Grim Dawn review

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What is it? An action RPG channeling the glory days of Diablo II and Titan Quest.

Expect to pay: $25/ £20  

Developer: Crate Entertainment

Publisher: Crate Entertainment

Reviewed on: Windows 10, 16GB RAM, GeForce GTX 980

Multiplayer: Yes, co-op with up to 4 players

Link: Official site

I find myself hanging from a rope in Grim Dawn, seconds from death and moments after barfing out a mutagen-colored spirit who’d used me as a puppet. Some grizzlefaced bastard among the group who strung me up sees the spirit flee and saves my life by snapping the rope with two clean shots. Are there hugs? Nah, they shove a shield and sword in my hand and instantly send me to face the undead hordes outside alone, my throat still hoarse from the ordeal. This is how Grim Dawn begins, and my saviors’ callousness reveals the priorities of a world long gone to hell.

So dark. So very grim. So many of us wanted this in the wake of Torchlight’s Pixar-ed up heroes and Diablo III’s dazzling halls, and Grim Dawn certainly delivers. It’s a true heir of old ARPGs like Diablo II and Titan Quest, dumping mountains of loot in dimly lit dungeons but with far more spunk and personality than you’ll find in its closest cousin, Path of Exile. It’s got skill trees, five classes, and (admittedly fiddly) peer-to-peer four-person multiplayer, and it plays like Crate Entertainment used the most upvoted nostalgia posts on Reddit as a blueprint. If you want an old-school action RPG, this is it.

It sticks to that legacy with such grim determination, in fact, that it pushes it to absurdity, as if afraid any fleck of humor might oust it as a sellout. Grim Dawn unfortunately never recaptures the promising pathos of the opening cutscene, but it slathers the grittiness around in text boxes and often laughable voice acting like old crunchy peanut butter on otherwise savory fresh bread.

Here’s the guy who tells me to track down the partner who stabbed him and stole his cart full of scrap; here’s his partner, who tells me the other guy tried to rape his daughter. There’s the traitor I let live in return for the key to a loot-filled hovel; in the distance there’s a man attempting to burn his family in his house as a mercy. All this, all the time. It’s so unrelenting I ended up wanting to skip over a lot of it, but Grim Dawn allows enough important choices regarding which factions to level and which NPCs to send back to base that I never felt comfortable ignoring the depressing conversations entirely.

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