A small critique of the gameplay

Hi,

First off I’d like to say that I firmly believe that when our goal is to be constructive and actually learn from feedback, positive or supportive feedback should be much more numerous than negative or corrective feedback. Hence I’ll start this off with saying that I think Grim Dawn, for the most parts, is a good game. It has a nice atmosphere, interesting skills and a good variety in builds. To anyone interested about finding a fresh ARPG to play, I recommend it as one of the best options there currently are.

Nevertheless, even though I principally like Grim Dawn, I find that for myself, my playing time has now stuck at 64 hours. I missed the kickstarter, but bought the game years ago in early access. I’ve played it when there was just one act, and now I’ve played it with all the acts and the first expansions in place. Played it solo, played it with friends.

But ultimately, the core gameplay, to me, is just not satisfying enough.

When I’ve played Grim Dawn in longer bursts, it has very quickly started to feel like a chore void of creativity, learning or even the requirement of paying attention. The reason, I believe, is that the game has a very low player skill cap, skillful play isn’t rewarded, and most mobs are just clutter in your way of finishing a quest.

There’s two sides to this. Firstly, there’s the actual builds. It’s quite easy to just create a build where you put on a bunch of passive skills and then use 1-2 active skills while you basically stand in place and wack monsters until they’re all dead. You can create a build based more around evasion, flashing in, dropping a skill, then retreating and repeating, but honestly, those builds are not any stronger than the less “active” builds and thus there’s no reward in doing that. The order you use skills in doesn’t really matter all too much either. You can mostly use skills often enough - or then they have long enough duration - that you’ll get the benefit of e.g. debuffs no matter when in your use chain the debuff skill is. Plus, unless you’re playing the very end tier content which needs a long time to reach, the monsters aren’t tough enough to handle such optimization - they’ll die easily with much less effort all the same.

Another closely related part to this is the monster and monster ability design and the associated animations. The vast majority of monsters and crucially, bosses, do not have clearly distinguishable attack patterns that you needed to learn and time your attacks around. Most don’t have any particular skills that you needed to be wary of, not anymore than any other attack that they have. It’s difficult - or impossible - to time your entries in sync with enemy behavior to e.g. avoid attacks. Rather, it pretty much feels like that you just randomly get hit sometimes when you’re close to enemies and sometimes not. The boss fights (I’ve heard rumors the expansion has a nice interesting boss fight, but I haven’t reached him/her/it) aren’t of much more interest - most bosses you just stand next to and hit them until they die, or then you flash around healing, attacking, healing, attacking, … but without really needing to react in any particularly manner to the boss itself.

I’ll also add that I’ve never played the game on normal since veteran was added. After that, it’s been only veteran for me. I’ve also mostly played on hardcore.

Now nostalgia may tint it a little, but I recall that Diablo 2’s boss fights were a lot more interesting and felt more dangerous. There were clearly distinguishable attack patterns to the bosses and some of their skills you really needed to be wary of. For more modern examples, Dark Souls and Torchlight 2 (on harder difficulties) require active thinking when going against the bosses. Some MMOs also do a good job with making the central fights interesting and challenging. I’m not much into MMOs, but recently been playing Lord of the Rings Online with my spouse, and I’ve been impressed with how much attention, skill cycle tuning, threat level management and how much reacting to your teammates it takes to beat skirmishes, raids and boss fights that are at or above your character level. Wolcen, for all its bugs and an awful launch and lacking content, also does the core gameplay loop well - if you avoid the game-breaking glitchy builds, you genuinely have to be smart about how you approach fights and there’s a lot of cool synergy you can have with your co-op pals. That’s by the way another thing I kind of feel is lacking in Grim Dawn - co-op. Of course there is multiplayer, and maybe half of my game time has been together with my friends, but it really just feels like you have a bunch of people coincidentally on the same server, coincidentally doing the same content. There’s only a handful of meaningful ally-boosting skills and they’re mostly just straight buffs that don’t need any skill to utilize. PoE has the same problem - co-op feels like a bunch of individual people trying to have the best DPS instead of a bunch of people genuinely cooperating.

In summary, I suppose what I find lacking with Grim Dawn is challenge that required attention, pattern recognition and raw game skill to overcome. So, mobs and even bosses just feel like clutter in the way of finishing a quest, rather than a true challenge to overcome with skill and preparation.

Yet I enjoy many aspects of the game and I do not regret at all having bought it. And if my friends get excited about playing it again, I might even consider buying some expansions.

Thanks for reading.

