Grim Dawn: Once Taken, Twice Shy (Pt. 3)

Wreathed in walking bones.

I’ve always been fond of the idea of Raise Skeleton for this build. However, due to the limited quantity of skill points, it’s not possible to invest in Raise Skeleton without diluting everything else. Unless I substitute one skill for another. Which is why I decided to substitute Curse of Frailty for Raise Skeleton, as I would prefer to have more pets to distract enemies. So that I don’t get surrounded and consequently murdered. It offers some reasonably decent synergy with Blood of Dreeg, too. Not only does it provide a significant chunk of retaliation damage, but it helps to keep the skeletons alive.

Given that skeletons (as you would expect) are fragile.

Immediately investing in the Undead Legion modifier meant that I have six skeletons available. So, in total, that makes seven pets with the Blight Fiend. With that number Bonds of Bysmiel becomes more attractive. However, I’d need to substitute another skill to invest in Bonds of Bysmiel and it just isn’t worth it.

My pets have never really been designed to deal damage. They’re designed to draw attention away from me. Which they would do better with more health and higher damage, but the damage potential that I would lose with that investment is not worth them surviving a few seconds longer. Given that later difficulty levels will significantly reduce their survivability. Having the extra distractions does help, though. Especially when you consider that the higher levels of Raise Skeleton offer more powerful skeletons, which means I’ve got skeletons firing crossbows and spells at enemies. I suppose that I could consider whether Bonds of Bysmiel is worthwhile at a later date. I might be inclined to substitute something if I find that my pets are dying too frequently. Or I may just substitute Raise Skeleton for something else.

A corrosive cacophony of flesh and bones.

The warm sands of the Korvan Basin have been about as forgiving as I expected they’d be. It’s not necessarily difficult content, but it is very tightly scaling to my character level with some enemies being five levels higher than me. I’ve narrowly avoided death on a few occasions, too. I’m not sure if this is indicative of what I should expect in Act 2, or if Act 2 will be slightly easier as it may not scale to my level. I’m not really sure what does and doesn’t scale to your level these days. That said, I’ve had a lot of fun with the content and I suppose that this confirms it can be done with a freshly built character.

Not that I’m likely to proceed out of sequence again.

I didn’t really consider that the rewards for the factions in the Forgotten Gods would be useless to me. For the time being at least. As they all require you to be Lvl 65-90, which wasn’t a concern for my (higher level) Warder but isn’t really benefiting my (lower level) Cabalist. I’ll be back to purchase them later on, though.

That said, proceeding out of sequence did highlight the surprisingly complex nature of dialogue in Grim Dawn. There are several interactions which are altered (or entirely absent), as this character has not yet met those factions and has no relationship with them in any way. In particular there was a group of refugees which my Warder could threaten or kill due to his faction alignment. But my Cabalist doesn’t have anything to say to them because she doesn’t know them. Nor is she aligned with an opposing faction. It’s a small yet satisfying alteration, and makes sense as it could potentially sway your allegiance if this content presented factions in a certain way. Whereas the lack of an interaction means you’ll make the natural choice when the time comes. Which is how things should be.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Grim Dawn: Once Taken, Twice Shy (Pt. 2)

The stench of rot and decay.

One of the few identifiable problems with this build is the heavy investment required in both Necromancer and Occultist Mastery. It’s a problem that quickly disappears, but does affect the first few levels as whether you specialise in Necromancer or Occultist you won’t have many offensive options. This is one of the reasons that Raise Skeleton was appealing. That said, I could have invested in Occultist first but I don’t believe that having Dreeg’s Evil Eye and Curse of Frailty earlier rather than later would’ve helped. Having the Blight Fiend to soak some of the incoming damage made more sense.

The investment also allowed access to Ravenous Earth.

Which, to be fair, doesn’t function as I would’ve expected it to, but it’s still a powerful addition to the offensive capabilities of the build. I’ve seen it melt bosses within seconds if they’re hit by multiple fragments. It’s also a great skill to use when surrounded, which is one of the first issues I’ve noticed with this build.

