When you start Darkest Dungeon (DD), the game kindly let’s you know that it is difficult by design and that failure is not only an option, but also the expectation. This roguelike game sets you on an adventure to restore your family’s estate that has fallen to ruin. To do so, you must recruit and train heroes, gather loot and equipment, fight off enemies, traps, diseases, and afflictions to survive and fight another day.
DD has a very simple gameplay loop. You choose four heroes from your available roster, pick a Quest to complete, buy the necessary equipment and then set off to the dungeon. Dungeons are a set of rooms connected by corridors that contain enemies, loot, and obstacles. Combat is turn based, and each character may use one ability per turn. You may also use items, such as food or bandages, from your inventory. The game is roguelike, meaning you cannot load any previous saves, and all actions are permanent.
What sets DD apart is the Affliction System. When you are in a dungeon, your characters’ stress-level will slowly rise during exploration, and combat may also cause stress if heroes take damage or get hit by certain abilities. High stress will cause heroes to become afflicted. Afflictions are passive properties that cause negative or disruptive behaviour in your heroes. Sometimes afflicted heroes may go out of control during combat and in the worst case, cause harm to other heroes. Stress and afflictions can be treated in-between missions, but while a hero is being treated they are unavailable for questing, so you must build a large roster to compensate for the recovering heroes.
In a dungeon you may leave at any time, but this will cause the quest to fail. Heroes can also be killed. When this happens, they are permanently removed from your roster. Therefore, you may want to fail a quest if you are afraid of losing a strong hero. These are the kind of consequences that I personally enjoy in games. It creates an engaging experience where your choices really matter, and you must learn to make the most of a bad situation. My only critique is the randomness, which plays a part in many of the game’s mechanics. Obviously, randomness can be both punishing and rewarding, but I feel like in this game it’s somewhat overused and you may feel like you have no control whatsoever. Sometimes the unforgiving pileup of bad luck at every turn can really get on your nerves.
The game’s presentation is excellent. The art-style is unique, with hand-drawn gothic art. The soundtrack also helps create a dark atmosphere that amplifies the desperation you feel, as you struggle to reach those last rooms to complete a quest, while your party is slowly losing health and becoming more stressed by the minute. The game offers dozens of hours of playtime and if you enjoy challenging roguelikes, this is an easy recommendation.
Game: Darkest Dungeon
Developer: Red Hook Studios
Publisher: Red Hook Studios
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS Vita, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, iOS
Release Date: January 19. 2016
Genre: RPG, Dungeon Crawl, Roguelike
All images were taken in-game by the author.
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