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At 64 hours on Vet you’ve barely scratched the surface of the game. Push on into Elite and Ultimate, get those hostile faction reps up to Nemesis and then see how their special bosses feel to you.

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maybe at some points in the game there are moments that anything goes, but this quickly changes and you have to have some sort of knowledge of how to move and what to do and how to time your skills depending on your build ofcourse. This “skill” is depending on your build mainly.

It seems like you are comparing grim dawn to poe? i guess this because you use the word evasion. Anyway there is plenty of combinations and you need also more than just 2 skills, it is very rare that you only have 2 skills. The order matters and with SR now monsters and especially nemisis can be very dangerous. Main campaign is easy sure.

it depends again on what boss you are fighting the build you are using and also how powerful you are compared to level you are trying to do. Definitely there are abilities that you need to know that can ruin you easily. I wonder what part/setup/ stage of the game you are judging.

there are many skills and roles that complement each other, its not like poe where just dps rules at all.

In conclusion i don’t think you have either not progressed very far in the game yet or simply don’t know much about grim dawn.

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the mobs & bosses in AoM and FG expansion is more challenging with surprising difficulty spikes compared to main campaign. bosses that spawn shotgun volcanoes under your char, bosses that has aura reducing your max health/resistance/DA, bosses that can nullify all of your buffs, etc.

i suggest you completed ultimate difficulty with one char, then get some savior token for your new chars to make them able to enter elite/ultimate difficulty from LEVEL 1. That way the leveling portion of the game (particularly the main campaign) will feel more challenging. some players like to do this because they feel grim dawn’s earlier and mid part of the game (which consisted mainly of exploring & leveling) are mindlessly boring & easy. i recommend skipping the easier parts of the campaign that isn’t mandatory to main quests/faction quests. jumping immediately to areas with much higher level than your current level is also recommended if you want more dangerous experience in hardcore.

Grim Dawn’s real experience for many players come from the end game ultimate challenges: nemesis, superbosses, roguelike dungeons, crucible, shattered realm. shattered realm is a great place for co-op, due to the extreme challenges that can be encountered there (not to mention the randomized mutators). explore grim dawn fully to the end of the challenges. try many builds to spice up the experiences. it’ll be a blast.

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Well, 64 hours is close to two full work weeks. I’ve played early Elite, and it didn’t feel very different. I don’t have any motivation to push to Ultimate at this time. If it’s not fun (for me) to make it there, why should I take the journey?

I meant evasion as a generic term, as in, avoiding attacks e.g. dodging a special attack by moving your character or using a skill that, when you time it right, allows you to survive harm. I’ve not actually played PoE any more than Grim Dawn and am not much of a fan of it. That game has an even bigger problem with the points I’ve brought up here.

I haven’t really felt like this while playing multiplayer.

Maybe, but personally I don’t feel that either should be a requirement for me to want to continue playing a game.

Yeah it would definitely be interesting to try out these more challenging areas with some friends. But it does feel like it takes pretty long to get there and I’ll also need to convince my friends to join me in the endeavor!

Let me get this straight, you never played Elite, let alone Ultimate, and complain about the lack of difficulty ?

I guess we have the explanation right there…

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First off, I’d like to say that I firmly believe everyone has an opinion and that opinion is perfectly valid and should not be discounted. Hence I’ll start this off by saying thanks for sharing your thoughts and letting us know what your likes and dislikes with the game are.

Nevertheless, CONTEXT, with any opinion is everything. Someone who loves action movies may thoroughly despise anything that even hints at being a character driven story. Does this mean one movie is better than the other? Someone who likes apples but not strawberries might feel a strawberry rhubarb pie is the last thing they want to eat. Does this mean strawberry rhubarb pie is bad?

Similarly, someone who has played a game for a very minimal time, within a game genre that is notorious for necessities of much, much lengthier time commitments, most certainly requires we take any critique or praise with a large dash of context. Grim Dawn, like every ARPG I’ve ever played, in the beginning has the intent of being sweet. Simple. It doesn’t immediately want to make something so difficult that no one every plays it so it gives the player some early, quick and simple accomplishments to perform. Which satisfies. But then as the game continues it slowly and every so gradually (though some might argue there are definitely some that are rather sudden) amps up the need to know more and more about numerous aspects of the game. Resistant mechanics for survival. Skill interactions for better symmetry. Boss tactics and indicators that allow the player to make split second decisions on what skill to use, have in waiting or other plans of action.

I have 1900 hours in the game. I am STILL constantly learning stuff about it, new strategies, new ideas. There are frankly people here who have way more than I do and they’d probably say the same thing.

