This game is excellent.

Avatar image for deactivated-5a50575ec5600

Grim dawn is phenomenal and it technically is a 9.0/10 with the aforementioned criticisms.

Avatar image for deactivated-59e1c77dad5e5

PoE combat was more tiring for me. One-skill spam all the way till end game.

D3 comes close. Barbarian stops whirlwinding for 0.5 secs? You die.

This game sticks more to the old-school mechanics of ARPGs. No leaderboards, races and always online sh*t. Just plain old loot farming! With great visuals and story to boot!

Avatar image for Baconstrip78

@jamescarlo1217: If you have leaderboards, you have to have always on to control cheaters. GD is already heavily hacked and even the devs said they won't try to control it. Leaderboards and seasons keep the community going though. This game will die a decade before D3 does.

Avatar image for realguitarhero5

"almost perfect"


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Grim Dawn More Info

  • First Released Nov 5, 2013
    • PC
    Grim Dawn is an action role-playing game where players will be thrust into the dark, war-torn world of Cairn where a once proud empire has been brought to ruin and the human race driven to the edge of extinction.
    Average Rating83 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Grim Dawn
    Developed by:
    Crate Entertainment
    Published by:
    Crate Entertainment
    Action, Role-Playing