Since the release of Diablo 2, way back in the year 2000, basically every ARPG has been trying to be Diablo 3, yet none have truly succeeded, not even the actual Diablo 3. I’m not going to go so far as to say Grim Dawn is the ‘real’ Diablo 3, but its the closest an ARPG has come IMO.
For starters, Grim Dawn (GD) has just about everything you would expect. Multiple classes, the ability to mix classes, an additional alternate advancement system, lots and lots of loot in different color flavors, and hordes of various enemies and bosses to slay. You can play solo, or with up to 4 others, and you can even enable PvP if you so choose.
Perhaps its one outstanding difference is that the maps aren’t randomly generated (for the main campaign, you can play custom maps, though I haven’t explored that option), which initially felt odd until I just got over it and realized fully hand-crafted maps look better and are more logical than what even a good random generator can do. Will that hold up through multiple playthroughs? Not likely, but I’ve never been a huge fan of grinding an ARPG over and over again anyway.
The graphics are very serviceable. They won’t blow you away, but they also don’t feel cheap, and there are some nice lighting effects and the overall style is a slightly different take on the traditional fantasy doom world full of zombies and other creatures. Same for the sound, which includes a bit of voice acting; its not top-notch, but once you get into the game you find that it all fits and works well-enough. The game runs well and I’ve only seen it crash once (on my wife’s computers during multiplayer).
The pace is good, and main storyline so far has been interesting (mostly told through lore text items you find), and I’ve liked every area I’ve seen so far. And since the maps aren’t random, they all connect in a logical manner that gives the world of GD a more… worldly feel rather than just randomly connected zones. I think that last part is one of the major reasons I’m really like GD too; it has a better sense of progress as you uncover more of the world and the problems facing it.
I also like that you aren’t bombarded with abilities. Or rather, you have that option, as its very easy to focus-in on a few abilities that sound interesting and skip others during the leveling process. You can go so far as to only unlock and upgrade your auto-attack and passives/buffs, which means less button pushing but without gimping yourself. Again perhaps more min/maxing is needed at the highest difficulty, but for an initial run, that flexibility is there.
GD is also pretty flexible in other areas too. You can undo spent skill points for a small cost, and many skills aren’t exclusive to one type of weapon. So for example an auto-attack modifier will work whether you are using a 1h melee weapon or a 2h ranged weapon. That’s nice and lets you switch up what gear you are using pretty easily as you find new and better drops. A constant flow of upgrades is a huge key to ARPG enjoyment, and GD nails this.
Finally, the game is very co-op friendly. It will auto-party you if you select that option, and loot can also be personal until you drop it, making ‘sharing’ loot much easier. Simply scoop up all the stuff you see drop, and if you find something you think might be good for your buddy, drop it and they can grab it. Easy, quick, and painless. Quests also update for everyone in the party, so it doesn’t matter who landed the last hit or who talked to an NPC. It basically feels like playing the single-player in terms of pace and function, only you also have a buddy running and killing along side you.
If you enjoy ARPGs, Grim Dawn really is a must-play.