From the Ashes

Greenish tints are common in post-apocalyptic wastelands.

Devil’s Crossing has seen better days. Mostly the ones where they’re not under siege from a fallen city overflowing with horrific monstrosities. But, seeing as they are under siege, and their militia is more or less useless, you’re going to be busy for a few days. Or weeks. Assuming you aren’t immediately swallowed up by the void. Ashes of Malmouth is the utterly fantastic continuation of Grim Dawn, which features both new Masteries and new story content (alongside a heapin’ helpin’ of new items legendary and otherwise).

It’s a good ol’ fashioned expansion.

The two new Masteries alone are worth the price of admission, as they can either be used on their own or with any of the other Masteries which opens up myriad possibilities. I’ve been trying the Death Knight (Necromancer/Soldier) and the combination of summoning with close combat is pretty fantastic. Having a menagerie of unholy beasts and skeletons is pretty neat.

That said, the new story content is excellently introduced through a series of breadcrumb quests which take you back to Burrwitch and then to heart of the void. From there you journey to Malmouth and (quite literally) fight your way to the heart of the city. Gaining ground and losing it in equal measure as you push forwards. It’s a surprisingly extensive journey which will introduce you to new factions nestled deep in marshes and crumbling cities, and will require you to make choices, as your actions will dictate who will welcome you and who won’t, and those interactions will help you understand the true nature of these factions. As expected from Grim Dawn there is a wealth of choice and consequence that’ll keep you busy for hours to come.

Crown Hill definitely has an infestation problem.

I’ve had a few pangs of nostalgia while playing through this expansion, too. It gives me similar feelings to those I had when I first experienced Diablo II Lord of Destruction, wherein the snowy plains of Act V kept me company while I adjusted to the innumerable challenges that lay ahead. I’m also quite excited to see how the Death Knight develops. I’ve mostly experienced Ashes of Malmouth with my Warder (Shaman/Soldier), which, besides being my first character, doesn’t have a particularly strong or effective build.

It has great burst potential but terrible survivability.

However, despite the build drawbacks, I’ve greatly enjoyed all that I’ve experienced so far. I’ve still got to find those new dungeons, too. I would say that I’ve seen the majority of what this expansion has to offer, but I know that isn’t true as it is so incredibly content dense. I’ve definitely missed quests and NPCs along the way. Not to mention the results of different choices.

It’s an incredibly easy recommendation to make if you love ARPGs. Grim Dawn is an expertly crafted and beautifully complex yet intuitive and easy to learn ARPG, which only becomes better (in every way) with this expansion. That and you can raise skeletons. All the cool kids are doing that. I’m not really sure what the Inquisitor does- but I’m sure that’s neat as well. I’m quite excited to see what’s coming next for Grim Dawn, but, until then, I’ve got to roam the fields of Wightmire with my Death Knight. She’s due to loot something really cool any day now. Or maybe I’ll try to make sense of the Devotion screen and pick something out for her. I don’t really open that screen much. It’s big and confusing.

Have a nice week, all!



Aetherial Possession

It’s a hangin’ day.

Grim Dawn is an epic post-apocalyptic open world ARPG featuring six individual Masteries, four Acts, multiple character builds, a plethora of foes (and heroic bosses), end game dungeons, and a freedom to explore and progress at your own pace. You won’t be forced to take a particular route through this adventure. Throughout the story you’ll be presented with rebuilding a bridge, blasting open a cavern, or exploring the alternative if you lack the means to bypass it. This makes each character slightly different as you might have the resources on one but not another.

Likewise, Masteries fulfil a certain purpose but can be combined to create diverse builds. Want to fight enemies up close and personal? Try the Soldier. Want to throw explosive cocktails and grenades? Mix a little Demolitionist into that. Prefer striking from the shadows? Sample the Nightblade. There are endless options to mix and match skills to suit your play style.

Further adding to the customisation is the Devotion system.

You’ll earn points from restoring ruined or desecrated Shrines which can be spent in various constellations, which provide either active skill effects or passive buffs. While Devotion points are much shorter in supply than regular Skill points, they allow you to really develop particular aspects of your character. For instance, with Shamans, there are several options to increase lightning damage dealt or buff your pets to make them more reliable in combat. All together, the range of character customisation and development is quite extensive (and a little daunting at first). However, in my opinion, this is one of the areas where Grim Dawn really shines- endless customisation opportunities and potential to build whatever suits your particular needs.

"There's somewhere worse than the Steps of Torment?!"

“There’s somewhere worse than the Steps of Torment?!”

