Steam Community :: Darkest Dungeon®

Posted: July 31

The dream of inheriting a large estate from some distant ancestor may be rather old fashioned today, but it still retains a certain romantic je ne sais quoi. What happens though if that ancestor was a deranged occultist who delved a bit too deep into secrets that were never meant to be known? What happens if your promising new estate is haunted by terrible blights and unspeakable evils? Well, what happens is Darkest Dungeon. One of the most deliciously Lovecraftian roguelike/dungeon-crawlers to ever grace our screens.

Arriving at the dilapidated hamlet that serves as your base, the magnitude of the threat quickly becomes apparent. The heir gathers a group of heroes to challenge the evils that lurk within. The game offers many different classes to pick from, all of them with their strengths, weaknesses, synergies and personality. There is incredible depth here. The game generally takes a show, not tell approach and nowhere is it more prevalent than in the heroes you’ll be controlling. Starting with their design, which is full of understated personality. At first they may appear like stereotypical fantasy archetypes, but as you use those heroes, as they get in fights, get stressed, succeed or falter, those archetypes can get reinforced or subverted. Only RNGesus can know if, by the end of this expedition, that man in the shining armour will end up being the stalwart holy crusader, or the vicious knight templar.

Speaking of expeditions, those are the bread and butter of the game. Once the heir has gathered a group of 4 heroes, it’s time to take the fight to the monsters that haunt the estate. The game offers 4 different basic locations, each with different enemies and challenges to be overcome. The expeditions are for the most part randomly generated. Your group of heroes progresses from room to room via narrow corridors battling enemies, gathering treasure and performing other quest related activities. Keeping the heroes alive until the end is a key goal and if they die, they die for good and new heroes will have to be hired to replace them. Often less experienced and well equipped ones. The game includes a potent stress mechanic. Keeping the body healthy is not enough if the horrors they are facing break the heroes’ mind. In fact, stress is often the greater threat as heroes that get overwhelmed can become a serious liability to the expedition.

The game’s atmosphere is absolutely stellar. Everything synergises so well. The monster and area designs, the music. They all serve to bring the Lovecraftian horror this game exemplifies to life. The narrator deserves special mention being one of the most impressively well-fitting narrators in a video game. The person they chose is a fairly well-known Lovecraft book narrator and it shows. The game’s atmosphere helps keep the pressure high. And high it is. This is a tough game, often what separates a successful expedition from a catastrophic one can be a few bad calls. This is felt throughout, get complacent and you’ll make mistakes. Make mistakes and there will be a cost. The final dungeon of the game, aptly called “the Darkest Dungeon” deserves special mention. The eldritch all around is upped to 11 in that labyrinthine maze and you can feel the stakes are high. They may not be the toughest set of expeditions in the game, but they will sure feel special.

What about flaws, some of the more suspicious folks will pertinently ask. Well, if I wanted to nitpick I could think of a few. The game can be grindy for instance. Particularly for completionists. Lots of nice trinkets to gather, lots of randomly generated expeditions to finish in order to acquire them. RNG can also be frustrating sometimes, as RNG often is. Particularly in high stakes situations and arguably more so in the earlier game than later, since better trinkets often mean more reliable outcomes. The frequent rebalances of the game in the earlier years could also be frustrating as it meant that strategies that should work, no longer did and some heroes did get hit with the nerf gun a bit too hard. I will repeat though, this is basically nitpicking. I have been playing this game on and off for about 5 years now. None of this ever bothered me enough to make me really drop it.

Let’s not beat around the bush any further, Darkest Dungeon is one of the finest games of this past decade. One of Kickstarter’s great successes and one of the indie-game revolution’s brightest examples. If you like dark fantasy, Lovecraft, roguelikes (or lites for those that care), dungeon-crawlers and/or RPGs and for some bizarre, incomprehensible reason you still haven’t played this game, well, it’s never too late. If it wasn’t clear enough, I highly recommend this game.

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