A Guide to the Ultimate Grim Dawn Expansion

We live in a golden age of games.

There's so many and so much, that it's overwhelming. There's more content than there are hours in a human lifetime to consume it. It is a massive ecosystem dominated by toxic and exploitive baron-companies.

A lot of very smart people I know decided that playing video games takes too much. Games can unbalance a life pretty quickly. World of Warcraft is related to the concept of a poop sock.

Maybe twice a year I mess around with a new game for a few dozen hours? That type of entertainment is like a movie. I talk about it with my friends, it's an interesting and fun diversion.

But I use video games for other things. I'm very productive. I'm appropriately medicated. Puzzles and mindless tasks help me both think and cope.

Let me repeat that. A portion of my ability to cope with life is in doing tasks that are focused around self care. Given free reign to do whatever I want, I spend between 30-90 minutes daily engaged in activities to help myself stay centered.

Sometimes this is meditation, sometimes it's a walk. It's always grinding the coffee beans by hand. But frequently it's software that has the same effect. So even though I only 'play' a couple of games a year, I have others as activities I've integrated into my life. Some people have some aspect of their social lives tied up in video games, not just over the Internet. I know a group of employees in town that plays Clash of Clans as a group on their phones.

The current name for that phenomenon is "live services" or "lifestyle games". It's a terrible name, and coming to terms with that in gaming was one of the things that helped me find balance. Games and what they do to the mind are powerful mojo, and like all things that put us in touch with the source, have to be treated with respect.

Grim Dawn Ultimate Mode
Grim Dawn is one of my current games.That playtime you are looking at is from when they first released the first act, till now, the release of their final expansion. It's relaxing.

Grim Dawn is a game I know well. Believe me, I know what to do, I know all the numbers straight thru, and how to make myself more survivable too. I'm not the best player, that has nothing to do with luck, and mindlessly slaying mobs for 20 minutes cycles up my mind, enough end the game and solve whatever problem I might have.

Crate added a feature to start the game from Ultimate mode, not requiring you to play through the first two cycles. This feature is astoundingly misunderstood.

See, it's not uncommon for action role playing looting video games to require you to play through multiple times, increasing the difficulty each time. Normally, you just play the game. You start on normal or veteran, then after you complete the game, you replay the whole game on elite. If you can beat elite, you can play the game one more time on ultimate difficulty, with the best drops and the most danger! But after hour 400+, the way I played the game changed.

I've seen so many people who ask, How do I start the game on Ultimate?

You just don't. It's not a balanced play experience. It's not designed to take a first level character though the game. If you want to play the game, start on normal. This new feature was designed specifically with players like me in mind.



Before the expansion released, here was my procedure: I'd start the game, and run to the early loot corpses. There's several corpses in the first area that grant you a green weapon of exceptional utility. You can grab an axe, a gun, or a two handed blade. I grab which-ever-one goes with the build I'm going to try out.

Then I enter the Crucible. The Crucible is an paid expansion that allows you to fight hordes of monsters in waves in exchange for treasure given equal to a high score. It also gives tributes when you can use to toggle bonus zones for advantages in Crucible or turn in tributes to get devotion points. I'm running the Crucible specifically to gather tributes to exchange for devotion points.

I run one set of ten waves. This gets me to level 7-9. I then grab the treasure, and take my mostly green equipment back for another 30 waves of the crucible. I do this three times to accumulate the 15 tributes to Unlock the first 5 devotion points in the crucible.

Why? Devotion points (normally gathered by activating shrines in play) allow you to modify your build using both unique abilities and to shore up weaknesses and focus strengths. Look at this star chart! The cost of these increases in the crucible the more you have.

This entire process takes around 10 minutes, tops. Once that happens, I then load up the main game, and speed-run the game to ultimate. I have to complete the hidden path witch quest (for the extra skill point) and the two quests that give bonus attribute points. I also grab all the shines that are directly in the way, brining my devotion point total up to around 35-40.

Running through veteran and elite takes between five and six hours. I use a movement ability and movement speed gear to make a beeline through the game. You can even skip the whole first act by repairing the bridge (although I usually kill the warden and complete act I in the base difficulty to pick up all the devotion points from shines).

In order for this to work, I usually have complete gear sets for level 20 (Explorer's, providing a nice boost to movement speed), level 40 (the Perdition set, bloodcallers set, or other early-mid game sets) ready for them to go. I use experience potions, from maximum reputation vendors. That allows me to kill the boss on elite in about 5 hours, puts me somewhere between level 45-55, and ready for ultimate.

Then I can finally play the game. Ultimate has the best drop rates, and more content than I need to hit level 100 before I can even finish all the content. It is where the actual game begins.

The whole point of the expansion allowing players to enter Ultimate was to eliminate the time spent needing to speed-run the first two difficulties. 

If you try to start Ultimate as a straight level 1 character, you will be using a butter knife against enemies that will cause you to explode like a microwave shoved into a grape. Preparing a character for ultimate requires the following:

  • You have to access the Forgotten Gods content on the difficulty level you want to skip. This can be done by speaking to the new character that appears in Devil's Crossing at the end of act I. My death knight was at the end of Ultimate, deep into the Ashes of Malmouth content, and I found him inside Malmouth, so it's likely you'll be able to access Forgotten Gods from any of the major towns.
  • When you access the content, there's a guy with a bag that looks like a normal vendor. On his consumables page, he sells the tokens. They run in the range of 200k.
  • On a new character, use the token. The elite token unlocks elite and gives a skill point. The ultimate token unlocks elite and ultimate and gives two skill points. You also gain the appropriate amount of attribute points.
If you do that, and then follow the procedure above to boost a character to where they need to survive ultimate, it'll be fine. 

It was a change that helps me with the way I play the game. It's why I still play this, and quit Hearthstone. It's because they play it too. They aren't looking to maximize profits. They are just looking to flourish while providing something worthwhile. 

Have a good weekend. Take time for yourself.

I don't have anything to do with Crate, the company that makes Grim Dawn, other than I think they made a very fun game. Ymmv. Support me on Patreon.

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