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

From the Ashes

Greenish tints are common in post-apocalyptic wastelands.

Devil’s Crossing has seen better days. Mostly the ones where they’re not under siege from a fallen city overflowing with horrific monstrosities. But, seeing as they are under siege, and their militia is more or less useless, you’re going to be busy for a few days. Or weeks. Assuming you aren’t immediately swallowed up by the void. Ashes of Malmouth is the utterly fantastic continuation of Grim Dawn, which features both new Masteries and new story content (alongside a heapin’ helpin’ of new items legendary and otherwise).

It’s a good ol’ fashioned expansion.

The two new Masteries alone are worth the price of admission, as they can either be used on their own or with any of the other Masteries which opens up myriad possibilities. I’ve been trying the Death Knight (Necromancer/Soldier) and the combination of summoning with close combat is pretty fantastic. Having a menagerie of unholy beasts and skeletons is pretty neat.

That said, the new story content is excellently introduced through a series of breadcrumb quests which take you back to Burrwitch and then to heart of the void. From there you journey to Malmouth and (quite literally) fight your way to the heart of the city. Gaining ground and losing it in equal measure as you push forwards. It’s a surprisingly extensive journey which will introduce you to new factions nestled deep in marshes and crumbling cities, and will require you to make choices, as your actions will dictate who will welcome you and who won’t, and those interactions will help you understand the true nature of these factions. As expected from Grim Dawn there is a wealth of choice and consequence that’ll keep you busy for hours to come.

Crown Hill definitely has an infestation problem.

I’ve had a few pangs of nostalgia while playing through this expansion, too. It gives me similar feelings to those I had when I first experienced Diablo II Lord of Destruction, wherein the snowy plains of Act V kept me company while I adjusted to the innumerable challenges that lay ahead. I’m also quite excited to see how the Death Knight develops. I’ve mostly experienced Ashes of Malmouth with my Warder (Shaman/Soldier), which, besides being my first character, doesn’t have a particularly strong or effective build.

It has great burst potential but terrible survivability.

However, despite the build drawbacks, I’ve greatly enjoyed all that I’ve experienced so far. I’ve still got to find those new dungeons, too. I would say that I’ve seen the majority of what this expansion has to offer, but I know that isn’t true as it is so incredibly content dense. I’ve definitely missed quests and NPCs along the way. Not to mention the results of different choices.

It’s an incredibly easy recommendation to make if you love ARPGs. Grim Dawn is an expertly crafted and beautifully complex yet intuitive and easy to learn ARPG, which only becomes better (in every way) with this expansion. That and you can raise skeletons. All the cool kids are doing that. I’m not really sure what the Inquisitor does- but I’m sure that’s neat as well. I’m quite excited to see what’s coming next for Grim Dawn, but, until then, I’ve got to roam the fields of Wightmire with my Death Knight. She’s due to loot something really cool any day now. Or maybe I’ll try to make sense of the Devotion screen and pick something out for her. I don’t really open that screen much. It’s big and confusing.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Saved From the Noose

It’s a hangin’ day.

Grim Dawn is an epic post-apocalyptic open world ARPG featuring six individual Masteries, four Acts, multiple character builds, a plethora of foes (and heroic bosses), end game dungeons, and a freedom to explore and progress at your own pace. You won’t be forced to take a particular route through this adventure. Throughout the story you’ll be presented with rebuilding a bridge, blasting open a cavern, or exploring the alternative if you lack the means to bypass it. This makes each character slightly different as you might have the resources on one but not another.

Likewise, Masteries fulfil a certain purpose but can be combined to create diverse builds. Want to fight enemies up close and personal? Try the Soldier. Want to throw explosive cocktails and grenades? Mix a little Demolitionist into that. Prefer striking from the shadows? Sample the Nightblade. There are endless options to mix and match skills to suit your play style.

Further adding to the customisation is the Devotion system.

You’ll earn points from restoring ruined or desecrated Shrines which can be spent in various constellations, which provide either active skill effects or passive buffs. While Devotion points are much shorter in supply than regular Skill points, they allow you to really develop particular aspects of your character. For instance, with Shamans, there are several options to increase lightning damage dealt or buff your pets to make them more reliable in combat. All together, the range of character customisation and development is quite extensive (and a little daunting at first). However, in my opinion, this is one of the areas where Grim Dawn really shines- endless customisation opportunities and potential to build whatever suits your particular needs.