There’s also quite a number of side quests to do, optional objectives to complete, optional dungeons to explore, factions to join, and even special end game dungeons which are opened with unique Skeleton Keys. These, once opened, only stay open provided you don’t die. Obviously not a concern for Hardcore characters. That said, for regular characters, should you die, you’ll be removed from the dungeon and will need to build/use another Skeleton Key to get back in. These are always challenging, too. As the mobs scale to your level (and beyond).

These are really great places to farm out additional items and experience for attempting the later difficulties (Elite through Ultimate), and great places to test your skills against impressive and dangerous bosses you won’t see elsewhere. Some (like the Immolation) require faction status or particular quests to be completed before you can enter.

I’ve really enjoyed these as they’re tough but fair dungeons with few cheap mechanics.

Overall, I’ve watched this through Early Access and I’ve been continually impressed with everything they’ve done with it. I’m even further impressed by the exceptional quality of the finished product, which, while I thought I was done with Normal, showed me there was another ten hours (or more) content that I’d missed. Either by not taking on the end game dungeons or by not uncovering some of the secret locations. It’s been an amazing experience thus far and I’m excited to see if any DLC will be developed, what that DLC will be, and where the story will go from here. Currently they’re onto a really great experience which could very easily become one of the classic ARPG experiences of all time.

Have a nice week, all!


Darkest Before Dawn

We’re going to spill some blood tonight.

Grim Dawn is (finally) here! The full release launched yesterday (25th February 2016) with a heaping helping of polish, an animated opening sequence, voice acting (for most major quests/NPCs), and a few things I might have missed but have never noticed before. For instance, the rare items that seem to be spawning in pre-determined locations (with randomised statistics). I assume they’re supposed to do that as they’re worth considerably less Iron than equivalent rare items of a similar level.

They’re pretty awesome additions, too! Especially the voice acting and opening sequence.

I had a hard time deciding on how to build my first character. Initially I felt that the Soldier would be a good choice and would follow the usual trend of playing a close quarters, heavily armoured, somewhat tactical character in my first foray into any ARPG. However, I do want to build a weapon and shield Solider at some point. Obviously I can have as many Soldier (or Soldier hybrid) builds as I like, but it seems silly to repeat this early on. They’re all so tempting! So I settled on Shaman as (if they’re similar to my experiences) they balance survivability, damage, pets, and utility in equal measure. Plus you get to whack everyone with the biggest, heaviest piece of scrap you can find.

I’m not sure how this decision will affect moving into the higher difficulty levels (Elite and Ultimate), nor how it will work with the Devotion system, but I’m excited to experience the entirety of the story in the full release. I’m also going to attempt to take my first build through the three difficulty levels in sequence.

Such a shocking revelation.

Such a shocking revelation.

That said, we all know it’s more likely I’ll start another build (and another) before I see the depths of what Ultimate has to offer. The rules of engagement for Elite and Ultimate are also a mystery to me, as I’m not sure if they feature any significant changes (other than higher monster levels and better loot). I don’t know if there’s an experience penalty on death, lowered elemental resistances, monster immunity to certain elements, or really anything about what happens once you leave the safety of Normal. There’s only one way to find out, though!

Needless to say this is where I’m going to be all weekend.

Technically the game is performing well and (with a few minor tweaks) is running well. I’ve discovered the joys of Shrines and having to cleanse them, which, while not an entirely new mechanic, certainly makes the world feel much fuller and gives you more to do. In fact, so far, I’ve run into things to do everywhere. From having people to save to cleansing Shrines to exploring additional areas- it’s come a long way from the days of Early Access- and it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down. I’ve had a quick look over the map and it goes on for days. I can only imagine the additional dungeons and hidden areas they’ve dotted throughout the world. I can only imagine the treasures, too.

I may be a little biased as I have had high expectations for Grim Dawn for some time. It’s one of the few titles I’ve really looked forward to seeing released this year, too. But I still firmly believe that (for as far as I’ve seen as of writing this) it’s one of the best ARPGs in recent years. Perhaps in the entire history of ARPGs.

Have a nice weekend, all!


Natural Bloodlust

Stand back- I have a pet and I’m not afraid to use it.

Grim Dawn is a fantastic game, don’t you agree? I love it. I can’t wait to see it fully released all polished and deliciously playable with all those wonderful Masteries and Acts to explore. Speaking of which, they’ve recently added the sixth- and final- Mastery to the game. The Shaman is a powerful frontline fighter utilising two-handed weapons, the blessings of nature, pets, and generally everything you could ever want from a class if you enjoy mixed melee classes.

A particularly good choice if you’re a new player, too. The early availability of a healing aura, along with a fairly tanky pet, and a good AoE skill in the form of Primal Strike gives you a good balance of different skills. The healing aura isn’t that impressive as to allow you to disregard incoming damage but it compliments the Constitution system pretty well early on.