Obviously in Act 1 this isn’t really a concern. Enemies are less aggressive, use less potent skills, and are generally less threatening overall. But once I’ve progressed to either Act 2 or Act 7 (if I choose to proceed out of sequence) that will very quickly change. Blood of Dreeg and the restorative properties it offers does balance out the damage, but that’s not something I’m going to be able to rely on. Especially at lower skill levels when it only recovers 14-16% of my health. It does, however, keep the Blight Fiend alive quite competently. So that’s something. The health regeneration is probably the more attractive component of that skill, as the duration outlasts the cooldown and so it can be kept active almost indefinitely. Which basically means I’m always recovering a trickle of health.

Life ebbs akin to fading embers.

The damage output of the build is, as expected, excellent. The synergy between Curse of Frailty and either Dreeg’s Evil Eye or Ravenous Earth is potent. Not only are enemies slowed and generally weakened, but they suffer more damage from my various skills and even the Blight Fiend becomes more effective as a result. It does, however, rely on damage over time. Which means you’re waiting for enemies to expire. So it’s kind of burst-y. Enemies will fall in numbers once the overwhelming number of ailments finally claim them, but they have more potential to retaliate as they don’t immediately fall.

That said, Dreeg’s Evil Eye does provide some direct damage.

Damage which will undoubtedly become more potent as more modifiers are unlocked. It will eventually become an AoE of its own. Which, when combined with Ravenous Earth, and the weakening component of Curse of Frailty, should mean that this build will specialise in AoE damage either directly or over time.

I feel as though I’m making good progress through Act 1 at a somewhat accelerated pace. I’m not sure if this is due to balancing changes in one of the recent updates or just the proficiency of the build, but, as of writing this, it’s going quite well. I’m surprised at how effective the build is even if it does take some time to really start to function properly. I’ve been considering moving onto Act 7 next and seeing just how viable the Forgotten Gods content is for a new character. I’m not sure it’s advisable for a character that doesn’t really have any equipment or items to supplement them, but that’s the reason I’m doing it. Science. Or the insatiable desire to do things I know I probably shouldn’t be doing in video games. It’s a twenty year habit that I’m not about to break. Not now and likely not ever.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Grim Dawn: Once Taken, Twice Shy (Pt. 1)

You’ve got to serve somebody.

The recent excursion to the Korvan Basin in the Forgotten Gods expansion pack reminded me of how much I dearly love Grim Dawn. Despite playing my Warder (Shaman/Soldier) who is not only the first character I’d ever finished the campaign with, and has since been subject to countless changes as a result of numerous updates, it was still an exhilarating and satisfying chunk of content. That particular character is in dire need of being tweaked, though. Which is why it’s unlikely he will ever finish Elite (or even start Ultimate) difficulty. Too many things have changed and it’s simply easier to start again.

Which is (and isn’t) the purpose of this post.

I’ve wanted to experience Grim Dawn again for some time, but the idea of documenting this process was inspired by my recent series of posts regarding the original Diablo. The character mentioned herein is not a replacement for my Warder, either. But instead a fresh perspective that draws on previous experience.

For this character I wanted to do something that didn’t rely on close quarters combat. I’ve not really built many Occultists, Arcanists, Necromancers, or Demolitionists and the only Shaman I’ve built was focused on two-handed weapons. I’ve been fond of the Necromancer since the Ashes of Malmouth expansion pack, but I’ve only ever started a Death Knight (Necromancer/Soldier) build which didn’t finish Act 1. After fiddling with several Masteries I finally settled on the Cabalist (Occultist/Necromancer) with a build focusing on poison and acid damage. I’m unsure as to whether I should invest heavily in pets or not, though. I’ve already got Summon Blight Fiend but have been thinking about Raise Skeleton. However, I did prioritise Blood of Dreeg over Raise Skeleton for it’s regenerative properties.

Huddled amongst the remnants of humanity.

On the other hand, due to the acid retaliation damage of Blood of Dreeg, it’s actually suited to having more allies to buff rather than less. So having Raise Skeleton would provide more acid retaliation damage overall. I’ve also been looking at Curse of Frailty, which, with it’s Vulnerability modifier, reduces enemy resistance to acid and poison damage. This is more or less occupying the same idea as Blood of Dreeg. As the Aspect of the Guardian modifier increases poison and acid damage. Together they do an exceptional amount of damage, individually they function more or less the same immunities permitting.

As Vulnerability could break immunities if such a thing is possible.

If we were to ignore that possibility then both Blood of Dreeg and Curse of Frailty will boost acid and poison damage. Which means I could easily substitute either for Raise Skeleton. But I’m more likely to substitute Curse of Frailty as Blood of Dreeg allows me to heal my pets and myself, while accelerating their health regeneration.

Having too many pets would make Bonds of Bysmiel an alluring prospect, though. Not that I’ve ever wanted to have dozens of pets. At least not in Grim Dawn. I’d never decline a box full of kittens. But having to make these decisions (and these decisions having consequences) is why I dearly love Grim Dawn, as, unlike many modern RPGs, building a character is not a hollow and unsatisfying experience. Every character is unique. For the best or worst reasons. I’m interested in seeing how this character develops, too. When looking at raw statistics many things seem to be viable, but in the harsh light of day there are tweaks that need to be made. Even learning about the character can be a satisfying experience as you quickly learn what you can do, what you can’t, and what you’re better off leaving alone.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Cults of the Witch Gods

Don’t enter portals opened by strangers.

If you do you might end up in the Korvan Basin. It’s sandy. Very, very sandy. It’d make for a great holiday destination were it not for the bloodthirsty wildlife, the fanatical cultists, and the statues which come to life desiring nothing more than to see you rendered into viscera. You might also have to join one of three cults when you arrive, each of which represent the desires of one of the three Witch Gods. Which, thankfully, doesn’t require a human sacrifice. So that’s something. You will, however, have to fight for your life against the forces of Ch’thon to prove that you are the one they’ve been looking for.

Which is exactly why I don’t like people looking for me.

Forgotten Gods is the second expansion pack for the exceptionally exquisite Grim Dawn. It follows the events of Ashes of Malmouth, but can be experienced out of sequence as soon as you’ve completed Act 1. The content scales to your character level, though. So it’ll always be level appropriate for your character.

Act 7 is set in the lush, scenic, and sometimes volcanic Korvan Basin. Alongside the extended main campaign content there’s a new Mastery (the Oathkeeper), newly introduced Difficulty Merits and Iron sharing mechanics, expanded (personal and shared) stash space, additional Constellations and skills to unlock, and the endless challenge of the Shattered Realm. You’re now able to skip an entire difficulty level by using the respective Difficulty Merit. For instance, if you have a character in Elite you are able to buy the Elite Difficulty Merit which can be shared with another character via the shared stash. You can also condense Iron into Iron Bars to share wealth in a similar fashion. Which is undoubtedly great news for everyone who has multiple characters that might need a little help.

An old god sleeps in a fragment of a distant reality.

The sole new Mastery in Forgotten Gods is the Oathkeeper which (as always) can be combined with existing Masteries. The Soldier has always offered benefits to those who use shields and boasted greatly bolstered survivability, but the Oathkeeper unlocks the offensive capability of shields. If their shield isn’t hitting someone in the face they aren’t happy. Which could present some interesting possibilities for close quarters combat builds. The new Constellations also offer deeper customisation through the Devotion mechanics. While there are new mobility skills which (I do believe) are applied to medals.

It’s a surprisingly content-dense expansion pack.

Not that the developers have earned a reputation for anything less. They have continually and consistently delivered both paid and free updates of the highest quality, and have supported Grim Dawn since the days of Early Access. I’ve enjoyed seeing every new development as they seem passionate about this project.

While it has been hinted that Forgotten Gods may be the last expansion pack, the developers have done incredible things with Grim Dawn. I’ve always had the greatest expectations for Grim Dawn (and any additional content available after release) and they’ve been exceeded in every possible way. Not only does it feel entirely reminiscent of the ARPGs of yesteryear, but it delivers the kind of character building which is often painfully absent from modern RPGs. The developers have never settled and have always pushed ever-forward with new ideas, new concepts, and new updates. This dedication to delivering a truly one-of-a-kind experience is what has led Grim Dawn to be as enjoyable, engaging, and exhilarating as it has been in all of the years that I’ve been building characters in it. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys ARPGs!

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

The One True King

Let the banners of war never again be unfurled.

Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is the exceptionally enjoyable and engrossing sequel to Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch that features an ever-expanding world to explore, an ever-evolving kingdom to lead, functional resource gathering mechanics, and more side quests than any one fledgling king could hope to complete. Much like the previous entry in the series there’s no shortage of things to do. You’ll be tasked with slaying powerful monsters, collecting songbooks, recruiting new citizens, learning new recipes, leading your armies to war, and so much more as you work through the main campaign.

The DLC adds a sizeable chunk of playable content, too.

Besides the overflowing number of things to do my favourite experiences were those of kingdom building. I’ve written before of how delightfully fun the process is, but kingdom building is superb and it never feels like a chore to return to Evermore after you’ve delved into a dungeon or tackled a tainted monster.

Being able to build and continually upgrade facilities to have access to increasingly powerful equipment, more varied Higgledies, more impressive spells, and further bonuses in combat is a rare pleasure. It never feels forced but it’s not required, either. You can quite easily finish the Dreamer’s Doors without the Dimensional Lab. Or you could simply buy equipment rather than craft your own. Or find it on monsters. That said, it’s entirely worth your time to invest in developing Evermore and I encourage you to do so. It’s a ridiculously useful hub location that unlocks more than a few useful things. It’s also a great place to engage in various side quests that (I do believe) are unavailable elsewhere. Or you could just catch up with your various party members and see what they’ve got to say.

I’ve also greatly enjoyed the various combat mechanics in the sequel. Opting instead for an action-orientated approach that allows your party members to act autonomously, but also lets you switch the playable character, offering the choice between long range and close range weaponry, while giving you full control of their spells and abilities. It’s almost entirely seamless, too. Unless you’re on the world map you don’t need to switch to a dedicated combat screen. Making for more fluid, engaging, and enjoyable combat. It also allows you to see when enemies have superior numbers or are of a higher level.

Which is quite useful inside of the Dreamer’s Doors.

The aforementioned comprise the majority of randomly generated content in the sequel. Each Dreamer’s Door leads to a labyrinthine dungeon which you’ll need to explore as an ever-increasing Danger Level promises more powerful monsters, and your aim is to either finish the dungeon or escape to safety.

I had great expectations for Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom and it has far exceeded them by having a wealth of playable content and a surprisingly extensive main campaign. Which is a good thing. It’s always better to have more content than less especially when it is of the quality that this series is known for. The only drawback to being entirely absorbed in the series is that I’ve finished the majority of content in both, and I’m currently working through the DLC in the sequel. Which, really, isn’t a drawback, as it’s been an entirely enjoyable affair. I’ve not once felt that I’m forcing myself through the content to see what’s next. Which is why if you’re interested in enjoyable, engrossing, and downright fun JRPGs I can highly recommend anything and everything in the Ni no Kuni series!

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

A Fledgling Kingdom

Where everyone can live happily ever after.

I’ll be the first to admit that I do have a slight problem when it comes to building houses in video games. Or building anything for that matter. I’d assume that Suikoden is entirely responsible for this, but you didn’t necessarily build Toran Castle and instead hired the playable Stars of Destiny who improved the facilities available therein. Hence why I’ve been overjoyed with the kingdom building in Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom, as it’s reminiscent of the concept present in Suikoden but feels much broader and has exceptional functionality. Each citizen recruited to Evermore makes an immeasurable difference.

Especially when crafting new equipment or cooking up Higgledies.

Crafting is actually one of my favourite things to do when visiting Evermore. With the different resource gathering facilities you’re able to collect endless quantities of materials, and through the production facilities you’re able to turn those materials into powerful equipment. It seems simple but it’s delightfully functional.

Unlike other crafting mechanics, where rare materials are so ridiculously rare that you don’t even attempt to use them, or where recipes are often obtained far too late for them to be useful, the crafting mechanics in Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom are wonderfully accessible. You unlock sets of crafting recipes each time the relevant research is finished, and by crafting that equipment you’re able to heighten the proficiency of your citizens. As citizens become more proficient they can undertake more complex research. That’s it. No arbitrary requirements or excessive grinding needed. This extends to every facility available in Evermore, too. From the Dimensional Lab to Tasty’s Cookshop each upgrade remains as intuitive as the last. In fact, it was so intuitive I often built far too much for my current citizen count.

There is such a thing as having too many Kingsguilders.

For these (and many other) reasons I’ve greatly enjoyed the ambitious sequel to Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch even if it does do several things differently. The kingdom building is incredibly fun and I’ve often spent hours researching, recruiting citizens, and unlocking new spells or equipment with no regrets. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on the main campaign by taking the time to outfit my party. It never feels forced, either. You never loathe having to spend time in Evermore because there’s so much to do. The only minor criticisms I have of the sequel concern both the skirmishes and the tainted monsters.

Both of which seem to be haphazardly peppered around the world map.

The skirmishes disappear and reappear with annoying frequency and seem to follow no particular order. Therefore, levelling troops can be a clunky affair. While tainted monsters, though presented in an order, and with what you would assume is increasing difficulty, make little sense when you actually encounter them.

That said, these are very minor criticisms that don’t affect the main campaign in any meaningful way. As you’ve no requirement to fight any tainted monsters (other than those for side quests) and the story-related skirmishes are surmountable if you’ve collected troops from side quests. These criticisms don’t detract from the general wonder of exploring the world map, either. Which is another thing that Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom has done very well. It has a sprawling world map that’s fun to explore as you’re always finding treasure, new locations, or more Higgledies. It really encourages you to leave Evermore and to see what’s happening outside the kingdom walls. Not that I want to. I’ve got Kingsguilders to collect, citizens to level up, and research to undertake. I’m sure that things will work out without my intervention.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

The Pure-Hearted One

You’re a wizard, Ollie-boy.

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered is a magnificently exquisite JRPG that tells the enchanting story of Oliver’s quest to save the person dearest to him. Featuring (quite literally) hundreds of familiars to tame, a sprawling world map, numerous locations to visit, and more treasures than you can shake a twig at this experience is truly one-of-a-kind. There are scarce few JRPGs that are as enjoyable and as engaging as this, and fewer still that have such a diverse range of content to immerse yourself in that they don’t begin to feel stale after a while. It also has some of the best art direction I’ve ever seen.

Not to mention a truly outstanding soundtrack.

I’m also quite fond of the various puzzles and riddles found throughout the main campaign. The riddles are particularly fiendish as you have to type in a response, which means you can’t simply select every available option until you find the correct one. These riddles often encourage the use of the Wizard’s Companion, too.

I’ve written before of the wonderful idea that is the Wizard’s Companion. I’m also enthusiastic about the errands and bounty hunts which comprise the majority of additional content. Errands are (as the name suggests) tasks that NPCs will assign you which often involve collecting materials, travelling to new locations, or (rarely) slaying certain creatures. Bounty hunts reward you for hunting down especially powerful creatures. Completing either (or both) will award you with rare materials, powerful equipment, and more Guilders than you know what to do with. There is an abundance of diverse and interesting content to complete alongside the main campaign, and you’re highly encouraged to take the time to revisit each major city regularly for new things to do.

There are some interesting mechanics present in combat, too. While Oliver may have prodigious magical prowess he’s also a bit squishy, which is why he (and his friends) fight with familiars. Familiars are able to learn various Tricks which allow them to perform differently in combat. Some familiars are exceptionally powerful, some incredibly durable, and some have more spells than any one creature reasonably should. Each character has their own affinity with certain familiars as well. Finding the right combinations along with a balance of offensive and defensive Tricks is not easy but satisfying when it does happen.

At a certain level familiars will be able to Metamorphose.

Once they Metamorphose into a new creature they’ll regress to Lvl 1 but they’ll retain all previously learned Tricks. That said, in the process of levelling up their second or third forms they may lose certain Tricks as they can only know eight at any given time. So sometimes levelling from base to final form can be a wasted effort.

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered has drastically exceeded all expectations. Not only is there a wealth of engaging and enjoyable content throughout the main campaign but the additional content is refreshing as well. Alongside this you have various alchemical recipes to cook up, familiars to develop, a casino to gamble at, a gauntlet of combat to engage in, and a surprisingly vast sea of equipment to swim through. There are various puzzles to solve, too. Hidden spells to unlock. Forests to visit. Treasures to find on the world map. There’s a staggering number of things to see and do in either world, and it’s definitely one of the best JRPG experiences I’ve had in many years. For that reason I highly recommend this to those who enjoy RPGs, JRPGs, or heart-warming wholesome stories.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie