Monday, November 6, 2017

Grim Dawn

Titan Quest got an anniversary edition update last year and I went back to see how the game was. The update combined the base game with its expansion, Immortal Throne, and included bug fixes and balance tweaks, but otherwise everything was exactly as before. . . which is not all that good actually. It is hard to believe I went through the game's all three difficulty levels with two characters back in the day. But maybe there were not that many games to play then.

The update was done by THQ Nordic (former Nordic Games) as the rights had been acquired by them when they bought the possessions of the original publisher, THQ, that had filed for bankruptcy in 2012. The developer studio itself, Iron Lore Entertainment, had shut down in 2008. And that gets me to today's topic.

Rebirth of Titan Quest

The development of Grim Dawn, an isometric action roleplaying game like Titan Quest, began when former Iron Lore members founded Crate Entertainment. They licensed Titan Quest's engine, I guess intending to continue where they left at, and the game finally came out in February 26, 2016. The end result is, unfortunately, very much like Titan Quest -- almost like a version 1.5 of it. And thus I did not find Grim Dawn an entertaining experience.

Coming from Titan Quest, one will find most of the game's aspects very familiar. It is almost uncanny how similar about everything is. The setting is different and things have different names but the game plays exactly the same.

Better in some ways

There are some improvements too. For instance, Grim Dawn looks a tad better. I appreciated especially the player character not being as janky and gear being more detailed, though it is still a far cry from something like Diablo 3.

In addition to the old 2-profession perks, you get additional (mostly passive) skills from a devotion system which has its interface displayed as a set of star signs, like a combination of Skyrim and Path of Exile. Devotion points are gained from restoring shrines and I thought it was a really cool feature. They could have made all skill points to be gained that way.

Camera can be rotated fully around the character which I do not recall being possible in Titan Quest. It is maybe somewhat unnecessary though as everything is quite visible from the default direction. Grim Dawn also runs smoother than Titan Quest. It does not have as many weird low frame rate areas and micro freezes.

But mostly the same

However, using the old engine, the game still utilizes only a single CPU core and you will definitely need a 3.2GHz or faster processor as listed in the recommended specs if you desire to run the game at maxed settings in 1080p.

One difference I really would have liked to see, was randomized map layouts. In my opinion an ARPG has no business among the genre's big names with static overworld and dungeon maps. The maps are awfully maze-like too with many dead ends that make navigation a chore.

For some reason Crate Entertainment also kept the archaic requirement of having to play the campaign again for higher difficulties. I believe even Path of Exile got rid of that silliness eventually.

The game's difficulty spikes up drastically if you have not gotten significant gear or skill upgrades in a while. Enemy type also seemed to heavily affect the level of challenge. And what is up with the areas, roads in particular, that are blanketed in aether flames? You get killed very fast if you have to go into them.

And if you end up dying and have forgotten to keep opening your personal portal, there is likely a very long hike ahead of you. You wake up in town as there are no rebirth wells like in Titan Quest. Instead the closest place to continue is one of the static world portals.

I think the biggest reason I did not enjoy Grim Dawn was it not feeling rewarding. Combat has this lukewarm feeling to it and boss fights are simple spank n' tank events you often lose on first try as a melee character. Loot is not exciting and it is hard to compare which of two items is better thanks to the myriad number of stats on them -- just like in Titan Quest.

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