Not to mention there are some really good choices to pair it up with another Mastery. The Soldier will add a lot of survivability and utility to the already impressive longevity of the Shaman, the Occultist can allow you to weaken and debilitate foes before taking them down, or the Arcanist could be used as a sort of full mage build with pure elemental damage and pets. Or just stick with the full Shaman experience for a diverse and interesting time. So far I feel as though it’s a little too powerful. Then again, I’m not entirely sure how well the other Masteries stack up in relation to that as the recent patch also included balancing. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the Shaman was a toned down a little- it’s amazingly good at the moment.

Not as dangerous as it looks. Mostly.

Not as dangerous as it looks. Mostly.

At this point Grim Dawn reminds me of my earlier days in Diablo II classic.

Except they’ve improved on a lot of the drawbacks that Diablo II had (and still has). Like how with the Barbarian or Paladin you were restricted to sparingly using little more than a basic attack, until you found a Mana Steal item, or got the Mana regeneration aura on the Paladin, which made them build up quite slowly. How the end game is going to look at this point is still a mystery and one I’m trying to keep as well preserved as I can. Which is why, despite desperately wanting to, I won’t actually play through Grim Dawn up to the end of the Early Access content.

Similar to Darkest Dungeon. While both are very much playable, polished, and work better than some fully released games- I want to preserve that first time experience. Of course I haven’t completely preserved it as I have played it, know a bit about it, and know somewhat what works and what doesn’t. But I do want to play both start to finish when released.

Still, I do love Grim Dawn. I really do. It’s pretty much everything I ever wanted from an ARPG.

I think they’ve done a wonderful job of improving upon the Titan Quest engine, developing the classes, choosing the art direction, and delivering the whole thing as a complete package. They don’t update as frequently as some but when they do they’re usually awesome new things. Like the most recent patch which contains a great deal of tweaks, changes, and new areas. I haven’t really had a go to ARPG since Diablo II and this might just be the one to replace it. Here’s hoping the continued development is just as good as it has been up to this point!

Have a nice week, all!


First Impressions of… Grim Dawn

I don’t always spend money on Early Access titles- but when I do they’re RPGs.

So, recently I was on the Humble Store looking at all the deals which were available this week and one title caught my eye- Grim Dawn. I’ve unofficially followed it for quite some time as it promises gritty, challenging, diverse ARPG action using a modified (and updated) version of the Titan Quest engine. While Titan Quest doesn’t hold as much importance in my ARPG history as Diablo II- it’s still an amazing game. One that I must finish at some point, too!

You get fire, you get fire, you get fire- everyone gets fire!

You get fire, you get fire, you get fire- everyone gets fire!

Grim Dawn has some really tasty skills and passives which give you an edge in melee not unlike the one you would get while playing ranged or magical classes. In short, in most ARPGs, playing a melee class is usually incredibly good early on as your gear gives you quite a bit more damage and your higher than average health pool gives you good survivability. However, as you progress, usually about a third through the main story, you drop off dramatically in terms of survivability compared to your ranged counterparts. Mostly as your health doesn’t scale well enough to compensate heavier damage and your ranged counterparts need not worry about that, as, well, they don’t get hit.

The combat features a range of enemies which are high priority. From stepping out of the gate the first time I began to identify enemies that hurled painfully damaging attacks, vomited acid (or bile), and some that froze you solid. It’s insanely fun as you’re always thinking on your feet. Yet, the enemies do have patterns, they do have general clusters of abilities, so not everything is new- just new enough for you to feel each encounter is unique. Also that each encounter is challenging, fun, and possibly going to show you something you haven’t seen yet.

To be honest, if I didn’t know this was an Early Access title, I would swear it was a fully completed game. The environments, character animations, character models, graphics, GUI, and just about everything else feels really polished. It’s obvious that a lot of love, care, and attention went into creating something that feels good to play and more than likely fun to design and test.

Not to draw too many comparisons as these two titles take different design directions. But the Diablo III Open Beta was perhaps the worst beta I’ve ever been a part of. The servers constantly crashed, the locations were limited, the quests were few, the actual range of content was quite small, the characters didn’t feel particularly good to play nor did they have many of their unique skills (or any way to access them) yet, and so on. To the point that I felt that the game needed a lot more polish. One month before release and I wanted to cancel my pre-order (and I wish I did).

Grim Dawn, I think, is set to release at the end of 2015, but that could change. Yet at this moment in time it already feels complete. It plays beautifully. It’s, well, there are no words. It’s amazing.

While I most likely won’t exhaust the content that is available to play, I will be trying different classes, and different builds, as this looks like it’s going to have an awful lot. In short, if you have a passion for ARPGs and enjoy the days of Diablo II or Titan Quest- invest in the Early Access. You won’t regret it.

Have a nice weekend, all!