Grim Dawn & Ashes of Malmouth Expansion Review

In a world where the human empires once stood tall and proud have been brought to ruin by an event that is later known as Grim Dawn. A catastrophic event that pushes humanity to the boundaries of extinction due to the appearance of two otherworldly factions, the Aetherials and Chthonians, and their ever ongoing war. Welcome to the world of Cairn.

You play as a ‘Taken’, an individual that was once possessed by the Aetherials and upon regaining control of your body, you’ve lost all your memories of the past. On the bright side, you’ve gained strength and skills which the average men could not be a match against. You’re able to pick 2 out of 6 available classes or mastery – for this game case – and they are, Soldier, Demolitionist, Occultist, Nightblade, Shaman, and Arcanist. An additional 2 more classes, the Inquisitor and Necromancer, are available to those that have gotten the Ashes of Malmouth expansion.

Picture-of-all-the-classes-available-to-pick-in-grim-dawn
Grim Dawn | Crate Entertainment

Each of these classes has their own sets of skills and by combining two of the different classes together, you’ll get a skill set that synergizes with each other pretty well. It’s also possible to select only one class and not pick a second class should you so desire. There are additional skills that can be obtained through crafting or granted by the equipment you’re using.

Just like any other ARPG(action role-playing game), Grim Dawn rewards their players upon successfully slaying of a powerful foe or opening a chest with a massive selection of loots varying from the common loot (tier 1) up to legendary (tier 5). The higher the tier, the chances of it dropping is lower and when the players reach level 50, legendary loot will start to drop for the player, albeit the chances of it is even lower than the other tiers loot. Don’t worry if you feel that rngesus is not with you as there are quests in the game that provide a guarantee legendary equipment as a reward upon completion. With the expansion, more equipment has been added to the loot system for the two new classes.

Picture of Loot Drops
Grim Dawn | Crate Entertainment

The maximum level cap of the game is set at 85 and with the expansion, that number increase to 100. There are 3 levels of difficulty, normal, elite and ultimate but you aren’t able to play at ultimate difficulty right off the bat. You are instead required to beat the game on elite first and to unlock elite difficulty you’re required to beat it at normal difficulty. When I completed it on normal difficulty, I fear that my character can’t be brought forward to a higher difficulty or if I start a higher difficulty game, I couldn’t go back to the lower difficulty game. But my fear was unfounded, you are able to go back and forth between difficulty when you have completed the game and all your equipment and skills will be brought along with you. As for those that bought the expansion, you may continue to play for the story in the expansion once you’ve completed the base game story or you can proceed to start a higher difficulty game and continue the expansion at another time.

You’re able to create more than one character but those characters that you create have their own ‘story’ to tell. Hence, the story progression one character is not shared with the other. Do keep that in mind upon deciding to grow that character level even further. With that said, you’re able to create more than 50 characters. My goodness, that’s a lot of character and I myself personally only have 2 characters upon completing the base game – one is a normal character and the other is a hardcore character. So go ahead and go crazy.  Create as many characters as you like to try out all those different builds that you would love to try.

There are two types of character that you’re able to create and no, I’m not referring to the character’s gender. It’s able to create a hardcore character and a non-hardcore character. The difference between them is simple. Upon death, a non-hardcore will only lose a fixed percentage of the character experience; whereas a hardcore character only has a single life and once that character dies, it dies. Permanently. End of story. Sigh, my level 38 Death Knight…


Personal Opinion

The world of Cairn is a ridiculously huge open world and if you’re the kind that loves to explore, you may even forget to hand in your quest objective upon completion and it’s a world filled with secret areas. Aside from entering a dungeon or teleporting from area to area using rift, there’s close to zero loading time. You’re able to walk from one corner of the world to another without seeing a lot of loading screen – except for certain areas which require going through dungeons or underground.

The aesthetics of the world is a combination of medieval Europe and the wild west with a massive amount of destruction and a touch of Lovecraftian horror all over the place. The dimly lit dungeon and lighting of the world truly bring out the horrors that took place during the events of Grim Dawn. It’s dark and grim.

Picture of an occultist dungeon
Grim Dawn | Crate Entertainment

There are consequences to the choices you make while undergoing your quest such as helping an injured man along the road by killing the man who injured him instead of setting him free; which at a later point you found out that he’s a merchant whom you can trade your inventory but you kill him. Or setting free a little girl that’s stuck in a cave to the nearest village, but it turns out that little girl is actually a powerful demon and slaughter everyone in the village when you go back to it. Sorry, not sorry.

Other than the main story and side quest that entails the event of Grim Dawn, there are notes and books to be found in the world that expand the lore of the game. It tells the tales of various individual perspectives of Grim Dawn and their actions facing it or the tales of horror that comes along the wake of it. There’s a lot to read from the notes and books collected and personally, I enjoyed reading it.

Combat for Grim Dawn is rather slow pace, or rather you would want to take it slow or even slower. Especially when you’re playing a hardcore character alone. The bosses generally have thicker health and more resistance against certain damage as compared to regular monsters.  It’s no shame to run around and kite the boss while screaming to yourself and unleashing the mouth of a sailor or to your teammates for healing. It’s okay to be like a genji at this point. I NEED HEALING!

With the help of devotion, you are able to build your character classes the way you like it without following a certain meta in order for you to play at the hardest of difficulty. You may have 2 of the exact same class and skills, but with the different devotion skills, one character may be more damage oriented while the other is more tanky oriented. Devotion is another set of skill tree that is universal for all the classes. As for which devotion is better or more synergize with your character is dependent on how you wish to build your character as. There’s no right or wrong for this. Only how to bring out the best of the kind of character you are trying to build. Devotion points can be obtained through devotion shrines that place all over Cairn and there are lesser shrines available at a higher difficulty. This makes the game more complicated overall, but you’re able to refund your devotion skill point. I spend a whole day, theory crafting for my perfect build.

Picture of devotion constellation in the skies
Grim Dawn | Crate Entertainment

To those that have a couple of friends to play with, you can play co-op up to 3 other players and there’s online multiplayer for those that don’t have.  You’re able to see the level of the players and their status with the various factions inside the game before joining one. Depending on the host story progression and the quest choices, certain location is locked or NPC is not available. The host world is different from your world and hardcore character can only play among other hardcore characters. On a side note, if you only have the base game, you can only play with those that only have the base game and even if you have the Ashes of Malmouth expansion, you can’t play with those that don’t have that expansion. If you and your friends are planning to play this game together, do keep this in mind.

Conclusion

Grim Dawn is an excellent ARPG and its Ashes of Malmouth expansion completely compliment and expand the base game. This isn’t friendly for those who rarely play ARPG due to its devotion skill tree as it makes the game a slightly more complicated when it comes to character building. But that shouldn’t deter you from playing this wonderful game.


Platform: PC(Windows)
Developer: Crate Entertainment
Publisher: Crate Entertainment
Rating: Great (84 out of 100)
Hours Played: 54hrs


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