TLDR: Everything you asked about in Grim Dawn is absolutely in the game. You, in all honesty, just haven’t played far enough in to reach that yet. Give it time, or maybe the genre just isn’t your cup of tea.

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Don’t worry, enemies scale up after 55 pretty hard, and its not until you get endgame gear that you can get back to mindless farming.

I’m over 1k hours with multiple fully untwinked chars (and they farmed little to none, as farming makes me sleepy and screws up my circadian rythm.) and while autohits are frequent, and semi-mindless facetanking is the endgame meta, there is room for skill, especially with movement skills/runes.

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I don’t see how that invalidates my critique.

The resistance mechanic is an example of a system that I don’t think is particularly interesting for myself. It’s just a matter of knowing what damage types are common in what acts and then grinding to max the resistance. On these forums, I’ve read people saying that maximizing the required resistances on the highest difficulties is a requirement to survive on HC and that the easiest way to do so is to find specific item mods, uniques or create specific relics. In my opinion, that is not a good example of the best possible game design. Maximizing my resistances is not particularly exciting to me when it’s primarily about grinding and less so about making compromises or using abilities smartly.

At least in the non-expanded campaign, far as I can tell the bosses didn’t have many distinguishable patterns and at the most complex, their abilities required you to just step back instead of e.g. timing attacks, using evasive skills, baiting the boss or finding a safe way to maneuver through its attacks. Usually I could just stand there and attack.

This could be a case of survivorship bias. If you enjoy Grim Dawn’s mechanics enough, if you enjoy its atmosphere and lore enough, if you enjoy its combat enough and enjoy its build system enough and if you’re the kind of person who likes to put a lot of hours into a single game, then you’re of course likely to use more time to Grim Dawn than I. I can see how it’s possible to endlessly optimize things in Grim Dawn, for hundreds - even thousands - of hours. But when I play it myself, I don’t feel rewarded for it, and I don’t feel incentivized to do it. Yet I have felt that in some other games. For the 64 hours I’ve played, all of it on Veteran (except when I tried the game before Vet was a thing) and most of it on Hardcore, I’ve not once felt that to advance in the game, I needed to be better in it or that I needed to optimize my build more or that I even needed better gear. And I, personally, like it when a game makes me feel that way.

I’ve played many ARPGs and ARPG-like games, a few for much longer than Grim Dawn. I’m not really genre-locked, I play this and that. I don’t see why I should give a game time if I don’t enjoy playing it as it is, though. Not to say that I did not enjoy any of Grim Dawn, I most certainly did, I just don’t enjoy it enough to reach the content that others say is difficult and interesting.

Well, you also said:

Think about it again. I haven’t played torchlight 2 enough to form a valid critique but all I remember was that it was too easy until like the 3rd restart (ng+, i think?). You’re essentially saying the same for GD.

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torchlight 2 on very hard equivalent was pretty tough. and thats an option much like veteran in GD

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Well I guess the whole “don’t talk if you don’t know enough” thing bit me in the ass.

It does. Besides getting your resistances reduces by 25% on Elite and 50% in Ultimate, the damage is far beyond anything Normal/Veteran can ever dish out at you.

It’s rather unfair to complain about a lack of difficulty and barely touch the second difficulty and not even try the last difficulty. This is like me complaining about the lack of difficulty in a game like Devil May Cry but only play on the Easy Difficulty and not touch any of higher difficulties.

And 64 hours doesn’t even allow you to use like a tenth of each mastery’s capabilities if you think you can just use a skill or two and a bunch of passives. Go with that mentality to higher difficulties and the game will make sure you made a mistake. Only exceptions to this being super tanks but even those are prone to getting bursted down.

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you can get to ultimate and mid-high levels (65ish) in 16 hours though without any prior twinks, not even mandates. Not that it invalidates what you are saying since its not practical and highly unlikely that a player does it, but in theory you can “try out” four builds in 64 hours

Grim Dawn is made to be accessible for everyone - for more casual players who wants to experience campaign/lore and for players who likes good challenge - which can require time to get there.
Normal difficulty and elite shouldn’t be hard, ultimate campaign is easy either if you know what you are doing.

If you want good challenge requiring more mechanical gameplay and knowledge you can try:
-speedrunning crucible with some ~4 min squishy builds
-doing naked crucible
-pushing shattered realm to your limits

That’s what was made for more advanced players.