"There's somewhere worse than the Steps of Torment?!"

“There’s somewhere worse than the Steps of Torment?!”

There’s also quite a number of side quests to do, optional objectives to complete, optional dungeons to explore, factions to join, and even special end game dungeons which are opened with unique Skeleton Keys. These, once opened, only stay open provided you don’t die. Obviously not a concern for Hardcore characters. That said, for regular characters, should you die, you’ll be removed from the dungeon and will need to build/use another Skeleton Key to get back in. These are always challenging, too. As the mobs scale to your level (and beyond).

These are really great places to farm out additional items and experience for attempting the later difficulties (Elite through Ultimate), and great places to test your skills against impressive and dangerous bosses you won’t see elsewhere. Some (like the Immolation) require faction status or particular quests to be completed before you can enter.

I’ve really enjoyed these as they’re tough but fair dungeons with few cheap mechanics.

Overall, I’ve watched this through Early Access and I’ve been continually impressed with everything they’ve done with it. I’m even further impressed by the exceptional quality of the finished product, which, while I thought I was done with Normal, showed me there was another ten hours (or more) content that I’d missed. Either by not taking on the end game dungeons or by not uncovering some of the secret locations. It’s been an amazing experience thus far and I’m excited to see if any DLC will be developed, what that DLC will be, and where the story will go from here. Currently they’re onto a really great experience which could very easily become one of the classic ARPG experiences of all time.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Darkest Before Dawn

We’re going to spill some blood tonight.

Grim Dawn is (finally) here! The full release launched yesterday (25th February 2016) with a heaping helping of polish, an animated opening sequence, voice acting (for most major quests/NPCs), and a few things I might have missed but have never noticed before. For instance, the rare items that seem to be spawning in pre-determined locations (with randomised statistics). I assume they’re supposed to do that as they’re worth considerably less Iron than equivalent rare items of a similar level.

They’re pretty awesome additions, too! Especially the voice acting and opening sequence.

I had a hard time deciding on how to build my first character. Initially I felt that the Soldier would be a good choice and would follow the usual trend of playing a close quarters, heavily armoured, somewhat tactical character in my first foray into any ARPG. However, I do want to build a weapon and shield Solider at some point. Obviously I can have as many Soldier (or Soldier hybrid) builds as I like, but it seems silly to repeat this early on. They’re all so tempting! So I settled on Shaman as (if they’re similar to my experiences) they balance survivability, damage, pets, and utility in equal measure. Plus you get to whack everyone with the biggest, heaviest piece of scrap you can find.

I’m not sure how this decision will affect moving into the higher difficulty levels (Elite and Ultimate), nor how it will work with the Devotion system, but I’m excited to experience the entirety of the story in the full release. I’m also going to attempt to take my first build through the three difficulty levels in sequence.

Such a shocking revelation.

Such a shocking revelation.

That said, we all know it’s more likely I’ll start another build (and another) before I see the depths of what Ultimate has to offer. The rules of engagement for Elite and Ultimate are also a mystery to me, as I’m not sure if they feature any significant changes (other than higher monster levels and better loot). I don’t know if there’s an experience penalty on death, lowered elemental resistances, monster immunity to certain elements, or really anything about what happens once you leave the safety of Normal. There’s only one way to find out, though!

Needless to say this is where I’m going to be all weekend.

Technically the game is performing well and (with a few minor tweaks) is running well. I’ve discovered the joys of Shrines and having to cleanse them, which, while not an entirely new mechanic, certainly makes the world feel much fuller and gives you more to do. In fact, so far, I’ve run into things to do everywhere. From having people to save to cleansing Shrines to exploring additional areas- it’s come a long way from the days of Early Access- and it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down. I’ve had a quick look over the map and it goes on for days. I can only imagine the additional dungeons and hidden areas they’ve dotted throughout the world. I can only imagine the treasures, too.

I may be a little biased as I have had high expectations for Grim Dawn for some time. It’s one of the few titles I’ve really looked forward to seeing released this year, too. But I still firmly believe that (for as far as I’ve seen as of writing this) it’s one of the best ARPGs in recent years. Perhaps in the entire history of ARPGs.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie