Darkest Dungeon

Dev: Red Hook Studios

Publisher: Red Hook Studios

Release Date: January 19, 2016

                        “Slowly, gently, this is how a life is taken”

The narrator chimes over as your poisoned enemy is killed. This is just one of the many lines you will hear in encouragement, and dissuasion.

Darkest Dungeons is an Eldritch, hard as nails dungeon crawler. The core concept of the game is collecting a party of 4 from your town to go out and explore the lands surrounding a manor that once belonged to your family, who’s name use to be of wealth and power, but is now of horror and holds many a dark secret.

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I am actually one of the few people who bought this game when it first popped up in early access on steam, and with baited breath and some attention I played it during its original conception, and I can say that I’m very pleased with what it has grown to become, and is everything I expected the game to be when it’s launch finally happened.

The general story of this game is simple and explained quick and effectively through its opening cutscenes. For once in a review I do not think I should give away the opening, and the feeling of hearing the story spoken by the absolutely wondrous narrator of the game, Wayne June

Moving forward, the general concept and mechanics of this game are certainly not difficult to understand, however using them properly and to the best effect possible can be the difference between you’re entire party being wiped out, or you returning to down with packs full of loot. After the cutscenes are finished you are introduced to the games mechanics, you use a party, usually of 4 to traverse the lands of the tainted manor. You’re party will consist of 4 of the 15 hero classes; The abomination, Arbalest, Bounty Hunter, Crusader, Grave Robber, Hellion, Highwayman, Houndmaster, Jester, Leper, Man-at-Arms, Occultist, Plague Doctor, Vestal, and finally the Antiquarian.

Each hero has their own story to tell, and as they run the dungeon, the horrors of it will tear them down, both physically and mentally. In Darkest Dungeon there are 2 bars you have to manage on each member of your party, your health, and your sanity. After losing enough health a character will be at death’s door, any damage from that point on has a chance to kill the character, and if a character is killed, they’re gone for good. However in my experience the health bar is the easiest to manage, however a characters sanity, it ebbs away slowly and once that bar has filled, the character has a chance to have an Affliction, or in a slim chance become Virtuous. If a character becomes afflicted they become selfish, masochistic, or many other things, and they begin to take actions on their own at random without you being able to stop or prevent it, they may even refuse to do an action you tell them to, and sometimes may harm themselves or teammates, all the while their actions cause the other party members to become more and more stressed, and if you cannot get out of the dungeon quick enough, this often has a cascading effect that leads to most of the party being afflicted. However on the flip of this coin there is also the slim chance that your character will become virtuous, throwing away the most of the stress damage they have taken, and from that point on, they begin to say and take actions that actually relieve the stress of other party members.

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Outside of those two bars, every character you acquire comes with unique traits, camping and combat skills. The traits the characters have often dictate how a character will act within certain situations inside of town, or in the dungeon. Yet each character also plays it’s role in combat, and where they are positioned in the party order, actually effects what abilities a character can use. As an example, plague doctors have abilities that they can only use if they are last in the party line up, while most of the Crusaders abilities require them to be within the first two spots.

Outside of that on longer voyages into dungeons of much higher difficulty, you more often than not will have to camp at some point. Camping is crucial to making sure your party can properly survive the hellish landscape of the dungeons. During a camp each of your hero’s has a set of abilities that they can use, and each does a variety of different things, either healing stress or HP, buffing the party for future fights, or simply making sure you do not get ambushed. However be wary as if you do not have the food to do it, or a party member is afflicted, camping may prove to cause some complications.

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Past all that the last mechanic you should be aware of is how to relieve stress after you’ve left a dungeon. Stress is the one factor in this game that persists no matter what and after a foray into the depths simply leaving also causes stress build up. To rid your heroes of this, you must have them do one of 6 things in town. Drink, Gamble, Sex, or, Meditation, Prayer, Flagellation. The hero’s traits will determine just how much stress is relieved from one of the activities.

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While in town you will not only be relieving stress, but after enough forays into the depths, new places in town open, a sanitarium for curing unwanted traits and illness, a blacksmith for upgrading your hero’s gear, getting more housing sorted to bolster your roster, the training grounds to improve your hero’s combat abilities, a camp of a nomad to better help your hero’s when forced to camp inside a dungeon. These are the many things you will be tasked with doing while in town, and using the spoils of your foray into the dungeon, gold and heirlooms alike, you will upgrade these buildings to strengthen yourself, for the eventual plunge into the manor itself, to topple the evil that tries to release into our world.

            Moving forward I’ll be quick and go over what I like and dislike about this game.

What I Like;

·        The games art style capitulates the horrors your characters are witnessing in a very dark and dirty look, and it helps set the atmosphere for just how awful a place your hero’s must traverse through

·        The Narrator is one of the best parts about the game, delivering his lines with enthusiasm and clarity, setting the tone of the world, and what is happening on screen with his whims, and jabs at the player.

·        The game is not afraid to punish you. If you didn’t bring enough food, or torches, the game will not be kind and let it slide by, your heroes will suffer for your mistakes.

·        The events that occasionally happen within town are very interesting, and can often force a player to take an expedition they simply cannot properly prepare for, or it can give a long needed relief to someone who may be on the brink of failure.

·        All of the hero’s that you can control are diverse, different, and each has their own story to tell. None play the same even though you can get multipul of one hero, each’s traits and characteristics will help set them apart from the others

o   The ability to name your hero’s also adds the ability to help you remember who has what, and if you wished, you can name them after friends and family and see how they fair in the Darkest Dungeon.

·        The trinkets that you can acquire and equip to your hero’s are always fascinating, and the design of each is fairly interesting and unique, and I really like that the lower quality ones still have really good effects, but they also come with detriments as well

What I dislike;

·        When it comes to healing for stress you are extremely limited and as far as I am aware, none of the current characters have stress heals.

·        It slightly bothers me that certain heroes simply will refuse to go out on a dungeon run with others

All in all, I honestly can say that I really love this game. I find myself coming back to it constantly, for its challenge, atmosphere, and in general gameplay. I cannot recommend this game more to people.

            The game is available on steam for 24.99USD or your regional equivalent.

            The game is rated T for Teen

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