Well... I suppose I'll write a review after testing the game for over 1k hours though after the game's release I will definitely update this.
So. Let's start with the company. Crate Entertainment currently consists of a team of 8 people who not only communicate with the community (this is amazing) - but also know how to create a kick ♥♥♥ game. They started with only 2 people for quite some time while receiving off and on support from people they knew who also worked on TQ - gradually and with help from Kickstarter + Steam Early Access sales they have managed to expand and continue to amaze the fans who are eagerly waiting for this game to be released (even now it is defnitely worth it imo).
Grim Dawn takes all the good things from Titan Quest and makes it better while also distinguishing itself in it's own way. The game plays and feels like Titan Quest while it also reminds me of Diablo 1 and Diablo 2 when it comes to the grittier/darker visual appeal. This to me is the ultimate combination of ARPG games and to be apart of the development process in testing and providing feedback for such a game is an amazing experience.
Now to the game.
Story - Grim Dawn is actually what the peope of Cairn (world of Grim Dawn) call what is pretty much the apocolypse in that an invasion of 2 otherwordly races have invaded the world. One race, the Aetherials want to possess everything that lives all the while pretty much terraforming the planet in order to make Cairn a more liveable place for them - while the other race, the Ch'thonians want to stop this from happening which means butchering those that the Aetherials are interested in possessing which includes you and any survivors that managed to live through the initial invasion.
That is the overall plot in which the beginning of the game is more stressing the survival aspects of living in a now ruined world - while also building a foundation for future encounters with the Aetherials and Ch'thonic invaders. The danger is very real - and there are other nasty beasts, creatures and outlaws that also pose a threat to your survival.
There are Quest Options for choosing different outcomes in a quest, and there will be factions that will be added later on in development (perhaps late this year or early next year hopefully).
Combat - Very much like Titan Quest but having a faster pace. So far it's been quite good and the devs continually update animations, balance skills, and fix bugs with skills when they can. Definitely not Diablo 3 which admittedly has some good combat that flows very well (one of the few things that I'll give to the game) - but it's still pretty good. Hopefully as development continues whatever issues that people find will be fixed and improved upon.
Characterization - Creating a character has only male/female options but this will probably change later when it comes to having different options for faces/hair as pertaining to a dev post. As this isn't hugely important it will be done later on I would imagine. However the main thing: replay value and creating Skill Builds. This is definitely there. Just like Titan Quest, Grim Dawn has the dual mastery system where you start off with one mastery/class at level 2 and once you reach level 10 you can choose a second one. With 5 Mastery's that is 15 combinations of either sticking with 1 mastery or using the dual mastery system. Itemization also expands character builds by a lot which brings me to...
Itemization/Crafting - Really good. Common/White items are useful for the couple low levels in which you can then turn them off (making them more of a visual look when it comes to enemies dropping stuff they are wearing/using(!!!)), Magic/Yellow items are next in line which although not usually as powerful as later tiers they can roll a lot higher with their affixes, Rare/Green items have affixes that are unique and can be quite powerful, Epic/Blue items have set affixes with merely the rolls being varied + they can be set items, and Legendary items are not yet in the game.
Needless to say the itemization in this game is fantastic and compliments both the skill building aspect of the game and the loot hunt part of the game.
Level Design - Handcrafted world means the level design looks really good but of course trades that off with less randomization. Enemy camps can be randomized in some cases and there are randomized barriers which players can encounter and have to find a way to get around them via an alternate route - giving some slight randomization and also promoting exploration. The level design for each area is done in such a way that the player can continue on in the direction of the next area quickly - or spend time to explore the area for loot/dungeons/caves/quests. Essentially levels are short but wide - so later playthroughs you can choose whether or not to spend more time exploring or continuing on with the quests. The game isn't finished yet so content on Act 3 and perhaps the miniature Act 4 that may be added will also be quite interesting to see.
Enemies - Are quite diverse and are also in their own faction which means you can actually see Aetherials and Ch'thonic enemies duking it out before you even get to the fight. As with Titan Quest later difficulties means secret bosses/challenge dungeons that would have been locked in the previous difficulty.
Some more Positive things:
-Modding - is amazing. Titan Quest and Diablo 2 both have great mods that I have enjoyed and since GD's modding tools will be better I am hoping for some amazing mods later on in the future.
-Survival Mode. Sounds just like it says in that you need to survive against waves of enemies, modding can definitely expand on this.
-Open World PVP. Though the game's skills/itemization isn't based on PVP modding could definitely create balanced PVP and probably some interesting game modes I would imagine.
-Camera that is fully rotatable and has decent zoom. Might not seem like that much of a deal but after playing GD - trying other ARPG's or even Moba's can be relatively frustrating due to lack of camera control.
-Weather + Day and Night System.
-Will be DRM free on release - for those that are wary about Steam and want to fully own the game.
Some possible Negatives:
-Single player based with optional multiplayer. Single player mode is perfectly fine while multiplayer can be a bit iffy mainly due to it being just released - optimization will definitely improve on the multiplayer experience.
-No closed servers. Like TL2 and TQ there aren't closed servers. Should the game do amazingly well the devs have expressed their interest in such a thing but they would rather spend money on more content before considering closed servers. That being said public games are usually pretty good and if someone joins in with a modded character you can always ban them from the game/server. A con when it comes to modding but the pros definitely outwheigh the cons.
-Slow development. Though I expect the game to be finished either early or middle of next year - the pace is relatively slow due to having a small team. That being said they do communicate well with the forum users and give updates every other Monday.
-Costs $25. For some reason people really like F2P games but I'd rather pay a flat price for a full game rather then have a gimped free version of the game. For what you get out of the game $25 is super cheap even with the content that is available now.
-Not optimized. Though I can run the game at max fine, that doesn't mean everyone can. Obviously lack of optimization is a given that will be improved later on in development - however both the devs and the community are pretty good in trying to help those who are having issues with running the game.
Conclusion: Grim Dawn is definitely worth $25 if you enjoyed Titan Quest and perhaps Diablo 1 or 2.
10/10 for an excellent Early Access game. Will update on release.