I’ve played most arpgs known titles for years and I can’t really remember any with “high skill cap” in base game outside of endgame. Diablo 2 and good boss fights is bad argument. Bosses in D2 were all facetank and had no any mechanics forced you to careful gameplay except timing potions. Even ubers are like “get lifetap and kill them in 10 seconds or you can’t do it with not specialized build”. Even in PoE (pretty good boss fights) you can just facetank 100-0 uber elder if you know how to build your character. Generally arpg games are like that.

If you don’t enjoy GD it’s okay but I think if you could play a little more and reach an endgame, then you would reconsider your opinion about difficulty.

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so you do not see how not playing any of the higher difficulties invalidates your critique of the game being too easy ? You certainly will need to pay attention and think on higher levels (until your gear catches up after extensive farming)…

You sound like you are complaining about a sports car being too slow when you never got out of first gear yet…

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Play ultimate, then come back to give us your professional review. Bye.

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The first paragraph so utterly over-simplifies the need for resistances. Yes, it is absolutely mandatory, because it forms the BASIS of survival. Not the ONLY thing to survive. After the basis is maintained (much like adding toughness to a character or getting some better armor or whatever you have) then the ability to use your skills, devotions, probs wisely for much needed symmetry is what carries you THRU the survival aspect of the game.

The second paragraph is either mis-reading, not reading enough or not having the experience. Absolutely every bit of that is involved in this game with a wide variety of different bosses. Certainly there might be some of the various combinations that are all about ‘stand still and hit it until it dies’ survivability but hardly every single class/mastery can do that in anyway without the knowledge of the various things that go into being able to do that. In fact, to quote one very frequently player on the board (ahem name rhymes with ‘tanks a lot’) “The best defense in this game is not having high resistances and DA it’s not getting hit, piloting is essential.” And to pilot well you have to know what bosses are doing, now your skills well, and execute them well.

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Torchlight 2 is not exactly a good example of difficulty because that game’s version of difficulty was high as hell damage spikes out of nowhere for no reason. The difficulty on that game wasn’t balanced very well (mainly because the game was barely patched after release) and players resorted to damage reduction gems most of the time.

GD’s Veteran is a lot more balanced by comparison, even if some bosses can have the occasional damage spike.

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Well, then read the critique like so: Why isn’t the game challenging and interesting for the first 100 hours but requires you to put in 100+ hours to reach that content? I’m probably not going to do that myself. Doesn’t feel like it’s worth it from all I’ve seen. If you think that’s something that should not be accounted for in game design of games like Grim Dawn, then that’s your opinion. I simply offer mine.

The thing is - people saying that yeah, just play the game a bunch more and eventually it’ll get hard enough sounds, to me, like validating my critique, not invalidating it.

I’ve a few characters with all the primary skills they’ll get (outside gear) and now they’re just waiting for maximizing those skills up. It’s certainly possible to make a more active character with lots of skills, but it doesn’t feel like it really matters. Perhaps late enough in the game it starts to matter but I’m unlikely to play that far. Though never know…

Difficulty isn’t really the only argument. It’s also about how many bosses are lacking attack variety and patterns; how their animations, movement etc is not needed to be timed into much; how mob animations are not always indicative of when the mobs actually hit (I’ve gotten invisibly struck by a monster that seemed like it isn’t in the attack animation many times), etc…

For the 64 hours that I’ve played, the experience of fighting in Grim Dawn - on Veteran, in Hardcore - is click on passives + spam your primary attack skill + if health low, step away, drink potion, go back in (not needed on most mobs). It could be a lot more than that. For example, on the very first proper miniboss in Wolcen (the bee thing), I needed to learn to dodge the boss attack and time my own attack in-between the projectile spam of the boss’ mob to damage it. I died 3 times. That was great. Unfortunately that game’s launch is not going too well and it’s full of glitches and exploits…

Anyway - the point is about needing to compromise, needing to learn about the enemy, and needing to be creative and quick with your reactions. This isn’t only a question of difficulty. Doing those compromises can be easy, it can be easy to learn about the enemy, and it can require just a few tries to nail the boss attack pattern down.

Well, basically, what you’re suggesting is that the solution to the game not being interesting is to play the game more. I don’t feel like it’s a good idea to spend +100h in a game just to find out if it eventually gets interesting enough.

I also am unconvinced if the animation problems, lack of attack patterns, maximizing resistances being a grind rather than genuine compromises, low variety of boss and mob special attacks, and lack of requirement to time skills and master skill cycles would be improved on by reaching further into the game or buying the expansions.

I find that a somewhat odd way to look at it. A game doesn’t need to be boring for the first 100 hours and only then get better.

I’ve not seen that so far.