Since the revival of the looty (totally a word) goodness that is the ARPG we have seen a lot of great titles arise that are both inspired by and in some cases a spiritual successor to the grandpappy of the genre, Diablo. Games such as Path of Exile, the Torchlight series, Victor Vran and The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing, and Diablo 3, to name a few, have paved the way for a new generation to experience the joys and clicky madness that defines this dear genre.
Perhaps one of my personal favorites of this new generation of ARPG’s is Grim Dawn. Developed by indie studio, Crate Entertainment, Grim Dawn presents its own take on the genre offering a class combo system, a gritty post apocalyptic setting, and a beautifully created universe. For us old timers some of the features present find their roots in the Titan's Quest series. If you know anything about Arthur Bruno, Owner and Lead Designer for Crate Entertainment, this makes sense seeing as he was instrumental in the development of the aforementioned series. After the closure of Iron Lore (The company behind the TQ series) Bruno was key in securing the rights to the Titan’s Quest engine for the development of Grim Dawn.
Forgive the abridged developer history but it’s important to understand where this game finds its roots to really appreciate what I have to say next, and that Grim Dawn is one of the richest, lore heavy, and engaging current ARPG’s on the Market. It finds a perfect balance between the old and new, offering the complexity and dungeon crawl experience of its predecessors while maintaining the excellent standards we have come to expect from today’s ARPG titles.
With it’s new expansion, Ashes of Malmouth released earlier this month, Grim Dawn had a pretty high bar to reach in regards to content and features if it was going to live up to its name. After spending several hours with the expansion I’m here to share my experience and thoughts. So grab that coffee, sit back and check out our review of Grim Dawn: Ashes of Malmouth.
The story of Ashes picks up immediately after the events at the end of Grim Dawn. To avoid spoilers I will simply say that things have gone from bad to worse. Your character must explore two fully featured chapters in the Grim Dawn universe. The story and delivery follow a similar vein to the base game, offering a few comic-esce style voice over pieces along with an abundance of in game dialog and lore pieces to read through. This delivery method pays homage to the story methods of old and although some of the current gaming generation my find this a bit foreign it works really well for Grim Dawn and, if you’re a lore junkie, is worth taking the time to go through.
With these two new chapters comes some great set pieces. Throughout the new story I spent some time in the dark and eerie forests of Gloomwald, waded my way through the Ugenbog and eventually found myself in heart of the devastated city of Malmouth. Along the way I encountered some great new bosses and enemy types that fit with each new setting. The overall campaign in Ashes feels polished, meaty and satisfying to play through.
As mentioned, Grim Dawn offers a large ranges of classes with the ability to combine any two together to create your own unique class. The original system offered some incredible customization and Malmouth carries on this tradition by offering two new Masteries (classes) the Necromancer and the Inquisitor. Individually each mastery brings its own set of skills to the table. the Necromancer can rely heavily on pets and devastate enemies with damage over time and curses while the Inquisitor offered a great glass canon (at least in my hands). The beauty is that you can combine these new Masteries with any of the originals to create your own class. From my time with each I felt that both were well balanced with the Necromancer’s powerful AOE combat being offset with cooldown timers and the Inquisitor being powerful but being just the right amount of squishy to provide a fun, challenging experience.
The base game also offers a constellation system (think Skyrim) that give the player the opportunity to further customize their character. Although Grim Dawn already had a pretty robust constellation system in place, Ashes of Malmouth offers 14 new constellations to help further the experience. With a raised level cap to 100 and an new devotion cap of 55, these new constellations really help to flesh out the play experience.
There are a few other quality of life features that were introduced with the game but perhaps my favorite is the new Illusionist Merchants and allow you to change the look of your gear. As someone who loves customizing gear (I’ve spent more hours than I care to confess with Diablo 3’s Enchantress) this is a welcome addition to the game. Grim Dawn has some incredibly unique designs for armor and weapons and it's great to be able to really spend some time getting just the right look for endless hours of the hack, slash, loot, repeat formula.
Grim Dawn: Ashes of Malmouth is an excellent expansion to an already excellent ARPG. As I have spent time with the title’s expansion I cannot help but remember and compare it to how it felt to play through Diablo 2’s Lord of Destruction expansion. In many ways, Ashes offers the same types of refinement, story rich campaign and quality of life features that LOD did to D2. This is high praise for any expansion and if you are an owner of Grim Dawn I highly recommend picking up Ashes of Malmouth as it will be a great addition and continuation to an amazing Indie ARPG. For those who may be on the fence with Grim Dawn I cannot express enough how polished both the base game and its expansion are. If you’re looking for a solid story, lore rich world, excellent progression systems and endless piles of loot, you’ll find yourself at home with Grim Dawn and Ashes of Malmouth.
Final Score: 9.5
- Solid addition to an already excellent ARPG
- New Classes are unique and fun to play
- Rich, content heavy story
- Newer players to the genre might find story delivery underwhelming